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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Transformers: the Movie (Nelson Shin, 1986)

Nostalgia can be a powerful tool, ask any child who grew up on this film and they'll tell you that crying when Optimus Prime died was our generation's 'hiding behind the sofa from the Daleks.'

Like its parent series TFTM is a shameless manipulative exercise in merchandising, killing old characters purely to make space for new ones fresh off the toy lines. With a darker and more cynical tone than the series, it also benefits from the increased budget, its animation far better than the cheapo TV shows and the soundtrack, a combination of wonderfully un-self-conscious power rock and Vince DiCola's industrial, electronic funk providing the perfect backing to this futuristic adventure.

Despite myriad flaws it is still hugely entertaining, flitting breathlessly between deftly-directed action sequences, juvenile humour and even a musical set piece with barely time for the flimsiest exposition. Obviously aimed at pre-teens with millisecond attention spans it's exhausting work; the pace never daring to slow down as galaxies are crossed in minutes while characters appear, die and are transformed into new ones while all the time chasing a series of mechanical macguffins until the final, spectacular showdown.

Were I not a fan of not only Transformers but also sci-fi and anime I doubt I'd give it a second glance, but the non-stop pace, wildly imaginative designs and sickly sanctimonious moral messages make it ideal as both children's film and a wonderful piece of retro-nostalgia.

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