Japan Title: “Transformers the Movie”
US Release: 8-8-86
Japan Release: 1989
Animation: Toei Studio
Credited Writer: Ron Friedman
Synopsis: It’s the year 2005. Out in space, the planet Lithone is having a very bad day, as a giant planet-eating…planet named Unicron destroys their entire civilization. Apparently, the Autobots haven’t been doing so hot, either. The Decepticons have driven them from Cybertron completely and forced them onto Cybertron’s two moons. Laserbeak swoops by unnoticed (as usual) and films Optimus Prime’s exposition about needing a little energon and a lot of luck in order to power a full scale assault against the Decepticons. In what might possibly the first success of his entire career, Megatron and the Decepticons invade the Autobots’ shuttle to Earth and kill Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet and Brawn.
Back on Earth, the Autobots have constructed Autobot City, a massive sprawling techno wonderland inhabited by Autobots. At a nearby lake, the youngster Daniel is lamenting over how he misses his dad, Spike, while fishing with fellow Autobot youngster, Hot Rod. The pair goes to Lookout Mountain to watch the shuttle land, only to find it overrun with Decepticons. The Decepticons blitz Autobot City and a full-scale battle ensues. City Commander Ultra Magnus orders some new faces (Springer, Arcee and Blurr) to transform Autobot City so it can counterattack. Meanwhile, Hot Rod and Daniel race back to the city with the crotchety old Kup in tow. Springer and Arcee successfully transform the city, though the Decepticons still wreck them something fierce. Blaster sends an SOS to Optimus, but his transmission is cut short when Soundwave unleashes his cassette forces. Eventually, Optimus Prime arrives with the Dinobots in tow. Prime mows down all the Decepticons in his path (literally) until he comes face to face with Megatron. The two duel, injuring each other worse than ever before. As Prime has Megatron at his mercy, Hot Rod gets taken hostage, allowing Megatron to administer the fatal shots to Prime. Before he can finish his enemy, Prime pushes Megatron off a cliff, Wile E. Coyote-style, and the Decepticons retreat.
At the Autobot City sick bay, Perceptor sadly laments that Prime’s wounds are fatal. Before going all black, Prime passes the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus. Out in deep space, Astrotrain claims that he can’t make it back to Cybertron with all the Decepticons in his cargo hold. The Decepticons take a vote and hurl all the injured (Skywarp, Thundercracker, the Insecticons) out into space. Starscream personally kicks Megatron’s butt to the curb. Back inside Astrotrain, Starscream demands he be inaugurated as the new leader. The others aren’t so agreeable and begin fighting amongst themselves.
Adrift in space, Megatron is happened upon by Unicron. Unicron offers Megatron a new body and new troops if he submits to his will and destroys the Matrix. Megatron reluctantly agrees and is upgraded into Galvatron. The remains of the fallen Decepticons are reformatted into his new warriors: Cyclonus (and his never-to-be-seen-again Armada), Scourge and the Sweeps. Unicron hands them a new ship and Galvatron & Friends head back to Cybertron. They interrupt Starscream’s coronation as new Decepticon leader. Galvatron vaporizes Starscream and assumes command. Unicron arrives in Cybertron’s orbit and snacks on both moons (and the Autobots along with them). Galvatron throws a hissyfit until Unicron smacks him back into place. Galvatron then orders the Decepticons to Earth.
On Earth, the Autobots get a message from Spike just before Unicron inhales him. They have little time to prepare, as the Decepticons arrive for their second attack. Several of the Autobots flee on two separate shuttles (the first manned by Hot Rod, Kup and the Dinobots, the second manned by Magnus, Arcee, Springer, Blurr, Perceptor and Daniel). The shuttles don’t make it very far, as Galvatron shoots down Hot Rod’s ship and strands it on Quintessa. He then fires upon Magnus’ ship, though they eject an escape vehicle just in the nick of time. Galvatron thinks Magnus destroyed, only to be tortured by Unicron. In their escape vehicle, the Autobots plot a course for the Planet of Junk in order to make repairs.
On Quintessa, Hot Rod fishes a damaged Kup out of a sea of mechanical fish and begins repairs. Magnus and crew crash-land on the Planet of Junk and Daniel is given an exo-suit so he can help with the workload. Unknown to them, they are being watched by a legion of weird TV-talkin’ robots called Junkions. Back on Quintessa, Hot Rod has repaired Kup, only to have the pair taken prisoner by an army of alligator Transformers when their Universal Greeting fails. The gators take them to the court of the Quintessons who are busy trying and executing survivors of Lithone by dunking them in a pool of robot-eating Sharkticons. Outside, the Dinobots encounter Wheelie, the mad rhyme-bustin’ wild boy of Quintessa. Wheelie promises to lead them to Hot Rod and Kup.
Galvatron arrives at Unicron, ticked off. Unicron reveals that Magnus and the Matrix have survived and now reside on the Planet of Junk. Galvatron then sets off to deal with his foe. The Decepticons arrive on the Planet of Junk, destroy their escape shuttle, blow Magnus to pieces and steal the Matrix (dude, that sucks).
On Quintessa, Hot Rod and Kup are dunked into the Sharkticon pool. After transforming into vehicle mode, the pair escape the pool only to be overrun by the Sharkticons and hilarious 80’s hair metal. The Dinobots and Wheelie arrive and even the odds. The Sharkticons then turn on the Quintessons, who run away. Wheelie reveals a ship to the Autobots and they take off for the Planet of Junk.
As if things on the Planet of Junk weren’t crappy enough, the Junkions choose that moment to attack the Autobots. They fight briefly until Hot Rod and Kup arrive and use the Universal Greeting to sway them into an alliance/dance party. The Junkions rebuild Magnus and then break out their own dilapidated ship. Both factions then leave to battle Unicron.
At Unicron, Galvatron attempts to destroy his master with the Matrix but he can’t get the stupid mayonnaise jar open. Unicron has had it up to here with Galvatron and transforms into his gigantic robot mode, swearing to destroy Cybertron. Unicron attacks Cybertron and the Decepticons counterattack. Galvatron shoots Unicron square in the face and gets swallowed whole for it. The Autobots arrive and join in the fray. Hot Rod crashes his ship directly through Unicron’s eye and the Autobots escape into his innards.
Inside Unicron, Hot Rod gets separated from his friends who are being chased by Unicron’s mechanical antibodies. Hot Rod encounters Galvatron and the two throw down. Daniel gets separated from the Autobots and winds up in the smelting pools where the Autobots (and Spike) who were eaten with Cybertron’s moons are about to be melted down. Daniel saves his Dad and the other Autobots and they move out to find their teammates. Unicron triumphs over the Junkion battleship as Galvatron throttles the crap out of Hot Rod. All hope seems lost until Hot Rod yanks the Matrix off from Galvatron’s neck, finds the finger-holes and opens the damn thing. The surge of energy causes a chain reaction within Unicron and he begins to blow up. Oh, and Hot Rod is upgraded into this guy named Rodimus Prime. Rodimus hurls Galvatron out the side of Unicron and into deep space then meets up with the other Autobots and escapes Unicron. Unicron blows up with only his head left to orbit Cybertron angrily. Rodimus Prime takes leadership of the Autobots and reclaims Cybertron from the Decepticons.
Notes: For reasons still uncertain, the Japanese release of “Transformers the Movie” was delayed by 3 years. When it finally reached Japan it was so good it went straight to video. Contrary to popular belief, it was not titled “Matrix Forever” in Japan. The Japanese version of the movie features the characters’ names and functions appearing on screen whenever they first show up.
The reason numerous season 2 characters do not appear in the film is because the movie was written and put into production during the production of season 2. IDW’s 2006 comic book adaptation of the movie featured a retconned explanation for the absence of the season 2 characters (they were duking it out at the Ark). There are at least 3 versions of the film: the “theatrical” version which contains an opening sequence bombarding us with celebrity names as well as all instances of cursing, a “European” cut which features a Star Wars-style narrated opening and the word “shit” edited, and a television version which features the movie cut into several “episodes” and all instances of cursing removed (save for the word “Hell” in the lyrics of The Touch). An early trailer for the film features alternate animation for several scenes, the most bizarre of which has Ultra Magnus still in his early Diaclone Powered Convoy color scheme (red, black and blue). Though they don’t appear in the film itself, storyboards feature Red Alert, Tracks and Sideswipe engaging in battle at Autobot City. Storyboards also paint a different death for Ultra Magnus, as he’s drawn and quartered by the Sweeps (Robert Stack’s voice over seems to indicate he thought that’s what was happening, too).
Errors: Why does Prime bother contacting Jazz and Cliffjumper via video monitor when apparently they were standing next to him the whole time? Hound and Sunstreaker are seen on Earth moving signs around when they later show up arriving in Prime’s shuttle. Ironhide can be seen flying around Autobot City during battle long after he got blown to smithereens by Megatron. In the same scene, Shockwave is seen flying around Autobot City, shootin’ stuff. Snarl shows up in the craziest places. The Insecticons and the Seekers, despite having been reformatted, show up in crowd shots later on in the film. How did Hot Rod and Kup know Magnus and the rest were on the Planet of Junk? Kup and Hot Rod run out of energon goodies while interacting with the alligator Transformers, yet have plenty to offer the Junkions.
Transformers featured (in rough order of appearance): Unicron (first appearance), Laserbeak, Swoop, Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Starscream, Shockwave, Jazz, Cliffjumper, Bumblebee, Prowl, Soundwave, Megatron, Brawn, Ratchet, Scavenger, Bonecrusher, Hook, Longhaul, Mixmaster, Scrapper, Dirge, Kickback, Skywarp, Hot Rod (first appearance), Huffer, Hound, Bluestreak, Kup (first appearance), Sunstreaker, Blitzwing, Thundercracker, Shrapnel, Perceptor, Ultra Magnus (first US appearance), Arcee (first appearance), Springer (first appearance), Blurr (first appearance), Ramjet, Thrust, Astrotrain, Blaster, Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage, Ratbat (first US appearance), Steeljaw (first US appearance), Ramhorn (first US appearance), Eject (first appearance), Rewind (first appearance), Reflector, Windcharger, Wheeljack, Bombshell, Devastator, Grapple, Galvatron (first US appearance), Scourge (first appearance), the Sweeps (first appearances), Cyclonus (first appearance), Cyclonus’ Armada (first and only appearance), Snarl (finally!), Wreck-Gar (first appearance), random Junkions (first appearances), Wheelie (first appearance), Sharkticons (first appearances), Rodimus Prime (first appearance).
Notable others: Kranix (first and only appearance), Arblus (first and only appearance), Spike, Daniel Witwicky (first appearance), Quintessons (first appearances).
Review: I love this flick. It’s what got me into Transformers, after all (well, technically, that “SOS Dinobots” BetaMax cassette got the ball rolling, but this was the kicker). Yes, it’s such a commercial it hurts, but I can’t help but love it. Toei’s animation is absolutely positively gorgeous. I mean, even when they’re making their usual coloring errors the thing still looks pretty as Hell. I think what impressed me the most, though, was the voice acting. Not just the celebrities, but the TV cast, as well. Wally Burr gets 110% out of everyone and they deliver some fantastic lines. Even the lines that aren’t so good sound great thanks to some fantastic voice-overs and direction. The Japanese dub isn’t as hot, I’m afraid. Surprisingly, it’s not Masamune Issei (the narrator) who ruins it by talking too much, but everyone else. Any scene that was silent in the English dub has characters talking ceaselessly in the Japanese version, making tons of Captain Obvious statements and stupid jokes. It even ruins a few scenes (Daniel’s waling and screaming when Prime dies makes your ears bleed). The actual voices are great, but they just talk too damn much. As for the story, I do find myself losing interest halfway through the flick when all the new characters seize the camera. The first half will always be my preference, with all my favorite characters getting their shit torn to pieces. The fight between Prime and Megatron is especially beautiful; very well choreographed and animated. I sometimes pop in my DVD and fast forward to just that part. So yeah, the movie gets a lot of hype and fan-obsession and yeah, maybe it really isn’t as hot as people say…but I can’t help but love it. Sue me.