Friday, 25 November 2011

TransFormers (Movie) Bonecrusher

If there's one thing you can say about the Michael Bay TransFormers movies, it's that the designers working on the robots were unafraid to ignore 25 years of TransFormers history, and strike out into their very own continuity. While the toys back in the day tended to transform into something vaguely humanoid (albeit rather boxy), ILM took the concept of 'alien robots' to heart, creating something very different.

It almost seems strange, then, to have used so many recognisable names from Generation 1, while giving the robots associated with those names such a massive overhaul, both in look and in purpose. Bonecrusher, for example, was one of the Constructicons back in G1. For the first TransFormers movie, however, he became a rage-fuelled engine of destruction, fixated on Optimus Prime, and with no affiliation to the Constructicons who (arguably) appeared in Revege of the Fallen.

Vehicle Mode:
One of the funniest stories about the making of the live action TransFormers movie concerned the vehicle Bonecrusher used as his disguise. The Buffalo mine-clearing vehicle came to the attention of the relevant people involved in the movie's production, and they were impressed by the imposing fork on its large, pneumatic arm protruding from the front of the vehicle. It sounds as though the robot was basically built around that arm. When the vehicle was delivered, however, they discovered they had been duped by some very creative photography: the vehicle's real fork is tiny ('only' 14 inches wide). According to the TF Wiki, a 10 foot wide version was made for the movie, but that doesn't seem quite right, given the apparent scale of the vehicle, or the proportions of the toy... I would guess it wasn't even 10 feet long...

Nevertheless, the Buffalo is still an imposing vehicle, so it's a huge shame that so detailed an alternate mode - particularly for a Deluxe class figure from the first movie - ends up so plain through lack of paintwork. All the (small) windows are painted metallic turquoise, and the two molded tyres are painted to match the free-rolling wheels, even down to the hubcaps, but the rest of the model, as far as this mode is concerned, is basically devoid of paintwork. It's not a disaster, because the choices of colour for the plastic suits the model perfectly - sandy-coloured for the most part, with greener, vaguely metallic plastic used for the fork and parts of the arm. The lack of paintwork only really becomes jarring where there's a feature that really demands paint, such as the vehicle's lights, or the ladder at the rear. However, the small fact that the bulldog insignia on the righthand side of the vehicle is a sticker rather than a tampograph suggests it was something of an afterthought... which is a huge oversight.

Aside from it being too small - and it seems even Hasbro conceded in retrospect that Bonecrusher should have been a Voyager - the only real flaw with this Deluxe is that the rear wheels don't line up - one of them on each side will always rest at an angle (or be inset) due to the way it's mounted on the robot's legs. It doesn't prevent the vehicle from rolling, though.

One thing that's pretty impressive about the few versions of Bonecrusher - I believe there were only Deluxe and Legends class versions - is the mobility of the fork arm. It's not perfect, and the gimmick that allows the fork to split apart and move on a geared lever does come at the expense of another 'elbow', but this is probably the best alternate mode a model of this size could have.
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Robot Mode:
A lot of the complaints about the TransFormers live action movies seem to stem from the expectation among some fans that the robots in the movie should look like the G1 toys or cartoon characters - bipedal, and of largely humanoid proportions. I'm one of those who applaud the designers for their more believable, alien take on these transforming mechanoids, and few movie Decepticons were as bizarre-looking as Bonecrusher. With his hunched back, broad shoulders, short, clawed legs, and a third arm that was a cross between a scorpion's tail and a junkyard crane claw, he was immediately intimidating. Even the sight of him rollerblading down a highway didn't lessen the impact of this dangerous-looking robot... Though, OK, maybe that's because he rolled through a bus...

In Deluxe size, it's quite obvious that many, many compromises have been made but, still, Bonecrusher turns out to be a great, reasonably poseable figure. His proportions are pretty accurate - maybe a bit excessive in the shoulders - and, while the arms are largely great, immobile chunks of the vehicle, what joints there are have been placed quite cleverly. There's no elbow joint, as such, but the arms can be extended thanks to a concealed extra 'forearm' length. One of the two joints on this piece can act as an elbow when the arm is stowed, but this then leaves enormous blocks of vehicle parts where the arms bend.

If vehicle mode looked bland and underpainted, though, it seems most of the paint budget went on robot mode - great swathes of a greenish-gold metallic paint are used on the torso, with accents in a coppery colour and touches of a flat, dark green on the groin and 'forearms'. Small patches of these latter two colours add a tiny bit of detail to the head also. Weirdly, despite appearing far lighter, the greenish metallic paint is a fairly close match to the green, sort-of metallic plastic used for the legs and forearms.

As with the movie character, the fork arm is quite prominent in robot mode - it can either sit, idle and split, on his back, or articulate over his head with the fork rearranged into his trademark claw. It doesn't extend out particularly far - about an inch forward of his head - but it shows how much effort went into making this toy as close as possible to the CGI model of the movie... One can only wonder how much cooler this would have been as a Voyager.
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Of course, no discussion of Bonecrusher from the live action movie can pass without mentioning that he wasn't a Constructicon. It's not just that his disguise wasn't a construction vehicle - considering how awesome both vehicle and robot were, that would be easy to forgive - but the movie incarnation of Bonecrusher existed entirely independently of the team of construction vehicle Decepticons who may or may not have combined to form Devastator in Revege of the Fallen. Oh, the ignominy.

I'm going to come right out and say that I absolutely love Bonecrusher's robot mode, despite many, many shortcomings. The hunched, insectoid look, the menacing arms, that terrible attack claw... Bonecrusher really fits the concept of a transforming alien robot. The model suffers from being so small - both in that transformation is rather simplistic and that it results in the arms being large, awkward pieces of the vehicle with large, awkward panels hanging off, but the designers really tried to counter this with the arm extension gimmick. It doesn't really make the arms any better articulated, but the effort isn't entirely wasted.

The legs are a bit of a pain, in that they don't peg into the groin very successfully, and their range of motion is fairly limited by the arrangement of the feet. That, coupled with the awkward, top-heavy nature of the figure means that it can be difficult to pose adequately. One thing that really impressed me was the handling of the head - not only is it on a ball-joint, but there's a whole hinged 'neck' as well.

The most disappointing aspect of it is that the arms are composed of the entire top and rear sections of the vehicle. The shoulders have a fair range of motion, but the vehicle parts hanging off the main part of the arms get in the way of everything.

No, correction, the most disappointing aspect is that there's no way to adequately recreate the highway chase/battle scene, because Bonecrusher is utterly dwarfed by even the Voyager class Optimus Prime.

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