A word of warning to the uninitiated: The Transformers: The Movie was made for the fans. They love it. You may not get it. It isn’t that the film wasn’t designed to be entertaining; it’s just that Transformers was on ongoing series, and the movie never stops to play catch-up.
A little background: Hasbro’s line of morphing toys (robot to truck/handgun/boom box/car/airplane/etc., and back) stormed onto toy store shelves in the spring of 1984, followed up by a Marvel comic books series that summer and a syndicated cartoon at the end of the year. In every format, Transformers were an instant hit-the must-have, must-read, must-see phenomenon of the mid-80’s.
The comic and animated series followed dueling bands of Transformers, the good Autobots (led by Optimus Prime) and the bad Decepticons (led by Megatron). Originating on the planet Cybertron, the two sides crash-landed on earth, where the battle began anew in 1985. The storylines were ongoing-often in multiple parts-and new characters were frequently introduced.
The Transformers: The Movie picks the action up in 2005, back on the planet Cybertron. In a bot-to-bot showdown, Optimus Prime and Megatron send each other to the scrap heap. The evil Megatron is revived by Unicron, a living mechanical planet who consumes other planets for sustenance. Reborn as Galvatron, the former Megatron resumes his wicked ways in the service of Unicron.
The living planet’s only weakness is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, and Unicron has designs on eliminating that weakness by destroying the Autbots. Naturally, Galvatron is more than willing to go along with this plan, but he has a new nemesis in Autobot newcomer Hot Rod.
This was much more than a drawn-out extension of the regular Transformers series. The movie earned its PG rating, killing off several major characters over the course of the film’s many battle scenes, blazing a path that the series would later follow (one other PG-worthy element was Spike Witwicky’s use of the “S” word, edited out in later home video releases).
Despite a voice cast that included Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle and Orson Welles (who passed away during production), and despite the adoring legions of young Transformers fans who begged to be taken to see it, The Transformers: The Movie was a financial disappointment in its brief theatrical release. It has since become a cult classic for Transfans around the globe, buoyed up by the success of its syndicated cartoon descendant, Transformers: Beast Wars.