Sunday, 31 May 2009

Revenge of the Fallen Sideswipe

One of the first wave Deluxes from the new movie line is controversial for several reasons - not least that, while it's a popular character choice, the make and colour of his alternate mode don't match the G1 original, being more suited to another G1 character, Tracks. The design of his robot mode - particularly the animal-style legs and wheel feet - has given him a 'love him or loathe him' element and, for the record, I love it.

Vehicle Mode:
Who couldn't love the concept 2010 Corvette Stingray? Stylish curves, sleek angles, and the curious trademark split rear window give it the look of a 'Car of the Future' from early sci-fi movies. The front end looks like certain iterations of the Batmobile from the comics, while the back end seems to be displaying a strange sort of smile beneath its big, blue eyes. I'm not sure how comfortable it would be to drive one of these, because it seems so low, and has such a shallow angle to its windscreen, but it cannot be denied that this is an incredible car design. In terms of details, there isn't a great deal there - the whole point of a car like this is to be as smooth and featureless as possible... but the Chevrolet flags are visible (though unpainted) on the nose of the car, and the Stingray motif is molded on the back end, and on either side, just in front of the doors. The smooth lines of the car are somewhat interrupted by the seams which transformation necessitates, and some parts don't necessarily fit together quite so snugly after transforming him back and forth, but it fits together quite well, considering its size and complexity. One neat feature is the inclusion of the wing mirrors, molded in rubber to prevent the breakage of such delicate pieces.

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Robot Mode:
Controversial, as mentioned. I have to say, robot mode would have suited Tracks better - the design of the head bears more than a passing resemblance to the vain Generation 1 Autobot. Given a repaint in blue, with a white head and red face, he'd be bang on. The 'swords', when retracted, might just about pass for wings if the honking great slabs of car shell hanging off his back didn't. Oddly enough, a red repaint of this figure has already been announced, but has been given a new head and a new name to go with it. I wouldn't be surprised if some fans have already done G1-inspired repaints of this one, both as Sideswipe and Tracks... Possibly even Cheetor, considering the similarities between Movie Sideswipe and the designs for TransTech Cheetor...

The wheel feet don't present such a balance issue as one might think... at least not if properly arranged. Many of the photos out on the interwebs have the feet rotated so that the car's front corners are 'toes', but this is wrong: they're meant to be rotated up as far as possible, so the smaller pieces of the car's side act as 'heels', making it look from most angles as though Sideswipe is balanced on his wheels. While either way doesn't fit the designs perfectly (the 'toe' pieces are far too large and obvious), it's a decent compromise considering this is only a Deluxe sized toy.

The articulation is pretty good, considering the construction of the legs and the lack of movement in the arms (shoulder ball joint, 2-point pinned elbows with very limited swing), and balance can be improved, if necessary, my using one of the swords creatively.

The only real downsides to this model are the sheer size of the car panels hanging off the back (one half of the bonnet each side) and the flimsy clip that's supposed to hold the chest in place, but doesn't. Gluing on a bit more plastic might help, but might also make it too difficult to pull apart. Transformation is actually quite simple, only made complicated by the large panels and the difficulty of getting the sword/car sides to line up properly when going back to car mode.

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Mech Alive:
Not really much on offer here. Sideswipe's swords are geared such that one need only rotate one half for the other to move along with it, and the blue plates on his knees push out as the knees are bent. Also, pistons at his hips and on the backs of his legs, move in a reasonably believable way.

Compare and Contrast:

Back in the days of Generation 1, Sideswipe was a Lamborghini Countach, still a beautiful, sharp and sporty car today. Obviously not GM, though, and many European car manufacturers are reluctant to license their cars for toy ranges (and movies) like this. The choice of the new Corvette Stingray is reasonably fitting (would have suited Tracks better, but I can't complain), but the change in colour seems more than a little strange. The car would look fantastic in red, but I guess GM got to choose such things. Corvettes seem to draw the short straw when it comes to paint jobs... When Binaltech Tracks was first released, he was painted yellow. Obviously 2009's engineering and articulation are far in advance of that offered in 1984 (possibly a few years earlier, considering Sideswipe was originally from the Diaclone line), and I'll have to wait till I've seen the movie to say with any certainty whether or not Sideswipe works well in his new form.

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