Co-Produced and Directed by Nelson Shin
It is the far-off year of 2005 and the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons continues. Now a monstrous planet killer known as Unicron is devouring everything in its path and only the Autobots with the help of the Matrix of Leadership can defeat this threat and light their darkest hour.
This movie was essentially a big screen commercial and yet somehow they managed quite a stellar cast. I don’t know if they were tossing around a lot of money or those that said yes thought it would be fun, but they had Orson Welles (Unicron) in his final screen performance. Leonard Nimoy (Galvatron). Brat Pack member Judd Nelson (Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime). Eric Idle as the Junkion Wreck-Gar. Lionel Stander (Kup) who was a very good character actor. John Moschitta, Jr. (Blurr) was more of a pop-culture figure but it was still interesting to cast him and Robert Stack (Ultra Magnus) in probably his only animated appearance that I can think of. All good choices and all very capable. This was in addition to the series voice cast which they wisely chose not to recast. That has happened a few times. I’m specifically thinking of the Smurfs animated film.
They took the brave step of killing Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) here. Optimus Prime was the protective father and the adult we wished we could be. Not only did they off him but the villain that he defeated Megatron (Frank Welker) did not actually die but was resurrected by the movie’s main villain-the planet consuming machine known as Unicron-as Galvatron. That was a double whammy. As a little kid I was devastated when I saw this. You could not kill Prime but there they did it. Wisely they chose to bring him back in what would be the series ultimate finale but that’s another discussion.
The movie was heavy with stadium rock. Synthesizers were becoming a big thing and permutated pop music at the time and they were used to full effect here. I do not think you could really call any of the artists featured in the soundtrack as “major” other than “Weird Al” Yankovic but the soundtrack is awesome. There is a song in here called “The Touch” by Stan Bush and it was originally to appear in the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Cobra, but it was eventually rejected and wound up here. I am happy for that because I love that song and it is a perfect fit for the movie. If it were not for appearing in this film that song would have been one of many forgotten tunes in movie soundtracks.
Being a feature film and desiring to wipe the slate mostly clean for the upcoming toys freed the creative hands of those making this. Transformers died in a permanent way in large numbers in this movie. They were not afraid to take out anybody. This gave the movie a real sense of danger to the characters that the television series lacked for obvious reasons. My favorite death was Starscream. It was a perfect culmination of the antagonism and open hatred that Megatron (now Galvatron) had for his second in command. Starscream knew who his executioner was right away but I always wondered if anybody else ever knew.
And they got weird in the story. The Junkions were borderline insane. These were machines that talked in TV soundbites and lived on a planet of junk. The Quintessons who would later go on to play a significant role in the final season of the show were menacing and evil tyrants that ran a bizarre kangaroo court for any poor schlepp that stumbled on their planet. They were five-faced tentacled beings that moved around on an energy beam. Supposedly each face represented as follows: war, death, judgement, wrath and wisdom.
The freedom this movie allowed made for some of the most visually stunning and most exciting action scenes in the entire G1 series. The battle scenes were insane and brutal in comparison to the series. Way more violent and destructive than anything you saw on TV after school. The attack on Autobot City is a prime example. The scene on the Planet of Junk. And the climactic finale where Unicon transformed and began to rip apart Cybertron. Holy cow!
This is the best Transformers movie ever. It is all action and rock with a cool-ass story. You could only have gotten this in the 80s. Michael Bay could have learned a thing or two from this movie.
Unlike the Michael Bay films they kept the focus on the Transformers. They did not shift focus to a bunch of human characters nor did they go for an exceeding level of humor in this film. They took the material seriously even though it was very preposterous. Michael Bay almost got it right in the first film and got further and further from right with each sequel. Nobody cares about the humans. At least not enough to feature them in the film. Keep the focus on the robots like they did here.
This is a great movie even if it is an extended commercial. It is fun and basically just junk food in comparison to other films but it is glorious junk food. If you want to watch a Transformers movie done right watch this.