The Transformers: The Movie Review
By Christopher Null
By any sane criteria, The Transformers is a terrible, terrible movie. It has some of the worst feature film animation ever passed off on audiences anywhere, and its plot (Autobots vs. Decepticons by way of a planet-munching giant robot called Unicron) is as threadbare as anything Saturday morning has ever delivered.
But The Transformers has earned a cult following, for a couple of reasons. First it's the only Transformers-themed movie ever made. In case you weren't a kid in the '80s, Transformers were immensely popular toys that could change from some common item (usually a truck or a plane) into a robot. With lasers. Cartoons followed, then the movie.
Second, and more importantly, there's the little issue of the cast: Nimoy. Stack. Kasem. Welles. Yes, Orson Welles. This was his second-to-last movie ever.
Now Transformers, a live-action effects extravaganza backed by Steven Spielberg, is on tap for 2007, so interest in all things that turn into other things is riding high. (Never mind that this new movie sounds like the worst idea in history... that's another story altogether.) And so the '86 flick re-emerges on DVD as a two-disc collectible, complete with all the trimmings: Deleted scenes, test footage, multiple commentaries, games, and more.
But how about that feature film? Why, it's positively inane, to the point of near-unwatchability. The dialogue is banal, the scene progression completely random, the plot points absurd. Now the idea of the gutteral Welles bellowing commands in the darkness of space holds some appeal, but even this laughable camp loses its charms in short order. Ultimately Transformers' sole pleasures come from trying to guess the celebrity voices, which even includes Scatman Crothers, and guiltily enjoying its hair-metal soundtrack (with diversions that include, yes, "Weird" Al Yankovic).
To which I'll add: Did Transformers actually launch the celebrity-voiced animation craze 20 years ago? That may be the film's biggest legacy.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 8th August 1986
Box Office Worldwide: $5.7M
Distributed by: De Laurentiis Entertainment Gr
Production compaines: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), Marvel Productions, Sunbow Productions
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew
Producer: Joe Bacal, Tom Griffin
Screenwriter: Ron Friedman
Starring: Judd Nelson as Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime (voice), Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime (voice), Frank Welker as Megatron/Soundwave/Rumble (voice), Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron (voice), Orson Welles as Unicron (voice), Eric Idle as Wreck-Gar (voice), Robert Stack as Ultra Magnus, Norman Alden as Kranix/Arblus (voice), Jack Angel as Astrotrain (voice), Michael Bell as Prowl/Scrapper/Swoop/Junkion (voice), Gregg Berger as Grimlock (voice), Susan Blu as Arcee (voice)