The 1986 animated Transformers movie is a masterclass in storytelling. OK, that might be nostalgia talking but it is a hell of a lot of fun! However there are also plenty of unresolved plot points, character developments and other questions left hanging, so that’s what we’re looking at today!
Oh and yes, some of them can be explained away with real world answers (yawn), but we’ve tried to treat this from a storyline perspective as much as possible. It goes without saying that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for the whole of the movie!
#18: Where’s Snarl?
Let’s get started with one of the more talked about questions that fans have about this film – where is Snarl? The fifth Dinobot is missing for the majority of the story, sitting out the attack on Autobot City, the Quintessa sequence and even the final battle against Unicron. Weirdly though he does appear on Earth just before the Autobots make their escape, and again in the cockpit of the Quintesson ship stolen by Hot Rod and Kup before they land on the Planet of Junk. However, these are blink-and-you’ll-miss them appearances that suggest they’re little more than animation errors. So where was he?
#17: Why did Optimus give the Matrix to Ultra Magnus?
Look, Ultra Magnus is a solid dude. He’s dependable, loyal, brave… but even he admits he’s not an obvious choice to be given the Matrix of Leadership after Optimus Prime dies. Add to this the Matrix seems to choose Hot Rod and that Optimus can later be heard giving his approval to the new leader as he finally takes on his destiny as Rodimus Prime and it all makes us wonder why Magnus was picked to begin with. Perhaps Optimus knew that Hot Rod just wasn’t quite ready yet and needed to go through the coming journey in order to step up as leader, or perhaps Magnus was just the only solid choice at the time, but who knows?
#16: How did the Decepticons conquer Cybertron?
At the beginning of the film it’s explained the Autobots have been banished from their homeland and the Decepticons are in a place of total dominion. But how did this come to pass? When last we saw Cybertron two decades prior in continuity the planet was deserted and seemingly of little strategic use to either faction. So what changed? If nothing else, this development and the establishment of Autobot City on Earth make for exciting storytelling possibilities, which has led some fans to wish that a “season 2.5” existed to chart the events of this twenty year time span.
#15. Who are Cyclonus & Scourge?
Oh boy, this debate! Fans have spent years discussing which members of Megatron’s fallen Decepticon army were chosen by Unicron to become Galvatron’s new henchmen, but it doesn’t seem as if anyone will ever agree! The animation itself makes it pretty clear that Thundercracker is reformatted into Scourge (with Kickback and Sharpnel being turned into Sweeps), whilst Bombshell is turned into Cyclonus and Skywarp into his “armada” (more on that in a moment!). However some fans don’t like this interpretation, mostly because they seem to prefer the idea of cool guy Skywarp becoming Cyclonus whilst also arguing that one of the Insecticons would make a logical choice for Scourge as their cloning ability would allow for creating more Sweeps. So which is it? You decide.
#14. What happened to Cyclonus’ armada?
Following on from the previous point, perhaps a bigger question is what is going on with Cyclonus’ “armada”? The duplicate Decepticon warrior is seen only once, in the creation scene with Unicron, and then is never referred to again. The scene seems to portray “armada” as being akin to Scourge’s Sweeps, just an identical but subservient copy of the original, although the fact that he then vanishes has always made this a bit of an intriguing loose end. Was he destroyed in battle? Or was this just a random story idea that was dropped and quickly forgotten?
#13. Where were the other combiners?
Lots of stuff that happens in the 1986 movie can be explained away behind-the-scenes because of obvious real world influence, and this is certainly true when wondering why the already-established combiner teams don’t appear in the big battle of Autobot City (or indeed anywhere else in the story!). Fact is, the film was in development for some time before those characters were introduced in the cartoon, so the production process did not allow for their inclusion. But that doesn’t mean the notable absences of Superion, Defensor, Bruticus and Menasor aren’t still a little jarring to the story, especially when these characters would go on to appear prominently in season 3 of the cartoon. Whilst this plot point was eventually addressed in IDW’s comic adaptation of the film some twenty years later, showing that the missing teams were fighting over the Ark, as far as the movie itself goes they’re MIA.
#12. What happened to the rest of the Autobots on Earth?
Transformers fans are pretty used to the rather casual way the fiction can quickly drop established characters in favour of new ones – after all, it’s all about selling new toys, isn’t it? Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the 1986 movie, as almost the entire season 1 and 2 cartoon cast are given short shrift and with many not appearing at all! We know that a lot of them die at some point during the story, with Autobots such as Huffer even being confirmed as deceased later in the cartoon. However characters including the likes of Sunstreaker, Hound and Bluestreak all simply vanish without trace. Interestingly, there were ideas scripted for scenes designed to tie up these characters’ fates but they were all cut, leaving us wondering what happened to them.
#11. How were Sunstreaker & Hound onboard the shuttle?
There are several characters who have the knack of appearing in multiple places at once in this film, but none of them are quite as obvious or as jarring as Sunstreaker and Hound. The two Autobots can first be clearly scene with Kup on Earth (see above!), before then being visible arriving in the shuttle from Cybertron with Optimus Prime. Yes, it’s clearly just a storytelling error, but still it leaves us scratching our heads a bit!
#10. How did Wheeljack & Windcharger die?
I don’t think any one animation still from the 1986 movie is quite as haunting as this one. The sight of Wheeljack and Windcharger’s corpses lying discarded in the ruins of Autobot City is ruthlessly chilling, but what happened to them? Given how prominent they were in the cartoon up until this point, Wheeljack especially, it seems odd from a storytelling perspective to have them simply discarded off-screen, leaving us wondering how they met their tragic fate. RIP.
#9. Where did Blaster go?
Blaster isn’t in the movie much, but boy does he put in a memorable appearance! The scene between him and Perceptor is definitely one of the most oft-quoted portions of the story, and he’s then seen again in the aftermath of the battle picking up the signal from Jazz & Cliffjumper. After that he completely disappears though, leading us to assume he just didn’t board the shuttles with the other Autobots to escape Earth. So where did he go?
#8. Did Astrotrain betray Megatron?
Categorise this one under extreme fan theory, but viewers have often questioned if the triple-changing Decepticon was guilty of treason on account of one line of dialogue – “Jettison some weight, or I’ll never make it to Cybertron!” Fact is, there would be no need to get rid of weight in space, given the lack of gravity, so what gives? Many fans have leapt to assume this means that Astrotrain was somehow in league with Starscream and used it as an excuse to throw the fallen Decepticons out into space. Too far? Well, you decide.
#7. Where did Cybertron’s moons come from?
We don’t spend tons of time on Cybertron in the first two seasons of the cartoon, but still there’s no evidence of the planet having any moons from what we do see of it. Besides, even if there were, how would they have survived when Cybertron was temporarily transported into Earth’s orbit (don’t ask) in The Ultimate Doom? Anyway, there they are at the start of the movie, leaving us to wonder where they came from. Were they new creations by the Autobots when setting up their “secret staging grounds”? But why would the Decepticons allow such a thing?
#6. How did Galvatron get to Earth so quickly?
This one isn’t so obvious until you’re randomly rewatching the movie one day and notice how squiffy the timeline becomes at certain points in the narrative. Consider this: Galvatron is on Cybertron as he witnesses Unicron destroying both of Cybertron’s moons. At this same time, the Autobots on those moons are communicating via video link with Ultra Magnus on Earth. Immediately after Unicron is finished he orders Galvatron to head to Earth, and the Decepticons then arrive very quickly Ultra Magnus has finished his conversation with Spike & Bumblebee. So how did they make it there so fast?
#5. How did Wheelie end up on Quintessa?
OK maybe no-one is really asking this one! Still, given that he appears out of absolutely nowhere to lend a hand to the Dinobots on Quitnessa, one might question where Wheelie came from and how he ended up on the Quintesson’s homeworld to begin with. Perhaps they could make a spin-off saga to portray his adventures prior to the movie! Any takers? Anyone?
EDIT: Seems you can read about this epic adventure in the essential tie-in picture book!
#4. How did the crew of the Junkion ship survive?
Another question that can be easily filled in with “head canon” but just isn’t explained within the storyline of the movie itself. During the battle with Unicron it’s shown that Ultra Magnus and Perceptor have hitched a ride with Wreck Gar aboard the Junkion ship. However that ship is crushed pretty badly by Unicron and then thrown into deep space. Yet at the end of the film all three characters are alive and well on Cybertron. So how did they survive?
#3. Didn’t Unicron destroy the Coneheads?
In comparison to the previous point this example does show characters being killed off, but doesn’t explain how they’re then alive again later on! In this case all three Coneheads are seemingly obliterated by Unicron’s mouth, only to then appear in season 3 of the cartoon as if nothing had happened. So how did they survive?
#2. What happened to Shockwave?
The last time we see Shockwave in the movie is when he’s ordering the Decepticon residents on Cybertron to “scramble” after being attacked by Unicron. He’s then never seen again in the cartoon continuity, leaving many to believe that he died during the battle. Even more intriguingly, his death was storyboarded in a scene where Unicron crushes the building he’s inside of, but given this isn’t shown in the finished feature it leaves us wondering what happened to him.
#1. How long did Ultra Magnus have his legs on the wrong way round?
Seriously, this is important stuff! Were the Junkions just punking him or what?
So, that’s our list! Do you agree with our choices? Let us know if not and of course feel free to suggest your own!