Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Transformers: the Movie (1986)

My boyfriend made me watch this movie. While enjoying Transformers in its Saturday morning incarnation back in the day, any bloom had long since faded with the onset of more sophisticated passions like Batman: the Animated Series. "This movie is interesting from a historical perspective," he said, and I paraphrase. So I watched it.

It wasn’t the unmitigated disaster I’d prepared myself for. True, the plot is stupid and hardly worth paying attention to. The last half has the Autobot team broken into different groups with predictably different levels of interest to the view, so you have to slog through a bunch of inexplicable action scenes to get what you really want. Which is a planet-eating robot.

Yes, the voice of Orson Welles, personified in large part by a giant ball and gaping, sharp-toothed maw, is Unicron, and by far the most interesting piece of this mostly-disposable puzzle. Like the Death Star only less efficient but more scary, Unicron’s universe-weary world-swallowing arouses a kind of pity for a being who can only survive through the absolute destruction of life. Was he always this way? Does he resent what he’s become? Is this the price of some youthful hubris? And where did he get the power to turn Megatron into Leonard Nimoy?

It’s fitting that Welles’ penultimate performance was as a pitiable behemoth, a power-drunk yet directionless machine. Once you eat planets and command the minds of all around you, where is there to go but down? Combined with his aborted performance in a Paul Masson wine commercial, this film offers a portrait of a great man just before the end, with a memorable final scene which should stand in testament to the man for eternity.

No more need be said about a film in which the only differences between the Autobots and the Decepticons seem to be their screechy voices, evil name, and inability to ever get along long enough to kill anyone. Long live Unicron.

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