A critical analysis of the Transformers Movie of 1986

Back in the 1980s, the time of my late childhood and teen years, one of the biggest toy franchises was the Transformers. I often watched the TV show based on the toyline after coming home from school and so when I heard a movie based on the show was being released, I went to see it. It proved to be quite a shocker, considering the toyline and the TV show was marketed to children…..but no child could have been prepared for the extreme violence seen in the movie!

Here is most of the movie, in a series of YouTube videos.

And here are my comments on it.

  • The TV show depicted the Autobot and Decepticons in battles against each other, but in its first two seasons these battles almost never showed Transformers actually being killed, which was of course ridiculous. If you don’t intend to show deaths, why show battles at all?
  • So the movie rectified this issue by showing many deaths in battles and even the destruction of an entire world and most of its inhabitants at the very beginning. Such an abrupt change must have been disturbing to many kids who had watched most episodes of the TV show. It would have been better to show such deaths on the TV show too, but the broadcast standards of the time would not have allowed it.
  • There was also occasional bits of profanity in the movie too, which was also not allowed on TV, at least in animated shows.
  • From Hasbros’ point of view, they were simply removing old Transformers characters and replacing them with new ones to sell more toys. Seeing the intense reaction of fans to Optimus Prime’s death made the company realize they had made a mistake. Perhaps inspired by the death and later resurrection of Spock in the Star Trek movies, Hasbro did the same with Optimus Prime.
  • Only two of the Insecticons, Shrapnel and Kickback, were featured in the movie. The missing one was Bombshell, so we might assume he was killed before 2005. He does appear briefly several times, but those might have been animation errors.
  • Only four of the Dinobots (Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, and Swoop) appear in the movie. The missing one was Snarl, who must have died before 2005. He does appear briefly in one scene, but that was clearly an animation error.
  • Devastator was considered the ultimate Decepticon threat, but even before the end of the second season of the TV show, he was being replaced by other giant “combiner” Transformers. The work on the movie actually began earlier before any of those other combiners were introduced.  This was bad planning on the producers’ part. I would have had the Combaticons fight at Autobot City rather than the Constructicons.
  • Unicron was the very last part ever played by legendary actor Orson Welles; he died only a few days after recording his lines for the movie. And by this year (2021) many of the other major actors featured in this movie are dead (Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Scatman Crothers, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta and Roger C. Carmel).
  • Wouldn’t it have been better to make this movie a TV miniseries, the start of the third season of the Transformers TV show? Releasing it as a movie was merely a publicity stunt, as well as to get around the aforementioned TV broadcast limitations.
  • The profound difference in the morals between the Autobots and the Decepticons was shown in their leadership changes. Just before Optimus Prime dies, he appoints Ultra Magnus his successor and Magnus humbly accepts the offer. Meanwhile, the Decepticons dump their own leader, Megatron, and then fight over who will become the new leader, the contenders being Starscream, the Constructicons, and Soundwave. Later, Starscream is crowned as leader, only to be immediately overthrown by Galvatron (who is actually an upgraded form of Megatron) who is accepted by the rest of the Decepticons. And after Hot Rod takes the Matrix of Autobot Leadership from Galvatron (who had stole it earlier from Ultra Magnus), he is upgraded to Rodimus Prime and uses the Matrix to destroy Unicron, thus fulfilling the prophecy that an Autobot would “light our darkest hour”, and thus also becoming the new Autobot leader. Among Autobots, leadership is a matter of character, while Decepticons see it as just a matter of power.
  • If you note carefully the dialogue of the movie, Cybertron actually had at least three moons but only two were ever shown (“but from secret stating grounds on two of Cybertron’s moons…..” / “How dare, Unicron! Cybertron and all its moons belong to me!”). Cybertron got yet another moon in the form of Unicron’s head after he was destroyed.
  • Through most of the movie, the Dinobots tended to stay in their dinosaur forms rather than as robot forms. This was obviously because the animators found the dinosaur forms easier to draw, but that was a sign of their laziness. They continued doing this through most of the 3rd season of the Transformers TV show.
  • Grimlock himself became too much of a comedian of sorts in both the movie and the 3rd season, contrary to his actual toy description that made him a serious warrior who had little regard for humans and others he considered weak.
  • The Matrix of Autobot Leadership never appeared in the first two seasons of the Transformers TV show but was often referenced in the 3rd season. This is unrealistic. 
  • Ultra Magnus was supposed to be a recoloring of Optimus Prime, but he always appeared as his super robot form (combining his cab with his trailer) and never as just his cab, like Optimus Prime did.
  • Arcee was the only female Autobot who appeared in the movie and the 3rd season of the TV show, but others had been shown earlier in one episode of the show. She was introduced to make the movie and show more appealing to girls, but no toy of her was released.
  • Likewise, no toy of Unicron was made for the movie.
  • The Quintessons were later said to have been the creators of the Transformers, which was merely an excuse to keep bringing them back for the sake of making up new storylines. It was a stupid concept, since the Quintessons themselves appeared to be robots. Who built THEM?
  • Because of the Dinobots, the Sharkticons rebelled against the Quintessons and began to pursue them. But in the 3rd season of the TV show they are serving the Quintessons again. Why?
  • The Junkions attacking the Autobots makes no sense. Shouldn’t the two robot races have already known of each other? In the toyline, Wreck-Gar, the Junkion leader, was depicted as an Autobot, but he was never shown with an Autobot symbol in the movie or TV show. Even stranger, the Junkions after befriending the Autobots agree immediately to join in the effort to destroy Unicron, despite neither they nor the Autobots knowing much about him.
  • Casey Kasem, who played Cliffjumper in the Transformers TV show and movie, quit after learning a new human character would be introduced in season three that was an Arab dictator who allied with the Decepticons. To Kasem, that was racist.

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