Futuristic Movie Month: "The Transformers: The Movie" (1986)

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Rating: PG
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: August 8, 1986
Directed by: Nelson Shin
Genre: Animation / Action / Adventure

"The Transformers: The Movie" is based on the popular television series of the same name. In the movie, the Autobots face off against their enemy, the Decepticons. When the Decepticons gain a new ally, Unicron, they are able to take on new identities and given lethal powers. With a new enemy to fight, the Autobots are forced to choose between fleeing their city or confronting their enemies.

Plot Summary

"The Transformers: The Movie" begins on Earth when Daniel Witwicky and Hot Rod intercept a transmission announcing an Autobot shuttle is going to land. Wanting to see the action, Daniel and Hot Rod race up to Lookout Mountain where they witness the shuttle landing. It turns out, a group of Decepticons overtook the shuttle during its orbit to Earth.

The Decepticons quickly attack Autobot City, but several Autobots, Ultra Magnus, Blurr, Springer, Perceptor and Arcee, build walls around the city to protect the inhabitants. The next day, the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, confronts the leader of the Decepticons, Megatron. The fight results in Megatron being defeated, and the Decepticons are forced to leave Autobot City. However, Optimus Prime dies of the injuries he sustained during the fight. 

After leaving the city, the Decepticons encounter Unicron, an artificial planet, that offers to give the Decepticons new bodies and powers in exchange for the Autobot Matrix that is the only thing capable of destroying Unicron. The Decepticons agree and quickly begin planning another assault on the Autobots.

The showdown between the Autobots and Decepticons occurs on the planet Junk, Cybertron and also on Earth. The fierce battle results in both sides losing warriors.


"The Transformers: The Movie" features an extensive cast and includes nearly all of the most popular characters. Since the film had a limited budget in terms of special effects, the voice actors make all the difference and are partly responsible for the film's success. The most notable voice actors include Frank Welker, Leonard Nimoy, Roger C. Carmel, Peter Cullen and Robert Stack. Orson Welles also voices the character Unicron to the delight of fans.

Film Analysis

"The Transformers: The Movie" is very well incorporated into the popular Transformers television series. In fact, the movie bridges the gap between a large time jump that takes place between two of the seasons. The movie is set in 2005, 20 years later than when the second season of the series takes place. The third season of the series picks up where the movie left off.

The movie also has a profound impact on the third season, since so many characters die during the film. Interestingly, there is a notable disparity between the number of Autobot deaths and Decepticon deaths. The heavy losses experienced by one of the teams does not equal the end of the story. During one of the last scenes, there is a cliffhanger that leaves fans wanting to know what happens next.

Aside from the movie's cohesion with the television series, the plot of the film is full of exciting twists and turns. The initial attack of the Decepticons leads to a series of events that result in the destruction of several moons and seriously impacts numerous planets. There seems to be a nearly constant flow of fight scenes from the beginning of the movie until the closing credits.

The introduction of the artificial, free-moving planet Unicron is an unexpected development that completely changes the Autobots' chances of defeating the Decepticons in a second battle. The existence of Unicron also allows the Decepticons to turn into completely different warriors, which is one of the best character transformations that takes place. 

The change between settings, from Autobot City to Planet Junk to Cybertron, keeps the pace of the movie swift. The many battles that take place also keep the storyline interesting and create a great deal of suspense. Optimus Prime's death in the beginning of the film foreshadows the later deaths of other main characters and makes it clear that no character is safe.

Ultimately, "The Transformers: The Movie" has everything Transformers fans can expect from a feature-length movie. Nearly all of the main characters are featured in the film and brought to life by talented voice actors. The events that take place have a profound impact on the entire Transformers universe and leave open the possibility of a sequel.

In essence, the Transformers movie has enough action to fill an entire television season. Although the special effects are not as impressive as other animated films from the same time period, the film makes up for any misses in the special effects department by having an exciting storyline and tons of fight scenes. For any fan of Transformers, this movie is a must-see.