Review: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

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Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

This 1986 big budget continuation of the series must have come as quite a shock to children everywhere. Eleven year olds, imprinted like baby ducks with toys that turned from robots into various types of vehicular transport, must have been stunned with what the movie offered up. Unaware that toy producer Hasbro saw the movie as a deck clearing exercise for a new line of toys, kids must have been close to traumatized to witness Autobot leader Optimus Prime’s brutal beating death at the hands of his arch enemy Megatron — in the first act!

Transformers is certainly an event-filled movie not afraid to upset the status quo. Not only do the Autobots have to deal with the Decepticons, but the Orson Welles voiced Unicron, a Transformer the size of the planet, threatens to devour their homeworld of Cybertron.

For all its shake-ups, Transformers: The Movie does lose some steam around the three quarter time mark. It splits the Autobots into groups and sends them to different planets populated with even more Transformer types. This directive certainly seems to have tested the powers of the scriptwriter. One struggles to see the appeal to kids of a planet with a corrupt legal system – Transformers that turn into lawyers?

Though showing its age, (the power chord chugging of the main theme makes Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger sound like a nursery rhyme), Transformers: The Movie shows how times have changed. Hasbro now guards the intellectual property like a sacred relic and, like the movie’s somewhat prescient ‘litigious world,’ scratching the highly polished duco of the franchise would undoubtedly generate a ‘cease and desist’ order faster than the speed of licensing.

7 manifest destinies out of 10.
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