Monday, 7 March 2011

TransFormers (Movie) Brawl

Wow. Who'd have thought that one of the Decepticons in the first live action movie adaptation of Hasbro/Takara Tomy's long-running toy franchise would turn into a tank?

Just about every continuity has about a dozen tank-formers, many of which have been Megatron, so it was at least nice to have one that (a) wasn't Megatron and (b) made some reference to another Generation 1 character. In this case, Brawl isn't specifically said to be one of the Combaticons, but the form chosen for him - a modified M1 Abrams tank - is close enough to the G1 combiner mold (in spirit, I mean, rather than in design, since it has the additional two-barrelled turret on top of his main turret, referencing G1 Brawl's plug-in cannons) that he could be considered the same character.

Shame, then, that he was toppled so easily by the combined firepower of Bumblebee and a bunch of humans.


Vehicle Mode:
Considering this is a Leader Class toy, there's not a great deal of apparent paintwork on this thing. Sure, he's got those blueish camoflage markings but, other than that, he appears to be plain green, grey and black plastic. It's only upon closer examination that you realise there's a lot of green paint over transparent plastic on the middle third of the front and the barrel caps of the secondary turret... this probably explains why the paint job is otherwise so sparse and bland.

Nevertheless, this is a pretty accurate rendition of the heavily armed and armoured tank from the movie. The turret does look to be a little bit too large, relative to the rest of the vehicle. The great big chunks of whatever hanging off the back are not part of the movie model, so one can only assume they had no better way of producing Brawl's feet from the tank, though this will seem odd later...

Naturally, the treads are molded solid plastic. Quite apart from the method of transformation, making such things work properly these days seems prohibitively complicated, and therefore costly. There isn't even any paint on this version of the mold to break up the monotony of black plastic under the tank's 'skirt'.

Right at the front of the tank, an not part of the usual spec for this monster, is a pair of 'mine ploughs' - a term which I only learned by looking up details of this toy, but which makes perfect sense considering their purpose.

Naturally, being a Leader Class toy, there are electronic lights and sounds. One switch, in the barrel of the main cannon, activates the cannon's firing sound and the light at the tip. The secondary turret has the other two buttons - either side of the machine gun - which activate the machine gun fire and the secondary turret/side-mounted missile launcher firing sounds. Strangely, the missile launchers are molded in unpainted transparent plastic, and are lit by green LEDs.
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Robot Mode:
I'm in two minds about whether this is a step up or a step down from the Deluxe version. On the one hand, it's vastly more complicated, detailed and articulated, and exhibits the bulk one would expect from the Decepticons' most heavily armed soldier. On the other hand, the bulk works against the toy, and it's really not very accurate to the movie model.

Traditionally, TransFormers based on 'real world' tanks, as opposed to the more common H-Tanks, have suffered from being very blocky because giant chunks of tank make up the limbs. Even the H-Tanks tended to be quite clumsy... but Movie Brawl is something altogether different... a whole new kind of clumsy.

Make no mistake, I like the way the tank shell collapses, but it makes the lower leg - already oversized - increadibly bulky, because it really doesn't collapse that well. A fine example of 'clever, but not quite clever enough', and it actually left me wondering why they couldn't have had the foot folding out from somewhere inside the lower leg, rather than being a virtually static lump that makes Brawl very difficult to stand.

The upper body fares better, but it's not much more accurate to the movie model. With the entire turret rig hanging off his back, the front of the tank not quite folding down far enough on the chest, and the cow catchers being relatively oversized in this form, the upper body looks like a gigantic lump from most angles. Upon closer inspection it's actually very detailed, but so much of that detail is lost because it's obscured by the turret or the cow catchers, or because of the dearth of paintwork. And, getting really anal about the details, the portion of the treads that sit on Brawl's shoulders should point upward, not forward, because they're blocking his line of sight.

On the other hand, the arms are pretty excellent. Not only do they have a great range of movement, but the hands are exceptionally well done - there's wrist tilt, and each individual digit (of which there are three per hand) is articulated at its knuckle. The additional weaponry on the forearms is very well handled, and both feature nice, compact Automorph gimmicks.

All the same lights and sounds are operable in this mode, but you'd have a hard time seeing the missile launchers, as the spring-loaded parts of the turret that swing out of the way as the launchers are raised will spring back part way when released, so the launchers sag quite close to the upper arms. While the head sculpt is excellent, the paintwork is pretty minimal (much like the rest of the model, which ads only touches of gold and even more grey) and there's no electronic lighting behind the eyes - it's all down to light-piping.
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All the problems and clumsiness aside, I do enjoy transforming Brawl. I like that the main cannon can swing out from the turret and position itself as a kind of hip-mounted gun, almost referencing the gun barrel of the G1 Megatron toy. The collapsing tank parts stow reasonably well on the legs, but they just stick out too far. The only real problem I ever have with Brawl is remembering how his arms stow, because getting the side panels to connect with the main body of the tank can be a real pain.

Articulation is pretty much as one would expect from such a blocky Leader Class figure. The feet barely move, and their footprint is tiny, making him almost as difficult to pose as the original Leader Class Megatron. Just to make things worse, the knee swivel joints are typically loose, so any splayed-leg pose is likely to collapse fairly quickly, being such a top-heavy model. Both the weak legs and the massive turret on the back do limit his movement somewhat, but the arms are free enough for some quite dynamic poses... Naturally, there's no waist articulation, but I doubt that would have added much to this particular model.

Overall, this is a flawed figure, but probably the best attempt at realising Brawl from the movie, compared to the other size classes. Almost everything is too squared off, but there's no way to cheat such a complicated design as movie Brawl's robot mode into a toy tank. I do somewhat regret buying this iteration of the mold, rather than the later 'Deep Desert' variant, even though this version is more accurate - colour wise - to the movie. The updated version had a far more substantial paint job, and ended up looking generally better. If only the feet had been better handled - and perhaps stored in the lower leg, or in parts in the tank sides, such that they came together as the sides were collapsed into the lower leg - this would probably have been one of the best Leader Class toys from any of the live action movies.

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