Sorry, Michael Bay - Why 1986's Transformers: The Movie Is The Best
You never want to talk about circumstances of "real fandom," because it's unfair to quantify someone's affection for a piece of pop culture based on your own qualifications. Still, there is only one Transformers movie with Arcee, with Stan Bush, with the classic Transformers theme. And it wasn't made by Michael Bay, who takes his fourth swing at the franchise with this weekend's Transformers: Age Of Extinction. No, these elements can be found in 1986's The Transformers: The Movie.
It makes sense that, for commercial considerations, you'd want to pack your Transformers movie with human actors. But the earlier film doesn't make the mistake of thinking we can't get enough of Sam Witwicky and his pratfalling parents.
The Transformers: The Movie IMMEDIATELY sidesteps this option with its gasp-inducing first few moments. One minute, we're on a robot planet called Lithone, which -- much like Cybertron -- is inhabited by innocent, every-day Transformers. The next, the galactically-massive Unicron (voiced with real panache by Orson Welles in his final role) is devouring the world whole, sucking its inhabitants into his gaping maw, destroying this petty planet like an interstellar vacuum.
In fairness to Mr. Bay, his Transformers films stretch to considerable time-lengths, only to feature chaotic, rousing finales. The Transformers: The Movie, by contrast, peaks early and never really recovers from the initial burst of action. The assumption is that no one has the patience to pay much attention to an 84-minute movie where robots become cars. Times have changed, of course, which explains the ass-punishingly 140-minute-plus run times for the Michael Bay Transformers films.
But this was also a time when children's entertainment didn't need to bow to politicians or concerned mothers to be "educational" or even "moral." As such, that genocidal opening of The Transformers: The Movie segues right to the opening action sequence (with a brief credit sequence detour thanks to Lion's stadium-rattling rendition of the classic Transformers theme). The Autobots are losing a war to the Decepticons, with the enemy Transformers threatening to take over Cybertron. The characters whiz by fast and furiously, and while you don't get a chance to know any of them, the movie's frantic pace forces you to get acquainted in a hurry. No exposition or origin stories here.
And no "fake outs" when it comes to tragedy, loss and death. Just ask Optimus Prime.
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