- Co-Produced and Directed by Nelson Shin
- August 8, 1986 (US)
- Based on The Transformers by Hasbro and Takara
- Narrator-Victor Caroli
- Optimus Prime, Ironhide-Peter Cullen
- Hot Rod / Rodimus Prime-Judd Nelson
- Ultra Magnus-Robert Stack
- Springer, Slag, Bonecrusher, Hook-Neil Ross
- Arcee-Susan Blu
- Kup-Lionel Stander
- Wheelie, Megatron, Soundwave, Frenzy, Rumble, Junkion-Frank “I’ve-Been-Around-So-Long-And-Done-So-Much-I-Was-A-Part-Of-Your-Parent’s-Childhoods” Welker
- Blurr-John Moschitta Jr.
- Blaster-Buster Jones
- Perceptor-Paul Eiding
- Grimlock-Gregg Berger
- Swoop, Scrapper, Junkion-Michael Bell
- Jazz-Scatman Crothers
- Cliffjumper-Casey Kasem
- Bumblebee-Dan Gilvezan
- Brawn, Shockwave, Spike Witwicky-Corey Burton
- Galvatron-Leonard Nimoy
- Cyclonus, Quintesson Leader-Roger C. Carmel
- Scourge-Stanley Jones
- Starscream-Chris “Cobra Commander” Latta
- Devastator-Arthur Burghardt
- Scavenger, Gears-Don Messick
- Astrotrain, Ramjet-Jack Angel
- Blitzwing-Ed Gilbert
- Kickback-Clive Revill
- Shrapnel-Hal Rayle
- Unicron-Orson Welles
- Quintesson Judge-Regis Cordic
- Wreck-Gar-Eric Idle
- Daniel Witwicky-David Mendenhall
- Kranix-Norman Alden
- Inferno-Walker Edmiston
Following a devasting Decepticon assault on Autobot City, the surviving Autobots are chased across the galaxy by Galvatron and his Decepticons who serve the planet eating Unicron.
The Transformers: The Movie was one of the formative films of my childhood. While essentially at 85 minute long commercial, it was everything a young Transformers fan could ask for and as a movie stands well on its own. It has action and excitement and great animation and music that could only have come out in the mid-80s. Nobody does stadium rock anymore. Sigh…
How can you go wrong with a movie that touches on universal Armageddon at the hands of a planet eating robot? I love movies that deal with ultimate destruction. I have a soft spot for the disaster genre and this was like a disaster film-but with the Transformers!
The film opens with a bang and shows you that the Transformers are facing a threat unlike anything else they had before. We get a robot populated alien world visited by the world eater Unicron. The action starts and never really lets up. There are just bridges between the action moments. Each bridge pushes the story forward and each action moment expands upon the world.
One thing that jumps out at me (and it did then too) is that the inhabitants of the planet in the opener seem to be aware of who Unicron is but the Transformers are completely ignorant. Even the aged Kup who has seen and heard it all quite literally knows nothing of him. I didn’t expect that the character had some secret past with them, but that they never heard of this world devourer yet were a spacefaring civilization still sticks with me a little bit. The dude eats planets!
But Unicron was not the only new bit introduced to The Transformers mythos. Also added was the Autobot Matrix of Leadership which would light their darkest hour. Planet eaters. Spaceships. Battling robots. Prophecies. I’m hooked! There was also the hint that this Matrix was some kind of Autobot heaven as the cry “Until all are one!” kept getting used.
This movie was not only the set up not only for the next season, but the new line of Transformers toys. Like I said, The Transformers: The Movie is a commercial. But it didn’t feel like a commercial. With a screenplay by The Transformers writer Ron Friedman and the involvement of those behind the show, they did their best to tell a good story full of action and excitement and wonder and I think they accomplish that in spades. The characters, especially the new one, aren’t two dimensional. For example, you know there’s a relationship going on between Springer and Arcee. You know Ultra Magnus feels stressed under the burdens of command. And you know the Junkions are bonkers outwardly crazy but have an intelligence equal to anyone else.
They went all in being as imaginative and weird as they possibly could. The designs of the planets and the non-Transformers characters are all a unique vision. The Quintessons in particular were childhood nightmare fuel for me. They ran a brutal world that looked like some crazy person designed it. They ran trials with the outcomes always the same. And they fed the ‘guilty’ to Sharkticons in a watery pit.
These Five Faces of Darkness each had (here anyway) five distinct faces. Though nothing official exists, each seems to be used to express something different with each almost having a unique personality. More importantly they were just disturbing. That is some deep thought for a film aimed at kids and makes this enjoyable as an adult.
The death of robot space dad Optimus Prime was a complete gut punch and let the viewer know how dangerous things were and that nobody was really safe in The Transformers: The Movie. It was also the culmination of the conflict that had been raging between Prime and Megatron since before the series began.
It was epic and tragic and created a level of uncertainty as to what would happen. Previously a character might get damaged but by the end of the episode they got repaired and all was right with the world. The numerous deaths to make way for the new characters may have upset viewers (me included) but it was the right move to tell the story. Why pay to see nothing you could otherwise get for free on television?
Unicron (voiced by the legendary Orson Welles in his final performance) was a great villain. And what he did to Megatron by turning him into Galvatron made Megatron/Galvatron an evil too great to be easily destroyed. It elevated one of the greatest 80s TV villains to a whole new level. And ultimately what Galvatron did to Starscream is what he probably should have done in the first place. Poor Starscream. He was a power-hungry jerk that never understood he had a job so long as he didn’t push too hard. I dare say it was as shocking as the death of Prime but done with more flare.
You had to of seen it coming, but at the same time it was quite a surprise when it was revealed that Unicron was a Transformer himself. In my young mind it opened up so many questions and story possibilities. And it went to one of the best battles in Transformers history.
The Transformers: The Movie is by far the best iteration of the Transformers concept. Why? Because the Transformers are the central characters. The focus of the story is on them and it’s not one goofy moment after another. They treat the material seriously. Unlike the live action films, the idea is to tell a good story and treat the material maturely with the occasional joke to ease the tension.
Normally, I’m against celebrity voices in animated movies. You’re not going to see Leonard Nimoy or Judd Nelson on the screen. Voice acting requires you to communicate much more with the sound of the voice than live action acting. Often in my opinion you do not get the same quality as one would get from a Frank Welker or a Peter Cullen when you employ someone of stage and screen.
Here though these were largely very seasoned actors with many years of experience (and in some cases a few classics) to their name. Orson Welles, Lionel Stander, and Robert Stack along with Leonard Nimoy or Judd Nelson were all talented and conveyed everything the viewer needed to know about their respective characters with their vocal performances. But while mentioned in the marketing they were not the main draw. Their presence and their talent was a bonus. And for me that was and still is the saving grace that makes them acceptable.
The Transformers: The Movie has everything you could want in not only an action oriented animated film, but in a Transformers movie. High stakes and epic battles and great characters and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat each time you watch it from the opening moments to the action-packed finale. If you’re a fan of The Transformers or high-quality animation this is a must see!
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