Then on the way back to Cybertron, Starscream chucks Megatron out of the doorway of the bad guys' escape vehicle (a transformed Astrotrain) into oblivion, with a bunch of other crippled and dying 'Cons. Then a battle royale occurs with the evil bots each vying for the now vacated top spot.
Out in space, Unicron somehow summons the almost battery-depleted Megatron to him, and offers him a new body and new soldiers in return for destroying the Matrix once and for all. Megatron manages to see the bright side of this arrangement (i.e. "not terminating"), although it's made clear that Unicron has now made the Decepticon leader his bitch in the process.
But before heading back to Earth to do his new master's bidding, Megatron (now calling himself Galvatron, and sounding like a grumpy Leonard Nimoy for some reason) first goes to Cybertron and kills the shit out of Starscream right in the middle of his coronation ceremony as the new Decepticon leader. The remaining bad bots all hail Galvatron, then fly to Earth with him to complete his Unicron-commanded mission.
Unicron then eats Cybertron's two moons because he's a colossal, malicious, gives-no-shits-about-nothing sphere. The last of the old school Autobots (Jazz, Cliffjumper, Bumblebee, and honorary Autobot Spike), who are still on the moons, get sucked down into Unicron like a fat man slurping his fingers clean after eating the Colonel's original recipe chicken. And Spike says a bad word.
Wow, this is getting long. Let me speed things up now that the important elements are already covered.
The remaining Autobots on Earth barely manage to get away from the second Decepticon attack of the day, but their two ships are heavily damaged, and Hot Rod, Kup, and the Dinobots' shuttle crash lands on the weird planet run by the very judgmental Quintessons (beings made up of just hovering heads with five rotating faces on them). Robert Stack, Blurr, Arcee, Daniel, Springer, and Perceptor (who miraculously survived everything so far) get shot down onto the Planet of Junk (aka Junkeon).
Galvatron then hunts down Robert Stack and his crew on Junkeon, (where in one scene all the heroic Autobots leave 10 year-old Daniel behind to fend for himself against the giant, metal, death-machine Decepticons) and then he has his minions kill the new leader of the Autobots by way of explosion, taking the uncharred Matrix with him back to Unicron. The rest of the Autobot team is left to live out their remaining days in garbage, but they are soon surrounded and attacked by Junkeon-native Wreck-Gar and his crew of shitty motorcycle Transformers (is every planet in the universe other than Earth filled with robots that transform into vehicles?). Wreck-Gar wants our heroes dead because [EXPLANATION NEEDED].
During all this, Kup and Hot Rod get caught and put on (mock) trial by the nasty Quintessons, where they're dumped into a Sharkticon tank to be devoured by a bunch of purpley, strange, shark/dinosaur/humanoid-hybrid robots after being declared "Not guilty." Grimlock and the Dinobots then bust through the cyber-courthouse front door and come to Kup and Hot Rod's aid (with a newly discovered Transformer, that little shit-stain Wheelie, who sounds like a child with the Downs speaking though a synthesizer, who can only talk in crappy rhymes... but the less spoken of him the better). Then the Dinobots quickly start a revolution on the planet against the Quintessons, and everybody leaves on a stolen ship to go find the rest of the Autobots. For some reason, even though they don't even know him from Adam, Hot Rod and Kup decide to bring Wheelie along (who also for some reason already has an Autobot insignia on his chest). Wheelie then does even less than he already has for the rest of the movie. Fuck Wheelie.
Not that I even WANTED a Quintesson toy, but they didn't even bother to make any of them in toy form, nor an Alligatorcon, Arcee, or Unicron figures, which, as I said before and will probably say again, was the ENTIRE POINT of this production: Selling shitty toys!
Kup and Hot Rod and company make it to Junkeon just before the rest of their friends get slaughtered by Wreck-Gar's twisted army, and Hot Rod uses the "Universal Greeting" ("Bah Weep Granna Weep Ninni Ban") and some energon snacks to get the TV-addicted Junkeons to come to their side. Then the Junkeons pick up the pieces of the previously exploded Robert Magnus and put him back together again after polishing him up with some Space Turtle Wax. All the robots then have a big American dance party and get down to "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Dare to be Stupid," and then they decide to join forces and attack Unicron, whom the Junkeons somehow know is about to attack Cybertron.
I did not make up ANY of the previous paragraph.
We then find Galvatron standing on planet Unicron, attempting to use the Matrix to make the gigantic evil globe his bitch now, but he doesn't know what to do with it (not the best tactic — talking shit to an always hungry planet that is threatening your homeworld, with no way of backing up your big mouth). Unicron then mocks his little puppet automaton, and then transforms into a humongous devil-like robot (complete with horns, bitchin' goatee, and wings) and starts wrecking shit up on Cybertron. Then he eats Galvatron.
The Autobots arrive on the scene and are left speechless (as I, as a 10 year-old in the audience, was too), and amid the giant battle with ships and lasers flying every which way, Hot Rod and the Autobots aim their space-craft at, and fly directly into Unicron's immense optical window (aka "his eye").
The Autobots survive the impact, but are separated as they all tumble way down, down, down into Unicron's inner workings. Daniel somehow stumbles across his father and a few remaining Autobots from the previously devoured Moon Bases (we're talking a little boy aimlessly walking around the planet-sized innards of the beastly Unicron, and then accidentally finding his family and friends within minutes of wandeing around lost). The kid then BARELY rescues his father and 'Bot buddies from an acid bath that they were about to get dumped into (which already, quite vividly and nightmarishly, melted down a few other robots before Daniel arrived).
Hot Rod also miraculously bumps into Galvatron in Unicron's bowels, and the two fight because the Big Uni still controls Little Galvy and orders him to, under threat of a really bad headache. Hot Rod manages to rip the Matrix from Galvatron's clutches though, and somehow he finally mans-up and opens the McGuffin Device, which for some unknown reason detonates Unicron from the inside out. Galvatron is hurled into space by Hot Rod (now known as Rodimus Prime because opening the Matrix somehow turned him into yet another new toy to buy), all the Autobots meet up and bust out of Unicron's other eye (was this the plan from the start? "Meet up 100 miles to the left of the impact site where we entered Unicron if we ever get separated."), and then the giant devil-robot explodes after bitching about his lost "destiny."
The remaining teeny tiny small party of Autobots then gathers on what remains of Cybertron, and they recite the Autobot Oath of "Till all are one" as the moon-sized decapitated head of Unicron orbits the wrecked Transformers homeworld and the credits roll.
What did 10 year-old me think of The Transformers: The Movie?
Jon and I came out of the theater with our collective immature minds BLOWN. The hyper action, the unnecessary violence, the profanity, and the music... It was all almost too much for us. I loved the fucking shit out of the movie and used my allowance to buy the soundtrack the following day. I then proceded to listen to it over and over again for years afterward (I can still recite the all the lyrics to the songs, and I know Vince DiCola's synthesized background music by heart). I was slightly scarred by all the death, destruction, and dismay in this flick, but strangely the violent murders of all the classic Autobots wounded me more than Papa Prime's valiant demise. At least Optimus fought bravely till the end and got time to say his goodbyes. The rest died off screen or like puppies in the middle of the highway.
As it turned out, The Transformers: The Movie only lasted a couple of weeks in theaters (surprise!), and Jon and I were pretty much the only kids in our school who went to see it before school began that September. We were minor celebrities because of this. We would spend our lunch periods telling the tale of how Ironhide got shot, point blank, by Megatron's arm canon and got turned to nano-particles; how bad-ass Prime and Megatron's final fight was; and how Unicron was a goddamn huge transforming devil-planet that almost ate Cybertron! I don't think the rest of the kids believed us at the time.
But like I said before, the movie failed in its most basic purpose: it didn't make me (or anybody else that I ever talked to) want to buy any of the new toys introduced in its 90 minute runtime. The new action figures on toy store shelves fucking SUCKED. Galvatron's figure looked NOTHING like the bad-ass, slick design in the flick (instead he looked stumpy and slightly retarded). Ultra Magnus was pretty much a giant block of plastic in robot-form, Springer's transformations in toy form looked ridiculous, the Sharkticons were lame in their "shark" and their robot forms, and everybody else was just a weird futuristic version of modern vehicles... Like a 1960s take on what a 2005 truck or sports car would look like... Which was counter to the ENTIRE POINT of the Transformers toy line in the first place! They were originally created in order to have everyday cars and jets and tanks (that kids could recognize and that could exist secretly on our world in their vehicle form) change into bitchin' robots. The movie killed all those classic action figures, and instead gave us Kup and Wheelie. Kup's "Cybertronian truck" and Wheelie's "Tennessee-orange, gimpy, wheeled thing" would never blend in with Earth vehicles, which (once again, as this is very important) was the toy line's fucking premise!
And alas, the coolest, most amazing robot in the entire movie (that would be the planet-devouring Satanic robot Unicron) didn't even get a toy made of him until 20 years later. That is absolute bullshit. WHY make a movie to sell new toys if you don't even make a toy of the ONE character kids wanted most? Instead you give us the garbagey Galvatron and the "I don't even know what the fuck they are" Sweeps? What were the Sweeps? They looked like flying flat boats. Fuck you, Hasbro.
Other than the orange canon on its right arm, if you saw the awful toy on the right in person, would you have guessed that it was supposed to be Galvatron? I hope to high hell that the toy modeler got shot in the face and then fired for this monstrosity. If your only job is to make toys that DON'T look retarded, and then you produce that, your life is utterly pointless.
Oh, and then look at the Autobot toys from the movie below. Rodimus Prime (on the left) at least looks slightly like his animated counterpart (minus any actual articulation), but Springer (middle) and Ultra Robert Stack (the Lego block on the right) are just jokes at our expense. I'll tell you what, the only three new toys that I was even remotely interested in after coming out of the movie theater were Unicron, Galvatron and Springer, but there wasn't a Unicron available, and after seeing Galvy's and Springer's real world plastic forms I just said "Fuck it," and went back to listening to the head-banging TF: The Movie soundtrack again.
The Plot Problems
The story isn't really that terrible, but it is edited horribly, and there are a lot of plot holes that the writers just weren't willing to put the time into patching up before their final deadline. Time skips and trying to keep track of "who is where and at what point" plague this film like Montezuma plagued all future invaders and tourists. Even as a 10 year-old child I recognized how weird it was that it seemed to take at least a full day for Autobots and Decepticons to travel through space from Cybertron to Earth in the beginning of the movie, but in the middle of it, it all of a sudden only takes the Decepticons 30 seconds. This is of course because the portion of the movie where Unicron attacks the second moon of Cybertron was moved to earlier in the time-line, which makes reactions to the news by the Autobots, and Galvatron's departure from Cybertron to Earth seem out of sync with the rest of the story (as well as the fact that you can see the moon that Unicron supposedly just ate still floating in orbit around the Transformers' homeworld after Unicron supposedly devoured it and Galvatron already yelled at him for it).
In case that doesn't make sense, in the original script (yes, I actually read the whole script. And it's even more violent and disturbing than what we ended up with in the final movie), Unicron changes Megatron into Galvatron, Galvatron goes to Cybertron, Unicron then arrives and eats a moon. Galvatron gets pissed, but then Unicron reminds him that Galvatron is essentially Uni's toy, and Galvatron leaves for Earth to destroy the Matrix. Then Uni focuses on the second moon (with Spike and Bumblebee on it), and the remaining Earth Autobots get the S.O.S. from Spike telling them of the attack on the first moon, and then the destruction of their moon as well. A while later the Decepticons arrive on Earth and attack.
In the finished movie Uni arrives at Cybertron, eats both moons, Galvatron gets sent to Earth and arrives JUST after the Autobots heard the final words of Spike and Bumblebee, making it seem like the 'Cons teleported there.
The time-line in the script at least makes a little more sense in these scenes. There are several instances of strange editing like this throughout the movie, and for the life of me I can't figure out why they happened, especially after they were actually animated in the script order, and then became continuity errors after the final edits (like the moon that Unicron devoured still being in the sky above Cybertron after he munched on it).
I always wondered just what the hell was going on in this scene. It's a giant muscle-car Transformer robot fishing with an enormous fishing rod with a 10 year-old boy who's wearing some nifty monogrammed Jetsons-like tracksuit. Was this just a scene of a robot pal doing a human pastime to help his little fleshy friend feel better? Or were the writers and animators high as a fucking Chinese box-kite when the time came for Hot Rod's introduction?
Other than the instances of bad editing and continuity errors, there are tons of things that happen in this movie that make no sense at all. I've covered a lot of them in the plot rundown above (like why does Wheelie already have an Autobot insignia on him before he runs into Grimlock and Hot Rod and Kup? What the hell is the Quintesson monkey-court all about? Why can an EXPLODED Ultra Robert Stack be fixed up while a fully intact Optimus is just left rusting on a mechanic's rack? Why is the Autobot Matrix the only thing that can defeat Unicron? And how the fuck does the monster planet even know about this strange weakness?).
Yeah, this is a movie aimed at kids, but that doesn't mean that it should forsake all logic and just show us random images of things going *BOOM*. That's just sloppy writing. Children's movies should be as logically sound as movies aimed at adults, just without as much adulty things in them. Granted, sometimes errors happen in plot and editing, but I honestly could have written an entire page on the silly things that happened in this flick that don't make any sense to my adult mind... But that's not the point of this page, so I shall move on.
Also, as I stated earlier, the violence (as nightmare inducing as it was to kids in the mid-80s) was actually toned down for the final film. In the original script (well, at least in the one I remember reading) Autobots died even more viciously than they did in the movie's final form. Ratchet and Ironhide were shot so much and heated up by the lasers that they fused together before exploding, and Robert Stacknus was literally drawn and fucking quartered by the Sweeps instead of simply falling apart in a weird explosion. Seriously, they had the second Autobot leader in this movie drawn and fucking quartered. That is so fucking horrible.
Anyway, the story of this seemingly never-ending robot battle finally stepping up and concluding things in a grand way could have been a very well-scripted narrative, if the writers were allowed to write what they wanted with the characters they (and the audience) knew from years of TV adventures. But just like the GI Joe Movie staff, their ideas were discounted because there weren't enough new toys to sell in the tale the writers wanted to push (and GI Joe: The Movie was originally planned to be a story of political belief systems, and NOT a tale about snake-people living in the Himalayas who want to turn all the humans on the planet into monkeys). I had read interviews where the Transformers: The Movie writers originally intended most of the action to take place on Cybertron, and for Optimus Prime to survive till the end of the movie, where he would open the Matrix — and sacrifice himself — to destroy an attacking Unicron. It was a much bigger final bow for Optimus, and the story of the Autobots and Decepticons actually working together against a larger threat sounded much more interesting than the same old cat and mouse chase that we did end up getting.
Well... The animation quality of The Transformers: The Movie is better than that of the television series.... But that ain't sayin' much. Yes, there's more frames per second, and yes, there are more shadows and shiny things in the movie, but overall — compared to other animated movies of the time — it's just not very good.
Sure, there are some amazing scenes in which you can see where the much larger budget actually produced some awe-inspiring results (mostly things like Unicron's introduction [and the consumption of that first planet that he chows down on], and the Optimus and Megatron fight), but the film's budget was still only something around $6million, when things like Disney's The Black Cauldron and The Little Mermaid (back when the House of the Mouse didn't really splurge on its feature animation projects anymore) had between $40 - $44million available per production. And TF's shoestring budget shows.
There are tons of instances of characters being drawn off-model. Grimlock in the second half of this flick turns almost chibi, with his dinosaur eyes taking up half of his head, and his arms shrinking and growing with every other painted cel, with one scene making him look like he has Popeye's forearms. And don't forget the one entire scene when Unicron was drawn as an entirely different robot. There are even more examples of plain old animation mistakes. For example, when Hot Rod rolls off the horizontal spike that he was hanging on after his ship crashed through Unicron's eye, part of his leg disappears, and it's clear that the part that is missing was supposed to be behind the spike, but somebody in the studio must have bumped the desk while the cels were being photographed, and then the Quality Assurance guy was just like "Meh, close enough."
Nitpicking the mistakes in a dinky movie's budget is like shooting monkeys in a barrel though. It's not so bad that these mistakes really harm the film (any more than any other issues in the plot or editing did), and the director and animators were forced to rush this movie to theaters in a record short amount of time, so I can cut them a lot of slack in that regard.
Characters are drawn off-model in animated movies all the time. The difference here is that instead of one quick frame of a larger hand, or a non-colored-in mouth, the drawing errors in TF:TM are on screen long enough for a child to notice them. Children usually gloss over this shit and just chalk it up to "That's just the way it is," but here, I noticed dozens of these kinds of errors during my initial viewing 30 years ago. Not that it hurts the movie all that much, but it does take you out of the storytelling a bit when you notice the glitches in the Matrix like this (pun intended).
And he bought a new helmet?