Way back in the waning summer of 1986, my parents dropped me and a friend off to see Transformers: The Movie. They had no idea my soul was about to be crushed. I was 8 years old at the time. I had no clue that some of my favorite characters were about to be unceremoniously executed.
In an early scene, five major heroic Autobots from the series (including my personal favorite, Ironhide) are killed when the Decepticons hijack their space shuttle. Imagine my heartbreak when my favorite character (and toy!) begged for his life before the Decepticon leader Megatron aimed his cannon and sneered, “Such heroic nonsense.” The scene ends with Megatron blasting Ironhide in the face, killing him.
You know, for kids!
Of course, the immensely popular Transformers cartoon that debuted in 1984 never killed a single character. Pint-sized fans had watched the show for two years without even suspecting a favorite toy was on the chopping block. However, with Transformers: The Movie, all bets were off.
The first act alone is something of a mass culling of the series’ most familiar Transformers. During the Decepticon’s attack on Autobot City, Wheeljack and Windcharger are shown simply dead, killed off-screen. Several Decepticons are injured beyond repair and jettisoned into space.
The Most Disturbing Transformers Death
Still, the most damaging blow to thousands of kids across America was when Optimus Prime faced off with Megatron. Optimus (voiced by a fatherly Peter Cullen) seemed to be turning the tide on the attack on Autobot City. Set to the 80’s hair-metal ballad “You’ve Got the Touch” the heroic Autobot leader effortlessly dispatched a slew of Decepticons before squaring off with his arch-rival, Megatron (played by the iconic voice actor Frank Welker).
During the course of the battle, Optimus is damaged in ways he’d never been in the TV series. His stomach is sliced open with a jagged piece of metal, then further aggravated with a laser sword. Megatron blasts Optimus repeatedly in the chest with a plasma cannon. The heroic Autobot musters all of his strength, delivering a crushing blow to Megatron. They both slump to the ground, damaged like never before.
Don’t worry kids, Optimus Prime is a robot and can be repaired, right? Apparently not, as he dies in the following scene on the operating table. Complete with a heartbeat monitor flatlining (yes, Transformers have heartbeats now; just go with it), Optimus passes leadership to a brand new character (more on that later) before dying. The favorite toy of thousands of children’s usual vibrant red and blue colors fade to a death parlor grey. A funeral dirge composition plays.
The Probable Reason for So Many Character Deaths
Of course, adults who had shelled out major bucks for Transformer toys probably had a hunch about what was going on. The toymaker Hasbro was retiring all of the old characters to make way for new toys, which would be introduced in the film. Setting up new heroes (Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus, and Arcee) and villains (Galvatron) in the big screen debut of the Transformers ensured that the 1986 line of toys would be a hit.
To their credit, realized the error of their ways. After fan outcry, Optimus Prime was resurrected at the end of season three of the series. Still, the tears had already dropped, and the fanboy therapy sessions continue to this day.
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