Sep 24, 2018

Roundtable: Transformers the Animated Movie

Transformers the Movie was released August 8, 1986 and made $1.7 million it’s opening weekend. It finished its domestic run having made a disappointing $5.8 million.  Its shocking violence and bold storytelling has since made it a cult classic. For the first time since, for one night only, you can catch the movie in select theaters.

Transformers: The Animated Movie
Comics Cube Roundtable



Duy: My family recently asked me which movie from my childhood is my favorite. I said it has to be Transformers the Animated Movie, seeing as how it's the movie from my childhood that evoked strong emotions (Prime's death, Rodimus opening the Matrix), gave me a kickass soundtrack, and is also the most quotable.

Ben: Easily the movie I've seen the most in my life.  There was a time there where I used to have it playing every night when I went to sleep.  Not as a young kid. This was when I was 24 years old.

JD: The best movie of all time.

Max: It took me a long time to realize this was a bad movie for anyone who didn't grow up with Transformers. I'd trade animation recommendations with mates, who would give me Akira or Nausicaa Valley of the Wind. They stopped trading movies with me after watching Transformers.  Then I checked out Leonard Maltin's movie guide book and saw that it got a "turkey" rating.

JD: I was lucky and saw this in the theater when I was six. I was so confused and in such awe. I think this sparked my love of going to the movies.

LaMar: I didn't see it when it came out in the theater, I had to wait until the VHS came out so I could rent it.

Matt: I did not see this movie until I was an adult. It does have a murderer's row of voice talent. Spock, Sir Robin, the guy from Unsolved Mysteries, John Bender.

JD: Eric Idle.

Jeff: First off, I'm a huge Transformers collector. I have been collecting on and off for over 20 years and while there are several collectors out there that live by the "G1 only" line I am a fan of all the different lines that have come out over the years. That said, aside from some really cool moments and lines, this movie isn't all that great. I never had a chance to see this movie in the theater when it came out. It took several weeks from release dates to when they would actually show up in the town I grew up in and given how poorly it was doing at the box office there was no way the local theater would pay to bring it in so I was watching season 3 before it was released on VHS, which means I saw the episode Dark Awakening before the movie and that didn't give me a huge desire to watch it. This movie meant more to me after I grew up and felt the nostalgia for the old series but that died off years ago. Perhaps it would have meant more to me if I had seen it in the theater and got to experience the shock of watching Optimus die. Season 3 pretty much spoiled the movie for me.

Ben: You’re banned.

Matt: Yeah, as a movie, it's not good. The animation hasn't aged well either.

Jeff: It was nothing special at the time either.

LaMar: JEFF MATT GET THE HELL OUT.

The best movie of all time. -JD

Max: The animation was a huge leap forward at the time though. I remember seeing all the little light effects and glowy bits that seasons 1 and 2 didn't have and I was wowed by that. Also the voices had an extra robot/tinny effect. Also, the new designs were an obvious departure: most of the new characters were generally "rounded" rather than "boxy". Except for their hands, which went the other way. The shit you notice as a kid, hey...

Duy: I think the animation has aged really well when you consider the context of the other animated movies coming out at the time that weren't made by the Mouse or by Japan. It's certainly the best animated out of the animated series tie-ins, and that's not even close.

LaMar: I didn't catch that Optimus Prime wasn't on the poster until I after I watched the movie. When it was over I stared at the VHS cover because I thought it would bring him back to life if I stared long enough to have him appear there.

Max: You did it, you turned the tide.

LaMar: That’s what soldiers do.

Antonio: Optimus and Ironhide had the best deaths.

Jeff: Ironhide by far had the best death.  Starscream’s was next.

Antonio: Starscream’s death was third.  Nothing beats Optimus knocking Megatron off that ledge.  Ironhide’s death is just plain tragic.  Dude is a total warrior.

Max: It was kinda weird how each Autobot on board the shuttle went just one step further than the previous one. Brawn bum rushes Megs- dies. Prowl sees this and decides to at least fire ONE shot- dies. Ironhide and Ratchet see this- decide to fire like crazy- they die.

Antonio: Huh, never noticed that.

Ben: Ironhide? He died on the ground like a chump.

Duy: I should add I'm not a Transformers fan. The movie is all I know. And the movie is awesome.  My only problem with the movie is like, that entire middle portion.  From Starscream's death to when they invade Unicron. And Wheelie. Anyway, it's weird how I'm not a Transformers fan and I love the movie. But I am a GI Joe fan and I hate the movie.

Jeff: The GI Joe movie sucked so bad it went straight to video.

Ben: The GI Joe movie is terrible, and a franchise killer, but I still love it.  Nostalgia is a bitch.

Duy: Whatever nostalgia I had for the GI Joe movie was killed in college when I watched it and realized they wussed out on Duke dying. But actually, the movie might have been exactly what ruined Transformers for me. Like I just expected it to always be on that level.

Ben: It’s impossible for me to determine because of nostalgia, but I do think Transformers is a legitimately good movie.

Duy: I think the Transformers movie is legitimately good, yes. I mean, fine, when Orson Welles died making it and he said it was trash, you can understand why he said that, but it's not like it's supposed to be the Sistine Chapel of movies.

Ben: Nobody likes Citizen Kane.

Matt: It’s so booooring.

Duy: And the animation is I think legitimately good for 1986.

Antonio: It was good for the ‘80s, and much better than the cartoon.

Duy: It's better than most episodes of 80s cartoons, it's the best of the 80s cartoon series movies, it's better than the Bay Transformers. Not that these are high bars.  But it's also better than most movies based on cartoons, actually. Better than at least two of the TMNTs (The first one and the animated TMNT would have it beat), better than all the GI Joes, better than the He-Man movie.

JD: Dude, its a toss up between this and the first TMNT movie. Maybe it's slightly leaning towards TMNT. That was my first event movie.

Duy: TMNT is one that doesn’t age well for me.  Can’t get past the rubber suits.

Matt: Yeah, the rubber suits and faces are unignorable.

JD: I don’t mind.  I watch rubber suits step on miniature cities all the time.

Ben: What’s the best scene in the movie?  For me, it’s Megatron’s transformation into Galvatron.

Duy: I'm torn between "One shall stand, one shall fall" and "Arise, Rodimus Prime."


JD: Best scene for me is also Megatron’s transformation in to Galvatron. But Prime’s “You got the touch!” scene is iconic. At least for me.

It's better than most episodes of 80s cartoons, it's the best of the 80s cartoon series movies, it's better than the Bay Transformers. Not that these are high bars.  But it's also better than most movies based on cartoons, actually.  -Duy

Ben: I made an audio recording (on an old portable cassette deck) from when Optimus lands until the Decepticons flee, so that I could listen to it in bed at night before going to sleep.

Duy: Hot Rod turning into Rodimus wins the "cool as a kid, lame as an adult" award.

Max: Sure, but he still had it when he was running against the backdrop of explosions before saying "Autobots, transform and roll out." This is before I knew what a Michael Bay was.

Duy: It was awesome before he turned into a minivan.

Max: Obviously, Optimus chose that mode for him, trolling from the grave.

Antonio: Yeah, his “soccer mom” minivan mode sucked.

Ben: Everything about the attack on Autobot city is amazing. The music really sells it. Obviously, this was the first cartoon where the good guys were actually dying, so the feeling of danger was very real. The lines, the action.

Duy: The Bravestarr movie does the whole thing with the Transforming city. Yeaaaaaah, on that one you know they were forcing it.

Antonio: When the Constructicons start forming Devastator and Kup is like “Fuuuuuuuuck.”

Duy: Devastator here is awesome. Then he shows up in Bay's Transformers and he's a joke and I cried.

Antonio: So who’s the most useless Transformer in the entire movie? FYI, the only correct answer is Swoop.

Ben: I’ll kill you! And it’s Wheelie.

Antonio: Wheelie saved the day!

LaMar: Wheelie ain’t shit.

Max: My favorite Dinobot in the movie was Snarl.

Ben: So here’s the hardest question.  Best quote?

Antonio: “You’re an idiot Starscream.”  “Such heroic nonsense.”  Tie between those two.  Both Megatron lines, proving they had a hard-on for him.

Ben: “You’re an idiot Starscream,” in one of my favorites, and one I still use a lot, but it’s not the best.

Duy: “I’VE GOT BETTER THINGS TO DO TONIGHT THAN DIE.”

Antonio: “I can’t deal with that now.”

Duy: But no, for me it always was, always will be, "One shall stand, one shall fall."

Antonio: “Spaaare me this mockery of justice!”

Ben: “First we crack the shell, then we crack the nuts inside.”

Antonio: “Run Blaster, save yourself.”

JD: “No way, two can play.”

Duy: Blaster having tiny Autobots coming out of his tape deck is creepy. What the hell is Perceptor supposed to do? See far? They all have visors that can see far.

Max: Bro, microscopes see things that are close, not far.  But yeah, he sees far in the movie.  I don’t know why, it was a crazy time in their lives I guess.

Duy: He turns into a telescope, it’s the first thing he does.

Max: He’s a microscope, that… that… functions like a telescope.  Anyway, you’re wrong.

Duy: Blaster has little people coming out of him!

Max: At least you used the politically correct term.

Jeff: Minions, not little people.  Don’t be racist to them.

Ben: Have you thought he was a telescope for 30 years?

Duy: Being a telescope is the first thing he does!

Ben: Who is the best new character? Besides Ultra Magnus, of course.

Duy: Ultra Magnus is useless. Springer is the best. Springer number one.

JD: S P R I N G E R. HE’S AN AUTOBOT TRIPLE CHANGER.

LaMar: Springer had a sword, that was enough for me.

Duy: It’s clearly Springer, come on.

Antonio: A tie between Springer and the Sharkticons.

Ben: He doesn’t even do anything!

Antonio: He doesn’t have a potty mouth like Ultra Magnus. “Open dammit,” doesn’t make his lines better.

Ben: Anyway, the real answer is Galvatron

Antonio: Galvatron doesn’t have half the charm of Megatron

Jeff: Ultra Magnus, worst leader ever.

JD: What did Ultra Magnus do except fail Optimus’ last wish and cede leadership of the Autobots to Hot Rod, of all people?

LaMar: Shoulder missiles

Antonio: He nerd-shamed the team scientist.

Ben: He wouldn’t shut up!  A simple yes or no.

Ben: Ultra Magnus has the better voice, better lines, better toy, and is actually important to the plot. Remove Springer and it’s the same movie.

Duy: Vision is more important to the plot of Infinity War than Falcon, and Falcon is still cooler.

Ben: They’re both worthless.  As worthless as Antonio at an academic bowl.

Duy: You’re right, Vision and Magnus are as worthless as Antonio.

Ben: I hope you become an Unsolved Mystery, Tano.

Duy: There's the unsolved mystery of why he settled for the second lamest character in the movie.

Ben: He accomplished more than Springer, who did nothing!

Duy: Springer saved a quarter of a ship. That's a quarter of a ship more than Magnus did. Springer did that thing where he didn’t die. Because he had better things to do.

LaMar: Okay, that was good.

Ben: You’re still ugly.

Any other actor (than Judd Nelson) might have risked making Hot Rod/Rodimus unlikable...that was the hardest character to pull off. -Max

Duy: I forgot how Hot Rod's got some cool lines too. "If you're gonna ride, ride in style!" as he tosses Daniel into his driver's seat and transforms.

Antonio: Good animation sequence for such a tiny scene.

Duy: I think it’s the best animated 10 minutes of the movie.  Which is a shame, because the best part of the movie should have been the last scene.

LaMar: One thing I have to admit, Hot Rod lifting the Matrix and Optimus saying "Rise, Rodimus Prime" still gets me

Duy: "This is the end of the road, Galvatron." Hot Rod's lines are really underrated

Ben: Final question, who wins the “Val Kilmer in Tombstone” award as the dominant performance in the movie? Since it’s animated, we can go character or voice actor. Personally, I think Optimus Prime owns this movie and his death is the enduring legacy of it.

Duy: Prime.

JD: Prime.  Maybe Galvatron a close second?

Max: I'm gonna say Judd Nelson. Any other actor might have risked making Hot Rod/Rodimus unlikable...that was the hardest character to pull off. Plus he had the closest thing to a character arc, so he had to shift a few gears across his performance, which I don't think anyone else really had to do.

Jeff: I think you can give the Kilmer to either Prime or Megatron. Loosened from the rules of TV cartoons, Megatron was able to up the ante, but Prime’s arrival to turn the tide showed him turning it up a notch too and their fight is easily the best Prime vs. Megatron fight so far.

Antonio: Megatron’s just so sassy. Seriously some of the best lines. Optimus just because his arrival at Autobot City grabs your childhood by the front of its Izod alligator shirt and pulls you out of your seat onto your feet.

Max: Galvatron had some great lines, but I felt he was a bit standard as a baddie.  Not as interesting as Megs.

Antonio: Megatron should have been the one to kill Starscream, not Galvatron.  There, I said it.

JD: Latta being Latta gets an honorable mention for the Kilmer award. Starscream had some great moments, too.

Jeff: I just love how Starscream finally gets the leadership and bang, he’s killed off.

Max: Yeah, the replacement villains were all a bit cookie cutter compared to Megatron and Starscream.

Ben: I can’t argue with Nelson/Hot Rod. The movie is really his movie start to finish, and I didn’t leave hating him like some did. I guess I am going to argue against it by saying that even though it is his movie, Optimus comes in and steals the show for 10 minutes.

Duy: It's Hot Rod's movie, but Prime is the show-stealer, and the climax of the movie basically has Hot Rod turning into Prime.

Max: He gets his theme song and everything.

Duy: I mean, yeah, instead of being a badass truck he turns into a minivan. But still.

Ben: Seriously, whose idea was it to turn the coolest looking new character into a minivan?  Some executive was spitballing, “he needs to be more dependable, and have plenty of room for all of the kid’s soccer equipment.”

Duy: It’s totally because Prime was a truck right?

Max: All Autobot leaders must have storage space. It is a bit hard to divorce Cullen's performance from the impact of his scene, though. I mean Prime rolls in, basically defeats the Decepticon army single handed and then dies while passing on an (until now) unknown mystical artifact. Cullen sold it, but there's no other scene written like that in the whole film. Maybe Hot Rod's victory over Galvatron and transformation comes second.

Duy: That entire scene, from Hot Rod and Daniel fishing to Prime dying, is on a whole different level from the rest of the movie and makes it look much better than it is as a whole.

Max: Hot Rod seeing the Decepticons and just blasting away, biting off more than he can chew is still great.

Ben: I’ve always loved how he immediately opens fire.

Ben: I never considered Optimus a favorite as a kid, but I guess he turned out to be super necessary. He was like a parent.

Max: Yeah, I don't think I realized how important Dadimus Prime was to me until they took him away.

Ben: I wonder if the drop off wouldn’t have been as bad if they hadn’t replaced 90% of the characters along with him. I liked season 3, but it killed the franchise.

LaMar: Yeah they took that too far, corporate mandates and all that. It's a lot like what DC did with their stuff, throwing longtime fans under the bus for an in-the-moment rollout that wasn't thought out too well.

Ben: They figured they were all just toy commercials and that it wouldn’t matter because they stopped selling the older toys.

LaMar: That was stupid too, stopping production on the older toys.

Max: Really underestimated the emotional impact their toy commercials were having on a generation of kids.

As an adult, some of the season 3 episodes are pretty intriguing, experimental. -Ben


Duy: The movie is my only real exposure to the franchise outside of the toys. And even with the toys, we had Prime. So Prime really is by default my favorite.

Max: The movie was a hard shift in consciousness; not only was everyone you thought was important demoted, but death was a really, really blunt thing. it might have been a tad easier if the old cast of Autobots showed some of the ingenuity they had in the show before dying. but we went from, "guns don't kill and Autobots always have a plan that works" to " "Nope. Dead.” And then after the movie, you kinda had these expectations, and then season 3 didn’t deliver.

Ben: As a kid I was in regardless, I didn’t care. More Transformers any way any how. As an adult, some of the season 3 episodes are pretty intriguing, experimental.

Duy: As a college student who finally had access to episodes, season 3 was the one I was most intrigued in... something about what came after being more intriguing. But it was just not the same.

Ben: They stuck with the morbid theme, with ghost Starscream and zombie Optimus.

Max: On top of zombies and ghosts, even the addition of the Quintessons. They looked more grotesque than anything from previous seasons. Cyclonus and Scourge had a lot less fun as bad guys than the original cons, and Galvatron legit had mental issues and needed therapy.

Ben: By the time they brought back Optimus Prime, it was too late.  It was over.

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