|The Transformers: The Movie
1986 - PG - 85 Mins.
|Director: Nelson Shin
|Producer: Joe Bacal and Tom Griffin
|Written By: Ron Friedman
|Starring: Peter Cullen, Robert Stack, Frank Welker, Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy
|Review by: Bill King
"The Transformers: The Movie" is one of the sloppiest animated movies ever made. It's kind of depressing that fanboys are so absorbed in their love for the Transformers toy line that they flat-out ignore the substandard story, mediocre soundtrack and poor dialogue. I have a little bit of appreciation for it, that appreciation stemming from my upbringing in the '80s, but to declare this as a great movie is shortsighted. I liked the toys, and the cartoon series had entertainment value to it, but the movie is extremely shallow.
Okay Optimus, tell me what happens to your trailer when you transform.
The movie commits so many cinematic sins that finding a place just to start discussing them is difficult. I could probably start with the voice work. Robert Stack, Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy, Lionel Stander, Eric Idle and, to a lesser extent, Judd Nelson are the name actors who contribute to the story, but only Robert Stack is recognizable. Their voices were altered by the post-production crew to sound like broken Speak & Spell toys. Eric Idle in particular has some horrendous dialogue to recite ("Yes friends, act now, destroy Unicron. Kill the Grand Poobah. Eliminate even the toughest stain."), but most of the time I couldn't understand what he was saying. I'd rather not know why Orson Welles agreed to contribute his voice, such as it is (his character Unicron sounds nothing like him).
As the movie opens, the series timeline had jumped ahead 20 years. New characters are introduced in this movie, while many longtime characters are killed off (too easily I might add). Megatron and the Decepticons board a shuttle headed to earth. His plan is to make a surprise attack on the Autobot base. Ultra Magnus (Stack) is in charge, and with him is the inexperienced Hot Rod (Nelson) and the old war hero Kup (Stander). In the ensuing battle, many Autobots die (off-screen), and victory is within reach for Megatron, until Optimus Prime shows up. The movie's reason for existence is in this brief encounter. The trailers hinted at the possibility that Prime would die.
Unicron is a wandering doomsday machine scouring the galaxy in search of planets to ingest. In the beginning of the movie, he's devouring a planet and all of its inhabitants. His next stop is the Transformers' home planet Cybertron. Unicron's exact size is another source for discontent. The animators weren't very consistent with his dimensions; sometimes he's bigger than the planets he's eating, yet in one scene Megatron, or Galvatron later, is slightly smaller than his mouth.
The animation is cheap. Characters switch colors from one scene to the next, and sometimes blend into the background. The animators had little concern for continuity. Ironhide, who is killed off on the shuttle, makes a sudden appearance in the battle over the Autobot base. The Constructicons merge to form a larger robot named Devestator while inside Astrotrain, a Transformer who can take on the form of a space shuttle. Prior point-of-view shots indicated that his size couldn't accommodate such a big robot. The worst scene shows the Autobots dancing with Junk Transformers after striking up a friendship, with a terrible song playing on the soundtrack.
"The Transformers: The Movie" bombed at the box office in 1986. Because of that, the studio chose to release "G.I. Joe: The Movie" straight to video. Ironically, that was the better movie. I've never been one to accuse Saturday morning cartoons of depriving children of their imaginations. I don't make that accusation here. I grew up watching '80s cartoons, so I know better than to say that these shows were harmful. This is simply a poorly-made movie with an inelegant animation style. The only good thing that came out of this debacle were the cool toys.