🎬 #66 The Film I've Seen [and cried at] Most.
I literally wore the tape down on my VHS copy of this film between the ages of 8-12. It became unwatchable because there was so much static, the image degraded and lost because it was looked at too much. There was a lot of repeat viewing over my poor older brother’s shoulder as he cleaned the heads on the VHS player. I’d stare at the solid looking metallic disc, that kind of looked like a rollerblade wheel but more squared and shiny, and wonder, wow, that takes the pictures off the video tape and puts it on the TV - pretty magical.
To this day, I even rewatch the occasional scene from the film on YouTube, just to relive the effect it had on me when I was a kid. One of its many strengths is simplicity. Good guys VS bad guys, life and death, progression and transformation - leadership.
All told via robots who are facing the greatest foe they’ve ever encountered - another giant planet-sized robot.
I’m sorry there’s only one film this week, but it’s a belter as they say back in Ireland.
TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE
1986 Dir Nelson Shin
This is a piece of genuine 80s pop cultural history based on the animated TV series of the time. The feature-length film gives us much greater stakes, more cinematic storytelling, incredible 2D animation from some of Japan's finest animators, and an iconic rock/synth soundtrack.
Set in the year 2005, the film follows the ongoing battle between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. However, the arrival of Unicron, a planet-devouring entity voiced by Orson Welles, threatens both sides and the entire universe [big stakes, as I mentioned]. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, must join forces with unlikely allies to save their world from Unicron's insane destructive power.
Orson Welles is the star voice talent, but the rest of the cast is rounded out by Leonard Nimoy and Peter Cullen, who would go on to voice Optimus in the Michael Bay franchise. The style of voices and performances ground the emotional stakes of the characters, and it's one of the reasons why it made 8-year-old me really cry.
The style and pacing of the action sequences really stayed with me. Optimus bellowing out that Megatron "must be stopped at all costs" as he transforms into his truck form while Stan Bush's "The Touch" blasts out is hard to beat. The animation isn't frantic and jerky; it's fluid and takes its time. The choice of framing always makes it feel like there's texture in the frame, as opposed to very stilted, blank artwork styles. Debris, backlit and flying up into the light of Unicron's destructive grasp, and bubbling water whipped into a whirlpool set against mech-riveted structures are some examples.
As I spoke about in the Cyber City newsletter, animation allows you to capture exactly what you want the viewer to see and feel. This film takes a well-loved TV and toy franchise and amps it up to the next level.
TL;DR Why should I spend 1 hr 26 min of my precious life watching this? Take a long, nostalgic trip back to the powerhouse of 80s animation and music in The Transformers' finest film.
Available for a small rental fee on Vudu in the US and on Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft in the UK.
Fact: This was Orson Welles' final film. He died five days after finishing his recording sessions.
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