Monday, 27 September 2010

Alternity A-04 Starscream (White Pearl)

If the Binaltech/Alternators line had a significant flaw, it was that all of the cars were fairly normal, everyday cars (OK, the Ford GT isn't something you'd typically see on the streets, but even the Dodge Viper was actually quite pedestrian, and certainly not in the same league as the Lamborghini Countach that appeared way back in Generation 1). At first, it seemed that Alternity might be heading down the same motorway, with the Nissan GT-R and Fairlady Z followed by the Suzuki Swift... but then A-04 was announced... Starscream and Skywarp (soon to be followed by Thundercracker, to complete the original G1 Seeker trinity) disguised as the incredible Mitsuoka Orochi


Vehicle Mode:
I have to admit that Japanese car manufacturers do not feature particularly prominently in my personal trivial databanks. I know the big names, but had never even heard of Mitsuoka. Shame on me, then for their Orochi ('large snake') is one of the most bizarrely, most organically beautiful cars I have seen in many, many years. Its profile may be nothing special, but the detailing, the sweeping curves and somewhat sinister lines are evocative of something both primal and evil.

How fitting, then, for Starscream's entrance into the Alternity universe.

So much of this car is aerodynamically unnecessary, present purely for its sensuous, serpentine grace. The front end displays the hungry grin of an approaching predator, the rear suggests the smugness of a successful hunt. The car is so low to the road, it doesn't so much roll as slither, and its pure, pearly white belies a darkness of purpose. This seriously cannot be a road car... and yet it is...

Most impressive in this mold is the lack of visible seams, except where a car would naturally have them - proof that the designers behind Alternity now have a firm grasp on the engineering requirements of this line. And, while some might complain about the Seekers becoming cars (even though several fans kitbashed Alternators, most often the Subaru mold, into Seekers), the Orochi mold comes packing a strange compromise, in the form of a 'flight mode': small wings can be folded out at the rear wheels, supposedly to enable this snake to become a dragon.

I normally complain about the detail lost in models molded in white, but this has so much sweeping detail, so many little lines, that it looks very impressive in any of its colourschemes.
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Robot Mode:
Here's where I'm in two minds about the model. All of the Alternity robot modes so far have been angular and, well, robotic. Starscream takes the car's fluidity and transfers it to a robot mode that looks more like a living creature in armour. It is as serpentine as the car, and yet also bat-like. It is sinister, spindly... it almost looks as if it might transform into a plane, were it not for a chest that is very clearly molded after a morphed version of the car's nose.

Part of me can't understand why they tried to give Starscream wings... and yet I cannot see how else they could have turned a car like the Orochi into a remotely successful robot. It's certainly not the most successful robot mode of the series so far (probably Convoy still holds that honour, in spite of its flaws) and it does seem overly burdened with G1 homages, but it's elegant enough...

One feature I'm sure I dislike is the head - there's something just not right about it, not least the four eyes. It's like someone picked up the G1 model in one hand, the movie model in the other, took some LSD and sketched out their vision of Alternity Starscream based upon their acid trip.

The arm-mounted null ray blasters are pretty cool, and certainly hark back to Generation 1, but I wonder if a more original approach to Starscream's armaments might have been preferable in this case.
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Transformation is quite hideously complicated, with some iffy 'automorph' features that don't quite work as they should, and a groin that never wants to properly clip into place. The car doors, hanging off his hips, are troublesome for two reasons - one, that the pegs for connecting them to the front of the car are actually stronger than the ball joints connecting them to the hips, and two, that the rotating pieces that the ball joints are mounted on are extremely loose, making these 'lower wings' very difficult to manage. The legs are particularly awkward in the way they pull out at the knee, flip round, then push back in at a different angle. They look a little slack in all these pictures because I'd transformed them wrong, but I figured out my mistake eventually.

On the whole, I think Starscream's joints are the most well-balanced of any Alternity model so far, though the arms are a little loose at the bicep rotation joint, just below the shoulder. Vehicle mode is incredible, and robot mode manages to convey the impression of Starscream without having to resort to a fake 'cockpit' on the chest, even if it does fake the front of the car. It's a bizarre model, to be sure, and not entirely in keeping with the rest of the line so far with its smooth, almost bony limbs, but it's full of character. It's almost effeminate... which, depending on your personal take on Starscream's character, might just be exactly what they were aiming at.

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