movie buff

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 May, 2007, 12:00am


What: Transformers are robots from the distant planet of Cybertron.

After searching the galaxy for new energy sources, they end up on prehistoric Earth. They run out of power and switch off.

Four million years later, in 1984, the robots find themselves active again when a volcano erupts.

They discover they can modify their body into vehicles, airplanes and various gadgets to adapt to life on Earth.

How: Transformers began life as a line of Japanese toys in the 1970s. These were later released around the world in the 1980s.

The toy series blossomed into a lucrative franchise thanks to the then-popular three-pronged marketing approach: create a new line of toys and then promote it via tie-in comic books and animation series.

The good guys: The Autobots. Their leader is the charismatic and iconic Optimus Prime, who can transform into a semi-trailer truck.

Prime is a pacifist armed with a laser rifle and an energy axe. Inside his chest hides a talisman known as the Creation Matrix, which will be passed down to the next Autobot leader if he dies.

Prime actually dies on several occasions, but is always resurrected to feature in later animation episodes.

The coolest Autobots are the Dinobots - a group who can transform into robotic dinosaurs.

They were created by the Autobots after the latter discovered fossilised dinosaur bones in in the volcano.

Their leader is Grimlock, a fiercely independent and powerful T-rex who refuses to take orders from other Autobots.

The villains: The Decepticons. They are led by Megatron, who can transform into a Walther P38 pistol - the handgun used by the Nazis during world war two. A ruthless leader, Megatron's most powerful weapon is a cannon attached to his arm.

Megatron tries to drain Earth of its resources. But his plan is thwarted by Prime, who preaches the ideology of peaceful co-existence.

The relationship between Megatron and Prime is typical John Woo material - both are strong leaders who could easily have been friends if not for their opposing ideologies.

The movie: The 1986 animated movie is set in 2005. It begins with a battle on Earth between the Autobots and Decepticons.

Watching it now will serve as appetiser before the new live-action Transformers movie, directed by Michael Bay, hits our screens in July.

The animation was shocking to many children in the 80s. It was much darker and more violent than any of the preceding TV series had been. The robots acted like soldiers at war, slaughtering each other without hesitation.

Prime is killed by Megatron in the movie. But the character was revived in later TV episodes after parents complained that the movie was upsetting for children. Further proof, surely, of the power of youth.