Transformers the Movie turned 30 years old on Monday. I want to write something about the Transformers to celebrate that idea. But then I realized that I’ve already written a bunch of things about the Transformers already:
How when the movie originally came out, I couldn’t go during opening weekend. And it disappeared from our theater before the next weekend (stupid small town theater!).
Or how issue #4 of the comic was the first comic I ever bought.
Or how Michael Bay won’t get me to watch another of his movies, even if they have Dinobots in them!
Or even discussing the proper way to “play transformers” (and no, they don’t play “Friends”).
The thing about Transformers is that it kind of replaced Star Wars for me after Jedi had come and gone. Maybe there was some aspect of the engineer in me wanting to come out as I transformed certain characters from car to robot and back to car again. But when there was really no other outlet to interact with Star Wars anymore (remember, this is still the better part of a decade before the Zahn books even show up).
This was crazy space battles. And crazy Earth battles. And planets which could destroy other planets (granted it wasn’t a laser beam from a Death Star, but by being eaten by Unicron).
Good and evil fighting things out until the end of everything.
But here’s the thing, without the movie I would have still loved the show. Heck, it took years for me to even see the movie. However, there was something about the idea there could even be a theatrical release of a children’s cartoon. GI Joe didn’t manage that. He Man did, but it was a live action. The less we talk about that, the better things will be for all of us.
My show got a movie. Not only that, but it advanced the storyline. Characters lived and died and underwent complete changes. After the movie, I remember the GI Joe TV movie where some things changed, and we got Surpentor. Or the Thundercats “movie” where they introduced other villains and other survivors for the characters to interact with.
And maybe all those things were in the works for a long time previous. To my 10 year old self, it meant that Transformers was pushing the envelop in story-telling. That thing we all kind of take for granted from television today: serialization.
But it didn’t just start with the movie, the show had done some of that kind of thing before. Obviously it was to sell toys, but they’d introduce the Dinobots, then many episodes later there would be two more Dinobots, and then maybe they got their own episode. The characters might not change at all from episode to episode, but the world was definitely getting a little bigger than it had been before.
When one season ended and the next began, so it meant we’d be seeing newer Transformers. We’d have new favorites to cheer for and against.
What the movie really did was super-charge things. Where the transition from season 1 to season 2 might have meant less screen time for your old favorites, they were still there. After the movie, the slate had been cleared for a whole new generation of Autobots and Decepticons to continue fighting this never-ending war. Again the world got bigger (suddenly we had a whole universe to fight over rather than simply remaining on Earth).
Death had come to the Transformers.
It was a big deal to me. As big a deal as Vader’s revelation to Luke at the end of Empire. Optimus Prime was dead (and again, realize I had to have friends describe exactly what happened since I couldn’t see the movie. It would be like trying to dissect the Zapruder Film with only someone else’s word to let you know exactly what had happened). Someone else was the leader (who the heck does this Rodimus Prime think he is anyway?). Starscream was gone (and thought dead as well – say it ain’t so!).
Lil’ John McGuire’s world was sufficiently rocked by all of this. And then I bought the soundtrack, and Stan Bush rocked me a little more.
Now, I have to admit, I haven’t seen the movie in a long time. I have no doubt it won’t necessarily hold up to my standards today. It is sitting over there on the shelf… and my nephew is coming to town this weekend. I wonder what he’d think of it…
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!
And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.