A Co-Op Critics Review!
Player 1: One Pumped Ninja
When The Transformers: The Movie was released in 1986, it was one of the most poorly rated movies of its time. Notable movie guides by esteemed critics, including Leonard Maltin and Mick Martin, gave it the lowest rating possible. It was called an overblown marketing tactic, a 2-hour long toy commercial, a rip-off of every science fiction plot concocted in the minds of bored, daydreaming grade schoolers. Making only $6 million in domestic box office sales, it was also a financial disappointment. That’s the type of punishment that should kill a movie forever.
In 2006, The Transformers: The Movie is considered to be among the top ten best animated movies of all time. Modern critics, in retrospect, have given the movie such high ratings that it has a “fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes.com, boasting a 67% fresh rating. And at IMDB.com, the average joe has given it a 7.0 rating, much higher than the abysmal 1.0’s and 0.0’s that the critics back in 1986 had to offer. Leonard who? With a cleaned up, jaw-dropping, kickass DVD release by Rhino Entertainment in 2001 and a planned 20th Anniversary Edition to appear in 2006, The Transformers: The Movie is here to stay.
The Transformers was a children’s cartoon released in 1984. It chronicled the story of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. As told in the opening introduction to the first episode, “many millions of years ago, on the planet Cybertron, life existed… but not life as we know it today. Intelligent beings who could think and feel inhabited the cities. They were called Autobots and Decepticons. But the brutal Decepticons were driven by a single goal: total domination. They set out to destroy the peace-loving Autobots, and war between the forces of good and evil raged upon Cybertron, devastating all in its path, draining the planet’s once rich sources of energy. The Autobots, on the verge of extinction, battled valiantly to survive.” The pilot episodes won the year’s award for best children’s programming, which says something about the maturity of the plot in the context of the naysayers who would later claim that the movie was nothing more than a giant toy commercial. Children were introduced for the first time to the heroic leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, and the tyrannical leader of the Decepticons, Megatron.
The movie’s plot fastforwards to the year 2005, where we learn that the Decepticons conquered Cybertron and the Autobots now plan their attacks from two of Cybertron’s moons and from Earth. Optimus Prime sends a shuttle to Earth but it is hijacked by the Decepticons in order to launch a surprise attack on Autobot City on Earth. A lot of Transformers die, and in the meantime there’s a giant Transformer in space named Unicron who literally likes to eat planets.
Let’s mention something that I’m sure has been said by anyone who’s seen it: this movie is traumatic as hell. I don’t want to spoil anything, but basically all the characters you saw and loved as a kid get blown away in the first 30 minutes of the film. And it’s not your typical death scenes off camera: friendly, awesome robots get shot in the gut and vomit smoke while their eyes fade out. One good ol’ boy robot gets shot in the face with a cannon at close range. Two significant characters have their corpses dragged out of harm’s way. Another gets turned into brimstone and shatters. And Optimus Prime bites the big one. It’ll make you cry, provided you feel sympathy for giant talking animated robots.
It does not make much sense to say that this movie sells toys just because it introduces a slew of new characters, considering that it kills off all the old ones. If they wanted to sell toys, the movie would have probably been the equivalent of a 2 hour long regular episode with introductions to “these new, hip Transformers that just came in! Yay!” Instead, the movie is a definite turning point to the overall story of the Transformers saga. It is arguably the most pivotal moment in Transformers history, not a “jump the shark” moment as critics have suggested. Yes, toys did sell as a result of this movie but heck, that’s just what’s happened with all action movies ever since Star Wars came out. That does not rule out the intrinsic worth of the movie itself.
The movie brings a new protagonist to the stage, Hot Rod (Judd Nelson), as he literally journeys through the belly of a beast and emerges reborn as Rodimus Prime, the reluctant hero who accepts his newfound responsibility. Death and rebirth is the ongoing theme of this film as even Megatron is reborn as the hulking Galvatron (Leonard Nimoy). It was perhaps this theme, following so close to the plot progression of Star Wars, that made so many think of it as a ripoff. It doesn’t make sense considering that it’s typical of mythology, explored and rehashed ever since Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” The action is puncuated with Stan Bush’s embarassingly triumphant songs “Dare” and “The Touch” as well as the metal riffs of N.R.G’s “Instruments of Destruction” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” by Spectre General.
At 84 minutes, the DVD release of The Transformers: The Movie is a crisp animated masterpiece that is guaranteed to satisfy fans as well as newcomers. We’ll just have to wait for the 20th Anniversary DVD to see how anyone could possibly top this one.
Effects and Entertainment: A+
Overall Recommendability: A
Player 2: DrSpengler
I knew I had to get around to reviewing “Toransufoomaazu za Muubi” sooner or later. For those of you not fluent in Annoying Roomaji Engrish, that means “Transformers the Movie”.
A giant planet that eats other planets (cannibal!) named Unicron shows up and threatens to destroy the entire universe. Meanwhile, the heroic Cybertrons and the evil Destrons are still duking it out in the distant future of 2005…and the Cybertrons are LOSING. Megatron and his Destrons have already succeeded in conquering their home planet, Seibertron (somehow) and now plot to finish the job by slaughtering all the Cybertrons guarding Scramble City back on Earth. They do a pretty good job, and kill a whole bunch of good guys, but before they can claim total victory, the Cybertron’s Supreme Commander, Convoy, arrives just in the nick of time to mow all the villains down in a psychotic rampage. He and Megatron have a final showdown, and Convoy bites the dust. The Destrons decide they’ve had enough for one day and flee back to Seibertron with a mortally wounded Megatron huddled-up in a fetal position. A bunch of new toys are introduced, including the whiney youngster, Hot Rodimus, the grizzled old-timer, Cha, the robot that wears lipstick for some reason, Arcee, and the perpetually useless new Supreme Commander, Ultra Magnus. As the movie continues, stuff blows up, awesome 80’s music starts and never stops, more new toys are introduced and there’s a whole lot of fighting.
So if that summary didn’t make it obvious, I’ll just spell it out for you; Transformer the Movie is a cinema classic.
Alright, perhaps that’s going a bit far, but for something designed to sell toys first and tell a story second, it’s a damn good 87-minute commercial. It takes some serious risks with what story it has; killing-off the beloved Convoy in front of millions of heartbroken children was taking things down a darker path, but brutally murdering the likes of Prowl, Gong, Ironhide, Ratchet and Starscream? That was just SICK. And it seemed those surviving toys/characters that Hasbro didn’t get sent to the proverbially gas-chamber were never the same again. No, I’m not talking about mental-scars, I mean that they were literally “upgraded” into different characters. The story may not have been much, but it did shake things up quite a bit and the effects of the movie were not just felt in the toyline, but in the following television series, Transformers 2010.
The animation in Transformers the Movie is both gorgeous and confusing. The overall animation is very shiny and very detailed; this is definitely theatrical-quality stuff. However, it is occasionally betrayed by instances of miss-coloring here and there, often at the most inopportune times (like when a character is dying). The most annoying, mind-boggling errors in the movie, though, are the surreal logic errors. And no, I’m not just talking logic errors like “Why is there robot fish?” or “How can Daniel’s excel-suit transform without crushing his body?” The logic errors that’ll irk you the most are when characters appear in places they just shouldn’t. Yes, characters often appear in two places at once, but it extends further than that. Characters appear after they’ve DIED. Yeah.
Also, I like to play a little game when I watch the movie, it’s called “Where’s Snarl?” The Dinobot named Snarl will appear briefly through-out the movie in the strangest and most impossible places. He never says a word or does anything, and he’s always kind of hidden, but he’s there.
The voice-acting is both good and bad. The cast from Fight! Super Robot Life Transformer obviously return to fill the parts, and they do a good job. Tessho Genda and Seizo Kato are back as Convoy and Megatron, respectively, and they bring their experience with them. It’s not so much the voices that irritated me through-out the movie, but that they were ALWAYS talking. Even when characters weren’t on-screen they were speaking, usually describing to us what we were watching like we were too stupid to figure it out ourselves. It’s almost like they were trying to cover-up all the Stan Bush music…but why would anybody want to do that?
Transformers the Movie is, at its core, a glorified toy commercial. However, most will argue that its more than that, considering that it has withstood the test of time among fans and non-fans alike, decades after the toys it advertises have left the shelves. Not everyone can say that. I mean, I’m still waiting for a DVD release of the GoBots movie.
And for parents, Transformers the Movie is a pleasant deviation from all the sugary sweet kids movies that pollute the shelves these days. There isn’t a moral, there isn’t a message, there isn’t hugging and singing and dancing and frolicking…it’s just robots blowing things up and telling you to buy stuff you can’t get anymore. So if your kids are sick of watching their hundredth Disney movie with the overbearing message that “Love is good” or “Family is cool” or “Always recycle”, then Transformers the Movie is a hardcore change of pace for 87 minutes.
By the way, I watched the Japanese dub of this movie. Maybe I should’ve mentioned that earlier?
So, on “The Relative Grading Scale of Transformers with Terrible Names”, a BAD movie would rank as an “Octo-Punch”, but this movie is honestly really fun, so it deserves a “Bugly”.