For the most part, a lot of fans may have experienced Transformers through probably the worst way possible – Michael Bay’s quartet of over-produced, under-written CGI-laden adventures. But, of course, true fans know that the experience began in the 80’s with the animated series, as well as the animated film that made its way into cineplexes in 1986. It didn’t generate millions of dollars, but it still attracted a lot of people, especially with its interesting set of twists that surprised even the most die-hard of fanatics.
Now Transformers: The Movie returns for its 30th anniversary, in the form of a new special edition produced by Shout! Factory. The company has spared no expense in putting together some impressive extras, as well as remastering the film in all its glory. So the real question now is, does the film still hold up – especially in the age of Bay pretty much over-expanding the franchise?
The answer is yes. That’s not to say it’s an all-time classic, but the movie still has plenty of moments that vary between shocking and humorous. The death of a particular character, for example, is sure to set back a lot of fans that weren’t expecting him to be killed off (we assure you, he’s still around in other properties); meanwhile, the introduction of Galvatron (voiced by the late Leonard Nimoy) is also a delight, especially when he first comes onto the scene and gives one of his former allies the, ahem, proper treatment.
As for whether the movie still holds up over 30 years, well, that really depends how die-hard a Transformers fan you are. It doesn’t tie in with the films at all, but those savvy to the animated series will fit right in, smiling in sheer delight as the Dinobots make their appearance, and Grimlock provides a great proclamation like, “Me Grimlock no bozo, me king!” It especially picks up when the “big bad” in the film, Unicron, appears, with the late Orson Welles giving him a booming voice – and for good reason, since he looks like an unstoppable behemoth when the movie first introduces him.
The voice casting for Transformers is an interesting experiment, with The Breakfast Club’s Judd Nelson playing Hot Rod (and having plenty of cheesy moments, I assure you) and others like Lionel Stander, Eric Idle and Nimoy having a field day with their characters. But it’s the mainstays that are still awesome, like Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime; Frank Welker as Megatron (at least until his “rebirth”) and Gregg Berger as Grimlock. It’s a decent mixture, though some actors fare better than others.
The soundtrack, though, is still incredible after all these years. Tracks like Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, Lion’s treatment of the Transformers theme, and Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare To Be Stupid” (yes, Weird Al in a Transformers film, it’s everything you ever wanted) are still very listenable today, and chances are that even the most pop prone of kids will be happy with how “Dare” turns out. It’s enough to make you feel like hunting down the soundtrack.
As for the movie, Shout! Factory did a great job reprocessing it for Blu-Ray. The visuals, as primitive as they may seem compared to Bay’s over-the-top Transformers work, are a bit crude for 80’s animation, but still very much aligned with the spirit of the animated series. There are nary any particles getting in the way either – it’s great Blu-Ray treatment all around. The audio is solid, too, with balancing across various audio channels. That soundtrack never sounded better.
There are some pretty good extras as well. An audio commentary featuring director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu is included, and while Shin is hard to comprehend at times, there are plenty of great facts about the movie. You can also learn more about the making with the Til All Are One: Looking Back At Transformers: The Movie documentary, which runs just under an hour; and The Restoration, which looks at how the picture was reformatted for Blu-Ray.
There are other features as well, including classic featurettes (including one that spoils a major plot point, so be careful), a new cover design made by artists Livio Ramondelli, storyboards and trailers. On top of that, you can download a digital copy for your trouble at no additional charge.
The version of Transformers: The Movie that we received was in normal packaging, but there’s also a Steelbook edition that might be an ideal collectible for fans. It’s a bit more in price, but if you’re in appreciation of this movie, it might just be worth it.
While there are some elements of Transformers: The Movie that time hasn’t exactly been kind to, it’s still a worthwhile experience that’s a refreshing sigh of relief from the much that Bay has been producing. It’s definitely vintage 80’s material, but it’s a fine treatment of the film, warts and all. The extras are worthwhile too, especially if you want to delve deeper into its creation. And, yes, we love the soundtrack. We, ahem, “dare” you not to listen.
It’s definitely…wait for it…more than meets the eye.