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The Transformers were one of the biggest merchandising deals of the ‘80s, and the line of shape-shifting robots spawned a whole series of spin-offs. Along with the comics and the television show came this, the animated movie version of the war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons (for some inexplicable reason I feel the urge to say TM immediately after those names).

Transformers: The Movie
I loved this film as a kid, and so just had to have it on DVD for nostalgia’s sake. At the time I was heavily into the comics, and these were cleverly written to crossover with the film. I remember the main reason I loved this film was the fact that it was like no Transformers cartoon that had appeared before. In the episodic adventures of the Transformers, the good guys always won, nobody ever died, and the reset button would always be hit at the end of every episode. This movie was different: the opening twenty minutes saw them kill of just about every major character from the original transformers line and replace them with an exciting new range of heroes and villains. The way the characters died was different too, the violence was quite graphic (for its time) in places. Megatron’s cold blooded (yes I know he wouldn’t have blood) murder of Ironhide near the beginning of the film shows that. Another great thing about this film was Megatron’s transformation into Galvatron, a seemingly invincible machine of incredible power, and it led to some of the best stories in the history of the transformers comic. The main reason though, was Unicron. A planet-sized Transformer for God’s sake! The transformation sequence is amazing, as is his eventual robot form.

Now, let’s move on to the DVD itself. Video is presented in 1.33:1, or 4:3 if you prefer. I have done some research into the original aspect ratio of the film and this is what I’ve found—the film was originally theatrically released matted to 1.85:1. This transfer is open matte, so you are in effect getting to see more of the picture than you would have at the cinema, even though it’s not a widescreen presentation. Video quality is fair for a fifteen year old cartoon, but obviously not up there with the likes of Fight Club.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital and claims to be 5.1. It’s not. It’s some kind of bodged surround mix, where all channels emit the same sounds, and the mix is biased heavily towards the left hand channel, which means you’ll have to adjust your amp (or sit closer to the right hand side of the room). The sound quality is ok though, just a pity that it’s not a true 5.1 mix as there are loads of cool explosions and Transformer-y effects, not to mention the awesome soundtrack.

Transformers: The Movie
Extras are almost non existent. You get some unfinished storyboards to look at (although not many), and an interview with the composer of the film’s score, Vince DiCola. There are some nice animated menu bits too, but I’m stretching now.

However much I loved this as a kid, it’s fairly evident now that it was just a gimmick to introduce the consumer to a new range of toys. Cynical maybe, but I’m not ten years old any more (although you’d never tell from this review!). With that said, it is by no means the terrible film that the licence would suggest. Granted, it did flop at the box office, but I would attribute that to the very adult way in which the film handled the subject matter. Your average Transformers fan would have been too young to understand a lot of the themes and dialogue in the film, not to mention distressed that most of their favourite characters bought the farm very early on. The voice acting is pretty good, with Eric Idle putting in an eccentric performance as a TV-talking Junkion named Wreck-Gar, and Leonard Nimoy managing to make Galvatron sound genuinely menacing (unlike the bloke they got to do his voice in the subsequent cartoons. Richard Simmons sounds more threatening). The animation is good, for its time, and the sound effects are all suitably Transformer-y. The music on the other hand is something else, and consists mostly of cheesy 80s rock. I hated it when I was a kid—I couldn’t see the need for ‘songs’ in a cartoon—but now I can’t get enough of it! The incidental music is also great, especially during the Autobot and Decepticon battle at the start. This is the ‘uncut’ version of the film, so it’s worth getting if you feel the urge to hear a character in a children’s cartoon use the word ‘shit’.

This isn’t going to make a fan out of anyone who didn’t live through the whole Transformers phenomenon in the ‘80s, but for those of us that did, this DVD provides a nice little trip down memory lane. Maybe it’s time to get that comic collection valued ;)

Transformers: The Movie
Note: There are two region one versions of this film—the American and the Canadian editions. The American disc is the one with the 5.1 sound and extras, while the Canadian disc is mono only, doesn’t include any extras and supposedly has a vastly inferior picture quality.