Long before Michael Bay got his CGI-encrusted fingers on the Transformers franchise, there was another Transformers movie, a better Transformers movie – Transformers: The Movie.
Drawn in the same animation style as the hugely successful TV series (and the upcoming video game Transformers: Devastation) and featuring the vocal talents of Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy and Citizen Kane director Orson Welles, Transformers; The Movie is a masterclass in everything Autobot and Decepticon, as well as a vast improvement of story-telling and character building than anything the franchise has done in this century. Plus, you can tell them apart.
The story largely follows Hot Rod, a young and impetuous Autobot, as he tries to stop the evil Unicron, a planet-sized evil Transformer that devours planets, putting both Cybertron and Earth in danger, but starts when the Decipticons and Megatron attack the Autobot base, because that’s what bad guys do. In the battle, both Optimus Prime and Megatron are mortally wounded – and after about 20 minutes, both are no longer part of the story. To me, this is one of the defining features of the film – one of a mountain of elements that make it the best Transformers movie ever made – the bravery and dedication to developing story and character that the two most famous Transformers are written out early. Merchandisers might not have been happy, but I was.
Another huge aspect of the film that I love is simply the array of Transformers on show. Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod, Grimlock, devastator, Soundwave, Starscream, Kup – to name just a few, all get to show off their personalities and skills enough to create memorable impressions. They’re characters with personalities, as well as transforming abilities. This is another thing sadly lacking from modern cinematic incarnations, which focussed more on the humans in the story. Which worked. To a point.
But, without a doubt the highlight of the film is the two main fight scenes – between Optimus Prime and Megatron at the beginning, and between Hot Rod and Galvatron near the film’s climax – these scenes are everything you could or should want from a Transformers film, filled with the essence of the TV show and of the characters I fell in love with as a kid. And don’t get me started on the soundtrack. The songs have stuck with me over twenty years. They’re that good.
If, like me, you grew up with Transformers, then this is a film you need to watch.
You’ll thank me afterwards.