Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Alternators Nemesis Prime

There is a universal constant in the world of TransFormers: Any mold used for Optimus Prime will, sooner or later, be painted black and called Nemesis Prime (or Scourge). And thus it was with the Dodge Ram Alternator. Even before it got its official Binaltech release as Optimus Prime (first in the dubious and bonkers Kiss Players line, then in the briefly relaunched Binaltech proper line), the Ram was recoloured in traditional Nemesis colours as an exclusive for the San Diego Comic Con... except it soon became apparent that it wasn't really that exclusive.

The Ram is a controversial mold - the bulky vehicle mode never quite jibed with the initial Binaltech concept of performance cars, the awkward and unwieldy robot mode has limited articulation in its stocky legs without significant 'surgery', and the arms are hindered by the honking great chunks of truck frontage stuck on the shoulders. In some ways, this works to Nemesis Prime's advantage in a way it didn't for Optimus. For one, he looks very powerful and imposing, and the use of minimal turquoise highlights on the all-black plastic serve to emphasise the overall darkness of the figure. The only let-down is the use of red-tinted clear plastic for the front and rear windscreens, which just looks unrealistic.

Vehicle Mode:
There's no denying that the Ram mold looks powerful - from the oversized front end and Viper-styled air intake on the bonnet, to the spoiler-tipped chunky pickup truck rear end. That it is a pickup truck makes it an odd choice for Optimus Prime, but a more natural choice for his Nemesis clone. You'd never expect the evil version of a hero to be his equal in every respect, so the downgrade works.

The powerful look - and the simple fact that it is a pickup truck - takes this mold off on a significant tangent to the rest of the Binaltech/Alternators line, previously populated mainly by sportscars (OK, the Toyota Bb had been a bit of a tangent already). It was after the Ram that more 'sensible' cars, like the Honda Civic, came in.

Everything you'd expect from a model of the vehicle is there - the doors open, the seats move, the bed door opens, the bonnet opens... revealing the yawning chasm that is the engine compartment. As a direct result of the transformation mechanics, the space beneath the bonnet is just that - space. It doesn't look that good, and the fact that the engine/weapon just sits there, barely held in place, does nothing to improve things. Also, while the wing mirrors are chromed (unusual enough for the Alternators), the truck's break light (a bar just above the rear windscreen) has been completely missed - an oversight corrected in the Japanese Wonderfest Exclusive Binaltech version.

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Robot Mode:
This thing immediately looks evil. Something about it just doesn't seem right for Optimus Prime, even in his traditional red, silver and blue colourscheme... But in black, it somehow works.

It still has the problems of limited arm articulation and stumpy-looking legs - the (very short) thighs are completely obscured by the crotch plate) and the lower legs are just too large, both in length and girth. The whole looks disproportionate - massive shins, massive chest, massive shoulders... with the dinky little arms and a head so proportionally small, it's almost not there.

The colour scheme is a bit more varied in this mode - a minuscule amount of grey is added, and the turquoise highlights come into play. Overall... he kind of looks bland. It's an overload of black... and since it's unpainted black plastic, it lacks punch.

Also, unfortunately, quality control wasn't quite up to par - many joints are loose, making it tricky to get any decent poses out of him. The overall look of the robot mode can be improved by not flipping down the crotch plate from the bonnet - this reveals the thighs and groin, and frees up the waist articulation, allowing for a little hip-swing, giving a more pronounced sense of movement to any pose.

The chunks of car sticking up from his shoulders seem to serve no useful purpose, and don't even look that good. Particularly, having the vehicle's doors sticking out at an angle just ads more width to a figure that already looks too wide for its height.

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Transformation is actually quite simple, complicated only by over-wound springs in the collapsing part of the leg (which make it hard to extend or collapse the legs), and the tendency of the front bumpers to fall off as they're twisted into position. The arms can be tricky to fold back when transforming to vehicle mode, but they tend to loosen up with use.

This was hardly the Binaltech/Alternator line's finest hour, and I have to admit I was expensively stung twice by this particular mold. Having bought the Alternators Optimus Prime version, I felt compelled to get Nemesis Prime, despite the SDCC exclusivity premium... then, when the Wonderfest Binaltech version came along, I was equally compelled to get that, despite its prohibitive (eBay-inflated) price tag. When I come to review that, I'll go into detail about the defects of the one I bought (one serious quality control issue) but, suffice it to say, I regretted buying that... and my disappointment over the Binaltech version has eaten away at any positive things I ever felt for the Alternator version. Cheaper it may have been, but it looks cheaper - black plastic lacks the lustre and depth of painted die-cast.

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