Transformers: The Movie [20th Anniversary Special Edition]
(2006, Sony & BMG Music Home Entertainment)
Like every kid back in the ’80s, I was really hyped for this movie when it came out. It was released theatrically on August 8, 1986 but I’m not sure if I actually saw it in the theater. What I do remember is being very excited to make the trip to the local Curtis Mathes and renting it when it had just been released on VHS in 1987. They had the poster up for a few weeks promoting its arrival to video and that poster had been teasing me that whole time (just as it was meant to). It’s funny though because looking back, the movie’s trailer doesn’t spotlight the Autobots we had come to know and love at all. It’s all about the new guys and whoever is voicing them.
Despite the fuzzy nostalgia factor for this movie, I do have some complaints about it and I guess they are pretty much the same complaints that everyone else has.
First, all of those Autobot deaths. Honestly, it would’ve gone over better if more Decepticons had died so we could’ve had more of a balance. The Autobots were completely massacred in the opening moments of the film. They looked so helpless and the only Decepticon that ended up dying was Starscream and that was at the hands of Megatron! Pretty much all of the Autobots from Season 1 were destroyed. Of course, the whole point of the animated Transformers was to sell the toys and they had new toys coming out so this is why they killed off so many of the older Autobots. It just seems so disrespectful though to finish this guys off so quick. Wheeljack only got a brief cameo, he was never even seen alive in the movie! And of course, the killing of Optimus Prime was a big mistake that backfired for Hasbro. It was such a mistake that the planned death of Duke in G.I. Joe: The Movie was changed. I don’t even really have a problem with the new Autbots introduced here, I just didn’t like how they handled getting rid of the previous Autobots.
So the second complaint would be the soundtrack. The songs themselves aren’t that bad. It’s cheesy ’80s rock & pop, which I love, but a lot of it just seems so inappropriate with its placement during the movie. I really love Lion’s version of the Transformer theme though and it was cool to hear Spectre General/Kick Axe’s original version of “Hunger” (which was later covered by King Kobra… a band that’s guilty pleasure of mine).
As for the actual plot, there isn’t much of one. It’s nonstop action and is set in 2005, twenty years after Season 2. The Decepticons attack the Autobots, meanwhile a giant robot called Unicron is making his way across the universe eating planets (Galactus, is that you?). The only thing that can destroy Unicron is the Autobot’s Matrix of Leadership (Ultimate Nullifier, is that you?). So, after saving Megatron’s metal butt after being left for dead by Starcream, who briefly assumes control of the Decepticons, Unicron upgrades Megatron into Galvatron and upgrades a few other damaged Decepticons such as Thundercracker, Bombshell & Skywarp and sends them to destroy the Matrix (currently being held by Ultra Magnus who was appointed Autobot leader by a dying Optimus Prime). After that, the movie mostly stars the new Autobots (Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Arcee, Springer, Blurr, Wheelie) along with minor roles being filled by Dan Witwicky (Spike’s son), the Dinobots, Percepter and Blaster.
Does it feel like Transformers? Not really. Too much old was (coldly) thrown away in favor of too much new. It’s hard to relate when most of the characters that we’ve come to know as Transformers just aren’t there. The soundtrack is a fish out of water and there’s some language that you wouldn’t hear on the cartoon series. I like the fact that they finally took the Transformers off of earth for the most part though. I’ve always thought it was silly to see the Autobots & Decepticons continuously battling each other on earth. It was good to see the Autobots interact with other planets and creatures.
Overall, it’s a fun goofy movie but a tad depressing due to the treatment of the characters that the franchise built its name on (just like G.I. Joe: The Movie).
I will say this, for this particular edition, the bonus features are great. This is a two-disc collection complete with widescreen & full screen formats, audio commentary, photo gallery, theatrical trailer, TV spots, trivia, alternate footage, storyboards, toy commercials, easter eggs, the Japan-exclusive “Scramble City” episode (with audio commentary only) and a few new featurettes. The bonus features alone will keep you occupied for some time. I really wish the G.I. Joe animated movie DVD had gotten this type of treatment. There was a cool lenticular card insert that alternated DVD cover art featuring Optimus Prime with a version featuring Rodimus Prime and other characters but I lost it.
I know there’s a Blu-ray copy of this movie but all I have found is a All Regions disc and it’s running for about $60 on Amazon. I’m sure the bonus features are all the same but I would say it’s best to stick with this 2006 DVD release until a more legitimate Blu-ray version pops up. Although, this copy isn’t getting any cheaper. It’s out of print and even used copies are going for about $25 these days.