Tuesday, 6 March 2012

TransFormers (Movie) Ironhide

It's kind of bizarre, if you think about it, what aspects of a particular character fans will get hung up on. Take Ironhide, for example. Back in G1, he was one of the awful 'Cherry Vanette' models whose cartoon representation was nothing like the toy. He was essentially the same as G1 Ratchet, but in red and without the lightbar. When he was announced as one of the characters picked for the Michael Bay movie, most fans were OK with him being a GMC Topkick C4500 pickup truck... but complained that he was black rather than his trademark red.
Vehicle Mode:
For the most part, this is a pretty faithful representation of the Topkick. Of course, it's nowhere near as dark and glossy as the vehicle in the movie but, considering how astonishingly ugly a vehicle the Topkick is, one could be unkind and remark upon the folly of attempting to polish a turd.

But even then, it's not a perfectly accurate model. In an attempt to incorporate Ironhide's massive arm-mounted weaponry, this model increases the vehicle's ground clearance only to reduce it with the attachment of two unsightly cylinder-things that couldn't pass for petrol tanks if that's what they were supposed to be... Which they're not, because the Topkick doesn't sport a pair of petrol tanks, mounted beneath the doors on either side. Not helping them blend in further is the colour - a strange, vaguely metallic greyish blue which isn't used for any other significant parts, and is entirely devoid of paintwork.

As far as the paintjob is concerned, most if it is black paint over translucent blue plastic on the doors. The front of the vehicle has the headlights and the rim of the grille picked out in silver with the GMC logo in red, the indicator lights in orange, the righthand side engine vent is silver, the '4x4' logo is tampographed in white and red, the roof lights and rear windscreen are metallic blue and - just for a change - the rear lights are fully painted. On the basic model the exhaust pipes (behind the cab) were unpainted, so I gave them a coat of silver for a bit more movie accuracy. Some other details - notably the winch and extra lights in the front bumper - are unpainted, though these were fixed in the 'Premium Edition', which also came with a nice, glossy coat of black paint.

The model is good and sturdy in this mode and, while the seams are fairly obvious - not least where the Autobot insignia embossed onto the tailgate is split in half - they don't interfere too much with the look of the vehicle mode - especially when the eye tends to be distracted by the oversized weapons hanging between the wheels.
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Robot Mode:
This first Voyager-class Ironhide was a bit of a mixed bag in robot mode. As with all of the first batch of toys, it was based on pre-production artwork and is significantly flawed. The head mold is completely wrong (and suffers from terrible light-piping - possibly the worst I've ever seen - which may explain why later versions just painted the eyes!) and the fold-up chest piece was completely misinterpreted. In some images, it's quite obviously meant to be the front bumper, folded up into a shallow inverted U. Clearly the toy designers didn't spot this, as the toy has too many 'ribs'.

The proportions of the whole robot are similarly off. Ironhide was a short, stocky powerhouse, but just about every version of Ironhide (other than the Deluxe-class version released for Revenge of the Fallen) turns out on the lanky side. On balance, this Voyager is probably better-proportioned than the new mold created for Dark of the Moon and, in many ways, is probably still the superior mold.

It is in robot mode than Ironhide's weapons come into their own. They're actually not at all accurate to the movie - the left arm sports a launcher loaded with four missiles instead of the single-barrelled energy blaster, while the right carries a four-barrelled blaster rather than launcher carrying about 10 missile/bomb things, but the moldings of each evoke the weapon they're supposed to represent. However, rather than just being poorly molded substitutes in their own rights, these two weapons were designed to combine into one long launcher. In fact, the missiles in the left arm's weapon cannot be fired unless the weapon is in its combined form. Here, the four plungers at the rear act as friction-based launchers, and the effect is pretty good. It's a real shame that neither part got any paintwork, but that might have made it even more obvious that they're not molded accurately...

While Ironhide's robot mode is a little bit more colourful than his vehicle mode, it's still predominantly flat black. Touches of gold and more of the metallic blue are used to bring out details on his legs, chest and groin and, of course, the silver from the front of vehicle mode is very much in evidence on his shoulders but, still, the basic robot mode looked very bland. I very quickly added more detailing with copper paint, and drybrused some silver wear-and-tear on some of the edges
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Transformation is mostly quite simple, but with some very involved and very awkward points. The chest has to be rotated 180 degrees, but the rotation is very stiff, and right next to a very slim hinge, so it always feels as though the hinge is going to break, even when it's clipped properly in place. The arms can be a real pain to get back in place for vehicle mode because the pegs have to plug into diagonal sockets on his wrists. I'm quite impressed by the way the 'neck' plugs into the centres of the front wheels to keep itself - and the shoulders - in place, but the folded up panels of vehicle on the shoulders and back are rather obstructive, and the head ends up rather too far back, relative to the shoulders and the front of the chest.

Ironhide features an interesting Automorph gimmick on his legs - as the toes are folded out of the truck bed, the heel folds down automatically, a couple of panels fold out to reveal the leg details, and the rear wheels fold round to the back of the legs. Sadly, all this Automorph trickery hinders the poseablility of the legs because the feet are completely fixed. Also, the gears skip sometimes, leaving either the heel or the toe at a slight angle.

Even with the fixed ankles, Ironhide would be fairly poseable were it not for the weakness of some of the leg joints. Mine is actually pretty tight everywhere except the thigh rotation joint, just above the knee, which somehow emphasises his top-heaviness, and leaves him inclined to slip and crumple down, legs twisted outward. One might expect that the rotation of the chest during transformation would equate to waist articulation, but the joint is rendered useless because the 'rib' piece folds up from the lower half of the joint. Arms, meanwhile, have an excellent range of motion, mostly uninterrupted by the large vehicle panels and unhindered by the attachment of either form of the weapons.

This model was repainted and partly remolded several times for the first two films, which is testament to the quality and accuracy of the model (once the head mold was fixed, at least). It also says something that, when Ironhide was completely remolded for Dark of the Moon, the new model came with as many retrogressions as it had improvements. On balance, while I picked up the first Ironhide I found, in a frenzy of first-movie enthusiasm, I now wish I'd at least waited for the Premium Edition, if not some of the more significant upgrades, like Revenge of the Fallen's Recon Ironhide.

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