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“One shall stand…one shall fall”

I don’t think I’m the only child of the eighties who was deeply affected by Transformers: The Movie.

I’m not talking about the Michael Bay CGI effects-O-rama, but the animated spin-off of the Transformers TV show that hit the big screen in 1986.

I actually never saw Transformers: The Movie in theatres.   I took notice of it when two things happened:   1) I started seeing ads for a lot of new Transformers toys, and 2) suddenly the Transformers TV show started featuring a lot of new robots.   (The second season of the show took place after the movie, and featured all the new characters introduced in the film.)

But I do remember when I finally saw Transformers: The Movie on video. I was blown away by the incredible animation (worlds better than the show), the violence (the whole first 40 minutes are one long extended battle sequence – and suddenly the laser blasts that each of the robots fired actually did damage!), and the rather merciless way in which all of the beloved characters from the show are wiped out – including, most notoriously, Optimus Prime himself.   I didn’t weep – but boy was I stunned!

Looking back on the movie today, there’s a lot that doesn’t hold up.   I recognize how the story points (killing off the old characters and introducing lots of new ones) were driven by the need to sell new toys.   The animation – so spectacular to me as a kid – looks a bit dodgy to older eyes.   The second half of the movie is rather boring.   (And what the heck is up with the Weird Al song that all the characters suddenly start dancing to on the planet of junk???)

But I still have a lot of affection for Transformers: The Movie. For whatever reason I still really love those characters, and the writers/animators/etc. were able to wring a lot of gravitas out of the way those characters were put through hell and back in the midst of what was, in the end, a 90-minute toy commercial.   I had a lot of fun seeing Michael Bay’s Transformers movie in the theatre for the 1st time last summer.   But I think that movie would have a much longer shelf life if it had half as much emotion as Transformers: The Movie from 1986.

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