Transformers One Needs To Do One Thing The 1986 Movie Did Right To Win Back Fans

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

This week, the Transformers One trailer transformed and rolled out, giving fans a glimpse of what the upcoming CGI film (releasing September 13, 2024) will be like. Surprising nobody, the trailer has divided the fandom, and everyone has been swapping ideas about what should be in the film with all the passion of Kup telling his favorite war stories. As for us, we think the new film needs to channel the iconic 1986 animated movie by introducing the highest possible stakes to the story in order to win back old-school fans.

Transformers 1986 Movie

What kind of stakes am I talking about, exactly? If you’ve somehow not seen the original Transformers movie, it’s one that played for keeps by killing a heap of fan-favorite characters, including Optimus Prime.

Other characters were transformed (notably, Megatron becomes Galvatron), and we see our Autobot protagonists band together in order to fight Unicron, an ancient evil who threatens to devour Cybertron and, if left unchecked, the rest of the cosmos.

The Darkness Meant A Compelling Story

Certainly, some fans think that the first Transformers film is a little too dark: for example, witnessing Prime die was one of the most traumatic events in cinematic history. And seeing it on the big screen was a traumatic event that an entire generation of fans will never forget.

Still, that darkness went hand-in-hand with telling a compelling story that was equally unforgettable. Scary scenes like Megatron inflicting fatal wounds on Optimus Prime early in the film ultimately made Galvatron’s defeat at the hands of Rodimus Prime a moment worth standing up and cheering for.

Too Much Laughter?

transformers one

All of that brings me to my biggest concern about Transformers One. I don’t begrudge the trailer for having a new joke every few seconds. It’s obvious they want this to be like the breakout Marvel comedic hit a la Thor: Ragnarok, right down to casting Chris Hemsworth as Optimus Prime.

However, the trailer spent so much time trying to make us laugh that we are left with no idea who or what the threat is that our protagonists are fighting or what makes that threat so dangerous.

Setting The Right Tone

To understand my concerns, it’s helpful to take a look at the original teaser trailer for the 1986 film. While it doesn’t name Unicron, the literal first thing you see in that trailer is Unicron ominously flying through space.

The opening narration then tells us how the Decepticons have taken over Cybertron, forcing the Autobots to become rebels fighting for their homeland.

We see plenty of dramatic action scenes (including Starscream holding a smoking gun after killing an Autobot and much of Optimus Prime and Megatron’s epic fight) and the teaser ends with Prime’s foreboding voice talking about the need to “light our darkest hour.”

Beautiful, But Nothing More?

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By comparison, the Transformers One trailer begins with a silly joke and never eases up with its humorous tone. By the time it’s over, it’s not really clear what threat our heroes are facing or what the stakes are supposed to be.

We’re left with a beautiful-looking trailer, but unless you’re really jazzed (no offense, Jazz) about the aesthetics or prequel setting, there isn’t much to get excited about in this teaser.

Aimed For Younger Audiences?

transformers one

At this point, some of you are likely pointing your G1 Megatron in gun form at me and screaming that the Transformers One movie is clearly aimed at younger audiences (a la Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem). I shouldn’t expect it to be a very serious affair.

However, having high stakes and a bone-chilling villain didn’t keep the 1986 film from being funny…pretty much everything involving Grimlock or the Junkions, for example, was meant to make us laugh. That movie managed to find a perfect balance between humor and high stakes, and right now, it doesn’t look like Transformers One will be doing that.

Transformers One Needs Stakes

transformers one

Of course, I’d love to be wrong, and if the trailer’s endless jokes aren’t representative of the film, we might get the kinds of high-stakes film that manages to win back jaded G1 fans.

Without those stakes, though, we’re left with nothing more than a CGI story doing a bad job of trying to make us laugh. Honestly, if I wanted more of that, I’d just go re-watch the Beast Wars episode where Rhinox saves the day by literally farting on the bad guys.