After almost a decade of war with Earth as the main battleground, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons has come to a head. With their home planet of Cybertron under full Decepticon control, the Autbots prepare to take back their home using the allies and resources they have gained from their time on Earth. With victory so close at hand, Megatron makes one final push to eliminate the Autobots once and for all. Who will survive the final chapter of the Cybertronian war and will they be able to enjoy their hard earned victory when the threat of a planet eater appears out of deep space?
I'm going to say right away, that this is a difficult movie for me to approach objectively given the fact that it was one of those films that I adored watching as a child. This movie and a few home video releases of the original cartoon show, were the first exposure to the Transformers franchise that I ever had. While I may not have been there for the long haul like some fans had when they first saw this movie, the impact it had certainly wasn't lost on me (the worn out old VHS tape is proof of that).
That being said, without the rosy coloured clouds of nostalgia, do I consider Transformers: The Movie to be a good film? Yes, but just barely.
However, once the movie reaches it's second half (primarily once the last major character of the show is killed off) the story and pacing goes a bit off the rails. The sequence of events that take place in outer space, while not terrible, is unfocused. All sense of urgency that the plot was originally going for slowly starts to fade and doesn't come back until the last ten minutes of the movie. Also, one or two major plot holes seem to pop out of nowhere and confuse matters even further.
Although Transformers: The Movie may not technically be a good film, it is an important one. What began as a simple way to market toys to kids had clearly become something more by the time of this film's release. The death of Optimus Prime became such a point of contention with fans that he was eventually revived in the last season of the show, officially becoming the franchise's poster character.
For all its faults, there are aspects of the film that non-transformer fans may appreciate. One of these is the all-star voice cast. Judd Nelson (Hot Rod), Leonard Nimoy (Galvatron), Robert Stack (Ultra Magnus), Eric Idle (Wreck-Gar), and John Moschitta Jr. (Blurr) are just a few of the major league actors that were cast in this movie and all of them do a wonderful job working alongside the rest of the series prominent actors such as, Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Frank Welker (Megatron, Soundwave), Chris Latta (Starscream), Casey Kasem (Cliffjumper), and Scatman Crothers (Jazz). Even if you don't fully invest in the story, the movie is a bit of a novelty if you are a fan of any one of these actors.
Another aspect of the film that makes it a bit of a time capsule is the soundtrack. Whereas the original show relied on incidental orchestration (some of which was re-used from GI-Joe), the movie score composed by Vince DiCola was full of synth-rock pieces and several songs performed by Stan Bush, N.R.G, Spectre General (Kick Axxe), and Weird Al Yankovic. This soundtrack is widely popular among both Transformers fans and rock and roll enthusiasts and even got a 20th anniversary re-release in 2007. The animation, while still keeping the same style of the series, definitely made good use of it's film budget to give the shots a unique character all their own. I would argue that some sequences, primarily the opening sequence, was way ahead of it's time in terms of scale.
Though Transformers: The Movie has bad pacing and is full of 1980s cheese, it succeeds in telling the story of the Transformers, where the live action films continuously failed. It kept the story to a basic good v.s.evil struggle with the titular robots as the focus, not the accessory. If you have any interest in the Transformers franchise at all and you haven't seen this movie, then I would highly suggest checking out. Anyone outside the fandom may have a harder time enjoying this film, but if any of the above aspects appeal to you, Transformers: The Movie is a colourful cult classic that should keep you entertained for its 84 minute run time.
Transformers: The Movie is available on DVD as part of the series 20th Anniversary. Which includes commentary from both film makers, fans and plenty of bonus features.