The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Beyond good. Beyond evil. Beyond your wildest imagination.
Do you pine for the days of old, where cartoons had awesome rock music and vibrant lasers flying everywhere? A time before Michael Bay tried to recreate everything with trademark explosions, slow motion spinning cameras, and action that's nearly impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys during it's hectic dancing of CG? Let's go back in time and visit our old (and some new) friends in the Autobots and Decepticons in all their animated glory. Will it be more than meets the eye, or will you wish you had rolled out before it started?
Something huge is making it's way through the universe, gobbling up planets as though they are kids eating cookies on the holidays. Unicron, it is called, and it's unfortunate that many in the stars haven't heard of this fearsome planet that consumes other planets - but it won't be long before they do. Elsewhere, on Cybertron, the Decepticons have won the battle for the planet causing the Autobots to hide on it's two moons while planning their counter attack. Unbeknownst to the Autobots, the Decepticons have a spy peeking in on their plans, and Optimus Prime's call to send a shuttle to their base on Earth gives the Decepticons just the moment they have been waiting for. They ambush the shuttle, hijacking it and killing it's crew in preparation for sneaking into the Earth base and putting a complete end to their long war.
Their ambush is spotted, and a vicious battle wages on the ground for the base. The Autobots get a short message out before their transmission equipment is destroyed, and desperately do everything they can to hold off the tide of the Decepticon assault. Things are looking bleak, but just as things are about to go from worse to impossible, Optimus Prime and a crew from the moon show up to turn the tide. Megatron and Optimus lock heads in mortal combat, stating that only one shall leave the battle - and Optimus manages to bring Megatron to his knees. Everything looks like it might turn around for the Autobots, but Megatron isn't one to play fair and critically wounds Optimus with a cheap blow - in turn meeting a retaliatory attack from Optimus bringing Megatron into just as critical a condition. On seeing their leader in such poor shape, the Decepticons decide to abandon their attack, leaving the Autobots to tend to their wounded leader. It's at this point that Optimus decides to pass on the Matrix of Leadership, in doing so unknowingly alerting Unicron of it's presence.
Needing less weight to get home, it's decided by the Decepticons to abandon all the wounded in space - including Megatron. As they float in space, these damaged bots are come across by Unicron - who finds a purpose in them as soldiers to destroy his one weakness, the Matrix of Leadership. Megatron - ever the powertrip - refuses to follow orders at first, until Unicron offers the alternative of being lunch. Thus, he is given new power as Galvatron, with his other shattered soldiers getting similar treatment, to go about his task or facing Unicron's (very painful) wrath. It's not long before Galvatron decides to get distracted, and to remind him of his place Unicron decides to devour the moons of Cybertron - alerting the Autobots to the danger while reminding his new slaves of their job at hand. Will the battered Autobots be able to save their friends and beat not only the Decepticons but also this new planet-sized threat?
The thing about a lot of cartoons back in the day is that they were bright, colorful, and often not entirely safe for folks with epilepsy. This movie is no different in actuality - it's a trip to watch with all it's different colorful "sets", and the action amongst the lasers and explosions no doubt are what really drew Bay to it when it came time for him to start making old things in his own visions. Animation quality is pretty good - but there are a few different scenes where things stutter a bit, or aren't quite as nicely done as the other parts. Even still, the fighting is infinitely more trackable than more recent attempts by Bay - you can tell just who's who in practically every shot, regardless of laser mass or explosions.
Voice work also bumps around a bit. It's good enough to match standards of the times - which I can understand is certainly not a very helpful thing to state if you haven't seen anything from those times. Let's say that it's decent, and it does have some names attached to it (such as Leonard Nimoy himself doing Unicron), but it's not going to be anything that blows your socks off unless you are having a nostalgia trip. Sound effects are pretty good, with the exception of one sound effect seeming to not really match up with what's going on onscreen, but they certainly do a good job of balancing them against everything else. The only remaining audio to talk about at this point is the music - to which it's pretty rad. Plenty of rocking songs keep you interested and energy levels high - even if you really end up hearing "You've got the Touch" more than anything else, to the point where at times it almost seems out of place. That Lion intro is probably the best intro for Transformers you will ever hear, complete with a thrilling solo.
When it comes down to it, it pulls off that nostalgic drive that (no doubt) a lot of people were hoping to feel when they went to see the modern take on their old time heroes on the big screen. Strangely enough, I think the transformer body count is probably higher than the (at least first) modern movies as single comparisons. As earlier stated, however, the action in this is much easier to follow. There are a few moments where things feel as though they are changing in-universe rules as they go (wait, this person was in pieces and you brought them back to life, but this person just had a few laser holes and you can't?) but it doesn't happen too terribly much. That being said, the sheer number of bots on both sides getting blown up, devoured, or melted in acid is pretty darn high - making it a rather violent movie for something that's primarily aimed at kids, which is kind of strange, but at the same time people seem to care less about violence in movies as long as it's not against humans.
If you like the old animated show, then you will probably enjoy this flick. If you know nothing about it, it gives you enough that you can enjoy the movie on it's own, but to get the maximum out of it, it really wants you to have known and gotten connected to characters before hand - even though the main hero focus is in fact a new character. It's pretty violent, but all of that violence is on transforming robots - so how appropriate that is for you or your kids to watch is totally on you. It's an enjoyable watch in my mind, and some of that soundtrack really reminds me why I love the old 80's cartoons more than some of the current selection out there, and if you want something that's arguably better than the "Bay-former" movies, this is probably your best option.