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Retro Review: The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Transformers is the Hasbro toy product that just won’t die, plain and simple. Michael Bay has been making Transformers films for the Summer blockbuster season going on 10 years now and his latest, The Last Knight, is ready and set to be released upon the world like raining blaster shots from Starscream. No matter how badly we want him to stop. With nostalgia for everything set in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s on an all time high, it only seems fitting that I go back and check out the classic animated film about robots in disguise.

Fair warning, this movie is (for the lack of a better word) fuck-diculous, and my memory of this film differed so much from what I saw when I revisited it for this review.

Let’s dive in.

For some that need a refresher, the film follows the standard battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons as one side tries to gain control of Cybertron. This time around, the story takes place 20 years after the events of the series, in the year 2005 (so technically this is the past and we missed the war completely), and served as a bridge into the third season.

Image result for the transformers the movie 1986 unicron

The film introduced a new villain via a giant eating planet named Unicron (voiced by Orson Welles in his last performance… I’ll let that settle in) and a more bad ass version of Megatron named Galvatron. Got it? Good.

The animation is a great reminder of the balls to wall type that only the 80s could produce. The way the movie was drawn is in the vein of some the classics like Heavy Metal, Wizards, American Pop, and The Lord of the Rings. The opening scene of Unicron making a light snack out of one of the moons of Cybertron and the Decepticons’ upgrade scenes looked awesome in a way that many hand drawn animation fail to do in today’s cartoon world.

Now you might be saying,

“But Mark, surely the animation can’t compete with the top notch stiff and stilted work from the series.”

To that I say,

“When you see Optimus Prime getting shanked by Megatron, you can almost feel it.”

The direction of the film is something that needs to be discussed and there will be SPOILERS in this section.

Image result for the transformers the movie 1986

The way the story is taken has me thinking that this movie wasn’t entirely made just for kids. There are scenes where Autobots and Decepticons are blasted in brutal ways, jettisoned into space, or dropped in vats of acid followed by blood curdling screams that’ll make you scream “holy shit”. Speaking of that word, the human named Spike uses that once or twice and can be heard if you know when to listen – cough, cough, minute 36.

One thing that has to be discussed is the unbelievably awesome soundtrack that plays in almost every scene. With tracks like Stan Bush’s The Touch, Dare, and Vince DiCola dropping some serious riffs that ooze rock space opera, it makes the film fun to watch.

There’s even a scene when some of the Autobots celebrate their alliance with a gang of Junkyard Autobots by dancing in a circle with Weird Al Yankovic’s Dare to be Stupid playing in the background… Yeah.


The voice acting? Well, it’s a cartoon based on some toys, so it ain’t top notch and just gets the story moving.

I grew up watching the original animated series and even the CGI filled Beast Wars and Beast Machine so watching this gave me that old warm, fuzzy, horrifying nostalgia feeling any 30 something year old would want to feel. It’s not the best the franchise has to offer but it is the most fun you’ll get out the never ending war between good and evil.

It may be bad and barely good – but it’s that level of bad that makes it so good.  So, if you don’t want to watch a bunch of trash cans, loose bolts, shrapnel, and other stupid fuckery that Michael Bay has to offer – give Transformers: The Animated Movie a watch.

But don’t forget the drinks.

Grade: C+

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