Sunday, 7 November 2010

TransFormers Animated Ultra Magnus

One of the most amusing aspects of TransFormers Animated was its references to other TransFormers series and its stacks of in-jokes. One such sight gag came along with the arrival on Earth of the Elite Guard, led by Ultra Magnus. The inimitable Sentinel Prime was assigned the task of collecting inconspicuous alternate modes for the incoming robots... and Ultra Magnus was assigned a mobile artillery platform.

Strangely, Hasbro UK decided not to release this model in this, the original colourscheme, for some reason preferring the green and orange 'Roadbuster' repaint. I picked this up in Forbidden Planet, mainly because their markup wasn't too massive this time.


Vehicle Mode:
Of course, the real joke in this 'inconspicuous' alternate mode is the paintjob - when was the last time a military vehicle such as this came in shades of blue ranging from duck egg to cobalt? Still, it's a solid-looking vehicle, and certainly well-armed. It's very much a case of "we heard you like guns, so we mounted some guns on your guns... and pretty much everywhere else..." The main gun rig flips round from the back, then slides on the sides cleverly reveal another pair of cannons. The front of the cockpit opens out to deploy a pair of Gatling guns, and the cockpit itself opens to allow a pair of three-barrelled cannons. Ultra Magnus is certainly well armed. It's almost like Armada again, but without the need for a Mini-Con to reveal the hidden weapons.

This vehicle also manages to look pretty convincing from almost every angle - the only giveaway that this is more than meets the eye is the rear of the truck, where some very unusual detailing (which, in a bizarre TransFormers turnaround, is robot parts looking obvious on the vehicle mode) sticks out.

Naturally, on a toy this size, there are lights and sounds - a small button just behind the cab on the lefthand side activates the gunfire sounds and yellow LEDs behind the clear cyan plastic on his main cannons.
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Robot Mode:
If Animated Optimus Prime looked top heavy, what does that make Ultra Magnus? Other than the epitome and zenith of the broad-shouldered, heavy-chested Animated design motif? He's also about the tallest Animated robot - just slightly taller than Megatron going by head height rather than taking Megatron's helicopter cockpit backpack into account.

Ultra Magnus certainly looks like the venerable Autobot leader he's supposed to be, but he's also rather blocky and, despite his size and awesome design, not particularly poseable. His footprint may be large, but it's fixed for standing upright and, with no heel support, it can be very difficult to balance him. Also, like Megatron, it seems as though his hip joints are slightly misaligned - he can either be leaning forward or back, never standing perfectly upright.

The head mold is excellent - appearing older, wiser and more serious than any of the other Animated characters, as befits his status. G1 Ultra Magnus he is not. In robot mode, the Elite Guard logo on his chest activates a couple of speech clips (played in rotation) and a subtle shift in his expression to accompany the lights in his eyes and chest.

The hammer weapon is pretty neat, though in serious need of some paint application, or perhaps Reprolabels stickers. It can be closed up for storage, then pops right back out when needed in robot mode. A nice touch on this weapon is that, since it's actually held only loosely, there is a tab on the handle that slots into Ultra Magnus's hand, ensuring it's always held at the ready.

Robot mode comes with three voice clips, activated in rotation by pushing the Elite Guard symbol on Ultra Magnus' chest: "Ultra Magnus here", "Don't be a hero, Optimus... It's not in your programming" and "We must return the AllSpark to Cybertron", each accompanied by several flashing LEDs - green behind his eyes, red in his chest, and the yellow pair in his main cannons - and a subtle tilting of his forehead. Unlike Bulkhead, attaching the HeadMaster accessory to Ultra Magnus yields no new voice clip - not even the same "Ownage!.." line from Bulkhead.
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I have to say I love the way this guy transforms - particularly the way the vehicle mode's wheels collapse neatly into his lower legs. All the extra bulk across the chest, shoulders and back does tend to make him top-heavy and, again, without any extra heel support, he does tend to fall over except in the most basic of poses.

It is utterly mystifying that Hasbro UK chose to ignore this version in favour of the Roadbuster paint job - not only does he never appear in the TV series in anything other than this colour scheme, but orange and green of the UK 'standard' model is just vile. Shades of blue may not be ideal for a military vehicle such as this, but that just ads to the joke about his 'inconspicuous' alternate mode disguise.

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