The movie begins with a pretty damn trippy sequence in outer space where Unicron, a massive planet sized machine drifts ominously through space. And I have to say, this animation is…
Not quite Disney standard obviously, but light-years better than the TV series. The first shot of Unicron in particular is incredibly detailed but also wonderfully fluid. Unicron approaches the planet Lithone and, as it’s terrified inhabitants flee, devours the world whole. Now, I know what you’re thinking, giant planet sized machine that destroys planets? Death Star rip off, right? Wrong. Unicron is actually much closer in concept to Galactus, the world-devourer of Marvel comics lore, which makes sense given that Marvel came up with the entire Transformers mythology. Oh, but make no mistake, this movie goes through Star Wars’ wastebasket and sniffs its old panties to a ridiculous degree. In fact, take a shot everytime we see something ripped from Star Wars.
“When did you start drinking?”
“Let’s just say there’s a movie in your future called The Three Caballeros that’s going to make you reevaluate a lot of your life choices.”
By the way, I don’t want to imply that The Transformers is unique in aping Star Wars. Pretty much every science fiction/fantasy film made in the eighties did in some way, just read The Black Cauldron review to see what I mean. Anyway, Unicron destroys Lithone and continues on its slow, inexorable search for the next buffet. And I gotta say…that is a really strong cold open. It’s atmospheric and well animated and quickly and effectively establishes the new villain as a force to be reckoned with. Now the Transformers theme starts up and if you can somehow resist the urge to belt out “TRANSFORMERS!” then you have no soul. And then we get a…what the fuck is this?
Take a shot.
Okay, my problem with this is not that there’s a text crawl. A lot of writers will tell you that text crawls are lazy, bad writing and that all exposition should come naturally through the dialogue and action but I don’t really mind them to be honest. If it’s done well, a text crawl can be a quick and efficient way to set up the world of the story without the need for clunky expository dialogue. And as for them being bad writing, well, some of the best screenplays in history have used establishing text so I don’t really think that argument holds water. Take Bladerunner for example. It has a text crawl at the beginning establishing the basic premise, which means that when Deckard walks through Bryant’s office door it goes like this:
BRYANT: I need ya, Deck. This is a bad one, the worst yet. I need the old blade runner, I need your magic.
DECKARD: Bryant, I was quit when I walked in here. I’m twice as quit now.
And not like this:
BRYANT: Deckard, a space ship full of replicants has crashed on earth, and you don’t need me to tell you why that’s a problem. Because as you know, Earth is off limits to replicants.
DECKARD: Replicants? You mean those psychotic androids that for some reason we designed to be indistinguishable from humans and that I’ve been hunting for most of my adult life?
BRYANT: Exactly. I need you to be my Bladerunner.
DECKARD: Your cop/mercenary for hire? But I’m no longer in that line of work, having become increasingly jaded by all the senseless killing that the job entails.
BRYANT: You mean retirement?
DECKARD: Right. Because that’s what we call killing replicants here in Los Angeles in 2019.
It don’t exactly flow, is what I’m trying to say. So I don’t object to text crawls as a general rule. This one though, I have beef with. Firstly, you can have a cold open or you can have a text crawl but having them both makes no sense. See, the whole purpose of a cold open is to drop the audience into the story with no explanation (“cold”) and have them make sense of the story as it gradually unfolds. Whereas a text crawl is something you have at the very beginning of the movie to prepare the audience with specific information before the movie begins. You can’t have a text crawl between scenes because it completely take you out of the movie. We’re being dunked in and out of the story like a baby at a Christening with an overly enthusiastic priest. And honestly, it’s not even necessary. The storyline of Transformers is not War and Peace.
Similar cast size notwithstanding.
The kids in the audience already know what the score is, and the adults are presumably going to be able to figure out that the “Decepticons” are probably not the good guys. And to cap off this dispatch from the Department of Redundancy Department, the text recap is narrated. So…why even bother with a text recap if you’re going to have some random bloke reading it anyway? Because Star Wars had a text recap. Why else? Alright, well, fair is fair, this narration does actually clear up one or two points that might have been confusing even for the fans in the audience. Whereas the TV show was set in the eighties, the movie jumps ahead to the far distant future of 2005 when Optimus Prime and most of the Autobots have left Earth. And who can blame them?
Optimus Prime: “Done. I’m fucking done.”
The Autobots have established bases on two of Cyberton’s moons and are preparing to launch an all out assault on the planet to take it back from Decepticon control. Here’s something I never got; who exactly is on Cybertron right now? I mean, is it just Decepticons? If so, then what is Optimus Prime planning on doing with this population once he’s won? Ruling over them? Enslaving them? Crushing them all into cubes? Or is there just a massive population of Autobots chafing under Decepticon rule? Or maybe they’re all just normal Cybertronians who don’t identity with either faction? Do they even care who rules over them? Are they just like “Sure, Megatron’s a tyrant but he keeps the gigantic transforming trains running on time.”?
“I think you’re over-thinking this.”
So this movie draws far more heavily on the comic book than the animated show, which quickly becomes apparent from the plot. The Marvel comic was much more of a space opera, depicting the ongoing war between Autobots and Decepticons being waged across countless alien worlds whereas the cartoon was more about the Autobots putzing around on Earth and reminding people to roll the window down when they leave their dog in the car. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) tells his troops to prepare for the final assault on Cybertron but says that they’ll need more energon before they go over the top. He orders a team of Autobots to Autobot City, their outpost on Earth, to get some of those sweet, sweet glowing cubes. However, unbeknownst to the Autobots, they are being spied on by Ravage, a Decepticon who can transform into a cassette tape. I find it hilarious that, what with the rise of hipsters, this movie would actually be less dated if Ravage turned into a fricking vinyl record. Anyway, Ravage reports to Megatron (Frank Welker) what he’s seen and tells the Decepticons that they’re going to hijack the shuttle that’s on its way to earth and use it to launch a surprise assault on Autobot city. Starscream (Christopher Collins) shits all over that plan and Megatron tells him to cork it because these two are incapable of talking to each other without threatening to deplete the world’s reserves of sarcasm and contempt. Seriously, the most mundane, everyday exchanges between these two are all the same.
“I got your coffee! But they were out of cream, oh Mighty Megatron!
“Once again you fail me, Starscream!”
Alright, so the Decepticons hijack the shuttle and massacre the entire Autobot crew. Well, fortunately they’re just nameless extras so we don’t have to worry too much..
“Brawn! Prowl! Ratchet! Ironhide! Noooooooooo!”
Yeah, see if you weren’t familiar with the series this scene would just be faceless grunts getting mowed down. But every one of these characters has a name, a backstory and probably had a few episodes devoted to them at least. Every one of those guys was someone’s favourite toy. And eh…they…they do not die well.
We cut to Autobot City on Earth where new character Hot “I am a pale shadow of Optimus Prime inferior in every way and what am I even doing here?” Rod is fishing with Daniel Witwicky. Daniel is a human kid who’s the son of Spike Witwicky who was a kid in the series but is now grown up and helping the Autobots on Cybertron. Daniel is voiced by David Mendenhall, a very nice young gentleman who is doing his best but at least is not Shia La Beouf.
Great. Now I feel bad for Shia La Beouf.
Hot Rod is trying to cheer up Daniel because he misses his dad and apparently his mother has vanished into the aether. They see the shuttle coming in for a landing and Hot Rod transforms into his car form and races back to the city with Daniel inside. Hot Rod sees that the shuttle is damaged and through a massive hole in the hull (my, that’ll just make re-entry a doddle) he sees that the ship is lousy with Decepticons. Hot Rod opens fire, to the horror of Kup, an old veteran Autobot who doesn’t realise that Megatron’s pulled the old Trojan Horse routine but then the Decepticons launch their attack and it all kicks off.
Alright, so there’s a LOT of new Autobots that we need to get through so hold on tight. There’s Ultra Magnus, who’s basically Optimus Prime lite and runs Autobot city. He turns into a truck. Then there’s Blurr, who turns into a racecar and is voiced by John Moschitta Junior who held the world record for fastest talker and is really, really fast. There’s Arcee, a female Autobot (don’t ask, we’ll be here all day) who also turns into a car and whose hairstyle in no way resembles that of a certain member of the Alderaan royal family.
Take a shot.
And there’s Perceptor. He turns into a microscope.
I had Perceptor. Brought him in to school one day. Got the ever living shit kicked out of me.
The Autobots are outmatched and retreat into the city and activate its fortress mode (sold separately). They try to get a message to Optimus Prime to send reinforcements but the Decepticons destroy the transmitter and the Autobots can’t be sure if the message got through. Then the Autobots start dropping like flies.
“Windcharger! Wheeljack! Nooooooooo!”
And then Megatron orders the Constructicons (robots who turn into construction vehicles, keep up) to combine and form Devastator the largest and most powerful of all the Decepticons.
But then, just when all hope seems lost, Optimus Prime arrives with reinforcements.
“Looks like we arrived in the nick of time, Jazz.”
“Know what that makes us Jazz?”
“Big damn heroes sir.”
“Ain’t. We. Just.”
Optimus Prime rolls into Autobot city to the cheesetastic track “The Touch” by Stan Bush which has since become basically the national anthem of Transformers fans. Prime has also brought the Dinobots, autobots that transform into dinosaurs (don’t ask, we’ll be here all day) led by their leader Grimlock. Ohhhh boy. Grimlock, Grimlock. See, when this movie was made the conventional wisdom was that all dinosaurs had brains the size of walnuts. So the creators of the series thought that the best way to reflect this would be for the Dinobots to be…um…well, there’s really no other way to say it. Grimlock and the Dinobots are “special”. I’m not even kidding. There’s a bit where Grimlock asks Kup to tell him “about the petrorabbits.” Part of me hopes there’s a fan dub out there where the entirety of Of Mice and Men is done with Transformers.
“Autobots like us, that fight Decepticons, are the loneliest robots in the galaxy. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a planet and get some energon and then they head to another planet and blow that energon, and the first thing you know they’re fightin’ Decepticons on some other planet. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.”
Alright, so in the cartoon series the Autobots never actually killed any of the Decepticons, so naturally Prime is eager to make up for lost time, gunning them down in numbers that would make Rambo proud. He comes face to face with Megatron and the two go at it. Megatron pulls out a glowing energy sword…
Take a shot.
…and slashes Prime who counters with the ancient Japanese trick of punching the snot out of him. Kup runs up and yells at Optimus to “finish him off!” and Optimus casually picks up a gun and prepares to shoot the defeated Megatron as he begs for his life. You know what? Revenge of the Fallen took a lot of shit for a lot reasons, almost all of them good ones, but there was one scene where Optimus Prime casually executes a defeated Decepticon that had the fans up in arms because “that’s not what Optimus Prime is about”. Compared to this movie, that was fucking restrained. This movie. Is less restrained. Than Michael Bay. You just think about that. Megatron sees a gun on the ground and manages to grab it and fire off a shot. He fatally wounds Optimus Prime, but not before Prime punches him clean off the building, leaving Megatron a broken hulk on the ground. Starscream taunts Megatron and kicks him in the nads and orders the Decepticons to retreat. They climb on board Astrotrain, a normal sized Autobot who can nevertheless transform into a shuttle big enough to carry all them because the true enemy of the Decepticons is not the Autobots but Antoine Lavoisier and his principle of the conservation of mass.
“CURSE YOU ASTROTRAIN!”
“Suck my balls!”
I haven’t actually had a chance yet to mention my favorite Decepticon, Soundwave. Soundwave is Megatron’s right hand man and was always depicted as being unfailingly loyal to Megatron (as well he might be, since they’re both voiced by Frank Welker). I always loved him mostly because of the cool modulated voice, but also because his dedication to Megatron was so noble, even, dare I say it? Tender. And I think this scene shows this better than anything else could. As the other Decepticons high-tail, Megatron gasps “Don’t leave me, Soundwave.” Soundwave simply responds “As you command, Megatron” and gently takes his fallen leader in his arms and carries him to safety.
And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIeeeeeIIIIIeeeeiIIIIII will always love YOUUUUUUUUUUUOHHHHHHHH!
So the Autobots have succeeded in driving off the Decepticons, but at a heavy price. Optimus Prime is fatally wounded. He passes on the Matrix of Leadership, a glowing McGuffin he keeps in his chest,to Ultra Magnus telling him that he’s now the big cheese, the top dog, the head honcho, numero uno. He drops the matrix though, and Hot Rod catches it and then passes it to Ultra Magnus. Now, I find that really interesting. See, there’s an Irish legend where the hero Fionn MacCumhail is still a boy and is studying under the wise old mystic Finnegas.
Now Finnegas has been trying to catch the Salmon of Knowledge for years, which will grant the first person to eat it all the wisdom of the world and allow them to clean up on the game show circuit. Finnegas finally catches the thing and tells Fionn to cook it for him while warning him not to take so much as a bite from it (this guy needs wisdom? The devil you say!). Anyway, Fionn innocently burns his thumb on the fish and then puts his thumb in his mouth, thereby getting the wisdom by accident. I bring it up because this is pretty much what’s happening here. Hot Rod is the first person to touch the matrix of leadership and therefore is destined to become the leader of the Autobots, even though Prime intended it to go to Ultra Magnus…
I find it interesting.
And then, in the presence of his friends and loved ones, the big red robot dies.
It would be hard to exaggerate just how shocking this was for us kids. Optimus Prime was almost a religious figure to us. The idea that he could die was unthinkable. I remember there was a kid in our class who got to see the movie before any of us and we were all so jealous. He came into the playground the next day, pale and raving, telling us mad tales of the death of Optimus Prime and we burnt that kid at the stake. And now…now I really don’t know what to think about this. See, on the one hand, this is brilliant. The death of Optimus Prime is a great story choice. It very clearly tells the audience that this is not the safe, sanitized, episodic conflict of the cartoon series. This is war. The stakes could not be higher and no one is safe. It’s like Game of Thrones for pre-teens.
“What’s “Game of Thrones”?
“It’s a fantasy series with dragons where everyone dies.”
“Ooooh! Can I watch it?”
“NO YOU CAN NOT!””
But, while under normal circumstances this would be bold, gutsy story-telling, the question of motive has to be considered here. Just why did Hasbro kill off Optimus Prime? Oh, and yes, I said Hasbro. This was not the choice of either director Nelson Shin or writer Ron Friedman, the kill order came from the toy execs. And why? You know why. Hasbro killed off a character beloved by an entire generation of kids to sell more toys. If someone came around to your house, broke into your kid’s room and smashed their toys so that they’d have to buy new ones, you wouldn’t call that person a bold, risk-taking auteur. You’d call them a psychopath. I think it’s also really telling that Hasbro were caught so off-guard by the huge backlash to this death. It’s almost as if they couldn’t understand that kids had formed an actual emotional attachment to this character. This killing was done without a second thought. It was…effortless.
“Hasbro kill Transformers all the time, Mouse.”
“Do they feel good about that?”
“They feel powerful.”
Meanwhile, the Decepticons are flying back to Cybertron and Astrotrain tells them they need to lighten the load. The Decepticons chuck the injured Insecticons (robots who turn into insects, don’t ask or we’ll be here all day) into space along with the wounded Megatron. Megatron begs Starscream not to throw him out weakly saying “I…still…function…”
But Starscream tells him to screw off and throws him into the cold reaches of space. The Decepticons then try to decide who will be the new leader. Starscream nominates himself, but the Constructicons point out that they combine to form Devastator, who’s the biggest Decepticon and damn, but that’s a solid platform to build a campaign. Soundwave announces his candidacey by simply noting that “Soundwave: Superior, Constructicons: Inferior.” Sigh. Political discourse has just gotten so coarse, hasn’t it? Anyway, the Decepticons have a big punch up while Astrotrain yells at them to just fucking wait until they’re somewhere where they’re not going to shoot him in the kidneys.
Meanwhile, Megatron and the Insecticons float through the void until they encounter Unicron, who’s voiced by none other than Orson Fucking Welles. I repeat. That is Orson Fucking Welles voicing the gigantic planet that eats everything in its path.
Thought I was going to make a fat joke? Fuck you. Man was a legend.
And yes, this was Welles’ last film role before he died, recording his last session only five days before the end. A British comedy show (Spitting Image I think) did a skit where they showed a film commemorating Orson Welles’ life, showing how he started out with small roles in cartoons and pea commercials, before graduating to classic films like Othello and The Third Man before finally achieving his masterwork, Citizen Kane (the joke of course being that they’ve played the film backwards). Welles’ voice was so weak that serious audio restoration had to be done on it to make it usable, and Welles certainly did not give two piping hot fucks about the film. And yet…the man does not phone it in. Honestly, Welles gives probably the best performance in this whole thing, voicing Unicron as a bored, sardonic god. Which, considering it’s Orson Welles voicing a toy commercial is probably appropriate. Unicron orders Megatron to destroy the matrix of leadership because it’s the only thing that can stop him because of reasons. Megatron asks what’s in it for him, and Unicron replies “Your bargaining posture is highly dubious”.
“What do you want? What in the depths of your ignorance DO YOU WANT?!”
But he reformats Megatron into a new character, Galvatron and whoah whoah whoah…back up. Movie, did you just write out Frank Welker? No. That’s it. Fuck you. I’m done. You do not just write out Frank Welker. I don’t care who you got to voice this “Galvatron”, there is no actor alive who could possibly be awesome enough to replace Frank Fothermucking…
Alright, so Megatron is now Galvatron, voiced by Leonard Nimoy. Unicron then turns the Insecticons into new Decepticons called Skywarp, Cyclonus and the Sweeps (and exactly who is transformed into who is something debated by Transformers fans with the same intensity that the divinity of Christ was debated at the first council of Nicaea.) Unicron also gives Galvatron a sweet new spaceship.
Galvatron promises to destroy the matrix and sets off for Cybertron where Starscream is being crowned as the new leader of the Decepticons, complete with crown and a pink cape.
Thus began the reign of Starscream the Fabulous.
Galvatron crashes the party and blasts Starscream to pieces in a particularly gruesome death, particularly for such a beloved character.
“Nooooo…I’m still selling well in Europe!”
“No. I think this movie has completely dulled my horror of death and killing.”
“We should talk.”
Galvatron asks if anyone else wants a piece of him. The Decepticons fall into line because they tend to blindly follow any sociopath who shows up and seems to know what he’s doing. Kind of like the Russians. Galvatron then musters all the Decepticons for another attack on Autobot City.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Ultra Magnus and the other Autobots get a message from Bumblebee and Spike on Moonbase 1 that there’s a massive planet-sized machine headed for Cybertron and threatening to show it magic tricks.
“For over five eons the Autobots had peace, democracy and brotherhood and what did it get them? The transforming cuckoo clock.”
The Autobots watch in horror as the signal is lost. Daniel is understandably freaked out but the Autobots comfort him, saying that his Dad is probably fine.
I dunno. The figures from Europe are looking awfully soft.
Galvatron and the Decepticons attack and the Autobots escape with Hot Rod, Kup and the Dinobots in one shuttle and Ultra Magnus, Arcee, Blurr, Springer…uh, who else? Perceptor’s in there. I think. And…is that…Cliffjumper? Guys, all these fucking robots look the same. A lot of them, okay? A lot of robots.
They get clear of the planet and Kup tells the Dinotbot’s some of his war stories while Hot Rod hones his energy sword skills on a practice drone.
Take a shot.
Galvatron catches up to them and opens fire, damaging Ultra Magnus’ shuttle but they manage to escape by separating half the ship from the engineering hull and wait just a damn minute here!
Oh my God. Roddenberry, you whore!
Having lost their pursuers, Ultra Magnus orders the ship to be put down on the planet Junk to make repairs. Meanwhile, Kup, Hot Rod and the Dinobots get shot down over the planet Quintessa. Kup and Hot Rod run into the Sharkticons (robots that turn into sharks don’t ask, all day, etc) and Kup gives the universal greeting; “Ba weep granna weep ninni bong!”
Well, apparently they’re not impressed with how he’s stressing the umlauts because they throw both Hot Rod and Kup in a dungeon. The Quintessons, who rule over the Sharkticons, run show trials where all defendants are pronounced “innocent”…and then fed to the Sharkticons. In the pokey they meet Kranix, the last survivor of Lithone, the planet Unicron scarfed in the cold open. And…then the guards burst in and drag him away to be killed while he begs to be spared because he is literally the last one of his race in the universe.
Holy SHITBALLS that is dark. He’s fed to the Sharkticons and it’s just so horribly pointless. Why did he have to die? He doesn’t even have a toy! It’s just…senseless death for no purpose. He’s introduced for a few seconds and then horribly killed. This is by far my least favourite part of the whole movie. It’s just so fucking nihilistic.
And then…as was foretold in Scripture…we meet Wheelie.
So. In Revenge of the Fallen, Michael Bay introduced Wheelie as a foul-mouthed pervert who humps Megan Fox’s leg. People had a problem with that. People don’t know what they’re talking about. The fact is, Bay’s take on the character of Wheelie was so, so, so, so, so, so much better than what we get here it’s…
Behold. The enemy. I shall teach you to hate him.
My God. This character. Created to make the movie more “kid friendly” (a nebulous concept the quest for which has done more harm throughout history than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion), Wheelie is a little boy Autobot with a slingshot. And his voice sounds like…if a little demonically possessed toy clown crept into your room in the middle of the night, climbed up your leg while you lay sleeping and whispered into your ear, it would speak with the voice of Wheelie. Oh, but I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.
He talks. In. Rhyme.
Wheelie may in fact be the very, very worst supporting character in any cartoon I’ve reviewed so far. Let’s go down the list.
Oh, not even in the same league. Next!
Gurgi? Oh no, much worse than Gurgi.
Hmmm…nope, even worse than Zini.
Cheezel T. Weasel? Ohhhhh…
Okay fine movie. You scrape by with the skin of your teeth, but don’t look too happy. This is the animation equivalent of beating Gandhi in a hotdog eating contest.
Wheelie gets the Dinobots to come and rescue Kup and Hot Rod just as they’re about to be torn apart by the Sharkticons. Grimlock offers the Sharkticons a choice: they can fight the huge fire-breathing robot T-Rex, or they can overthrow the Quintessons and rule the planet like goddamned kings.
For someone who begins every sentence with “Me Grimlock!” he is a surprisingly eloquent orator.
Meanwhile on the planet Junk the Decepticons attack and blast Ultra Magnus to pieces, taking the Matrix of Leadership and screwing off. The surviving Autobots (yes, there are actually some still alive in this fucking charnel house) then get attacked by the Junkions, native robots to the planet Junk who talk entirely in advertising slogans, which I suspect was the language this screenplay was written in before being translated into English.
You haven’t really experienced this movie before you’ve heard it in its native Junkion.
Incidentally the Junkions are led by Wreck-Gar, who’s voiced by Eric Idle.
Look at that mustachioed bastard.
All hope seems lost but then a massive, phallic shaped spaceship appears overhead and plows deep and hard into the yielding planetary mantle.
“Almost sexual, isn’t it Smithers?”
Hot Rod, Kup, the Dinobots and Satan Himself exit the ship and Hot Rod gives the universal greeting to the Junkions, taking care to correctly stress the umlauts. This makes the Junkions friendly and they even use some of their magic resurrection ointment (‘kay) to bring Ultra Magnus back to life. This is then promptly forgotten about because of course there is no one else that stuff would be useful for.
The Junkions agree to help the Autobots with their assault on Unicron (Jesus, when they heel-face turn they don’t fuck around) and they all celebrate with a dance party.
Shake a tot.
Back on Cybertron, Galvatron tries to use the Matrix to threaten Unicron into doing his bidding and Unicron rumbles “You underestimate me, Galvatron”. Just how stupid do you have to be to underestimate a planet that eats other planets? In retaliation, Unicron turns into his robot form and starts destroying Cybertron because he knows all Galvatron’s stuff is there. It’s their equivalent of burning all your exes’ clothes.
The Autobots and the Junkions arrive and attack but Unicron quickly destroys the Junkions’ ship.
Cheer up lads. Worse things happen at sea, y’know.
And the Autobots crash their ship right through one of Unicron’s windows.
Shtake a shtosh…
Hot Rod gets seperated and finds himself face to face with Galvatron. At first, Galvatron tries to ally with Hot Rod against Unicron but Unicron tortures him to remind him who’s in charge and Hot Rod has to fight the enemy who he watched kill his beloved older mentor.
Tahske a shtot cuz I’m sexy!
Galvatron pins Hot Rod to the ground and starts choking him, saying “First Prime. Then Ultra Magnus. Now you. It’s a pity you Autobots die so easily or I might have a sense of satisfaction.”
“I mean, this erection is a semi! At best!”
But then, the Matrix of Leadership opens and Hot Rod hears the voice of his mentor speaking to him from beyond the grave.
And he hears Optimus saying “Arise…Rodimus Prime.”
No. Really. That’s what they called him. For the rest of the series. Rodimus Prime.
And they say this franchise doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
Rodimus (sigh) punches Galvatron right through the wall and then opens the Matrix which activates the MacGuffin power and causes Unicron to blow up. The surviving Autobots escape the explosion and the day is saved.
And then, like so many Unshaved Mouse reviews, the movie realises the time and races hurriedly to the finish line. The movie ends with like five seconds of Rodimus addressing the Autobots and basically declaring “Mission Accomplished” saying that the war is over and they will spread out across the galaxy uniting all life until “All are one” and maaaaaan that sounds more than a little ominous to me.
300 years later.
This movie is…
“Not great but better than it had any right to be.”
There’s a lot of strikes against this one: The writing is corny. The plot, particularly in the second half, is a big hot mess. The characters are one note. The motivations behind making the film and killing off so many characters is up there with child slavery as one of the worst excesses of capitalism. But…I certainly can’t say I hate it. It definitely has an interesting look and tone, and Toei animation really pulled out all the stops and tried to make a great looking movie on a limited budget. Bottom line, The Transformers is a perfect cult movie. And for me a cult movie is something you can’t really judge as being good or bad. They’re in a different category. Is Rocky Horror Picture Show a good movie? Hell no. But that’s not the point. You don’t watch The Transformers because it’s good. You watch it because it’s The Transformers, and it brings you back to a simpler time when all you needed in the world to make you happy was a cheaply animated cartoon trying to sell you a toy. You watch it because sometimes it’s good to just let yourself be a child again.
“No problem fatso.”
“Seriously, how did you survive to adulthood?”
Seems low, I know, but as always I’m grading on a scale that was designed for Disney movies. Still very impressive when compared to the original cartoon show.
There will always be a mythic coolness to Optimus Prime, but most of the other Autobots are one note.
Even five days from his death bed, Orson Welles gives the best performance in the whole movie. Plus, how can you go wrong with Frank Welker and Leonard Nimoy?
Supporting Characters: 02/20
Wheelie. Just…my God. What? Who? Where? Why God?
Awesome eighties metal cheese.
FINAL SCORE: 42%
“What about you? What’s your score?”
“No, it’s out of a hundred.”
“Nine million out of a hundred!”
BABY MOUSE’S FINAL SCORE: 9,000,000%
NEXT UPDATE: 19 June 2014
NEXT TIME: It’s back to the canon we go as Mouse reviews Bolt, a movie from a simpler, gentler time, when the concepts of “Miley Cyrus” and “Wholesome Family Entertainment” did not seem mutually exclusive.
Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every other Thursday.
This review was made possible by the kind donation of Ian Tait Doak. Thanks Ian!
If baby mouse gives 9 million out of one hundred then it should be 90,000%. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WritersCannotDoMath
I did laugh well at the joke with Soundwave and Megatron. Frank Welkers stick together meaning they are good buddies with Sharptooth, Fred Jones, and Curious George.
My movie like this (I was born in ’96) will be the Land Before Time sequels, especially five. I am in the middle of a backwards (save the best animated film ever for last) marathon of one a day right now and six is tonight.
It’s out of a hundred, not divided by a hundred. Sixty out of a hundred is sixty percent.
In fairness this is the first time I have ever been right about maths so your link to Tv tropes was certainly justified. And what do i have to do to get on the Baleful Polymorph page anyway?
For some reason I never got into Transformers as a kid. But I do like the Micheal Bay movies. More specifically, the first one.
I honestly had a blast with that movie.
Really enjoyable read! (as per usual)
And I’m looking forward to what you think of “Bolt.” It seems like a movie you could either love or hate. So, I have no idea what to expect! (I personally don’t like the film. It wasn’t a ‘bad’ movie, it just wasn’t memorable, like AT ALL. Seriously, try to find ANY Bolt merchandise at a Disney park.)
By far the best TV show to come out of that era was Robotech. Which is honestly kind of insane because it was actually THREE separate shows from Japan that were cobbled together to create a three generational epic story about humanity’s desperate struggle against an invading alien race. My uncle introduced me to Robotech when I was little and I love it. It’s actually pretty damn great. Transformers is just not.
My favourite was Bravestaar.
You referenced Bravestarr in Pocahontas.
Transformers was before my time, and one of the few 80’s cartoons that I haven’t gotten into by watching it in college. I definitely appreciate why others like it, but I can’t really see past the commercial glut without any nostalgia goggles to aid me.
That’s not to say I don’t like any merchandise-driven cartoons. Heck, the huge show of MY childhood, Poke’mon, was probably even worse than transformers because it’s trying to get me to buy toys AND a game!
Ah, who am I kidding, I’m glad my parents bought me the Poke’mon games, it’s why I’m a gamer today.
AND one of my favorite cartoons of recent years, LEGO Ninjago, is arguably a worse offender still. I’d say it has a better written plot than the Transformers cartoon though. (I’m just gonna plug my review blog again, if you want me to stop just say so: http://orangechels.wordpress.com/ )
When it comes to Star Wars knockoffs, this movie is not as bad as Star Chaser.
Good review Mouse! Although I’ve never seen this movie nor anything Transformers related, you keep entertaining me with your humour and excellent writing, looking forward to seeing your Bolt review!
Good review, one I have been waiting on, but the first member of Galvatron’s crew was Scourge, not Skywarp. Skywarp was the black Starscream clone who got turned into Cyclonus I believe. (I’m too lazy to check Tfwiki.net). Also, Europe got the version of the movie with the Star Wars/Flash Gordon scroll. America just got trippy opening credits. Plus America got the version where Spike says “Oh S*hit what are we gonna do now?!” in order to get a PG13
I’d heard about! All the way through the movie I was like “where’s my S bomb?!”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItLgYuDaqMQ Here it is in all of its glory.
The Little Mermaid is from 1989, not 88.
You know, it was really refreshing to see once a review from someone who watched Transformers as a child and doesn’t act as if they were truly THAT awesome. As someone who did grew up in the 80th but with German children’s programming (which is very different from the US one) and responsible pairings who kept shows with hidden advertisements (and as far as possible advertisements in general) away from me, Transformers belongs to me on one pile with He-Man, Power Rangers, Pokémon aso….I never got into programming which was more about selling something than about telling a story.
This in mind – no interest in any of the movies, either. I guess I understand why some people are into them…but I doubt that anyone who doesn’t have the nostalgia feels connected to them.
Yeah, that’s pretty much the case with me. I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a kid. Virtually none of the cartoons most 90s kids talk about are familiar to me at all, and the 80s were before my time, so I’m nostalgic about a completely different set of things. (I would crawl across the continent just to see somebody make a damn Bollygum movie.)
Considering that German programming was a little bit different in general (for example to this day one network shows every evening at 17:55 “Unser Sandmännchen” a program specifically geared at children to watch before going to bed, and there are a lot of educational programming, like “Löwenzahn” or “Die Sendung mit der Maus” which are still around, too) I am not that much the odd one out….like I said, the programming is a little bit different. We get American Shows and Anime, too, but they are usually shown on other networks. It’s more odd whenever I talk to someone who is younger than me and has no idea that “Christmas TV Shows for Children” were a thing at one point, or that Czech TV series are something very special.
“Sandmannchen” sounds like our “In the Night Garden”. Well, actually, it’s the UK’s, but they still broadcast it here. I don’t know how it helps kids go to sleep, though, considering it looks like a bad acid trip in a public park.
As a huge Pokemon fan, I will freely admit that the show is guilty of many of the same things as Transformers. However, I also maintain that the Pokemon anime (at least the early seasons) is a legitimately great show that had actual growth and character development, in addition to some awesome animation and battles.
Not one “Matel and Mars Bar Chocobot Hour” reference after your intro showing the tie ins of commercialism and kids TV in that era. A missed opportunity Mouse.
Great review though. I like the use of Hannibal, a great character in a show I otherwise loath, your writing of him was spot on.
Such a guilty pleasure for me. I hate it but love it but I hate it.
Once again, a satisfying review! Never seen any Transformers stuff, but I may have owned a few of the toys. Can’t wait for the next review! (Fun story: I actually read “Of Mice and Men” in 8th grade. Also, Sharkticons? I’d buy the LIFE out of those toys!)
They’re not as cool as they sound.
Well, as a young kid, I was a bit of a shark fanatic, so that’s why I would’ve wanted those Sharkticons.
Hate the be the one guy, but as a fan of the Transformers–seriously, I own a book that details a bit of the history of everything from Gen 1 to, at least, Armada–I’m gonna have to correct you: the Decepticon spying on them wasn’t Ravage, it was Laserbeak. Again, don’t want to be that guy, but the inner fan couldn’t be contained.
Now, with that out of the way, as someone who was born well after Gen. 1 the closest I ever got to Transformers was Beast Wars/Machines, and the Armada series. And quite honestly, Beast Wars was one hell of a show, despite the poor quality to the animation: the writting was ingenious, the characters–starting out as a small cast and casually getting larger for both sides–were well memorable, and some of them had some darker moments that gave them better character growth as the series progressed. Armada did have it’s share of good stuff, but the first half was Transformers and Pokemon mixed into one. Don’t know how that went, but whatever. Everything after that, honestly, I didn’t give two worths for, since they looked stupid. And from what I’ve heard, I’m glad I missed out on them.
The first live action film is a guilty pleasure of mine, but after the second film I have honestly stopped carrying about the live action films. Not even going to see the newest one because I hated how the second one came about and I’m afraid it’s just a repeat of the same ones, but with new robots. The only good worthwhile series that is worth some time is the now canceled series Transformers Prime, which I honestly would consider one of my favorite shows of all time. Seriously, they got Peter Cullen and Frank Welker to reprise Optiimus Prime and Megatron for a new age, and a new style to them. That is freckin awsome.
I own all the original series episodes, and yeah they’re nothing but cheaply made commercials for the toys, but I still enjoy them on account of knowing where they started from. And they’re still a bit of fun as well. Funny enough, while I own a copy of the movie–this one–my first time watching it I had no idea who the people getting killed or any of these bots were apart from Megatron and Prime. But after some digging up and research I became aware of who they are. Still, like the Horned King, I think the big reason anyone should see this movie is because of Unicron and what Wells did for him. Honestly, he’s one of my favorite characters because he’s sort of like The Devil: destroyer of anything living, and makes deals with others to get what he wants and has the power to do so (it’s also explained in the mythology why he’s like this, but I’m not going to go into detail, cause honestly this post is getting too big for it’s own good).
It’s funny you mention a text scroll, cause over here, at least with the copies I own, there isn’t one and it’s just a small credits of who they got in the film along with the band Lion’s take on the Transformer’s theme song (freckin’ badass if you ask me). Still, must be different for various places.
Anyways, I’ll stop now. Still a really good post none the less. I have to agree: as a fan, it’s awesome; but it’s not a good movie by any standers. Just something that’s fun to watch and have a good time despite how it looks, like RHPS. Good one, as always.
Beast Wars was a HUGE part of my childhood. Dinobot’s story still gets to me.
That intro music
Here in Sweden, up until I was ten years old or so I only had two channels of television. Transformers aired on neither of them, but there was a videotape. A glorious videotape, in which timetraveling pirates, dinosaurs that had survived the meteor and space travel were mixed with giant transforming robots. I adored that video tape. Oh, how I adored it. Mammoths versus truck-bots were everything that my childhood heart could possibly crave, and so I became a Transformers fan despite not really following any of the shows until Transformers Animated hit DECADES later.
As such, I knew of this movie but had never actually seen it. I was more or less aware of the plot beats and the big moments, but I thought I didn’t really HAVE to see it. I practically knew it from reading about it, and I thought it wasn’t necessary watching. But when you posted that you were going to review it, I thought “what the hell, might as well check it out so I really know what it’s all about”.
And let me tell you something, I… was absolutely right.
This movie really is the epitome of dumb fun, as Transformers G1 itself seems to have been back in the day. The moment when Grimlock and the Dinobots burst in a metal door to grill Sharkticons, or when Grimlock dropkicked Unicron in his ROBOT ASS (to no real effect but my eternal amusement), or when robots are riding giant motorcycles that are also giant robots for no real reason, and Optimus Prime goes Rambo on the Decepticons to a ballad so cheesy it defies rational minds (although did he really kill anyone, I don’t recall if they actually kill of some actual Decepticons or if he just injures them) and Galvatron FINALLY ends Starscreams scheming ways, I am once more that little child watching giant robots wrestle dinosaurs, and I could not be happier about it.
And then there are moments like when someone decided to waste Eric Idle’s talents on spouting barely audible commercial jingles. Or the mindboggling mood whiplash when we cut from scenes of truely GRUESOME robot deaths to wacky shenanigans, like how Ultra Magnus is shot to pieces and then “AHYUCK WACKY JUNKIONS ATTACK WHILE SPOUTING WACKY LINES TO “DARE TO BE STUPID”” or when the last survivor of his race is mercilessly devoured only to then have Hot Rod and Kup create a whirlpool by riding around at the bottom of a pool REALLY FAST in order to escape it, or how Unicrons sheer size seems to have such a gravitational pull that he utterly distorts time and space, seeing as the timescale (and scale in general around him) makes no sense, (Jazz and Spike and Bumblebee get absorbed by Unicron, but for some reason they are not brought to the digestion line until DAYS later, like whut?), dance parties…
So yeah. It really is both DUMB, and FUN. As an adult watching all this crazy unfold, I can say that I really do get what made Transformers so beloved. Say what you will about this movies harsh cynicism and inability to build drama, characters (even if I do actually like Ultra Magnus and Kup in the short amount of time we get to know them, if only for that one sequence where Ultra is unable to deal with Perceptors nerdyness and Kup being Kup in general), sensible plotlines and so on, but it sure never is boring. There is always some spectacle unfolding, whether it’s cool-looking mecha-planet vistas or fight scenes, and as a child there would be no way to protect one self. There would only be sweet surrender to the madness, and as such it really is hard to criticize it because… well, it does pretty much do exactly what it set out to do.
Only parts I really don’t like are Hot Rod turning into Rodimus pretty much just because the plot says so, and the movie is never freaking QUIET. It’s like there’s always some power ballad playing in the background, even when the characters are speaking. That’s REAL annoying. Also, Wheelie. Though to be fair, I was surprised by how I managed to tolerate him. I think he would’ve been much worse in the TV Show, here he barely shows up. I think I actually found Wreck-Gar much more irritating, because he had more lines and I had a harder time making out what he was trying to say.
So yes. Not a good movie, not at all. But oh so entertaining when it got me in that childlike mindset. Quite a difference from the upcoming one, shall be interesting to see what you have to say about that one as that was the Disney movie that honestly got me back into watching Disney movies.
Lotta people looking forward to the Bolt review apparently.
I actually knew a girl whose favorite Disney movie was “Bolt.” I have honestly never seen it.
I think it is because hardly anyone mentions it when discussing Disney movies. I have no idea what you think of it. It also seems different, as there is no villain character (Green-eyed man is far from the antagonist in my opinion). It is a man (dog) vs. himself conflict, which Disney does not do much. It makes me wonder how villain will be scored.
I just wanted to point out that in the American version of the Transformers Animated Movie, the text crawl doesn’t exist- neither does the narration that Optimus Prime will return at the end that some of the European releases have. So it’s got that going for it, at least.
I’m given to understand that audiences’ shock at the death of Optimus Prime was the reason why G.I. Joe The (animated) Movie hastily overdubbed dialogue explaining that Duke was in a coma when it was very clear that he was meant to be killed off. The makers of it often regretted that they hadn’t released this one BEFORE Transformers…then they could have gotten away with it. One of the writers pointed out that though they weren’t allowed to kill people off in the show, they always made it a point to show that War Isn’t Fun And People Get Hurt…they wanted to take this to the next logical level in the movie but then Hasbro said, “We’re not going through a debacle like Optimus Prime’s death again.”
Damn, I totally missed this when it went up. I’m blaming Facebook.
You know, when I asked you to do this, I was rather hoping for a loving retrospective which heaped praise on every aspect of this masterpiece of cinema…
Not really, I was expecting a snarky takedown of what should actually be a terrible movie but somehow manages to be Not That Bad (I even saw it in the cinema for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and that made it Actually Pretty Awesome). Thanks for doing the review!
My pleasure dude, and thanks for the donation.
Aww, baby Mouse is just about the cutest thing since sleepy Mouse in that video review of Snow White! Also, does the soul test apply to someone who wasn’t alive during the 80s? ‘Cause if not, I guess I might as well be some sort of inanimate object, I’m thinking maybe some particularly noisy part of a bicycle… A bell? Yeah, I guess.
Wow, guess this was how kids learned about death in the 80s? Poor guys got this while the 40s kids got Bambi and the 90s kids Lion King. Life really isn’t fair, is it? In any case, slaughtering semi-prominent characters like red shirts is pretty harsh, even if they are a bunch of robots. Though if we’re going to talk nostalgia, I’ve got to say, the web hatred I see Shia LaBeouf getting is a bit strange to someone who was growing up when he was that funny guy who was in Even Stevens and Holes and is more remembered for that than for being the nostalgia ruiner people who grew up with Indiana Jones and Transformers apparently loathe him for (that is why people hate him, right? I can only sort of guess, I honestly don’t see what’s to hate myself).
Damn, I’m glad I won’t be around once the folks of Omicron Persei 8 get this movie broadcasted to them. They will not be happy. And if the Earth will survive that wrath, I have a feeling they won’t if they ever catch Half Blood Prince in any form. Aye aye aye. Also, Poké-geeks on here, does the ship that was given to Galvatron and the former Insecticons look like Genesect to anyone else? Am I just seeing things here?
Nice review. Enjoyed it, even if 80s toy advertisement movies are a bit foreign to me. Well done.
So, this is apparently a thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dECm3QvTIvE