In 1986, the Transformers franchise got its first of many overhauls–the only Transformers movie you should ever watch. For the conclusion of my tribute, I’ve decided to review it.
For season 3, Hasbro wanted to take both the cartoon and the franchise in a new, darker direction, as they were discontinuing many toys from the original line. The movie killed off many of these characters, including Prowl, Megatron, Optimus Prime (more on these two in the next paragraph), and Starscream (who would later come back as a ghost).
The movie also introduced quite a lot of characters, including Wheelie (ugh), Wreck-Gar, the Quinticons (who would become more important in the actual show), Galvatron, and Hot Rod. It also introduced the villain Unicron, who was basically the Galactus of the movie. Megatron was converted by him into Galvatron when he found him adrift in space after being mortally wounded by Optimus. He used this new lease on life as Unicron’s “herald” to exact revenge on his foes, especially Starscream. Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus is temporarily elected as leader before it’s discovered that Hot Rod is destined to be the new leader. When Hot Rod takes the Matrix of Leadership (which Unicron covets), he becomes Rodimus Prime, and gains the power to destroy Unicron.
So why is this movie such a big deal? First of all, the movie was animated by Toei, the oldest animation studio in Japan (makers of Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon). Toei had also done the in-betweens and cleanup work on the actual show. The movie had a much bigger budget, causing the animation to become more defined in the movie.
Secondly, the voice talent was excellent. Not only does it have mainstays Peter Cullen, Gregg Berger, Chris Liotta, and several others from the show, but there were some big-name stars as well. Unicron was voiced by none other than Orson Welles. Welles was the man back in the early days of radio and movies. Perhaps his most famous accomplishments were creating Suspense, the infamous War of the Worlds radio play, and The Shadow. He also created the landmark movie Citizen Kane. Unicron was his last role, as he died soon after the movie was finished. Galvatron was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. (if you don’t know who Leonard Nimoy, that’s one impressive rock you’re living under since it has Internet access.) Wreck-Gar was voiced by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.
Then there was the music. Like many movies from the 80’s, it was a great soundtrack. It had Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs.
There’s also his other song “Dare”, which is also great.
For some strange reason, you also hear “Dare to Be Stupid” by Weird Al when the Junkions and their leader Wreck-Gar show up. I never understood this inclusion. Nothing against Weird Al, but the song just seems out of place with the others I mentioned.
Critics everywhere have panned this movie. My problem with that is that critics are always expecting Shakespeare. Transformers wasn’t meant to be Shakespeare. I scoff at the criticisms of the Transformers cartoon as an overlong commercial. Hasbro is a toy company. They’re a business, and in my opinion, they’re not nearly as bad as some other companies out there. As a child, I thought Transformers was the best toy line ever, second only to He-man and the Masters of the Universe. I may not be as big a fan as I used to be, but I am glad that the Transformers was a part of my childhood.