After millennia of fighting, the Decepticons, led by villainous Megatron have gained control of Cybertron, the Transformersí home planet. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, attempt one last effort to retake their planet and destroy the evil Decepticons. When a new evil rears its head, however, the war is halted and both sides must face this evil before it destroys everything in its path.
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Ah, the 80ís. The era of Ronald Reagan, Michael Jackson (R.I.P), Rubikís Cube, glam metal and the beloved Hasbro toys that touched the hearts of so many little children. They were more than meets the eye. They were the robots; the plastic, mass-produced robots, in disguise. They were The Transformers. In the 80ís, everything was a fad, from crazy hairstyles to questionable tastes in music. Some of them, though not many, can pride themselves in presenting their survival to this day. The Transformers are proudly among the ranks of these surviving fads.
If I had lived through it, itís an educated guess that I would have masses of vintage, untouched, mint-condition ďG1Ē Transformers toys, all in their plastic boxes shelved to the top of my basement. Unfortunately, life was cruel and plopped me into this world just a decade late and I was stuck reminiscing about what could have been rather than just what was. However, fate was kind to me, and I discovered a film that the franchise had produced in 1986. I soon realized there is so much that is classic about this film that it deserves its own category.
For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, hereís the condensed version: There exists robotic aliens that can turn into vehicles, animals, tools and other stuff. The aliens live on the planet Cybertron, and like any species, some conflict is arising. Two factions, one led by the Autobot Optimus Prime, and the other, the Decepticons, led by the villainous Megatron, have been duking it for a century. The Decepticons vow to take over the world, while the Autobots try to defend it and combat to the evil forces of the Decepticons. Once you get past the transforming part, itís a popular trope in storytelling.
So, the plot is straightforward; defeat the bad guys, save the world. This isnít the best movie ever; the characters are somewhat flat, the script is cheesy and bland, voice acting not terribly convincing, itís a box office failureóthe list goes on. So why should it be a classic? When I say it was a classic film, I donít mean it won a few Oscars or revolutionized the history of cinema; it was classic in a way that it was a time capsule, and those who cared to experience it were blasted into the past and able to enjoy it for what it was. This film was a nostalgia pill, maybe not for me, but as the fans have shown, it was for a lot of people.
Every self-proclaimed geek has probably seen Transformers more than once. It represents the culture of a generation. Chances are someone will recognize a random screenshot from the film and yell out ďThat movie was awesome!Ē But was it really? It wasnít impressive in any cinematic way, nor was it famed by the film community. What makes it so awesome? Easy answer. Possibly because of the encounters with a Japanese/British robotic alien biker gang race from Planet Junk equipped with...nipple cannons. Awesome. It could also be the universal greeting among alien races, robots included; ďBerwip crawna-wi pinibon!Ē Awesome. Or could it possibly be the aboriginal-esque dance sequence between robotic races that results? Probably not, but literally every other scene in this film is deserving of the merit, including the fact that a planet can transform into a humanoid robot (voiced by Orson Welles) and the endless amount of famous quotes that occur throughout. Clearly, the value of this movie in the hearts of our inner kid and inner geek keep it held in a spot among the classic films of the 80ís.
That being said, what truly keeps Transformers in my mind is the recurring tune of Stan Bushís The Touch playing over and over again. It almost forces you to reminisce about what youíve just seen. That scene where Optimus Prime and Megatron epically fight, or when the Matrix of Leadership gets passed on, you have The Touch playing along as you envision it in your head. Itís enjoyable, and it made me smile stupidly as I stared into space at the dinner table. Along with that, the unforgettable Transformers theme song and the soundtrack designed by Vince DiCola keeps the film in a retro-action kind of mood, which complements the nonsensical, epic battles that occur. The music sticks in your head. You can even summarize the whole movie with the lyrics of the theme song. ďAutobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons!Ē If I heard someone singing that in public, Iíd cheer in glee. And Iíd feel good after, despite the awkward stares. Itís what this movie does, two decades after youíve seen it. Itís a feel-good movie.
Since the release of the film, the franchise has been doing well. Toys are still being produced by the thousands, and recently, a slew of newer films have hit the box office with surprisingly deafening force. While the original may not live up to the newer, more sensory-assaulting expectations as these ones, it still remains a classic and certainly more loved by any Transformers fan out there. For those who enjoy watching oldies, it has the same concept. Sit back and escape into different era. If you enjoy an era of power rock music and those toys you always played with as a kid, this is just the film for you.
I could say plenty more about all the lack of substance in dialogue, or the choppy character movement, or perhaps compare it with Akira. I wonít because this isnít a critique of the filmís technical execution. Itís not an assessment of its direction or writing. This is a review of the impact it had on culture in the 80ís. Itís a document of what makes this film so perfect for the generation it represents. While you can say it lacks in certain categories, it makes up for in many others. Categories like awesomeness, it excels in. Nostalgia? Check. Fanbase? More than I care to count. Is it a classic? If you havenít figured that out by now, youíre better off seeing Revenge of the Fallen.