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Rated PG
Copyright 1986 Sunbow Productions Inc. & Hasbro Inc.
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 1 July 2007

The Characters:  

  • Hot Rod / Rodimus Prime - Judd Nelson! He starts off as a red sports car, but the Autobot Matrix of Leadership causes him to change. He then looks like a Lamborghini-designed 18-wheeler.
  • Kup - Grizzled veteran of the Cybertron Wars.
  • Optimus Prime - The heroic leader of the Autobots until he is mortally wounded by Megatron. His one regret was never excelling on the oval track. Often, other competitors would pass him up and call out, "Yo, Optimus, unhook that trailer you are pulling and start racing!"
  • Daniel - This kid had better be careful about getting underfoot or Ultra Magnus is going to be scraping mushed boy off the bottom of his giant metal foot.
  • Arcee - Look, a female Autobot. I guess that we know where little Transformers come from. The next question that springs to mind is whether the robots ever have to ask their prospective mate if they are metric or standard.
  • The Dinobots - Loved the toys as a kid, but Grimlock talks like Bob Dole and that drives you nuts after a while.
  • Various Autobots - Ironhide, Blaster, Ultra Magnus, and Prowl.
  • Wreck-Gar - Eric Idle! Leader of the Junkion Transformers and a rabid Weird Al Yankovic fan. (Weren't we all back then?)
  • Starscream - Still an annoying schemer, though he finally gets what is coming to him.
  • Megatron / Galvatron - Leonard Nimoy (after the upgrade)! If your supreme leader spends all day listening to the voices in his head, it might be time for a regime change.
  • Various Decepticons - Soundwave, Devastator, and Astrotrain.
  • Unicron - Orson Welles! A sentient artifical planet that preys upon machine cultures for energy and raw materials. Destroyed by the Autobot Matrix of Leadership.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

As the movie begins, Unicron dominates the screen. The massive construct devours an entire world populated by robots, some of whom attempt to flee from the destructive feast. Why Unicron chooses to replenish himself by eating inhabited planets is an unanswered question. Metal-rich, but uninhabited worlds would provide sufficient raw materials and even elements for fusion power. He could even go with renewable energy sources, like solar power. I think that Unicron's insistence about eating other sentient machines is rooted in a presumption that he is a godlike being. Gods do not motor through space with giant solar panels attached to their butts. That would look silly.

Come to think of it, Orson Welles would also look silly with a solar panel hanging from his backside.

With that small diversion (but large plot point) behind us, we are quickly immersed into the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The Autobots hold the moons, but Cybertron proper is under Decepticon control. If the noble Autobots are to regain control of Cybertron, they will need a massive supply of Energon, so Optimus Prime sends Ironhide on a resupply mission to Autobot City on Earth. Unfortunately, news of the shuttle mission reaches Megatron via his spy, Laserbeak. While in transit, the shuttle's hull is breached and Decepticons stream inside. Prowl, Ironhide, and the others are no match for their military-based opponents; the Autobots are holed through by laser fire and collapse.

The startling mortality aspect of the previous scene is what caught my attention more than twenty years ago. I must have been thirteen, but to see several Autobots killed was unexpected. When the toy line was first released, I had been given a pair of Transformers. One was Prowl, the other was Trailbreaker. Well, poor old Prowl is gunned down on the shuttle during the Decepticon ambush. These days, kids from my generation laugh about the fact that nobody ever died in the "GI Joe" or "Transformers" cartoons, but I think we were comfortable with it at the time. Thirteen-year-old Andrew was uncomfortable with the sudden change. The rules had been broken, there were no absolutes; characters were going to die.

Interdicting the shuttle is only part of Megatron's plan. He intends to use this opportunity to conduct a sneak attack and destroy Autobot City once and for all. The captured shuttle serves as a Trojan horse for the Decepticon raiders. Fortunately for the Autobots, Hot Rod and Daniel watch the shuttle as it approaches. The young human spots the damage on the shuttle and alerts the impulsive Transformer. When Hot Rod takes a closer look, he sees the Decepticons and opens fire. The shuttle is destroyed (so much for building a sturdy shuttle - a lone Autobot reduces its hull points to zero with half a dozen blasts from an individual weapon), but the Decepticons launch their attack.

The battle for Autobot City is a savage affair, slowly reducing the complex to a smoldering ruin as the Decepticons press their attack. Blaster manages to transmit a distress call before he and his assistants are beset by Soundwave's underlings. Still, the situation appears hopeless until another shuttle arrives with reinforcements. The Dinobots engage Devastator, while Optimus Prime takes on most of the Decepticons by himself. Optimus' barreling assault is confusing because he appears completely invulnerable to point blank shots delivered by desperate enemies. However, once the Autobot leader grapples with Megatron, he is damaged by a thrown metal shard and then grievously wounded after the Decepticon despot feigns surrender, only to snatch up a discarded pistol and deliver several shots into Optimus' torso. Too bad for Megatron that Optimus had "kick butt today" marked on his calendar. The Autobot leader overcomes his devious opponent before collapsing. Soundwave carries Megatron's damaged body from the battle as the Decepticons retreat aboard Astrotrain.

Okay, let me see if this all checks out. Optimus Prime cannot be hurt by lesser Decepticons - check. Megatron, as the Decepticon leader, is capable of harming Optimus - check. A small pistol can deliver a fatal injury to Optimus Prime if Megatron is the shooter - uh, what?

While I am making random complaints, does Blaster understand that he is an inferior copy of Soundwave, made in the Cybertron equivalent of Taiwan?

Optimus Prime dies from the wounds he received fighting Megatron. Before shutting down for good, he entrusts the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus. The glowing artifact will someday "light the Autobot's darkest hour." Megatron and his damaged cronies fare far worse aboard Astrotrain. Starscream achieves a victory (for himself) in defeat by convincing the other Decepticons to throw the wounded out into space.

So, Optimus Prime is dead. Funny thing, if I were a huge transformable robot, a major item on my "needed these upgrades yesterday" would be some sort of non-volatile memory, maybe even an offsite backup. On the flip side, Megatron's failure to properly manage his subordinates is a moot point. Unicron retrieves the drifting Decepticons and redesigns them, creating a host of minions to hunt down and destroy the Autobot Matrix. The Decepticon leader is reborn as Galvatron. He immediately seeks out Starscream and eliminates the treacherous underling.

How many of you had been waiting for Megatron to do that very same thing for years? Even the kids who liked Starscream couldn't figure out why Megatron did not liquidate the screeching little deviant a long time ago.

The Autobots are repairing their ruined base on Earth when Galvatron and his forces attack. Realizing that trying to fight is suicide ("What, none of us have backups?") the protagonists flee on the two remaining shuttles. The transport carrying Hot Rod, Kup, and the Dinobots is shot down. It crashes on a strange planet that I will describe shortly. Shuttle 2, carrying everyone else, separates into two halves so that Decepticons destroy a decoy booster stage instead of the main crew compartment. What remains of Shuttle 2 makes a rough landing on the Planet of Junk.

The planet Hot Rod and Kup end up on is a bizarre place. They are not so much on the planet, as submerged in an ocean filled with mechanical analogs for fish, sea anemones, and even a kraken. Nothing appears rusty, so we can assume the liquid medium is not salt water. Perhaps it is WD-40? That would explain why everything is so foul-tempered. I have never seen a happy person in close proximity to WD-40. Anyway, after escaping from robo-kraken, Hot Rod and Kup (the Dinobots are elsewhere) encounter a whole colony of primitive Transformers. Kup tries an old trick: he speaks the universal greeting and offers them Energon treats. That keeps the natives happy until the supply of Energon treats is exhausted. Then Hot Rod and Kup are pounced on and taken to a detention facility run by the worst appellate court this side of California. Grimlock and the other Dinobots break into the prison and save the day before the ultimate sentence of "Death by Sharkticons" (the metal monsters can transform between humanoids and sharks, hence the name) can be carried out. After finding an auger-like shuttle, the group continues on their way.

I have been trying the universal greeting on people for years. Out of the blue, I peer at them intently and say, "Bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong." They either stare at me like I am a nut or else their eyes light up and they laugh out loud.

On the Planet of Junk, the crew of Shuttle 2 is having a run of bad luck. First, Galvatron and his loyal Decepticons attack. Ultra Magnus attempts to use the Matrix to fend off the aggressors to no avail. He is holed through by laser fire and explodes, leaving the Matrix in the hands of Galvatron. After the Decepticons leave, the surviving Autobots are attacked by the Junkions. The scrap metal Transformers are masters of hasty repair. Every time an Autobot causes serious damage to a Junkion, the fallen opponent quickly reattaches the severed limb and rejoins the battle. This finally ends when Hot Rod's spaceship arrives on the scene. He befriends the Junkions with the universal greeting. They respond in kind and even reassemble Ultra Magnus, good as new.

It is too bad that the Autobots must have turned in Optimus Prime's body for recycling. His damage was minor compared to that of Ultra Magnus. The Junkions could have repaired Optimus in no time.

Galvatron attempts to threaten Unicron with the Matrix. As might be expected, the living planet responds by vowing to destroy Cybertron. Transforming himself into a garguantuan bat-winged robot, Unicron attacks the Transformer's world. The film's climatic battle is Unicron versus the entire population of Cybertron (exiled Autobots included). The Junkions even join their new friends in a desperate bid to stop the compulsive planet eater once and for all. On the whole, the experience looks unpleasant for Unicron. Transformers swarm around him, inflicting damage in any way possible, while a team of Autobots run rampant inside as well. In effect, it makes Unicron appear like a man who is being set upon by bees while simultaneously suffering from an acute attack of diarrhea. (No, that probably does not happen too often; however, when it does, life sucks.) Abdominal distress and anaphylactic shock aside, the fate of Cybertron will be decided by the victor of a battle fought inside of Unicron. Hot Rod challenges Galvatron for possession of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership.


Jordan Garren has been looking forward to the new "Transformers" film. In celebration, we joined forces to review the animated classic that many others will also remember as a fixture of their youth, especially that song...come on, you know you like the song. "You've got the touch!" Is it wrong for someone over thirty to collapse into helpless giggling? Jordan's review has been delayed, but it should be available (by clicking the banner) in the near future.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • During the 80's everything had a positive rock soundtrack.
  • Ripping somebody's satellite dish apart is a surefire way of jamming their signal.
  • Lasers are capable of plunging fire.
  • Never trust somebody who has an eating disorder.
  • Hula hoops were invented as a prisoner restraint device.
  • On some planets, the law is "guilty until convicted innocent."
  • Turtle wax is like bactine for your truck.
  • Television commercials are a foreign language.
  • It is possible to choke a robot to death.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 6 mins - Two things are missing here. One is a system for detecting Decepticon spies. The second is a radar capable of noticing a mechanical raptor with a ten foot wingspan.
  • 14 mins - Putting the CPU in the head might have been a bad idea.
  • 15 mins - Blaster was waiting for the order to transmit a status report! Amazing!
  • 25 mins - The Matrix is an LED flashlight?
  • 33 mins - Funny, my first thought would have been, "Spock?" instead of, "Megatron?"
  • 57 mins - Who designed the exo-suit to be a luge in reverse? If you screw up, the first thing that will come into contact with an obstacle will not be your feet, but your face.
  • 66 mins - I guess that having an auger-shaped ship would be useful...
  • 70 mins - now.
  • 80 mins - Days later, the Bondo Corporation received a fax order that gave the head of Sales a heart attack and made their stock triple overnight.


  • Megatron: "This was almost too easy, Starscream."
    Starscream: "Much easier, almighty Megatron, than attacking the real threat: the Autobots' moonbase."
    Megatron: "You're an idiot, Starscream."
  • Spike: "This is Spike and Bumblebee, up here on Moonbase 2."
    Bumblebee: "This thing, this monster planet, just ripped the first moon to shreds!"
    Spike: "And it's heading this way!"

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note transformers1.wav Optimus: "One shall stand. One shall fall."
Megatron: "Why throw away your life so recklessly?"
Optimus: "That's a question you should ask yourself, Megatron."
Green Music Note transformers2.wav Kup: "Grimlock, get your noodle out of my face!"
Grimlock: "Me, Grimlock, love Kup's war stories."
Kup: "You're living one now."
Green Music Note transformers3.wav Galvatron: "Magnus, I want the Matrix!"
Ultra Magnus: "Never!"
Green Music Note transformers4.wav Hot Rod befriends the Junkions with the universal greeting.
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Cliptransformers1.mpg - 4.7m
Optimus Prime enters the battle for Autobot City. Look closely at the preview image. What you see reflected in his grill is a very surprised Decepticon. That is going to leave a mark.

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