Home Video Hovel: The Transformers: The Movie, by David Bax
From what I’ve been able to gather about the live-action Michael Bay Transformers movies (I haven’t actually seen them), the general premise of them is that alien robots or robot aliens–I’ve never been clear on which it is–invade our world, or at least a world mostly similar to the one we, the audience, inhabit. Revisiting The Transformers: The Movie for the first time this century, I was reminded that this animated 1986 feature takes the opposite approach, lifting a single human boy out of his element and into a completely alien universe of constant war. It’s like if The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were simultaneously more aimed at children and more violent.
This time around, the Autobots (good guys) fight the Decepticons (bad guys) just like always. But now they also face an even greater threat: Unicron, a living robot planet (or planet robot) who consumes other planets. Unicron’s gravitas is underscored by its reputation as the final film role of Orson Welles. Joining Welles in the impressive voice cast are recognizable names like Scatman Crothers, Eric Idle, Casey Kasem, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy and Robert Stack. It’s a surprising number of heavy hitters for a movie that mostly just jumps from one interchangeable action sequence to the next.
The repetitiveness of the plot isn’t helped any by the cheap, jerky animation. One the other hand, there is a pretty terrific, energizing, synth-driven score and soundtrack, with original music by Vince DiCola, who had just come off of Rocky IV the previous year, and also featuring the song, “Dare to Be Stupid,” by “Weird Al” Yankovic, a blazing bit of 80s electro-rock that should be exhibit A in the case for his being a respected musician and composer in addition to a noted parodist.
If you want to hear the music, though, you can buy the soundtrack album. The Transformers: The Movie is a needlessly dour attempt to cinematize a chintzy cartoon series. It’s an almost 90-minute commercial that tries to sell you toys by showing them murder one another.
It’s hard to say much about the transfer of a movie that looks pretty cheap to begin with but there’s a featurette on the 4K restoration if you’re interested.
Other features include a new retrospective documentary and a featurette called “Rolling Out the New Cover,” a preexisting commentary with the directors and others, some old featurettes on the cast and crew, etc. and animated storyboards.