Remembering the Animated Transformers: The Movie

Sometimes, I just like to go through some of the posts I wrote on this blog just to see how far I’ve gone. I’ve been posting here for almost a whole decade now so it’s just kind of nice to reminisce how I started when I came up with 3rd World Geeks all those years ago. That’s when I stumbled on one of the very first reviews I did for I’ll Review Anything. It was a review for the animated Transformers: The Movie that was released way back in 1986.

Reading the review all these years later, I will say it does come off as a little cringy from my point of view. I was just starting to write back then so I didn’t really think I got all I wanted to say. This did make me want to kind of do a re-review for Transformers: The Movie but that also did seem like a terrible disservice as I don’t think my views have really changed. But reading that post did make me re-live some really old dormant memories as to when I watched it as well as the lead up to getting to see it on Betamax (yes, Betamax!) some time after I first learned about it. So, I guess it’s time to talk about my experience with Transformers: The Movie, before I watched it, when I watched it and even years after I saw it for the first time.

It was 1986. I was in the fourth grade at that point and, you could imagine, I was already an extremely geeky kid at the time. But I wasn’t exactly a geeky kid with means. I also wasn’t an extremely popular kid, which I would guess was kind of the norm back then. Being a kid who loved cartoons, toys and video games but shunned activities like sports just wasn’t all that cool during that time period. So, as a child who liked cartoons, toys and video games, you can bet your bottom dollar I loved the Transformers cartoons.

In fact, you could say Transformers was something every kid at school get behind because, well, we were all kids at that time. What could be more cool than giant robots that could transform into other things like cars, trucks, tape recorders, guns and dinosaurs to a kid in the fourth grade? So, after the latest episode of the Transformers came out, you can bet that was what most of us was talking about at school the next day. It was a way for the uncool geeks like me and the “cool” kids to connect.

Even with the Transformers being a common factor for everyone, there was still this boundary of “cool” and “uncool.” This was really in effect for me when I overheard some of my “cool” classmates talking about how they saw a Transformers movie. That felt surreal to me. The Transformers getting a full-fledged movie and I haven’t heard of it? Then again, this was way before the Internet was a thing. So, something like the news of one of the most popular cartoons in the world getting a theatrical release wouldn’t really reach the countries like the Philippines in a grand way.

So I basically eavesdropped on them talking about what happened to the movie and I honestly couldn’t believe what they were saying! They were giving plot details like some monster planet devouring other planets and how the Transformers, both on the Autobots and the Decepticons, actually died throughout the course of the film! Even mainstays like Starscream and the great Optimus Prime bit the dust! Then one of them mentioned he’ll lend the video cassette he had to one of the other kids. That’s when I mustered the courage to ask if I could also borrow the tape. The kid who owned the tape said he would lend it to me once the other kid returned it to him. He never did, of course. Thanks for nothing!

But it honestly didn’t matter all that much. That’s because, probably a month or two later, my family went to a video rental store and there it was! A copy of Transformers: The Movie just begging to be rented! And that’s what I did! And I… mostly loved the movie. Mostly.

Don’t get me wrong! As a kid, I watched and re-watched that same Betamax tape over and over because, every chance I got, I had to rent and see the entire thing again and again. However, there were things that did kind of upset me. Oddly enough, watching Optimus Prime bite the dust didn’t upset me. Starscream, my second favorite Decepticon next to Soundwave, getting vaporized by Galvatron also didn’t upset me that much. Oh, even though I knew it was going to happen, it was still shocking but nothing I couldn’t handle. What upset me were actually kind of odd in retrospect.

When it came to the deaths, I was actually the most distressed with Wheeljack’s. That’s because he was my favorite Autobot and he didn’t even utter a single line throughout the movie! I didn’t even get to see how he died because all you see is his empty husk during a blink and you’ll miss it scene! They did Wheeljack dirty in this movie!

The thing that I really found problematic with Transformers: The Movie is how much… lore they added to make the entire movie make sense. The film starts with the Decepticons having control of the Transformers home planet of Cybertron. So, despite Optimus Prime defeating Megatron at every turn throughout the cartoon’s run, the Autobots still lost? I would like to see the battle that led to that outcome! The worst offender for me was the Matrix of Leadership as they never referenced it all throughout the show! All of a sudden, Optimus Prime has this important symbol of leadership? As a geek who watched the cartoon religiously, I’ve never heard of the Matrix of Leadership! I would’ve assumed Optimus Prime got it when he was made but I also watched the cartoon when the Autobot leader was a simple worker named Orion Pax! No mention of a Matrix of Leadership there as well! I get they weren’t exactly looking for a grand continuity when the made the movie. But, as a kid, this really confused me!

Eventually, the video store was closing down so I actually bought the same Betamax tape. I would pop it in once in a while for nostalgic purposes. Eventually, however, the tape did wear out or my video cassette player ate it; I can’t exactly remember. Anyway, it didn’t exactly matter once again because there was a period of time when a local channel would, during the December holiday season, play a marathon of Transformers: The Movie, along with GI Joe: The Movie and My Little Pony and Friends: The Movie. Transformers: The Movie was always first to get played, then GI Joe. I would sometimes skip GI Joe the Movie but I would never stop watching Transformers: The Movie. I even recorded it on another Betamax and VHS tape so, basically, I got myself a fresh new copy of the movie!

Of course, as the years passed, the tapes degraded and the video cassette format died out. This was a period when I was left without my ability to watch Transformers: The Movie whenever I wanted. By this time, I was in college and I did move to other hobbies, though. I moved on to anime as well as more intricate video games. So I kind of forgot all about Transformers: The Movie throughout my college life. I was just busy doing so many other things to keep me occupied.

Like most people who get to study in college, I did graduate and started working. I got a job at a call center and, since it was a burgeoning industry then, management was pretty lax with trying to control their employees. This also coincided with the moment when high speed internet and video channels like YouTube was getting launched. Now, combine that with management that didn’t monitor their employees browsing habits, you can bet someone like me would use this to their advantage. I can even remember the very first video I saw on Google Video, which was Google’s version of YouTube before, well, before Google bought YouTube. It was a generational collection of Mazinger Z robots… and a version of it is still on YouTube even up to now!

And the reason why this was the first video I ever saw? Well, that’s because, for some odd reason, I tried to look for Transformers: The Movie on it. I don’t know why I thought it would even be there, especially the entire movie. But I did search for it. I guess it couldn’t find any Transformers so it spitted out this Mazinger Z because animated robots.

Some years later still, I’ve gotten back to the Transformers groove as this was when I started collecting the toys based on the live-action movie. I liked the first movie a lot actually, so I decided to get the toyline. However, even though I did enjoy the first Michael Bay Transformers movie, I still think it doesn’t hold a candle to the animated one that came out way back in 1986. It was kind of serendipitous then that, while scouring for Transformers toys, I came across an imported version of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Transformers: The Movie! It even had a super cool hologram cover which would change to either the original G1 cast featuring Optimus Prime holding the Matrix of Leadership or Rodimus Prime slowing opening it! I just had to have it!

The only problem? It was extremely pricey! I can’t really remember how much it cost but I remember lacking the funds buy it because, guess what? I just used up all my money to buy some new Michael Bay Transformers toys earlier in the day! So I had to wait until my next payday to be able to purchase it. I didn’t think it would be a problem because, luckily, payday was just a week away! I just had to wait for seven days and the Transformers: The Movie with that beautiful hologram cover would be mine!

Unfortunately for me, luck wasn’t on my side. I did wait until the next payday and I already earmarked the money to purchase it. I even spent the entire week scheduling when to return to the store! When I did get to the store, it was gone! It turns out some other person overheard me talking to my friend about finding that very same DVD and he snatched it up when I left the store! I honestly hope he’s a fan and not some person who bought it because he thinks it’s valuable, though.

Anyway, once again, it eventually didn’t matter that I didn’t get the DVD as it’s so easy to go online nowadays to watch Transformers: The Movie. It’s even available on YouTube for free as long as you search for it. Even so, I still do want to have a hard copy of the film as, even up to now, it’s still one of my favorite movies. I have so many fond memories of Transformers: The Movie. It’s been a several decades since I found out the movie came out and it’s odd how looking at my life through that experience is so radically different from one time period to the next. It’s nice to have something like an anchor like this movie to give it some perspective.

Have you ever had a movie affect your life? Let me know in the comments section below!

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