Saturday, 27 April 2013

Dark of the Moon Mechtech Megatron

There were few characters in Michael Bay's TransFormers movies more contentious than Megatron. The fans had a very strong idea of what he should be, and Bay's production team singularly failed to deliver on all counts. In the first movie, he was a spindly Cybertronian attack jet that transformed into a ridiculously large, bulky and Shrike-like robot. In the second, rebuilt using parts from his minions, he became a spiny tank which transformed into a robot no less Shrike-like, but for the addition of what's known widely as the Murder Arm. Both had toys in Leader, Voyager and Legends classes and all were pretty terrible. Considering that, in many ways, Megatron played second fiddle in all three movies, would it be reasonable to expect his third incarnation would be any better?

Vehicle Mode:
Straight away, the latest version of movie Megatron seems to be something new and interesting. Whereas Megatron didn't bother adopting a terrestrial disguise in either the first movie or Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon saw him transforming into something straight out of Mad Max. Weirdly, the basic vehicle - or the cab part, at any rate - is essentially identical to Mixmaster - a Mack truck. Instead of a cement mixer on the back, Megatron comes with a trailer carrying something that could be an oil tanker. He also comes fitted with a rather vicious-looking set of bullbars (though not half as vicious as those he sported in the movie).

There are several really cool features of Megatron's Dark of the Moon Voyager Class model but, before the positives, let's get the negatives out of the way.

There are four colours of plastic evident on this toy: beige and pale grey are the prevalent (and exceedingly dull) colours, with details in black and translucent red. There's also very little by way of paintwork - the majority of it is colouring the hubcaps on the wheels and adding dirt and rust to strategic locations. Just like the first movie's '76 Camaro Bumblebee, however, not all of the dirt/rust moldings - of which there are many - get any paintwork. In fact, there are even points on this vehicle mode where mixed plastic colours aren't even painted to match. With this in mind, it's hardly worth complaining about the unpainted container on the trailer, or the plain grey smokestacks, is it? Well, actually, it kinda is. All things considered, but with a particular focus on the container's function in robot mode - more on which below - it's pretty ridiculous that it's both unpainted and molded in plain, dull, pale grey rather than some more solid, silverish colour. Some metal flaking might have been a good substitute, however. On the upside, this whole model is a customiser's delight, as it's essentially a blank canvas.

The cool stuff ranges from fairly neat to incredibly cool. First off, we have the canopy which, when properly sat on the trailer, almost looks like a functional canopy. It's not especially accurate to the vehicle in the movie, but it's a nice addition, and proves quite useful in robot mode. What strikes me as the main feature of this vehicle mode, though, is that the trailer is actually articulated. Considering this vehicle transforms into a robot without any parts actually being removed (excluding the canopy) and, more specifically, that the trailer becomes two separate, articulated legs, this is a particularly clever bit of engineering, and is accomplished with some impressive jointing that allows the trailer to behave as if it were pivoting around a single, central connection point, when it actually isn't. There's also an incredibly impressive amount of incidental molded detail along the length of the truck and trailer, much of which gets covered up in robot mode.

The cutest feature by far, though, is the hood ornament. Referring quite directly to Mixmaster's dog-with-a -Decepticon-insignia-for-a-face, this ornament is far too small to show any real detail and, at some point after I took these photos, the head broke off mine mid-transformation.

That highlights what is probably the greatest flaw in the toy - the quality of plastic is atrocious, with the grey stuff in particular feeling like that of a cheap knock-off.

There are several Mechtech ports - three on the cab (one, on the roof, has a spring-loaded cover) and another three on the container - but, since Megatron doesn't come with any extra accessories, they seem a little redundant on him. On the upside, to complement the Mechtech ports, there are several C-Clip points, meaning Megatron can borrow weapons from other continuities.

Overall, I was mightily impressed with Megatron's first true 'disguise' from the movie series, and the toy, while not an exact replica, does an admirable job of reproducing it... If only it were a little bigger (make that double its final size)... and came with more paint...


Robot Mode:
In this form, Megatron is a bit more of a mixed bag. I'll say straight out that I like him... but I wish I liked him more. Gone is every last shred of Shrike-homage, Megatron is finally his own robot... which is almost ironic, when you consider that he's clearly rebuilt from parts of his fallen minions and was very much under the thumb of another robot in Dark of the Moon.

This is a very much leaner and meaner model - while the CGI character in all three movies was bulky and powerful-looking, the first two toys looked almost portly. He's very much more in-proportion here, with virtually no obvious vehicle parts sticking out (except where they're meant to) and, aside from the battle-damaged head, the model as a whole is far more symmetrical.

What's impressive is that, while much of the molded detail from vehicle mode is covered over or transformed out of sight, even more robot-specific stuff comes out. The bulky shoulders are cheated somewhat, but it's done very cleverly, and in a way that suits the character.

The head sculpt is pretty excellent. Where the movie CGI has kept approximately the same head shape, the toys have been almost completely different, so it almost feels as if this is the first time they've got it 'right'. For once, notably, his face is actually silver rather than black-representing-silver. Add to that the amazing light-piping (perhaps a little excessive on the damaged side, but well-executed nonetheless), and the fact that the trailer's canopy doubles as the robot's cape, and you've got some quite clever stuff going on with this model. And, while that canopy just rests on the trailer in vehicle mode, it actually plugs in securely to the robot's shoulder. It inhibits articulation somewhat, but it does add to the look of robot mode.

Robot mode features exactly the same dearth of paintwork as the vehicle, but it's less noticeable thanks to the molded detail and the few dabs of paint he has... and, arguably, beige is a better choice of colour for this version than flat grey or blue-grey were for the previous two... still, a bit more painted detail would have been appreciated.


Mechtech:
The Mechtech weapon is one section of the trailer's container. It seems strange that the cab end of the trailer has a ladder... but maybe I'm misunderstanding the purpose of the ladder... it just struck me that it would normally be at the very rear of the vehicle (or is that just for movies that feature dramatic leaps from the hood of a moving car to the trailer of a moving truck?). While Megatron lacks the nasty-looking shotgun of the movie CGI, his trailer opens out into something like an update of his G1 Fusion Cannon, particularly in the way it mounts on his arm. It's a mean and powerful-looking weapon, perfectly suited to the leader of the Decepticons... it's just a shame it's plain grey plastic!

Of all the silly, oversized, strangely-constructed Mechtech weapons that turned up in the series, this is the most appropriate - and appropriately-sized - weapon of them all, and it's neat lock function (twist the ladder to one side) is much appreciated. All things considered, I rather wish they'd used the toy's weapon in the movie, rather than including the movie weapon as an extra.

Which they didn't... So I guess that's alright.


This is easily the most satisfying movie Megatron in terms of transformation. Not much by way of cheated detail in either mode, and the vehicle mode looks like a proper vehicle for once, rather than a folded up robot, and there's not a single piece of visible robot detail in vehicle mode. I do have two gripes, though. Plastic quality aside, the hood ornament came off as a result of momentary carelessness in transformation - the bullbars split and fold back over the hood of the truck, and that cute little ornament is completely in the way unless you're being especially careful. Secondly, the way the front bumper (behind the bullbars) folds into and out of the chest - and into and out of the very front of the vehicle - is a bit of a pain. It's easy enough when you know how, but can take an awful lot of trial and error fiddling to get the process right.

Articulation is also far better in this iteration of Megatron than either of the Leader Class toys from the first two movies. That's not to say he's any more stable, exactly (though he can stand on one leg, as illustrated above), just that the joints are allowed more freedom of movement (thanks to fewer chunks of vehicle slapped on the robot's body and arms), and they're more sensibly designed and utilised. It's also a joy to see Megatron's head on any kind of joint for a change, let alone a ball joint. The only thing that lets him down is the molding of the feet, and the slightly loose 'toe' joint. The heel isn't quite in the right place, so posing him can be a little tricky but even this is a huge improvement on the other Megatron toys.

In all honesty, as movie toys go, I cannot recommend Dark of the Moon Voyager Class Megatron highly enough. Aside from the lack of cosmetic paintwork, this is a well-designed and solidly-built model with excellent detail. Really, all it lacks is size - even without any improvements to detail or complexity, this should have been made as a Leader Class toy... but with those improvements (and as long as Hasbro kept any battery-operated gimmickry in the weapon and out of the robot) this could have rivalled Revenge of the Fallen's Leader Class Optimus Prime.

Weirdly, I seem to recall that Hasbro even acknowledge this...

Addendum 21/6/14: yesterday, having been released from the office early, I popped into a branch of Toys'R'Us that's reasonably easy to get to from work. At first glance, they didn't seem to have anything new, but then I saw 'Evasion Mode' Optimus Prime (the Voyager class figure based on Prime's 'old wreck' appearance in Age of Extinction, but with an unmistakeable G1 vibe) which comes packaged with Megatron's shotgun from Dark of the Moon... Here's what happened next...


This basically completes DotM Megatron... and yet, I still think Hasbro should consider making a Leader class version of this incarnation of Megatron. I'd almost consider buying something that was literally just an upscaled version of this mold, but some improvements - particularly to the feet - would be welcome.

Well done, Hasbro, for finally releasing the missing accessory from this toy!

2 comments:

  1. I really dig his Mad-Max-esque vehicle mode, and was originally aching to get this sucker, but the lack of paint really makes him look a bit unfinished, which really put me off. A shame really.

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    Replies
    1. Hey, Tets!

      I completely agree - this is the DotM figure that could have easily redeemed Hasbro in the eyes of many fans... if only they'd given him a proper paint job and made it Leader Class.

      Since mine is now missing his hood ornament, I might well try to track down the Chronicles version at some point - that is a decent paint job!

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