Wednesday, 3 July 2013

DotM Mechtech Thundercracker

I have to confess that, when I first heard that Starscream in the the Dark of the Moon toyline would be Deluxe Class, I was pretty disappointed. While the Voyager Class models from both the original movie and Revenge of the Fallen were flawed in their own ways, both were reasonable interpretations of some fairly impossible CGI. The closest version up to this point had been the largest, so how on Earth would they make a halfway decent version of the movie Seekers using a smaller scale?

Since I was perfectly happy with my Leader and Voyager Class models for Starscream, Hasbro attempted to trigger my Seeker OCD as they did with the first movie, by repainting this model as Thundercracker (while only Japan got a Skywarp out of this mold!). When I found him on the cheap in one of my local toyshops, I figured he was worth a try, if only to show some willing with the otherwise quite disappointing Dark of the Moon toyline.

Vehicle Mode:
Considering how tiny this is, it's actually a fair representation of the F-22 Raptor, and certainly the robot parts hanging off the underside have less impact on its silhouette than on either of the Voyager versions and the Leader Class model. There are a couple of rather strange slabs hanging off the wings, but otherwise it's pretty decent.

He also has a full undercarriage, all of which folds away nicely when required, though the grey plastic doesn't quite fit with the rest of the plane, as the only other grey parts visible from most angles are the afterburners (which are behind a silver-painted area and so somewhat more appropriate) and a hinge in the centre of the plane's body.

Most of the plane is a rich, mid blue, with the red and silver linework on the wings one would expect to see on Thundercracker... though they didn't go the usual route of making his tail fins black, like the G1 model.

As is always the case, the underside looks like a total mess, with the arms folded up in the midsection and the legs folded up around the back. All things considered, I'd have to wonder if this could have been more effectively done on a Voyager Class figure - would it have been possible to fold away any more of the robot parts, to make a sleeker jet?
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Robot Mode:
I am genuinely surprised by how well this works as a Deluxe. Sure, it's not as movie accurate as the Leader Class version, but remarkably few concessions have been made for its size. There's a huge amount of molded detail packed into small areas, too. Even on the back, which is made up of the underside of the wings, most of which was covered over in plane mode, there's a lot of robot detail sculpted in. Again, it's tempting to wonder how much better this could have been at Voyager scale, even though it's pretty excellent as it is.

Thundercracker isn't quite such a sea of blue in this mode, the predominant colour is broken up by the silver chunks from beneath his wings making up his flanks, and black appearing on his head, shoulders, forearms and shins. Touches if silver and red are also visible on the plane's rear flaps behind his shoulders, on the fronts of his shoulders (including a Decepticon insignia on his left) and his thighs. It's quite a nice bit of decoration, so it's a huge shame Starscream only ever had those silly 'Cybertronian tattoos' on the main releases - something like this would have been far better, even if no Raptor would ever be decorated in that way.

Aside from the Leader Class version, this model has about the best interpretation of the movie Seeker legs - they're more or less the correct proportions, and I'm particularly impressed by the way the undercarriage becomes heel supports in robot mode - that's the kind of clever planning that's not often seen in a Deluxe. The groin section is a bit clumsy, but I can see why that layout of parts was necessary in a figure this size.

The head sculpt is fairly good at this size, though it doesn't feature light piping for the eyes - they're just painted gold. One surprising feature is that the forearms include attachments for the C-Clip weapons that started appearing with newer Classics/Universe/Generations toys.
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Thundercracker comes with two Mechtech weapons - one is the simple sword blade packaged with Starscream, but the other is the gun/chainsaw that had been packaged initially with DotM Roadbuster. Neither really work that well with a character like Thundercracker... but that could be said for the majority of the Mechtech weapons and the characters they came with.

There are six weapon ports on Thundercracker's jet mode - two on the silver chunks under his wings, two more beneath the tail flaps and a further two on the black parts which become the robot's forearms. The the weapons fit well enough on the wings and forearm sections, but not so much on the tail flaps... and they look completely out of place on a plane, wherever they're attached.

The weapons don't suit Thundercracker any better in robot mode, sadly - the blade looks pretty daft on its own and the gun/chainsaw might be in the right colours, but what use would he have for such a weapon? It's also hampered by the problem common to all Deluxe Class Mechtech weapons - it cannot be locked in its deployed state.
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Considering the size and complexity of the model, Thundercracker is a lot of fun to transform. I'm particularly amused by the way the arms fold back on themselves to stow on the underside of the plane, and the way the silver chunks on the undersides of his wings are molded to allow the undercarriage to 'retract' flat alongside them. The way the nose collapses into the chest is also pretty clever, though the pinned joint for the covering on the underside of the nose is showing some stress marks, and every time I move the silver parts under the wings, I feel sure something's going to break. Some parts - notably the wing parts - don't match up perfectly, but this is the second use of the mold, and it probably got some heavy usage for Starscream.

The arms are amazingly well articulated, with ball joints on little pinned struts at the shoulder, then a hinge in the bicep leading to a ball-jointed elbow, and the wrists feature a double-hinge. I kind of wish there was at least one ball joint at the wrist, but it's not a terrible loss. The hips are also on hinged ball joints, the 'knee' bends and two points on pinned hinges, and has a swivel joint... though I'm not convinced it's in the most effective location. Despite the fact that the feet aren't especially mobile - the toe is hinged largely for transformation only - they can be positioned to give him rock-solid balance in a good variety of positions thanks to all those other joints. If only the head had been mounted on a ball joint, this could have been one of the best Deluxe molds in the DotM line.

I'm deeply impressed with this model, and think it's a real shame that it took three movies and reducing the size of the model for the designers to do it this well. Obviously it's not a patch on Leader Class Starscream, but it's a lot lighter, and takes up far less shelf space. It's also a shame that Hasbro went with such a drab paint job for Starscream in this mold... and that, so far, they haven't released a G1 colourscheme or Skywarp in this mold... As good as it is, I'm not inclined to pay import prices for something like this, just to satisfy my Seeker OCD.

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