Original theatrical poster
The film was directed by Nelson Shin, who produced the original Transformers television series, and features the voices of Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta, Jr., Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. It also marked the final roles for both Orson Welles and Scatman Crothers.
The story takes place in 2005, 20 years after the events of the TV series' second season and serves to bridge into the third season. Set to a soundtrack of synth-based incidental music and hard-driving metal music, composed by Vince DiCola, the movie has a decidedly darker tone than the television series, with detailed visuals in Toei Animation's typical anime film styling, and Decepticon villains that are more menacing, killing without hesitation. The film features several grand battles in which a handful of major characters meet their end. The film's tagline was: "Beyond good. Beyond evil. Beyond your wildest imagination."
Unicron, a roaming artificial planet, devours robot planet Lithone, and only two inhabitants flee. The evil Decepticons control the Transformers' homeworld, Cybertron. The heroic Autobots are using two of Cybertron's moons as staging areas, preparing to strike against the Decepticons. In need of energon cubes, an Autobot shuttle is readied for launch to Autobot City on Earth. A transmission is intercepted by the Decepticons, who ambush the shuttle, killing Brawn, Prowl, Ratchet, and Ironhide, intending to use the ship to infiltrate Autobot City.
On Earth, Daniel Witwicky and Hot Rod fish in a lake near Autobot City, discussing Daniel's loneliness, as his father Spike is on one of the moon bases. They pick up the shuttle's signature, and race up to Lookout Mountain to see it land. They spot the Decepticons and launch a preemptive strike. After a brief battle, the Decepticons attack Autobot City. The Autobots, including Ultra Magnus, Blurr, Springer, Perceptor, and Arcee, transform Autobot City into a fortress. As a siege ensues, Ultra Magnus orders Blaster to radio for assistance from the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. The next morning, Optimus and the Dinobots arrive and successfully repel the Decepticons' attack.
Optimus confronts the Decepticon leader, Megatron. Though Megatron is defeated, Optimus is mortally wounded due to Hot Rod's unintentional interference. Starscream takes command of the Decepticons and retreats with their fallen leader and other wounded aboard Astrotrain.
Perceptor informs the other Autobots that Optimus's wounds are fatal. Before his death, Optimus calls on Ultra Magnus to assume command of the Autobots and tries to give him the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, asserting that the Matrix will one day light the Autobots' darkest hour. The Matrix falls out of Optimus's hand, but is caught by Hot Rod, who passes it to Ultra Magnus. Optimus's monitor then flatlines and he turns grey and dies.
Astrotrain's shortage of fuel prompts the Decepticons to eject the Insecticons, Thundercracker, Skywarp, and Megatron. The remaining Decepticons argue over who should lead them. The Decepticon castoffs encounter Unicron, who offers to give Megatron and the others new bodies on the condition that they destroy the Autobot Matrix, which Unicron says is the only thing that can defeat him. Megatron reluctantly agrees and Unicron converts him into a new form: the Decepticon warrior "Galvatron". His underlings are reformatted into Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Sweeps. Unicron provides them with a craft in which they travel to Cybertron, where Galvatron obliterates Starscream and re-takes command of the Decepticons.
On Earth, the Autobots are alerted as Unicron consumes Cybertron's moons, along with Autobots Jazz, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, and Spike. Galvatron leads the Decepticons in another assault on Autobot City. The Autobots board a pair of shuttles and flee toward Cybertron. Hot Rod, Kup and the Dinobots are shot down over the planet Quintessa, while Ultra Magnus and company evade their pursuers and set down on the planet Junk for repairs.
Captured by Quintessa guardsmen, Hot Rod and Kup witness the sentencing and execution of Arbulus, a native of Lithone. While imprisoned they meet Kranix, now Lithone's last survivor, who tells them about Unicron before he is fed to the Sharkticons. Hot Rod and Kup are subjected to a mock trial by Quintesson executioners, who sentence them to execution. Battling the Sharkticons, they are rescued by the arrival of the Dinobots. Grimlock persuades the Sharkticons to rebel against the Quintessons while the Autobots escape. With help from the Dinobots' new ally, Wheelie, the group locates a ship and departs to join the other Autobots.
Galvatron hunts down the Autobots on Junk. Ultra Magnus fails to awaken the Matrix's powers, and is dismembered by the Sweeps. Galvatron, no longer willing to serve Unicron, steals the Matrix, intending to make Unicron his slave. The remaining Autobots are harassed by hostile Junkion natives, led by Wreck-Gar, until Hot Rod's party arrives and befriends them. The Junkions repair Ultra Magnus and provide a vessel to help the Autobots fight against Unicron.
Galvatron attempts to subjugate Unicron using the Matrix but is unable to unleash its power. Unicron transforms into a planet-sized robot and attacks Cybertron and kills Dirge, Thrust, Ramjet, and Shockwave. Galvatron opens fire on Unicron, but Unicron swallows him. Decepticons attempt to counter Unicron's attack, to no avail. When the Autobots arrive Hot Rod crashes their ship through one of Unicron's eyes and they find themselves separated within his body. Wreck-Gar and the Junkions fight back against Unicron, but Unicron crushes their ship.
Inside Unicron, Hot Rod confronts Galvatron while Daniel and the other Autobots rescue Spike and the survivors of Unicron's assault on Cybertron's moons. The Autobots and Decepticons work together to fight Unicron. Galvatron tries to assist Hot Rod, knowing that Unicron is a greater threat, only for Unicron to force Galvatron to attack. Hot Rod recovers the Matrix and unleashes its power, transforming him into Rodimus Prime. Rodimus throws Galvatron into space, then unleashes the Matrix's true power, obliterating Unicron. Rodimus leads the Autobots out of Unicron's body before it explodes. The Autobots reclaim Cybertron. Unicron's head orbits Cybertron as a new satellite.
A substantial number of Autobots from the first two seasons of the show do not appear after the film, leaving their fates uncertain.
Aside from Starscream, there are virtually no permanent Decepticon deaths in the movie, and what few that died were not killed by Autobots. Most of the Decepticons who were dead or dying are reformatted by Unicron, and while Galvatron makes a few references implying he has Megatron's memories, it is less clear with Cyclonus and Scourge, as Bombshell or Skywarp and Thundercracker (who became Scourge), are depicted as having grave markers in a subterranean Decepticon crypt on Cybertron in the episode "Starscream's Ghost". Shockwave's death was scripted but cut from the finished film; it was reinstated for IDW Publishing's adaptation of the feature, printed in 2006. However, a rather different-colored Shockwave makes a couple of appearances in the season premiere sequel Five Faces of Darkness. Mirage was oringally supposed to be killed by Megatron in the oringal script but was later cut. Gears might have received an off-screen death when Unicron attacked Moon base 1. Dirge, Thrust, and Ramjet were supposed to have been killed by Unicron but appeared in later episodes. One of the intentions of the movie was to rid the Transformers cartoon universe of the majority of characters from Seasons 1 and 2. Story consultant Flint Dille elaborated:
|“||In the next season (3), we were going to have all these new characters, and people are going to be wondering what happened to the old characters that they liked so much. What we knew, in a business sense, is that they had been discontinued, because they were the 1984/1985 (toy)line – but, we needed to tie them off. So, we had this one scene where the Autobots basically had to run through a gauntlet of Decepticons. Which basically wiped out the entire '84 product line in one massive "charge of the light brigade". So, whoever wasn't discontinued, stumbled to the end. That scene didn’t make it into the finished movie. But if you think kids were locking themselves in the bedroom over Optimus Prime, basically in that scene they would've seen their entire toy collection wiped out.||”|
The film was produced by Sunbow/Marvel simultaneous to G.I. Joe: The Movie. The writers of G.I. Joe: The Movie film asked for permission from Hasbro to kill the Duke character. Hasbro not only approved the request but insisted that the writers of The Transformers: The Movie adopt the same fate for Optimus Prime. However, Optimus' death sparked much controversy and incurred so much backlash that it caused the writers of G.I Joe: The Movie to make changes so that Duke simply ended up in a coma (from which he eventually awoke).
- Main article: List of The Transformers characters
!Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime |Judd Nelson |Hiroya Ishimaru |- !Ultra Magnus |Robert Stack |Shō Hayami |- !Springer |Neil Ross |Kenyū Horiuchi |- !Arcee |Susan Blu |Masako Katsuki |- !Kup |Lionel Stander |Osamu Saka |- !Wheelie |Frank Welker |Kazue Komiya |- !Blurr |John Moschitta, Jr. |Ken Yamaguchi |- !Blaster |Buster Jones |Keiichi Nanba |- !Perceptor |Paul Eiding |Ken Shiroyama |- !Grimlock |Gregg Berger |Takurō Kitagawa |- !Slag |Neil Ross |Ken Yamaguchi |- !Swoop |Michael Bell |Yoku Shioya |- !Jazz |Scatman Crothers |Minoru Inaba |- !Cliffjumper |Casey Kasem |Takurō Kitagawa |- !Bumblebee |Dan Gilvezan |Yoku Shioya |- !Ironhide |Peter Cullen |Shō Hayami |- !Brawn |Corey Burton |Minoru Inaba |- !Prowl |Michael Bell |Toshiro Ishii |}
Galvatron |Frank Welker/
Leonard Nimoy |Seizō Katō |- !Cyclonus |Roger C. Carmel |Minoru Inaba |- !Scourge |Stan Jones |Yū Shimaka |- !Starscream |Chris Latta |Hirotaka Suzuoki |- !Soundwave |Frank Welker |Issei Masamune |- !Frenzy |Frank Welker |Ken Shiroyama |- !Rumble |Frank Welker |Ken Yamaguchi |- !Devastator |Arthur Burghardt |Yū Shimaka |- !Bonecrusher |Neil Ross |Toshirō Ishii |- !Hook |Neil Ross |Masashi Ebara |- !Scavenger |Don Messick |Keiichi Nanba |- !Scrapper |Michael Bell |Keiichi Nanba |- !Astrotrain |Jack Angel |Takurō Kitagawa |- !Blitzwing |Ed Gilbert |Masashi Ebara |- !Shockwave |Corey Burton |Yū Shimaka |- !Kickback |Clive Revill |Yoku Shioya |- !Shrapnel |Hal Rayle |Toshirō Ishii |}
!Quintesson Leader |Roger C. Carmel |Masashi Ebara |- !Wreck-Gar |Eric Idle |Toshirō Ishii |- !Spike Witwicky |Corey Burton |Masashi Ebara |- !Daniel Witwicky |David Mendenhall |Mayumi Tanaka |- !Kranix |Norman Alden |Toshirō Ishii |- !Narrator |Victor Caroli |Issei Masamune |}
In addition to the above-listed characters, many additional Transformers appear throughout the film in non-speaking roles.
The Transformers: The Movie was the final film to which Orson Welles contributed. Welles was in declining health during production. Shortly before he died, he told his biographer, Barbara Leaming, "You know what I did this morning? I played the voice of a toy." He elaborated, "I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I'm destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen." According to director Nelson Shin, Welles had been pleased to accept the role after reading the script and had expressed an admiration for animated films. Welles' voice was apparently so weak by the time he made his recording that technicians needed to run it through a synthesizer to salvage it. The voicework for The Transformers: The Movie was the last movie project he worked on; his last voice session was on October 5, 1985, and five days later Welles died of a heart attack.
The film was budgeted at $6 million, six times greater than the budget used to create 90 minutes of the regular cartoon series. Nelson Shin's team of almost one hundred personnel normally took three months to make one episode of the series, so, despite the extra budget, faced considerable time constraints in making the film whilst also continuing production on the TV series at the same time. According to Shin, the decisions on which characters to include or kill off were made by Hasbro. "They created the story using characters that could best be merchandised for the movie. Only with that consideration could I have freedom to change the storyline." Shin also came up with the concept of the Transformers changing color when they died: "When Optimus Prime died, I changed his color from red and blue into grey to show the spirit was gone from his body."
The film was released on 990 screens in the USA and grossed a respectable $1,778,559 on its opening weekend, between a quarter and a third of the opening weekend gross of Top Gun a few months earlier. However, the box office quickly leveled off and the takings fell slightly short of the budget.
Although the trailer hails the film as "spectacular widescreen action", the film was animated in 4:3 "fullscreen" format. The feature was vertically cropped to widescreen dimensions for theatrical showings and released in fullscreen on home video and DVD. The 20th anniversary DVD released by Sony in 2006 features remastered video, and includes both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the film.
The UK version features scrolling text and narration at the beginning of the film replacing the cast credits, and an additional closing narration assuring viewers that "Optimus Prime will return."
The Transformers: The Movie received mixed reviews and currently has 47% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with 8 of 16 counted reviews giving it a "rotten" rating. The film has an average rating of 5.0 out of 10. Caryn James of the New York Times described the movie by stating, "While all this action may captivate young children, the animation is not spectacular enough to dazzle adults, and the Transformers have few truly human elements to lure parents along, even when their voices are supplied by well-known actors."
Metrodome Distribution released an Ultimate Edition of The Transformers: The Movie DVD in June 2007 (a month prior to the release of the live-action Transformers film) in the UK (Region 2). The extras include many of the extras that were contained on the "Remastered" edition of the film on the first disc, with fan commentary serving as the only addition besides a fan-made Transformers trailer. The second disc contains interviews with Peter Cullen and Flint Dille. Despite promises of the only episode of Transformers: Zone, only "Scramble City" is included.
Comic book adaptations
- Main article: List of Transformers comic book series
- Optimus Prime: "'til all are one." (Said by many Autobots in the film, including Optimus Prime, Rodimus Prime, and Ultra Magnus)
- Megatron: "I would have waited an eternity for this." (Said by Megatron in the film)
- Starscream: "I'll rip out your optics!" (Said by Megatron in the film)
- Unicron: "You cannot destroy my destiny." (Said by Unicron in the film)
The 2008 series Transformers Animated has numerous homages to this film as well as most of the previous shows and the first live-action movie. Ultra Magnus' voice, done by Jeff Bennett, emulates that of the late Robert Stack, Magnus' original's voice. Wreck-Gar (voiced in this version by "Weird Al" Yankovic) referenced Yankovic's song "Dare to Be Stupid", a song from this film's soundtrack. Judd Nelson reprised his role as Rodimus in one episode of the series. In the end of the series, the Allspark is contained in a casing that resembles that of the Matrix of Leadership. Susan Blu, John Moschitta and Corey Burton reprised their roles as Arcee, Blurr, Shockwave and Spike.
A Unicron figure was designed, but was never produced due to cost concerns. In 2003, the first Unicron figure was released as part of the Transformers: Armada toyline. First Arcee figure that transformed into a car was released in 2010 as part of Transformers: Animated toyline.
- James, Caryn (1986-08-09). "SCREEN: 'TRANSFORMERS,' ANIMATION FOR CHILDREN". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A0DE2D81031F93AA3575BC0A960948260. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
- Rose, Steve (2007-05-04). "Transformers The Movie | Film". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/may/04/orsonwelles.animation. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- "Transformers The Movie". IGN. http://uk.dvd.ign.com/articles/037/037249p1.html. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- "SHOCKWAVE'S POV - OUT HIS WINDOW: Unicron's hand reaches towards the window, squeezes, and the walls crash in. SPACE - UNICRON AND CYBERTRON: Unicron tears off the tower and crushes it as..." http://tfarchive.com/cartoons/info/movie/draft.php
- Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition) feature "Death of Optimus Prime".
- "G.I. Joe Interview - Buzz Dixon". Joeheadquarters.com. http://www.joeheadquarters.com/interviews_dixon.shtml. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- G.I.JOE - A REAL AMERICAN F.A.Q. at YOJOE.COM
- Leaming, Barbara. "Orson Wells: A Biography" page 522
- Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
- It was rumored that Welles died before he could finish his role and Leonard Nimoy had to take over his role. This was denied by Hasbro representatives in 2007."When Orson Welles Was a Transformer", Slate.com, 2007-07-02, Retrieved on 2007-07-06.
- Transformers: The Movie 20th Anniversary DVD Review by IGN
- "Transformers: The Movie - Reconstructed (Region 2)". DVD Talk. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/18370/transformers-the-movie-reconstructed/. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- "Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)". DVD Talk. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/24745/transformers-the-movie-20th-anniversary-special-edition/. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- "The Transformers: The Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/transformers_the_the_movie/. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
- "The Touch Songfacts". Songfacts.com. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=17161. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "The Transformers - The Movie (International Version): Norman Alden, Jack Angel, Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Susan Blu, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, Roger C. Carmel, Victor Caroli, Regis Cordic, Scatman Crothers, Peter Cullen, BJ Davis, Paul Eiding, Walker Edmiston, Ed Gilbert, Dan Gilvezan, Eric Idle, Buster Jones, Stan Jones (II), Nelson Shin: Video". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00001U0DX/. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
- The Transformers: The Movie printed text on DVD and accompanying packaging reads: "Distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures."
- "Double Dip Digest: Transformers: The Movie". IGN. http://uk.dvd.ign.com/articles/742/742372p1.html. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- "UnicronPage". Transformersontheshelf.com. http://www.transformersontheshelf.com/UnicronPage.html. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
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