Monday, 26 December 2011

Today is the 25th Anniversary of the Original (1986) Transformers Movie

That's right, 25 years ago today, the original (and for some, the best) Transformers Movie was released to Theatres in Australia. (and I feel so old, because I was one of the few lucky ones to see it at the Theatre during that original release)

Many of the newer fans, who were only drawn into Transformers with the live-action movies in the last four years, wouldn't even know that the first Transformers Movie was released 21 years before Michael Bay's first one was released.
With Boxing Day being the only verified release date for anything Transformers related in Australia, I'm wanting to see if we can make it a "Transformers Day" in this country.

I have also tried a few times to get theatres here interested in having the Movie screened, even as a one-off anniversary deal, but none have been interested.
So the next best thing is to watch it today, 25 years after seeing it for the first time waaaay back in 1986.

But before that, a flashback of when I first saw it.
After only just moving to Ipswich from Perth just a couple weeks, a friend I had recently met at the Motel who was the same age and was an even bigger fan of Transformers, suggested we go and see the Transformers Movie. I was like, there's a Transformers Movie?  We were allowed to go, which was at a Theatre about 10 minutes walk away, and we were both blown away by all the action.  We were both only 11, and we were just as excited by this movie as we were of our new-found independence (of adult supervision).
It wasn't until a number of years later that I saw it again on TV and on Video, and as soon as it was released on DVD, I bought it... actually, I bought it 3 times - each version was a different edit - the US version, the UK version (which was what we had at theatres here), and a hybrid version that combined the two versions to include the bits each one had that the other one didn't.
But that wasn't all... I also had to buy the soundtrack CD, because this movie was ahead of its time by having a soundtrack of "non-kiddy" songs on an animated movie.  And it was so 80s with its sound, that much of it has been as timeless as the 80s genre, in terms of being able to play the CD and still nod (and sing) along with it.
The two songs by Stan Bush (The Touch & Dare), the two songs by Spectre General (Hunger & Nothin's gonna stand in our way), and even the Transformers song by Lion... all some of my favourite songs, ever.
Those songs, and the score by Vince DiCola, gave the movie a constant background of upbeat music, that complimented and heightened the excitement of the action, that was already there from start to finish.

So, back to present day. With a viewing of the Movie just an hour ago, I found myself still enjoying it, after all these years.  I certainly don't watch it often any more - probably less than once a year - but I have seen it more times than I could care to guess, so knowing it almost word-for-word can make it a little less interesting (if you know exactly what is about to happen or be said, every minute of the movie).
I am amazed at how well the movie was written, considering it wasn't expected to be much more than an extended toy commercial.  It manages to identify the main character roles, and stay true to them throughout the movie (as opposed to the three recent Transformers Movies, that has characters contradicting themselves with their personalities and character traits), not to mention being able to fulfil a perfect plot structure that has the hero characters progressively separated to the worst possible point, and then slowly regroup and carry out the climax of the story at the end. All the while, keeping the action happening as much as possible, and not be bogged down with too much dialogue or emotion.
Sure, there's sadness and joy, fear and humour... but the core theme of an action adventure is exactly what this movie achieves.
The turning point in the movie is what gets me the most, emotionally. We have the Autobots at their worst, spread out to the point of hopelessness, and then the Dinobots arrive (while Hot Rod and Kup are fighting off the Sharkticons on Quintessa). With the rock music playing in the back, and the Dinobots "saving the day", we being a momentum of all the separated Autobots regrouping, for their big final battle at the end of the Movie.
Which brings me to the other emotional part of the movie.  Hearing Optimus announcing to us that Hot Rod was now Rodimus, and having Rodimus telling Galvatron that this was the end for him.  The ultimate "saving the day" moment of the movie... making you feel that everything was going to be okay, and a happy ending was coming.
I guess most would expect a greater emotional moment during the Death of Optimus scene... but I don't think I was ever sad by it. Not sounding heartless. I just think that maybe I was already aware of the "changing of the guard" from the UK comics at that time (because the movie was released 4 months after America and UK), so the comics by then were already detailing the new characters and the future universe. Or maybe it was that "future universe" element that had me not worrying about the death, because it was 20 years into the future (the movie was set in 2005), and I would have felt that we still had 20 years of Optimus Prime stories before this movie "occurs" in 2005.

Animation errors aside (and this movie has a fair few), this movie had very detailed animation, of a standard that was higher than cartoons, or even animated movies, at that time.  Just look at some of the screen shots of the the Movie (if you don't have a copy of it), and you can see how much detail was in every frame.
And going back on the plot element for a second, the climactic end portion of the movie is well directed... or written, as it follows a similar structure to the end of the Return of the Jedi - jumping between three subplots that are all related, but separate from each other. It keeps your mind actively watching what is going on, while also getting that extra level of satisfaction when all three subplots intertwine and merge into the final defeat of Unicron at the end.

The negative elements of this movie to non-fans would be the gruesomeness of some of the deaths and robot corpses (which traumatised a lot of the fans when they first saw it as kids), the "heavy" rock music for a young kids animated movie, and the inclusion of a couple of swear words, just so that the movie distributor could gain a PG rating in America (which was calculated as being a more profitable rating than G).

Well, after 25 years and dozens of viewings (probably at least 50 by now), I'm still rating this as a must-see film, by fans (new and old) if you haven't seen it yet.
And if you have seen it, see it again this weekend... to celebrate this quarter-century milestone of the Movie that helped give Transformers a Legacy that has lived on through to the present day - and I'm not just talking about the Traditions of Optimus Prime always dying or Megatron always turning into Galvatron.
It gave us fans of Transformers a significant benchmark (an Animated Movie) to hope Hasbro/Takara would one day replicate or exceed... and now they have, with a Live-Action Movie. And not just one, but three and counting.
Here's to the one that helped make all this possible... 25 years ago.

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