Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Transformers: The Movie

Set 20 years in the future after the events of the show's Second Season, 1986's The Transformers: The Movie is memorable for killing off several major characters, introducing new concepts into the canon, and (despite its flaws) remaining the best theatrical Transformers movie. The strength of the film comes in it's opening act during the Decepticons' attack on Autobot City on Earth. Making way for new characters such as the energetic Hot Rod (Judd Nelson) and the crotchety Kup (Lionel Stander), the sequence kills off several original characters including Prowl (Michael Bell), Brawn (Corey Burton), Ratchet, Ironhide (Peter Cullen), and Optimus Prime (Cullen).

The death of Optimus Prime is a seminal moment for those who grew up with the toys, comics, and cartoon series. With the Matrix of leadership passed on to a brand-new character in Ultra Magnus (Robert Stack), the Autobots attempt to survive unaware that an even greater threat in the world-eating Unicron (Orson Welles) is looming. Taking the battered Megatron (Frank Welker) and remaking him into his lieutenant Galvatron (Leonard Nimoy) along with new soldiers, Unicron hopes to crush the Autobots.

Following the battle on Autobot City the movie is broken into separate stories. One follows the Dinobots, Hot Rod, and Kup's encounter with the Quintessons, another the revitalized Galvatron taking over the Decepticons and planning his betrayal of Unicron, and the other Autobots encountering the Junkions before all the stories converge back on Cybertron for the battle against Unicron. Given how many recognizable character disappear after the film's first 20 minutes, the movie is a bit top heavy with some lulls during the lost Autobots' travels to get back home.

The battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron is the best action sequence (even if it leads to mixed results in Prime's death and Megatron's rebirth). The franchise would eventually admit its mistake and bring back Optimus Prime in the show's later seasons (although several other characters make their final appearances here). As for the new characters, Kup is superflous, Ultra Magnus is the definition of bland, Arcee's (Susan Blu) introduction as the first female Transformer raises all kinds of questions the film has not intention of answering, and the others are largely forgettable.

Re-released on Blu-ray and DVD, the new 30th Anniversary Edition is also available in a Blu-ray steelbook. The release recycles previous extras including a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary, audio commentary from the director and crew, storyboards, trailers, a Transformers Q&A, and short featurettes on the restoration of the movie, the death of Prime, and the film's cast. It may not be everything you want in a Transformers movie, but it's a damn sight better than Bay's live-action disasters.

[Shout! Factory, DVD $14.93, Blu-ray $29.93, Steelbook Blu-ray $34.99]

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