Sunday, 20 May 2012

TransFormers (Movie) Longarm

Say what you will about Michael Bay's TransFormers movies, they did do some interesting things for the toyline. While the cast of alien robots was pretty meagre, and they often didn't get half as much screen time as the irritating humans, Hasbro cleverly latched on to some of the non-transforming vehicles from the films and turned them into robots in disguise for its extended toyline. While the motorbike that Lennox uses to help topple Blackout was turned into Human Alliance Jazz's gun, the tow truck Mikaela used to drag Bumblebee into the battle against Brawl had better luck, and got turned into Longarm.

Vehicle Mode:
This is actually not a remotely faithful adaptation of the vehicle from the movie - according to the TransFormers wiki, Longarm is something like a Ford F-350, while the vehicle in the movie is a GM tow truck of some kind. Perhaps that was too similar in design to Ironhide? This seems to be quite a low, flat, wide vehicle, but then it is designed to carry other cars behind it, so I guess it would have to be slightly wider to accommodate their wheelbase on the metal panels at the back.

While it does have an open cab with plenty of molded detail, it doesn't have opening doors... Well, it does, but they open gullwing-style, rather than like normal car doors, and they're not supposed to open in this mode because they are the clips that hold the front and the back of the vehicle mode together.

What you do get with this vehicle mode is an articulated tow arm. It's hinged at the base (obviously) and has a piston about halfway down, connecting to the back of the truck. At the end of the main arm is a hinged hook arm (which would more usually just be a chain, I'd have thought) at the end of this is a hinged hook. Since most of the toys in the movie line have some space behind their front bumper, it should be possible to get Longarm to tow just about any of them... I should probably add some photos of that...

In this mode, it seems odd that the emergency lights are on a separate, mobile arm, connected to the towing rig, rather than molded as part of the roof but this is both a welcome change to the normal sort of design, and a hint of something special occurring for robot mode.

The paint job is a little underwhelming, though broadly similar to the movie vehicle, with it's blue 'wave' pattern on the bonnet. Much of the detail - fake phone numbers, promotional blurb - is missing, though some of it was reinstated for the 'Final Stand' Screen Battles set that featured a crippled version of the Bumblebee Robot Replica figure. The black panel on either side seems very out of place, but it's just another example of a less important part (a double hinge for transformation, in this case) being molded in the wrong colour. The detail on the mold is more impressive toward the rear of the vehicle, where the tool boxes on the sides and even the pattern on the metal plates of the truck bed has been replicated.
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Robot Mode:
For a non-movie movie robot, Longarm pulls off the aesthetic pretty well. His proportions are a bit strange - very broad chest, size zero waist, wide hips, but then even wider shins - but the overall effect is quite balanced. What's rather strange about him is that, while his vehicle mode is predominantly white with some blue paint at the front, robot mode is predominantly blue with touches of white here and there. The patterned metal from vehicle mode's truck bed somehow becomes the robot's chest (even though the actual truck bed pieces are sitting on his forearms and shoulders), giving him a heavily armoured look.

There's a circular indentation in the middle of his torso which hints at his original status as one of the videogame's drones - all of them either had a similar component in their bodies, or their heads were dull, monocular things - though it's unpainted so it doesn't stand out much.

The way the truck's hook assembly folds up into Longarm's gun is particularly impressive (if only more of the movie line were so clever with their weapons - this is actually better than Dark of the Moon's Mech-Tech weapons!) though it's also unwieldy and tends to bump into various parts of his body while posing. Amusingly, I only recently found out that this iteration of the mold has the hook arm misassembled - it's attached back to front, which prevents it properly fitting together in this mode (though the Hoist repaint is correctly assembled).

Longarm's head is quite a strange one... it reminds me of an animal, but I can't quite remember which one... Its shape is obviously reminiscent of a cat, and the colouring is vaguely panda-like, but it's not either of those that I'm thinking of. While the paintjob on the head is fairly simple/dull, they did go to the effort of stamping an Autobot logo on his forehead, which is a very cool touch.

TransFormers toys are no strangers to ridiculous backpacks, but Longarms is better than some. The only drawback to it is the 'door wings' - another fairly common aesthetic in the TF toylines - which make him look rather boxy from behind, and limit the movement of his arms, thanks to the massive panels of truck side folded onto his upper arms.
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Much as I like this model in either form, I have to concede that the act of getting it from one form to the other is an exercise in pure frustration. The legs just don't want to move into place and line up properly, and the arms are made up of so many mobile bits that either putting them together or taking them apart is a fiddly and occasionally uncomfortable process. The car bonnet, in particular, has to be positioned 'just so' in either mode. On the upside, though, the self-contained transforming weapon is probably one of the best examples of its kind from any TF toyline and, really, this is what Mech-Tech should have been.

Robot mode perhaps isn't as poseable as it could be - the massive collections of folded up parts on the shoulders clash with the opened out 'door wings' and the feet are surprisingly not that stable, considering how large and essentially flat they are. There's no waist articulation, as such, but the waist does seem rather wobbly.

Despite its shortcomings, this is actually a pretty cool movie toy. Compared to the likes of Jazz, who wasn't done well until the RotF Human Alliance figure rolled around, it seems strange that such a tertiary character, created to fit a non-transforming vehicle from the movie (though Longarm was a character in the game of the first movie) turned out so well. Having picked up this model, it was certainly disappointing to see it done (slightly) better in the Screen Battles set, but the 'legless Bumblebee' figure wasn't really worth the extra money. In contrast, the two-pack containing the Hoist repaint and the G1 repaint of Mixmaster is definitely worth picking up.

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