In the mid-80s there were two sets of toys that seemed to be everywhere, G.I. Joe (who would get his animated movie the following year) and the Transformers – a collection of robots whose civil war had spread to Earth.
There are two sides, the brave and loyal Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the evil Decepticons, led by the villainous Megatron (Frank Welker) – kids of all ages had their favourites and would collect as many as they could.
Being robots, the Transformers had to find a way to pass through human society, so they transformed into cars, planes, tape decks (seriously) and even a hand gun.
It didn’t take long for some executive to move the cartoons series that sold countless toys to the big screen to sell more toys. It did that, and scarred countless young viewers when a fan favourite was killed off.
The story, which includes an all-star cast including Leonard Nimoy, Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle and Robert Stack, sees the Autobots trying to stop a planet-sized robot, the Unicron (Welles – no typecasting there!) which is after the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, while dealing with an all out attack by their enemy, the Decepitcons.
Set in the distant year of 2005 (20 years after the end of the second season of the television series) the Autobot world of Cybertron and the planet Earth work together to fight the Decepticons, but the new threat of the Unicron and the lack of Energon cubes may cause our heroes a lot of problems.
Filled with solid animation with 80s synth rock/pop the film is a slice of 80s pop life. It also doesn’t let up, it just keeps going, and its pacing, editing, and visual choices make it a better film than any of the Michael Bay films that came along after (and are due up on the blog in short order).
I was always on the edge of both the Joe and Transformers phenomena, it just didn’t appeal to me as much as it did some of my friends. I mean robots are cool, sure, and that they can transform themselves into something else is also cool, but I think even then I saw this as a big cash grab to sell more and more toys, and consequently there was nothing to interest me.
I’m a minority on this one, however, as many of my generation love the toys, the series, and all that goes with it. Even now, I hear stories about how the death in this movie shocked and scarred for life.