MRD Review: The Transformers: The Movie (1986 animated movie)

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Welcome everyone to my review of The Transformers: The Movie, an animated movie made in 1986 based off of the popular 80s show that aired at the time. The events of the movie takes place between the second and third seasons of the show (and in my opinion, it probably should have been the ending considering what happened in the third season) but the reason I’m reviewing it separately from the show is because I felt that because this was a whole animated movie, it wouldn’t be right to just stuff it in the same review as the show. With that being said, let’s jump right into the review.

First, let’s talk about the plot and characters. I’m not going to go into the whole plot because I don’t want to spoil everything (even though this movie has been out for almost 30 years). In fact, I will state right now that in a lot of my future reviews, I don’t plan to spoil the ending or give away the full story for any show regardless of whether the show came out 2 years ago or 20 years ago just so that anyone who is interested in watching these shows after reading these reviews won’t already know a lot of the plot. Though, there are some shows where I will be making exceptions because I really don’t see how I can talk about the plots of certain shows without giving away some information about the plot from a previous show. But even in those cases, I will do my best to spoil only what I feel I absolutely need to give away to explain the plot of another show.

The plot of the animated movie is that it is the year 2005, and the Decepticons have managed to conquer Cybertron, and the Autobots’ only line of defense now are bases on Cybertron’s moons and Autobot City on Earth. The Decepticons attempt to crush Autobot City to force a final surrender from the Autobots, and this would culminate into a huge battle that took the lives of many Autobots and ended with a climactic battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron which would end with Optimus getting fatally wounded while Megatron would end up crippled, but alive. With Megatron injured, the Decepticons are forced to retreat and Optimus Prime passes on the Matrix to Ultra Magnus upon his deathbed. However, as all this is happening, a new threat emerges in the form of the planet-sized transformer known as Unicron who devours whole worlds and now has his sights set on Cybertron itself. However, the Matrix of Leadership is the only thing that can stop him and so he summons the crippled Megatron and other injured Decepticons to himself, reformats them, and gives them greater power. Megatron, now called Galvatron, along with Cyclonus, and Scourge and his sweeps then set out to find the Autobots to destroy them as well as the Matrix.

The 1986 animated movie introduced a few new characters while killing off a lot of the old cast (after all, how else is Hasbro going to sell new toys? :P). Among the new characters are Hot Rod, a young hot-headed Autobot with potential to be a great leader and who also serves as the protagonist, Ultra Magnus, a noble Autobot who was chosen by Optimus to lead the Autobots after his death, the old-timer Kup, a female Autobot Arcee, the quick-speaking and quick-moving Blurr, Springer, Wheelie, and Spike’s son Daniel Witwicky. There are also new villains such as Unicron, a giant planet-sized Transformer that devours whole worlds who also serves as the antagonist, Galvatron who is essentially just Megatron but he was reformatted by Unicron after being grievously wounded by Prime in their final battle and is now stronger than ever, as well as Galvatron’s troops Scourge and his sweeps, and his lieutenant Cyclonus. A few old characters also return like the Dinobots, Spike Witwicky, the Constructicons, Soundwave, Starscream, and more. Though, some members of the old cast only make brief appearances as many of them are killed off, and some of their deaths are not even shown on screen like Wheeljack.

Always remember - he died for your sins... and so Hasbro could sell more toys :P
Always remember - he died for your sins... and so Hasbro could sell more toys :P

Anyway, that’s enough about the plot and characters. It’s time for the actual review. What do I think of the animated movie? First, I’d like to say that it has been a few years since I last watched the animated movie but I watched a few times to prepare for this review. If you’ve read my review of the G1 cartoon, then you’d know that I think that show has not aged very well and rewatchings of episodes causes them to hold up noticeably worse every time. So how has this animated movie held up? Pretty well, actually. Now, don’t get me wrong – the movie is not perfect as I noticed a few issues with the plot here and there like how the Autobots just feel that the Matrix will stop Unicron on a whim and there area few plot inconsistencies with the cartoon itself (like Prime suddenly had the matrix in this movie but was never actually shown possessing it in the show prior to this movie), but overall I really enjoyed it. One thing I really appreciated about the movie is that the pacing is really good. Every moment of the animated movie serves some sort of purpose in the overall plot. There’s never a moment like, say, from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, where right after Sentinel Prime reveals that he made a deal with Megatron long ago to save his planet, instead of continuing on and going to something actually relevant to the plot, the next scene is about Sam talking to his parents about his relation with Carly which does nothing to serve the plot and was completely unnecessary and which I doubt anyone watching a film titled “Transformers” gave a crap about. Here, everything flows well and everything is plot important.

As for the characters, admittedly there are a few I don’t really care all that much for like Daniel and Wheelie, and Arcee honestly feels like she’s there for the sole purpose of having a female character in the story. The main antagonist Unicron, however, in his debut I felt was very imposing. I mean, at this point we’d seen robots who turn into cars, trucks, planes, military vehicles, and more but this is the first time we really see one that turns into a whole planet. And whenever he’s on screen, he had an imposing presence about him. Galvatron was also pretty menacing as well. The protagonist Hot Rod, I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan of him because he caused Prime to die in the first place through his carelessness, but I like how we see him go from being a young hot-headed Autobot to a seasoned warrior. He’s kind of like Luke Skywalker from Star Wars episode IV. In fact, a few people have noted similarities between this movie and Star Wars like Arcee’s helmet looking similar to Princess Leia’s hairbuns, the Matrix is kind of like the Force, and Unicron is like the Death Star. But, enough of that little tangent. Kup serves as a sort of mentor to Hot Rod throughout the movie and often talks about old stories, the Dinobots are also like they were in the cartoon - big, brutish, and not very bright, and pretty much everyone from the cartoon is just like they were in the cartoon itself which I'm happy about.

You gotta wonder how hard Sludge was hit if his eyeballs popped out like that.... before going back into his head like nothing happened.
You gotta wonder how hard Sludge was hit if his eyeballs popped out like that.... before going back into his head like nothing happened.

Then there’s the soundtrack. Throughout the film, there are tons of hard-rocking 80s songs like Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, Dare to be Stupid by Weird Al, the main theme by Lion, and more. I admit they add an interesting touch to the movie. As for the animation quality, well it’s an 80s animation so you can’t expect anything that great by today’s standards. And just like the G1 cartoon itself, there are a few technical errors here and there but nothing too bad. I think the voice work is also pretty good. Orson Welles voices Unicron (sadly, it was also his last performance before he died) and gives him a really imposing voice, Leonard Nimoy does a great job as Galvatron,, Hot Rod is voiced by Judd Nelson, Blurr is voiced by the fastest-talking man in the world John Moschitta Jr., Susan Blu voices Arcee, Robert Stack voices Ultra Magnus, and the rest of the cast return to reprise their roles in the movie such as Frank Welker as Megatron and Soundwave, and Peter Cullen voices Optimus Prime. Also, there are lots of other voice actors I didn’t list, but I don’t want to just spend too much time in this review listing everyone who was part of the movie.

Overall, I really enjoyed the 1986 animated Transformers movie. It’s definitely the best part of the original G1 cartoon and to this day it is still a cult classic among Transformers fans. Even though the movie also takes place in the middle of the G1 cartoon, part of me does feel that anyone who hasn’t watched the cartoon and who can get past the 80s animation may find some enjoyment in it. With that said, I hope you enjoyed this review and I will see you all next time for my review of Transformers: Headmasters.