1986, part II – The Transformers: The Movie, As I See It

The Transformers: The Movie was released on cinemas worldwide in 1986 and while it was not a big box office success, it had a big impact on the fandom and was ultimately very important for the Transformers franchise as a whole, so I feel it is necessary to bring up, not least after having touched upon it in the last post.

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Above: The movie poster

First off, I´m not even sure I saw this movie as a child, if I did, I at least did not have the same kind of world-changing experience watching it as many others since I can´t remember (did it even go up on Swedish theaters?). This fact might however help me in explaining the movie in a somewhat more objective fashion. The basic plot goes like this:

800px-TFTM_Unicron_Lithone

First off, we see a mysterious, giant mechanical planet devour a smaller mechanical planet, and its inhabitants with it. Cut, and it is the distant future of 2005 (whoa!). With the Decepticons now in control of Cybertron, Megatron leads his troops in an all-out attack on Autobot City on Earth. In the climactic battle Optimus Prime and Megatron face off, and both of them get mortally wounded. Optimus shockingly enough dies surrounded by friends after having passed on the Matrix of Leadership, a mysterious artifact passed down between Autobot Leaders, to Ultra Magnus, who will however ultimately fail to hold on to it.

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Above: Brawn and Optimus Prime gets it. Bad.

The Decepticons make their way back to Cybertron within their ever-trusty transport Astrotrain, having their wounded onboard. Starscream sees his opportunity for assuming leadership and throws Megatron and a few others out in space, leaving them to die. These are however summoned by the mysterious planet from the opening scene of the movie, presenting himself as Unicron. He rebuilds Megatron as Galvatron, and the others as Cyclonus and Scourge, the latter with his own fleet of clones of himself, the Sweeps.

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Above: The dying Optimus Prime passes on the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus, Galvatron is born

For receiving their new bodies, they must in return now do Unicron´s bidding (sometimes enforced by mind control) and find the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, which Unicron for some reason fears. After a number of twists and turns, we end up with an apocalyptic scene with Unicron, now having transformed into a gigantic, winged, devil-like robot, approaching Cybertron. As he threatens to devour the planet, hordes of Transformers are desperately trying to ward him off, while the young Autobot Hot Rod is pitted against Galvatron, now in possession of the Matrix, inside of Unicron. During their battle, Hot Rod snatches the Matrix from Galvatron and transforms into the larger, wiser, and infinitely stronger Rodimus Prime! He throws Galvatron out through one of Unicron´s eyes (!) and then opens the Matrix, releasing its full power, reducing Unicron to space rubble and a head eerily drifting away through space.

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Ouch…

First, let´s be clear about one thing about the movie. Like any other Transformers media at the time (as well as now?), it was primarily a marketing device for new Transformers toys to be sold, namely those for the new characters who appeared in the movie. For achieving this, it was decided the old guard must make room for the new, which was simply achieved by killing off a large number of beloved characters, foremost Optimus Prime himself. Not realizing how important Prime had become to the young fans of the franchise, the script writers basically induced a collective trauma among young boys in the US. Second, the movie has so many parallels to Star Wars that it is almost comical: Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime (Luke Skywalker), Springer (Han Solo), Arcee (Princess Leia), Unicron (The Death Star) and the Creation Matrix (containing some kind of Force to repel darkness)…

ArceeG1Serie

Notice the “hairdo”?

However, the Movie also brought novelty to the franchise. First, the mere concept of characters dying was a new thing for the Transformers universe and arguably set a darker, more mature tone for the storytelling thereafter. Second, the toys of most of the movie characters (save Ultra Magnus) which replaced the old, were among the first to be exclusively designed for the Transformers franchise, rather than being imported from a pre-existing toyline. The designs of these toys were different from their predecessors in that they transformed from robots into futuristic, imaginary vehicles rather than real-life ones, something which would become something of the standard for the toyline until the present day. Third, the storytelling introduced a few characters and elements, foremost Unicron and his fear of the Matrix of Leadership, which later would inspire comic writer Simon Furman to create the origin story for the franchise for the UK run of the Transformers comic, one that eventually would become mainstream canon. Thus, the role Transformers: The Movie has played for the Transformers franchise as a whole cannot be understated, and the franchise as a whole can´t even be fully understood without it.

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Source: http://strongstuff.net/

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I am starting to wrap up the introductory phase of this blog. I have a few more things i want to share, though. Wait for it…

Thanks to TFWiki and Strongstuff for providing pictures for this post, and thanks to Tekering for pointing out some faults in the initial draft!

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