Sunday, 18 July 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Mixmaster

After the first live-action TransFormers movie, the fan community was all a-flutter about the possibilities for the future. Would there be Dinobots? Would there be gestalts? Would there be... Devastator?

And while the toys made of RotF Devastator have, by and large, been rather disappointing (the Supreme Class one doesn't give its components individual robot modes, not that the movie suggested Devastator's components even had them; the Legends Class one is not terrible, but is less poseable than its Supreme Class big brother), the toys of the characters who inevitably got labelled 'Constructicons' have been pretty good. Since it's not completely certain that these Constructicons are the ones that form Devastator - in fact, the presentation of the movie suggests that they are definitely not, but this could just be more bad editing as the movie is quite famously a complete jumble - it seems odd that they were given the names of G1 Constructicons... but, then, we all know how much the fans like their G1 characters and names...

And so, we come to RotF Mixmaster - true to the G1 roots, he's a cement mixer in his alternate mode... but this version is a triple-changer (kinda), and seems noteable more for his BFG than his chemical-mixin' ways.

Vehicle Mode:
It's a cement mixer. 'Nuff said. Well, actually, perhaps not. There has been a tradition with TransFormers cement mixers... that the barrel is free-rolling, and is not an active part of the character's transformation. RotF Mixmaster breaks this tradition and, honestly, I'm glad of it. I was initially disappointed that the barrel didn't rotate but, facing facts, it's hardly important in this toy, and a similar tack might have improved several other transforming cement mixers in past lines (I'm looking at you, Cybertron Quickmix). Frankly, this is the most detailed and well-realised cement mixer vehicle mode I've yet seen - all it's missing is a barrel-tilting action, to give the impression that cement could actually pour through it's fold-away, ball-jointed spout.

Some of the parts are made from very soft plastic but, since they're all sticky-out bits, like the wing mirros and the ladder on the back, it probably made sense - they'd be the parts most likely to snap off if they were made from rigid plastic.

The paint job is broadly excellent, but the unpainted plastic - particularly the beige chunks at the back and the front grille - is rather disappointing. A touch more silver here and there would have been very welcome. That said, that'd leave the customisers with nothing to do...

One final point - part of me had hoped for some attempt at replicating movie Mixmaster's Decepticon-emblem-faced-dog hood ornament... but all we get is a disappointing block in its place. Maybe the likes of Reprolabels will produce a sticker to cover it.

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Robot Mode:
I must confess that I'm loving the strange, inhuman forms of the movie franchise robots. Nothing says "giant alien robot" like Starscream's animal legs, Rampage's springy snake-like jackhammer, Demolishor's wheels, or Mixmaster's long, spindly arms. Despite the fact that movie Bonecrusher was most certainly not a construction vehicle, it's good to see that some design elements are common between the Decepticons named after G1 Constructicons. Bonecrusher and Mixmaster are incredibly similar in style - skinny, hunched bodies, insectoid heads... and, yes, those reaching, grabbing, multi-jointed arms. Mixmaster goes some way to proving that releasing Bonecrusher as a Deluxe only was a poor choice.

To be honest, I've never been quite sure what to do with those barrel panels... The instructions aren't exactly clear on the subject, and online photos are variable. I guess it's a case of playing about with them till you get them into a position you like, and then sticking with it.

Mixmaster looks awkward and gangly and, without G1's trademark barrel in robot mode, he has nowhere (obvious) to perform the chemical mixing from whence his name is derived. In its place, he has a rather large cannon sticking up out of his back and, in a bizarre twist, can transform into a gun emplacement to use it. I'll get round to photographing this mode eventually, but it ain't that convincing.

Neither, it must be said, is the truck cab hanging off his arse. The entire cab is a shell that covers his legs in vehicle mode, and it literally just pegs into his backside and sits there. The rear wheels, too, just hang off his arms, being as difficult to position in an aesthetically pleasing manner as his barrel panels.

The colour scheme in robot mode adds very little to the model - a few touches of a kind of warm metallic purple (contrasing the cold, faded purple of the Decepticon insignia on his shoulders, and much of the detail in the figure is lost to plain, unpainted, blandly-coloured plastic.

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Cannon Mode:
Erm. Right... This is one of those occasions when you look at an alleged alternate mode for a figure, then the movie's representation of that mode, and wonder if the toy happened first... Because this looks like someone gave up halfway through transforming the toy, then someone else looked at it and said "Hey, cool, Mixmaster can turn into a gun emplacement! Let's put that in the movie!"

There really is no way anyone can say this is a convincing third mode. It's like Mixmaster is frozen, mid-breakdancing belly-wriggle. His arms are obviously still his arms (albeit slightly better disguised by drum panels), his legs are obviously still his legs... I can't imagine what else these parts are supposed to look like, because they don't look like anything else. I like Mixmaster's cannon, and it's good that he can actually use it to fire forewards, but this between-modes explosion of parts cannot be considered a viable alternate mode.
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Transformation ranges from annoyingly complex to frustratingly prone to parts that pop off. The most complicated parts are getting the legs into the cab and - naturally - getting the barrel panels aligned and connected. You might as well accept that they're going to come off, but it's actually quite hard to complete transformation without them, so it's not a case of doing everything else, then popping them back on at the end. Still, getting him from one mode to the other is a satisfying experience... Not so much the gun emplacement mode, though. While it worked well in the movie, it was only seen for a split second. The toy compromises between having and excellent vehicle mode, a well-developed robot mode, and a deeply unconvincing and largely redundant bonus third mode. It probably made all the right choices, all things considered.

Mixmaster is easily one of my favourites from the RotF toy line. The character may not have had much screen time (ripping up a flag while standing - inexplicably - atop a bridge, transforming into his gun emplacement mode and firing off a couple of rounds in the climactic desert battle), and absolutely no characterisation, but the toy has enough character to make it a worthy purchase: I bought the second, G1 Constructicon Green repaint in the Hoist/Mixmaster twin-pack, after all. Sure, there are lots of little (and not so little) bits hanging off (not sure what the roof halves on his ankles are supposed to do/be), but the toy is true enough to the robot seen (briefly) in the movie.

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