Written by Ron Friedman
Directed by Nelson Shin
"But one day... an Autobot shall rise from our ranks... and use the power of the Matrix to light our darkest hour."
In 2005, a monster planet known as Unicron is making its way through the galaxy, devouring any planets in its path. It consumes the world of Lithone; only a few straggling survivors manage to escape. It then turns toward Cybertron...
On Cybertron, the Decepticons are in control. The Autobots, operating from Moon Base One and Two (orbiting Cybertron), are planning to retake their home world. Optimus Prime sends Ironhide and a crew in a shuttle to Autobot City on Earth to gather enough energon to power their assault. But the Decepticons get wind of this, and attack the shuttle, destroying Ironhide and his crew. They use the ship as a cover to slip into Autobot City air space and attack.
Hot Rod and Daniel Witwicky, Spike's son, notice there is a hole in the shuttle when it arrives; Hot Rod fires upon it, forcing the Decepticons out. Inside the city, Ultra Magnus leads the Autobot defenses. As Springer and Arcee transform the city to battle station mode, Perceptor finds Blaster and orders him to send a distress signal to Optimus Prime. Blurr helps Ultra Magnus alert the remaining Autobots, but Hot Rod and Kup, as well as Daniel, are trapped outside the city, until the Insecticons helpfully gnaw a hole through the defenses.
Devastator and the rest of Megatron's forces break through the Autobot defenses. Just then Optimus arrives in a shuttle with the Dinobots, who keep Devastator busy. Prime confronts Megatron in a decisive battle, but when Megatron tries to pull a hidden gun on Prime while feigning defeat, Hot Rod jumps him. Megatron turns the tables and uses Hot Rod as a shield, blasting away at Optimus. Prime can't fire for fear of hitting Hot Rod, and falls. When Megatron approaches for the final blow, Prime responds with a mighty uppercut that sends Megatron flying. With Megatron defeated, the Decepticons scoop up their fallen leader and the rest of their wounded and retreat aboard Astrotrain.
Optimus Prime's wounds are fatal; on his deathbed, he prepares to transfer the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus. Weakening, he drops the Matrix; Hot Rod catches it and feels an affinity with it for a moment. Magnus stores the Matrix in his chest. Unicron, meanwhile, watches events from afar...
Astrotrain heads for Cybertron, but needs to jettison some weight. Starscream elects to toss the injured, including Megatron, into space; none of the wounded are in any condition to object. Megatron and the others drift through space helplessly until Unicron summons them before him. He proposes to give Megatron a new body and new troops, and in return Megatron must find and destroy the Matrix, the one thing capable of stopping Unicron. At first Megatron refuses, but when faced with a choice between that or oblivion, Megatron agrees. Unicron transforms him into Galvatron, and works his magic on the other Decepticons as well, creating Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Sweeps.
Back on Cybertron, Starscream's coronation ceremony is commencing. Just as he is crowned, Galvatron arrives and transforms into his powerful cannon mode. He fires on Starscream, disintegrating him. The remaining Decepticon forces unite under his command.
Meanwhile, Unicron is approaching Moon Base One, manned by Jazz and Cliffjumper. Outmatched, they attempt to escape while the moon is being devoured. Their ship is swallowed up along with the moon. Bumblebee and Spike, stationed on Moon Base Two, set a detonator before they , too, blast off. The Moon Base explodes, but Unicron is unaffected, and swallows up both the remains of the moon and the escape ship.
On Cybertron, Galvatron protests; Cybertron and its moons are, in his mind, rightfully his. Unicron responds by torturing Galvatron remotely, forcing Galvatron into submission. They head for Earth.
The Autobots, reacting to the loss of the Moon Bases and possibly the Autobots stationed there, are shaken our of their collective reverie by Galvatron's attack. The Autobots split into two units and take separate shuttles. Once in space, Cyclonus attacks Hot Rod and Kup's ship, sending them, along with the Dinobots, hurtling down toward an alien planet. Ultra Magnus and his crew are forced to detonate their ship, escaping aboard a life pod and making Galvatron believe he has destroyed them.
On Quintessa, Hot Rod finds himself separated from the others, battling underwater robotic beasts. He finds Kup, scattered on the aquatic floor in pieces, and reassembles him. Together they search for the Dinobots, but not before long, they encounter some indigenous robotic alligator creatures, who take them to a holding area. There they meet Kranix, one of the survivors of Lithone's destruction. He explains that the Quintessons rule this world, who try and execute anyone whom they come across. Kranix soon meets his fate in the courtroom's Sharkticon pool below.
Elsewhere, the Dinobots search for Hot Rod and Kup, but to no avail. They meet up with Wheelie, a feisty little rhyming Autobot who has seen where the Autobots were taken. He joins the Dinobots and leads them to the holding area...
Hot Rod and Kup are tried and sentenced to death in the Sharkticon pits. They transform, creating a whirlpool high enough to escape the pool, and fight off the endless masses of Sharkticons. Finally the Dinobots arrive and join the battle, finally turning the simple-minded Sharkticons against their Quintesson masters. Wheelie finds them an escape ship and they leave Quintessa to rendezvous with the others.
Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus's crew crashes on the Planet of Junk. They give Daniel a robotic exo-suit, and begin repairs to the life pod. Galvatron tracked them down, however, and destroys the remainder of the ship. While the rest of the Autobots flee, Magnus tries to unleash the powers of the Matrix upon the Decepticons. He can't open it; the Sweeps blast him into pieces and Galvatron vows to use the Matrix against Unicron.
When the Autobots return to find Ultra Magnus destroyed, all hope seems lost. Suddenly, out of the ground spring the Junkions, warriors made of junk themselves. They attack the Autobots (they were, after all, using junk from the planet to try to repair their ship), who flee once again. Just then Hot Rod's ship arrives, and Hot Rod befriends the Junkions. Their leader, Wreck-Gar, has his Junkions reassemble Ultra Magnus, and using the Quintesson cruiser and a Junkion ship, they go after Unicron.
Near Cybertron, Galvatron threatens to turn the Matrix against Unicron, but he can't open it either. Unicron responds by quaking and transforming to a gargantuan robot mode. He attacks Cybertron, taking chunks out of the planet's surface and sending the Decepticons scrambling to safety. Hot Rod flies the Quintesson ship right through one of Unicron's eyes, sending the Autobots tumbling down into Unicron's innards.
Daniel is swept away by a current and ends up in the chamber where Unicron's captured robots are melted down for fuel. His dad, as well as the other Autobots from the Moon Bases, are about to be dropped into the smelting vat. Using the exo-suit, he fires on the cover to the vat, shutting it just in time to save Spike and the Autobots.
Hot Rod, lost in Unicron's depths, seems to be guided by a mysterious force. He makes his way to Galvatron, who wears the Matrix around his neck on a chain. At first Galvatron tries to persuade Hot Rod to unite against Unicron, but Unicron tortures him again and turns Galvatron against Hot Rod. They engage in battle, but Galvatron is the stronger of the two. Galvatron wraps his hands around Hot Rod's neck, but just as the life seems squeezed out of him, the Matrix responds for Hot Rod. It causes him to grow in size and strength, turning him into Rodimus Prime. Rodimus throws Galvatron through Unicron's walls, sending him hurtling into space. He then opens the Matrix and releases its power to destroy Unicron.
The Autobots reclaim Cybertron, beginning a new age of peace under Rodimus Prime's leadership... "till all are one!"
The movie was released in the summer of 1986 nationwide. In 1989, it was broken down into five television episodes and aired during the fifth season of Transformers.
The film was also adapted by Marvel into a three-issue mini-series, working from the original script. Several scenes and lines of dialogue were cut, but a few scenes made it into the comic adaptation that were cut from the finished 86-minute film.
The character of Unicron was actor Orson Welles' last role before his death.
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