Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye
Monday, November 15, 2004

Does anybody still remember those days when primetime cartoons would mean shows like G.I. Joe, The Real Ghostbusters and of course The Transformers?

The cartoons' basic premise is quite simple it tells of an age old power struggle between the inhabitants of the planet Cybertron. Among those two factions there are the good guys called the Autobots lead by a humanoid trailer-truck-cum-robot named Optimus Prime.

While the nasty ones are called Decepticons who are lead by Megatron who can transform into a gun which is often fired by his right hand robot Starscream or sometimes by Soundwave.

Well anyways it is a toy-line-inspired cartoon, derivative of "Star Wars" and designed onlyto sell toys to the kids. (I mean how many of us who've grown in the 80s did not have at least a single toy that transforms from a robot to another thing right?)

So as the story of the cartoon goes it would always end up to a point where the Decepticons would always be on the verge of gathering enough energon to recapture their planet Cybertron, but just in the nick of time the Autobots along with the help of their human cohorts namely Spike and Sparkplug would always be there to stop them. And on and on it went. There were no clear victories no casualties (though that would be attributed to this thing called "parachute syndrome" which is derived from the G.I. Joe TV series habit ofshowing parachuting pilots for every Cobra airplane that was shotdown, it was so because back then to show death in a children's cartoon might risk offendingparental watchdog groups. )

But all that changed when the Transformers: The Movie was released. Sunbow Productions, a premiere animation studio in Japan in cooperation with Hasbro launched this movie that starred our favorite Autbots and Decepticons into the silverscreen. Originally released in late 1986 the movie was a complete theatrical flop despite its impressive animation, which up to now could rival that of newer animes and its impressive voice cast which even included the late Orson Welles as well as Judd Nelson and Leonard Nimoy. Not to mention its impressive heavy metal soundtrack. Still the movie was not well recieved by a lot of people at the time.

In fact here in the Philippines it did not even make it into the movie houses it was merely shown sporadically along with GI Joe: The Movie on Christmas cartoon festivals or as fillers.

Fair enough the movie got me captivated after all I was a fan of the cartoon.

And the story goes a little something like this time jumps to eighteen years ahead into the future and finding out what happened to all our favoritecharacters years down the road. It starts with the planet Cybertron eventually landing into the hands of the Decepticons and its two moons controlled by the Autobots. It starts with an all out attack launched by the Decepticons on the Autobot's Earth base where a killing spree of characters happened wtih Optimus Prime taking the MVP of the characters that ended up dead after dueling to death with Megatron. But all is not about the conflict of the two robot factions another entity was added in the sheer mishmash of this cosmic war Unicron, a giant planet eating robotic entity has set his sight on Cybertron and is set on collision to devouring the said planet.

And so the movie goes along a lot of conflics introducing and killing a lot of characters along the way where in the end Cybertron would be claimed by the Autobots and their new leader would be a brash unkown transformer named Hot Rod (who never did ever appear on the cartoon series prior to the movie) who'll from now on be called Rodimus Prime.

Though a flop the film retained such credibility so as to establish the continuity of the Transformers Universe as something more than a cartoon used to market toys. It served as a testament that cartoons however silly it may appear to a lot of adults would also be capable of enthralling a lot of complex set of events and then be fused into a solid story that could rival the works of Tom Clancy and the like.

Come to think of it may very well be a derivative of "StarWars"...there were lightsabers, a female robot with a Princess Leiahairstyleish look, a giant sphere that destroyed planets, a saber duelbetween an old respected warrior and the evil bad guy...the warrior'sspirit speaking to the young warrior type and helping him win...okay,in some ways it was _very_ derivative of "Star Wars". All the same,it was a good story, quite action-packed, very exciting, andgripping to those of us of the right age to enjoy it.

Another is that it provided resolution to the seemingly never-ending battle of the Autobots & Decepticons. In the movie there was more than enough conflict, there was death, and there was resolution. It feltmore mature somehow to have the good guys take losses, and then blowthe bad guys away.

It signalled a new era for the cartoon where the story of the post-movie series would be set on Cybertron and its reconstruction instead of the repetitive stories which were set on Earth.

I know a lot of people would easily pick up Ghost In The Shell or Akira given the chance to chose between those two cartoons over The Transformers: The Movie but true enough it has carved itself with a very special mark on my childhood where it shows that nothing good can last (especially for the heroic Optimus Prime) and that all wars cost lives (in the movie's case it was the lives of Brawn, Ironhide, Ratchet, Prime and a whole lot more of others who've been eaten alive by Unicron.)

It is quite a good film especially if you have at one point in your life have come to have loved the cartoon.


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