Friday, 9 August 2013

Galaxy Force Autolander

With all the obvious homages going on in the Galaxy Force/Cybertron line, some of the smaller, more subtle references slipped past. Autolander was particularly interesting because his homage to Kup - not obvious at first glance - was made more apparent by Brakedown GTS, a repaint in the later waves of Cybertron toys.

Vehicle Mode:
It's quite obvious that Autolander is a kind of dragster. The huge rear wheels and the so-tiny-as-to-be-inconsequential front wheels, the back end that's basically all engine, and the tiny cockpit all show that this car was built to go fast, and in a straight line. It's a fairly sleek vehicle, and it's really only the colourscheme - greys and browns - that gives the impression of it being an old rustbucket.

The paint job, when inspected closely, is rather strange. The dark brown plastic parts are highlighted by a sort-of bronze metallic paint, but it rarely seems to follow the molded details. The two 'horns' toward the rear are only about two thirds covered with paint, then the bronze colour follows the raised strips all the way onto the two protrusions from the rear, but right through the middle of the outer part, rather than following the panel lines. On the front, the paint seems rather haphazard, covering the two grilles, but also extending back over the key slot, along the full length either side of the central fin, and all over the front. It also lines the cockpit but forms two stripes heading down from the windscreen.

The way the front end of the vehicle is constructed, the front wheels are almost invisible from the sides, concealed by a large, sweeping bumper/fin piece, which also mounts what looks suspiciously like another engine. This piece is actually the key-activated gimmick though, due to the placement of the key slot, it's inaccessible in this mode.

While it's vaguely concealed by the back end of the cockpit, once you see it from behind, the robot's head is very visible, and the large transparent yellow plastic panel doesn't look enough like a car part to offer any additional disguise. This is also not the most stable of vehicle modes - while the arms peg onto the legs and the legs peg to each other... they don't connect securely to any other part of the vehicle. In practice, it does seem to hold together fairly well.

I quite like the comparatively extensive use of transparent yellow plastic on this model... there isn't really that much, but Autolander is such a small model, it looks like a lot. Almost makes him look like a dragster from Tron... What's not so good about this vehicle mode is that it's very gappy. The rear wheels almost look to be mounted in sidecars rather than parts of the main chassis, there are unsightly pits (the undersides of the feet) either side of the cockpit, and there's a gaping chasm right under the front of the cockpit. I'd also think that the large fin sticking up out of the front 'engine' would cause visibility issues for a driver...

Addendum 11/8/13: Going back to the whole 'homage' angle, I forgot to mention that this vehicle mode reminds me somewhat of a drab version of Transmetal Rattrap's 'Ratmobile' mode. Both have the large rear wheels and smaller front wheels, the sweeping front section somehow reminds me of the way Rattrap's feet fold up around the front wheels, and the overall shape and colourscheme is fairly similar, even though Autolander doesn't feature any red chrome. There's just generally something rat-like about this vehicle mode. 
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Robot Mode:
While it comes as no surprise, it's rather disappointing to see the entire front of the vehicle sticking up out of Autolander's back, and it accounts for about a quarter of the robot's height. It serves no real purpose, but can be used to mount his weapon, pointing up or down, though this does make him rather more back-heavy. Rather floppy pinned ankles and the ball-jointed knees have enough trouble supporting the robot alone, so the added weight turns the figure into a real balancing act..

Oddly, the overall look of his - tiny legs, almost triangular body and massive arms - is quite reminscent of GF Landbullet/C Crumplezone, though Autolander is clearly not a hulking brute. In the main, the body and legs appear to be in proportion, but those arms look weird. They suffer from the bĂȘte noire feature of the Galaxy Force/Cybertron range: massive upper arms and dinky little forearms that basically start and end at the wrist. One really disappointing aspect is that he doesn't have molded hands, as such. He has sockets for mounting his key-activated weapon, and the appearance of an index finger and thumb around them, but every other angle is molded solely for vehicle mode.

Autolander isn't much more colourful in this mode - a couple of yellow panels at his elbows, and a yellow block in the centre of his chest are about the most exciting part of his paint job. His lower legs are painted a shade of grey that almost matches the grey plastic, and then the knees and ankles are trimmed with the bronze paint. Notably, unlike his Hasbro counterpart, this Speed Planet native does not bear an Autobot insignia.

The head sculpt is quite fun, but nothing special, and that large transparent yellow panel sticking up off the back becomes its most prominent feature. On the upside, this does give him awesome light-piped eyes. Autolander's face features what is possibly the least effective robotic facial hair ever molded...

Galaxy Force/Cybertron featured some truly strange and utterly unwieldy key-activated gimmicks, and Autolander's weapon is a fine example of both. The entire front 'engine' becomes a hand-held blade... but it's held in such a way that it would be almost impossible to use effectively. It's almost as if it was originally intended to be a gun, but someone at TakaraTomy decided "there are already so many gun gimmicks... let's turn one of them into a sword!"

Addendum 11/8/13: While robot mode doesn't remind me of Transmetal Rattrap, it does remind me of Beast Machines Rattrap. Think about it - the massive upper body with a slightly sunken head, supported on tiny, spindly legs? OK, so he doesn't have a wheeled mode and BM Rattrap had rather more articulation in his arms... but Autolander's weapon has a certain tail-like quality to it...
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Autolander's transformation isn't especially complex, but it is rather surprising, with everything folding backwards and the robot's chest becoming the rear of the vehicle. It is a shame that his key-activated gimmick is unavailable in vehicle mode, as it looks as though it might be more effective there than in robot mode.

Being composed almost entirely of ball joints, he's naturally very poseable for such a small 'bot... though the floppiness of his knees and ankles does hamper his stability, and the arms aren't especially effective. The otherwise redundant chunk of vehicle sticking out of his back may look unsightly, but it never actually gets in the way of his arms. Plenty of other TransFormers toys, even those more recent than this, have had bigger problems.

Just from the point of view of being another old-timer TransFormer - and a character who transforms into a dragster - Autolander is a lot of fun. There are some rather iffy design elements, the floppiness of some joints can be a problem, and the gaping holes in vehicle mode are disappointing, but the overall package is pretty cool. On balance, I probably prefer the blatant Kup homage that is Hasbro's Brakedown GTS, but that's probably just because it's more colourful and striking.

Addendum 11/8/13: I've actually noted in my write up of the Dawn of Futures Past set that Autolander would have been my first choice for Rattrap rather than Gasket. Since neither head really looks like Rattrap, either could have worked. Who knows, if DoFP was done today, maybe the budget would have allowed for a remolded Rattrap head...

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