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TheTransformers: The Movie (1986)

Matrix Forever, "The Transformers"

Beyond good. Beyond evil. Beyond your wildest imagination

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 86 minutes

UK Certificate: PG


I wish we could pull off talking like the Transformers in real life. Not often enough do you hear people enthusiastically yelling “let’s burn rubber!” before slowly backing the car out of the driveway, or old men whose war stories are about encountering “petro-rabbits on Alpha 9”. Then again, humans are rubbish compared to Transformers. Not only are we not robots in disguise, we’re not even robots. Which is probably why the presence of humans in this rip-roaring slice of 1980s toon action often appears to be little more than an after-thought.

The original (and so far only) big-screen adaptation of the mega-successful kiddies’ toy phenomenon, ‘Transformers: The Movie’ continues to draw upon a massive fanbase of people who really should have grown up and forgotten about this sort of stuff. If you don’t believe such folks exist just take a gander at the documentary on the DVD featuring the grown-men of today still religiously fawning over Optimus Prime and co. As much as I’d like to distance myself from these legions of anoraks, I can’t deny that the Trannies were pretty darn cool.

Set in 2005 (a considerable way into the future at the time), this Anime-style adventure plunges headfirst into the age-old civil war raging between the goody-goody Autobots (yay!) and the nasty-pieces-of-work that are the Decepticons (boo!). Unicron, a giant Rik Waller of a robot who scoffs entire planets where the rest of us would settle for a kebab, is treating the galaxy like a giant all-you-can-eat buffet. The only thing that’ll stop him in his glutinous tracks is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership – but can the Autobots use it to fill their requisite quota of good before Galvatron, a Leonard Nimoy-voiced Decepticon leader, fulfils a few plans of his own?

Dark, surreal, and with some complicated dialogue, it has to be said that there’s lots in here that’ll go straight over the heads of younger viewers. There’s even a surprise use of a sweary in there, though I have to admit I skipped back to it a couple of times on the DVD just to check my ears weren’t deceiving me.

What it has working in its favour above all else is its nostalgia value, though that’s far from the only redeeming feature. The early-doors showdown between Optimus Prime and the “maniacal” Megatron is a classic good-vs-evil face-off, and the dodgy animation of the now extremely-dated TV series is discarded in favour of some impressive visuals. This production took two years to make, and the effort that was put into it back then still shines through today.

And if all that’s not enough for you, how about that fantastic Van Halen-esque 80s rock soundtrack? Stan Bush’s superb ‘The Touch’ – later to pop up in ‘Boogie Nights’ – must surely rank as one of the movie world’s most under-valued clenched-fist numbers!

It's Got: Lots of main characters getting killed off in the early stages to make way for a whole new range of toys . . sorry, characters.

It Needs: A modern-day live action update – will anyone take the risk?

DVD Extras A special introductory documentary (which looks like it was nicked from one of those “I Love 1986” things), the first episode from the TV series, a music picture gallery, and a truly abysmal theatrical trailer with the voice-over bloke preparing us (presumably with a straight face) for “the most incredible rock and roll adventure ever”. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


A complex but entertaining action toon with some good animation and a great voice-over cast.