The fifth Transformers live action film came out this weekend, and there are sure to be many people rolling into the theaters to indulge in Michael Bay’s latest computer generated orgy of metal and explosions. If you are one of those people who plan on going to see it, this weekend, wait! In anticipation of a return to the world of giant robots beating the crap out of each while destroying half of the planet in process, why not go ahead and watch the original Transformers film, The Transformers: The Movie.
The film opens up with a large mechanical planet that looks nothing like the Death Star approaching another metal planet which it proceeds to consume. Not a bad opening, as it clearly demonstrates the danger of the antagonist; it is a giant planet which eats other planets and all of the people/robots on those planets which is certainly not something to take lightly. It is also at this point where we get a name for this enemy: Unicron.
Before we can learn more about the new enemy, we are sent to Cybertron to get an update on the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. And before we can get too comfortable there, we are sent to earth where an intense battle will ensue. This sort of pace will persist through the entire film. This is the first aspect that this 30 year old film shares with its live action contemporaries. These films go 1,000 miles an hour, and each scene introduces one action scene after another. There is no time for character development, or arcs or any of that boring garbage. There is only time for action! And that is why hardly a second goes by without seeing one of the characters engage in some kind of fight. There is no reason to care about the characters, all you need to know is that Autobots are good and Decepticons are bad. Now watch them kill each other.
Which brings us to the next point- killing. This film is full of death- a shocking amount of death. Characters are killed left and right before we even get a chance to learn their names. Optimus dies after the first major action sequence. Optimus! Surely they are going to bring him back in some way and he will save the day at the end right? Nope. He is toast, and you have to deal with it. Not only do many of these transformers bite it, many of the deaths are quite gruesome as well. We see one anonymous Autobot get shot in the chest before a close up of his face shows it essentially melting with molten steel coming out of his eyes and mouth. Starscream is another famous character to get killed off in this film and he was essentially turned into dust. I can imagine that some kids watching this were quite surprised to see their favorite characters be dramatically killed off in the most savage ways possible. It certainly made this film a lot more fun than it had any business to be.
One thing that did not make the film more fun was the soundtrack. Boy oh boy, this aspect has not aged well. Not only is it the most 80’s thing ever created, but it is in almost no cases appropriate. During almost every single action sequence there is some cheesy 80’s song going on that is straight out of Rocky IV. The song choices at times seemed comically poor, and do not fit any contemporary setting. Even other films such as this one that are meant as a marketing gimmick for children would have more appropriate music to help set the tone. It was weird seeing an Autobot’s face melt to the tune of upbeat synthesizers.
Ultimately this is a fairly entertaining animated movie about big robots killing other big robots. In that way, it is the exact same as the live action Transformers films. However, the new ones don’t have Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles – yes, that Orson Welles – which automatically makes it better than any other new ones.