Updated: Aug 22, 2021
The thrilling space epic that would inspire generations upon generations of fandom, gets an all-new 4K restoration that instantly evokes that nostalgic return to the multiplex where THE TRANSFORMERS: The Movie first debuted 35 years ago!
The year is 2005… and although the epic struggle between the Autobots and Decepticons continues well into 2021 (both on the big screen and in the latest installment of the Netflix anime epic) in 1986 when the battle was waged in the multiplex, The Transformers: The Movie instantly became a cult classic and a revelation with fans. The animated cinematic adventure took on a new scope, with a story wrought with emotion and space battles that rivaled any George Lucas adventure, and would continue to inspire the imagination.
And now in honor of its 35th Anniversary, the film has been given a proper 4K restoration and release befitting its enduring legacy. Released by Sunbow and Marvel Productions, The Transformers: The Movie featured all the most beloved heroes and villains from the afternoon animated series with Optimus Prime (voiced by the legendary Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Frank Welker) taking no prisoners in a battle to end all battles, even as the real threat — the force of nature known as Unicron, appropriately voiced by Hollywood icon Orson Wells carves a path of destruction across the galaxy!
One of the most profitable toy lines of the 80s “The Transformers” were appropriated from the Japanese toy industry by Hasbro, which had cornered the market on the success of marrying their brands to other medias; collaborating with Marvel to simultaneously release a series of original comic books and animated series to both “The Transformers” and the rebranded 3 ¾ collection of “G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero” action figures which were highly coveted, next to Mattel’s “Master of the Universe” line of combatants (which also had extended similarly into the realm of comic books and animation).
The full-intention of the The Transformers: The Movie was to of course extend the life of the toy line, introducing a new generation of heroes and villains, and the film’s plot made no bones about taking out some of the most beloved “Generation 1” characters including Autobot Jazz and Decepticon Starscream, it also famously resurrected Megatron into the even more merciless marauder Galvatron, voiced by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. The film also in a stunning turn, also featured the tragic death of Optimus Prime, in the first act of the film, nonetheless, to the shock of many of the fans in the audience.
In a Generation
Several key mythological components were established by The Transformers: The Movie, first and foremost the importance of the Matrix of Leadership, which is passed from one Prime to another and is intended to empower the Autobot that inherits it with the mantle of leadership. Upon his death in the film, Optimus Prime passes the Matrix to his second-in-command Ultra Magnus (voiced by Robert Stack), but in a very interesting turn of events the Matrix is ultimately activated by Hot Rod (voiced by Judd Nelson) who is transformed into Rodimus Prime at the conclusion of the film.
Separated from the rest of the Autobots while escaping from Autobot City, Kup (Lionel Stander) and Hot Rod fall victim to the scrutiny of the Quintessons, a dangerously dastardly and ancient race of aliens with five faces and squid-like appendages that control legions of carnivorous Sharkticons. Though their appearance is brief (and strange) it is later on established that the Quintessons’ origins are connected to the Transformers and even to the rise of Unicron. The Quintessons appear in the animated series, but their threat level is considerably minimized, to keep in time with the show’s youthful audience.
Unicron is of course introduced for the first time, appropriately voiced by Hollywood icon Orson Wells, imbuing the planet-sized devourer of worlds with the gravitas that would go along with a Transformer that is out to eliminate anything that stands in its way. Although established as a considerable threat, in power and size, this Transformer is easily dispatched in the movie’s climax. Unicron’s only remaining part, its head — floating ominously in orbit of Cybertron after his defeat at the hands of the Autobots and their new leader Rodimus Prime signals the run of the end credits.
For years, fans of the collection always fretted about the fact that Megatron the leader of the evil Decepticons would transform into a formidable firearm, that would ultimately have to be handled by one of his subordinates. Leaving everyone to wonder, how long before one of them made a power grab and just crushed Megatron while he was in this much more vulnerable form. The answer came in the evolution of Megatron into Galvatron! Weakened by his confrontation with Optimus Prime, Megatron is transformed by Unicron into the menacing Galvatron, who is a weapon of mass destruction!
Among its all-new cast of characters, the movie also introduced the audience to Arcee (voiced by Susan Blu), a female member of the Autobots and a hero that fights alongside the core group. Arcee is present at the death of Optimus Prime and remains a considerably important part of the continuity into the animated show’s following season. Arcee subsequently appears in many forms over the course of “The Transformers” mythology and makes an appearance in director Michael Bay’s blockbuster 2007 film franchises.
This reissue is a worthy addition to a true fan’s collection as it stands out as a culmination of ideas that have been consistent and an intriguing part of The Transformers Universe. The 4K restoration is itself impressive although the 5.1 audio is not as exciting as one might anticipate. A Dolby Atmos mix would have been spectacular but it would have probably demanded the film be remixed and components added in that are not part of the original release. In any event, after its HD Blu-ray release 5-years ago, this 35th Anniversary is the way to go at least — until all are one!
THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE 35th Anniversary 4K Restoration | is available now in various formats including a Limited Edition SteelBook with 4 Exclusive Art Cards and new Bonus Features. You can purchase the film here at The Shout Factory.