Monday, August 8, 2016

Transformers: The Movie 30th Anniversary


Thirty years ago today, we were graced with one of my favorite movies.  I remember seeing the ads for them leading up to their release, begging my parents to take me to it.  I had the movie poster hanging on my wall.  I waited for the day it would finally show up in theaters... and I finally got to watch it three years later.  As odd as it is, once the movie came out and it was apparent I wasn't going to see it in theaters, I forgot about it, until a few years later, I saw the cassette in a video rental store.  My dad rented it for me and I remember finally got to watch the movie!

I don't remember the movie from that first viewing.  I can't tell you if I cried when Optimus Prime died or if I was shocked to see a planet transform into a robot.  I do remember afterwards, being so upset in the morning as I prepared to go to school, slamming my hand on my dresser and asking why Ironhide had to die in such a brutal death.  Ironhide was my man!  I cried manly little kid tears that morning.
It wasn't until a while later that I rented the movie and made sure to make a copy of it for myself.  I watched it with my parents this time, totally afraid I'd get in trouble when Ultra Magnus said "Damnit!", though my parents didn't say anything.  I had heard rumors of a worse word in it, but dismissed them since my copy didn't have it.  No way would they say shit in a cartoon, and I was glad because I might have gotten in trouble for that one.  I must have watched that copy once a week for months before I lent it to my brother's friend, who stole it.  I bought the video a few months later and continued watching it over and over again.

Transformers: The Movie was an incredible piece of work.  Sure it had its fair share of mistakes (which I don't think I need to go into here), but it took a simple cartoon where the bad guys come up with a ridiculous scheme only to be beaten by the good guys then escape to fight another day, and they elevated it to show the real cost of a war that had lasted for millions of years.  Autobots died, Decepticons died, our heroes died and new leaders emerged to fill their shoes.  Millions of kids felt their hearts break with Optimus's death (and Ironhide's!), something that none of the writers expected.  I think it was then that people realized that Transformers and other properties could become more than just the toy commercials they started out as.  Kids really cared about the characters and had trouble seeing them replaced by this new generation.
The movie introduced a slew of new lore and characters, stuff that would be built on for years in reboots and comics.  Unicron became this almighty thing, "beyond our wildest imagination."  A planet-sized Transformer. I often tried figuring out how big he'd have to be to be in scale with the figures I had at home.  I remember thinking the toy would have to be the size of the moon (I was not a smart kid).  The Autobot Matrix of Leadership appeared, a mysterious device that became a magic relic in almost every series to follow.  Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod, Arcee, Springer, Kup; all these new Transformers with fancy vehicle modes that looked like nothing on Earth.  These guys were really from Cybertron!  And Galvatron rebuilt by Unicron from the dying Megatron, immediately killing Starscream, that was chilling.  The immediate show of incalculable power.  How could the series follow up on this? 

I suppose I should talk of the quality of the movie, since it's such a major step up from the series.  There are of course the animation and continuity errors - some character show up immediately or long after they'd already been killed.  However, the animation quality is incredible, with glowing screens and flashing shadow in every scene.  The music is likewise leagues above the cartoon, with a full-length score and some kick-ass metal songs throughout.  I'd dare say that this movie is some of the very best animated work from the 80s.  Sure, it doesn't stack up completely with Disney's work, but it far surpasses any other theatrical runs from other cartoons, like Bravestarr: The Movie and Go-Bots: Battle of the Rock Lords.  Even compared to the GI Joe movie, it's incredible (maybe minus that opening scene, but I still hold any scene in Transformers above it).

Even to this day, I sight Transformers: The Movie as an important milestone in my life.  It showed me how big the scale of stories could be.  It gave me an interest in more adult sci-fi.  It taught me about death, something I hadn't experienced in my life up to that point. I still watch the movie every so often, even though I'm on the doorstep of my 40th birthday.  I'll continue watching it far beyond today as well.  I'll laugh at the mistakes in it.  I'll groan at some of the dialogue.  I'll smirk at Spike's and Ultra Magnus's potty mouths even.  But most of all, Ill appreciate it as the holy grail of my childhood, a cartoon that reached beyond Saturday mornings to the big screen.

This post has been edited as part of the "Then (and Now) Blogathon" on RealWeegieMidget Reviews.  Click here for the second part, a new review on Transformers: The Last Knight for the  "Now (and Then) Blogathon on Thoughts All Sorts.

25 comments:

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