Mother f***ing Rock Narlies.
The GoBots were always the Transformers’ ugly kid brother, so needless to say, the GoBots feature film was “just like Transformers the Movie, only not as good”. Not nearly as good. In fact, it wasn’t “good” at all. While the writing may have been only a few notches below that of the early Transformers stuff, it is still noticeably bad. Now, the Transformers’ character designs only bore a slim likeness to their toy counterparts, but the GoBots? They were precise animated realizations of their toys. As a result, it looks like a bunch of, well, TOYS fighting on screen, not actual characters. The barren desert landscape of the alien world, Quartex, also bears an unfortunate likeness to a kid’s sandbox. So yeah, basically you’re watching some kid play with his toys in his backyard. Thrilling.
As it goes, the GoBots are sentient transforming robots from the distant world of Gobotron. They were once humanoid but had their brains removed and put inside metallic bodies. There are two factions of GoBots: the heroic Guardians, lead by Leader-1, and the evil Renegades, lead by Cy-Kill. While repairing their home planet, a strange meteor crashlands in one of their cities. The Guardians investigate and discover a pair of transforming rock-people within the meteor. Solitaire (Margot Kidder) is a Rock Lord from the planet Quartex who has come to beg for help from the Guardians. Accompanying her is Nuggit (Roddy McDowall), a golden robot of great intelligence. It would seem that on their home planet a villain named Magmar (Telly Savalas) has been waging war on the peaceful kingdoms. He is collecting the nine scepters of the Rock Lords, for once he has them all, he can unlock a weapon of ultimate power. The Guardians head out to aid Solitaire, but at the same time, the Renegades catch wind of this dilemma. Interested in this “ultimate weapon”, Cy-Kill and his gang head to Quartex and team with Magmar.
Margot Kidder has no soul. I don’t know how Hanna Barbara managed to get at least three celebrities to commit to this movie, but I imagine their paychecks had a lot of zeros. The voice acting isn’t so bad in this film; particularly on the part of Telly Savalas (TV’s Kojack) and Roddy McDowall. It’s not McDowall’s best vocal performance, as he’s shown he can do much better in shows like Two Stupid Dogs and Batman: the Animated Series, but he does alright. Margot Kidder is rather forgettable, though, and really phones in an awful performance. I wonder if this was before or after she went completely insane and had a mental breakdown? The rest of the cast are made up of leftovers from the Transformers. You’ve got Peter Cullen as Tombstone and Pincher, Frank Welker as Scooter (FUCK!), Pulver-Eyes and many more, Michael Bell as Slimestone, Granite and Narligator, Arthur Burghardt as Cop-Tur, Turbo and Talc and lots more.
The animation, by Hanna Barbara standards, is pretty good. Which means, by the standards of the late 20th century, it’s freakin’ terrible. Dot Warner from Animaniacs once made an excellent observation about Hanna Barbara animation: “Who sucked all the life out of the universe?” The animation is just as flat, boring and bland as one would expect from a Hanna Barbara production, but with a few moments of glory (Cy-Kill’s attack on the Guardians’ fortress at the beginning is okay). Then, you take a look at Transformers the Movie, with its smooth and detailed Japanese animation provided by Toei, and its pretty clear how Transformers came out on top (though, realistically, both films were financial disasters).
I will give the GoBots one thing, though, the Rock Lord toys were awesome. You’d think “monsters that transform into rocks?” would be totally lame, but you’re wrong. Those toys were hardcore. I don’t know why, but they just were. The Rock Narlies need to roast in Hell, though.
Battle of the Rock Lords is generally revered as the high point in GoBots fiction, and that’s really sad. The television series was cancelled, meaning there was never a continuation of the story, either. So this is it, the grand finale of the GoBots. At least try to enjoy it from that angle.