So today I find myself watching the movie that scarred a generation of kids. But before we get into that, let me give you a brief history of what led to this event. Back in the 80’s President Reagan’s appointment to head the FCC essentially removed every advertising regulation from children’s programming. This essentially meant that children’s cartoons would become nothing more than 30 minute commercials for various toy lines. Transformers was one of the biggest cartoon franchises to come out of this era and their toys were flying off the market. However, when the original first wave of toys were no longer being produced, Sunbow and Hasbro decided that the best way to get kids to lose interest in them was to kill off those characters and introduce new ones. Needless to say, this came as quite a shock to all of the kids that excitedly went to see this movie only to see one of cartoon’s greatest heroes die within the first 20 minutes. So let’s see the tragedy unfold in today’s movie, The Transformers: The Movie.
The plot: In the year 2005, a monstrous planet named Unicron makes it’s way towards the planet Lithone. As tremors shake the planet, one of the inhabitants, Kranix, sees Unicron drawing near and orders an evacuation but he is the only one to get away as Unicron proceeds to devour the planet, using it to fuel his own life. Meanwhile, the Decepticons have finally managed to win total control of Cybertron but Optimus Prime and the other Autobots have staging bases on Cybertron’s two moons and make plans to defeat the Decepticons and regain control of Cybertron. On Moonbase 1, Prime orders Ironhide to make a shuttle run to Earth to gather more Energon from Autobot City, as they don’t have enough on hand to launch a full scale invasion on Cybertron, but unbeknownst to the Autobots, Laserbeak is observing their plans and quickly flies back to Cybertron. When Laserbeak arrives at the Decepticon base, Megatron orders Soundwave to play back what he observedand after seeing the video of Prime ordering the shuttle to head to Earth, Megatron makes his own plans. As the shuttle travels towards Earth, Megatron and his Decepticon army attack the shuttle, killing Ironhide, Brawn, Prowl, and Ratchet in the process. Starscream question’s why they are attacking the shuttle instead of focusing on the Autobot moon bases and Megatron explains that they can use the shuttle to slip by the early defenses on Earth and destroy Autobot City and the Autobots inside. On Earth, Daniel Witwicky, the son of longtime Autobot associate Spike Witwicky, is fishing with his Autobot friend Hot Rod but is feeling depressed as he misses his dad, who is on Moon Base 2. When he sees the shuttle approaching on his handheld sensor, Daniel wants to go watch it so Hot Rod takes him up to Lookout Mountain, blowing past a barricade that Kup and some other Autobots are setting up. On the mountain, Daniel sees the hole in the shuttle and tells Hot Rod, who takes a look and sees the Decepticons hiding inside. Hot Rod begins attacking the shuttle, confusing Kup and the other Autobots, but when he finally damages the shuttle to where it can no longer fly, Megatron and the other Decepticons fly out and begin attacking the Autobots. Kup saves Hot Rod and Daniel from Blitzwing and Shrapnel but as Hot Rod goes to thank him, they are attacked by Starscream and the two Autobots transform and make their way towards Autobot City. Inside the city, Ultra Magnus, the city commander, orders Arcee and Springer to transform the city to battle station mode, Perceptor to tell Blaster to contact Prime for reinforcements, while he and Blurr evacuate the non essential personnel from the city. As Springer moves to transforms the city, Arcee says Kup and Hot Rod are still outside but Springer grabs her and tells her they are on their own. The two Autobots manage to transform the city and avoid being killed by Starscream, who narrowly avoids being trapped inside the transformed city himself. When Megatron orders the Decepticon’s to breach the city’s defenses, Shrapnel and Kickback begin chewing a hole through one of the doors but Hot Rod and Kup run over the two Insecticons and use the hole to get inside the city, just before a new blast door seals the opening. Meanwhile, Perceptor reaches Blaster and tells him to contact Prime but as Blaster is making his transmission, Megatron sees them and orders Soundwave to jam it. Soundwave releases his cassettes (Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage, and Ratbat), who rip off the communication dish and then proceed to attack the two autobots but Blaster releases his own cassettes (Eject, Rewind, Ramhorn, and Steeljaw) to deal with them. As the battle rages through the night, Springer is trying to move a missile launcher into position and asks Arcee, who is mourning over the bodies of Wheeljack and Windcharger, for help. As she helps him, Kup and Hot Rod show up and the 4 Autobots get the launcher into position just as Daniel points out Megatron ordering the Constructicons to merge into Devastator. As Devastator begins to destroy the Autobot’s defenses, Springer begins firing missiles at him but Devastator shrugs them off and throws some debris at them, taking out the launcher. The battle rages throughout the night and in the morning, the Autobot’s defenses are broken and Megatron orders the Decepticons to attack when a second Autobot shuttle arrives with Prime and the reinforcements. Prime orders the Dinobots to take out Devastator and they fly off to confront the massive Decepticon but though they manage to knock him down, Devastator easily beats the Dinobots. Prime heads off to stop Megatron, making his way through the Decepticons until only Megatron is left standing. The two leaders begin fighting, with Megatron injuring Prime but Prime manages to get the upper hand. As Prime moves to finish off Megatron, but Megatron notices a laser pistol hidden underneath some nearby debris and pleads for mercy in an attempt to stall Prime. As Megaton reaches for the pistol, Hot Rod tries to stop him but Megatron grabs him and uses him as a shield while he proceeds to shoot Prime. Tossing Hot Rod aside, Megatron approaches Prime to finish him off but Prime manages to muster up enough strength for one last blow on Megatron, knocking him off the ledge and down several stories to the ground below. As Prime collapses, Hot Rod rushes to him and apologizes while below, Starscream orders a retreat and the Decepticons grab their wounded and fly off in Astrotrain. Inside the damaged city, Perceptor tells everyone that Prime’s wounds are fatal and Prime appoints Ultra Magnus to be the new leader, passing the Matrix of Leadership to him before he dies. Out in space, Unicron has seen what happened on Earth and when he sees the Matrix survived, he roars out in anger. Elsewhere, Astrotrain tells the other Decepticons to jettison some weight or they won’t reach Cybertron so, declaring survival of the fittest, they dump out the injured Decepticons, with Starscream tossing Megatron out himself. Afterwards, Starscream declares himself the new leader but the other Decepticon’s begin arguing that they should lead and a fight breaks out inside Astrotrain. Megatron and the other injured Decpticons float through space and end up being drawn towards Unicron. Unicron speaks with Megatron and offers him a new body and troops in exchange for destroying the Matrix and Megatron initially refuses to be a servant to Unicron but relents when Unicron prepares to devour him. Unicron uses his powers to rebuild Megatron into Galvatron, then turns the other injured Decepticons (Skywarp, Thundercracker, Bombshell, Kickback, and Shrapnel) into Cyclonus, Scourge, and Scourge’s hunters The Sweeps. Flying off in the ship Unicron gave them, Galvatron heads to Cybertron and interrupts Starscream’s coronation ceremony before killing Starscream. Meanwhile, Unicron approaches the two moon bases and begins devouring Moon Base 1. Jazz and Cliffjumper radio a report to Ultra MAgnus before they try to escape but they can’t escape Unicron’s gravity tractor beam and are sucked into his maw. Spike and Bumblebee on Moon Base 2 tell Ultra Magnus what happened and as Unicron heads towards them, they set up explosives and detonate them while the moon is in Unicron’s mouth but the explosion has no effect and they end up sucked in as well. On Cybertron, Galvatron curses Unicron for destroying the moons but falls over in pain, as Scourge reminds him that they belong to Unicron, and after recovers, Galvatron orders the Decepticons back to Earth. On Earth, Ultra Magnus orders everyone to the shuttles so the can help their friends, thinking the Matrix might be able to help, which Hot Rod readily agrees with the idea. Suddenly, they come under attack by the Decepticons and manage to get away only for Galvatron to follow after them. Galvatron sends Cyclonus out, who incapacitates the shuttle carrying Hot Rod, Kup, and the Dinobots and they end up crashing on a nearby planet of Quintessa. As Galvatron goes after the second shuttle, Ultra Magnus orders an emergency separation and they succeed in fooling the Decepticons into thinking they were destroyed. Galvatron praises their success but when Unicron psychically attacks him again, he orders Cyclonus to take him to see Unicron. On Quintessa, Hot Rod is separated form the others and as he searches for them, he sees Kup being attacked by a giant mechanical squid and rescues him, then works on repairing the damage. When he finishes, the two Autobots go looking for the Dinobots but end up being captured by some strange creatures and taken to a citadel. Placed inside a dungeon, Kup and Hot Rod are greeted by Kranix, who starts to tell them about Unicron but he is grabbed by the guards and taken away to a kangaroo court, where the Quintessons, the rulers of the planet, sentence him to death and feed him to the Sharkticons. Elsewhere, Grimlock and the other Dinobots (Slag, Sludge, and Swoop) are searching for Hot Rod and Kup when they meet Wheelie, a small Autobot warrior that speaks in rhymes and helps lead them to where their friends are. Meanwhile, Galvatron asks Unicron why he attacked him and Unicron tells him that Ultra Magnus and the Matrix are still alive and sends him to the Planet of Junk to destroy him. On the Planet of Junk, Ultra Magnus, Arcee, Springer, Perceptor, Blurr, and Daniel (wearing an exo suit) are working to repair the emergency shuttle, unaware that they are being observed by the planet’s inhabitants, the Junkions. When the Decepticons attack, The Autobots run for cover and Ultra Magnus buries them under some junk, then tries to face the Decepticons on his own by using the Matrix but it doesn’t open for him and Galvatron has the Sweeps blow him apart, then grabs the Matrix to use against Unicron himself. Back on Quintessa, Hot Rod and Kup are brought to trial and sentenced to death but they begin fighting back against the Sharkticons. Before they can be overrun, Grimlock and the other Dinobots arrive and after destroying several Sharkticons, Grimlock is able to take control of them and orders them to attack the Quintessons while Wheelie shows the Autobots a nearby ship they can use so long as they take him with them. Back on the Planet of Junk, Arcee and the other Autobots mourn the death of Ultra Magnus when they are suddenly attacked by the Junkions. The Autobots try to fend them off but the fighting stops when Hot Rod and the other’s arrive on the planet. Hot Rod speaks with Wreck Gar, the Junkions’ leader and Wreck Gar declares a truce and as a sign of their new friendship, the Junkions repair Ultra Magnus. Realizing that Galvatron has the Matrix, Hot Rod says they have to go after him and Wreck Gar agrees to help, revealing a ship of their own. Meanwhile, Galvatron is calling out Unicron and says that since he has the Matrix, Unicron should do his bidding now but he is unable to open it. Unicron then transforms into a massive robot and tells Galvatron that he had considered sparing Cybertron but now plans on rending it asunder. As Unicron begins attacking the planet, Shockwave orders the Decepticons on the planet to begin attacking Unicron but he is easily able to fend them off. Galvatron begins attacking Unicron but Unicron simply grabs him and swallows him as Hot Rod and the others show up. As Unicron attacks the approaching ships, he blasts the ship carrying Hot Rod, Springer, Kup, Arcee, and Daniel in half but Hot Rod guides their damaged half straight into Unicron’s eye. Hot Rod is separated for the others, who are attacked by Unicron’s internal defenses, and as he goes looking for them, he encounters Galvatron. Galvatron suggests a truce against their common enemy but Unicron attacks Galvatron and orders him to kill Hot Rod and Galvatron agrees to do so. Meanwhile, Daniel gets separated from the others and discovers a smelting pit, where the captured inhabitants of the planets Unicron destroys are melted down for fuel. Daniel sees Spike, Bumblebee, Jazz, and Cliffjumper about to be dropped into the pit and as Spike yells for Daniel to help them, Daniel manages to shoot down the acid shield and rescues them. Elsewhere, Hot Rod and Galvatron continue fighting and Galvatron gets the upper hand and begins choking Hot Rod but Hot Rod manages to grab the Matrix from Galvatron and transforms into Rodimus Prime. Shocked, Galvatron shoots the Matrix from Rodimus’ hands but Rodimus grapples with Galvatron and manages to throw him out of Unicron. Rodimus then opens the Matrix, and it’s energy begins ripping Unicron apart from the inside. Springer, Kup, and Arcee meet up with Spike, Daniel and the other Autobots and as they try to figure out what is going on, they are met by Rodimus, who tells them they need to get out of there. The Autobots all transform and escape through Unicrons other eye as Unicron explodes from the Matrix’s energy, causing his head to orbit the planet as it’s new moon. On Cybertron, Rodimus and the Autobot’s regain control of the planet and Rodimus declares an end to the Cybertronian War and a new age of peace and tranquility to have started as they all celebrate.
The Transformers: The Movie met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A surprisingly dark, emotional, and almost excessively cynical experience for Transformers fans.” The death of Optimus Prime in the movie causes such a backlash among the fans, that Sunbow ended up bringing him back in the third season of the cartoon, while a new figure, Powermaster Optimus Prime, would come out the following year. Despite the popularity of the series, the movie failed to make a profit at the box office, earning $5.8 million off of a $6 million budget.
I have to admit that when I first saw this movie as a kid, I didn’t really think about how dark it was but this really is a dark movie, definitely darker than what a kid should be watching at the time. That being said, I love this movie and find it infinitely better than the recent live action movies. The voice acting was great, with many of the original voice actors reprising their roles from the cartoon while Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, and Lionel Standard were all good in their roles of Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime, Galvatron, Ultra Magnus and Kup respectively. I loved Monty Python alum Eric Idle as the TV talking Wreck-Gar and thought Orson Welles was great as Unicron, though he apparently hated the role. The story was good, but incredibly dark. I mean, with the cartoon, you had plenty of laser blasts and explosions but nobody was seriously injured. In this movie though, you have an entire planet destroyed and all it’s inhabitants eaten, Transformers being shot and killed, and some being melted by acid. I honestly have to wonder how they thought this was something to be shown to kids. The animation was pretty good and definitely a step up from the cartoon, while they did do a decent job of introducing new characters to the series. It probably isn’t something that little kids should watch but definitely something that fans who grew up watching the show, and modern fans, will enjoy watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5