Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Masterpiece Grimlock

OK, let's get one thing out of the way, straight off the bat: I think the Dinobots were rubbish.

I mean, seriously, robots that transform into robot dinosaurs? And how many different nonsensical 'explanations' for this bizarre phenomenon? The whole idea was ridiculous, and probably one of the worst aspects of TransFormers being a toyline created out of several crossover brands, in this case Takara's Diaclone Dinosaur Robo line. Grimlock was supposedly a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex, but his proportions were all wrong and the dinosaur legs were poorly positioned and just didn't look anything like those of a T-Rex, the head was too wide and too flat, the arms stuck out from the torso, with a fixed 90degree bend at the elbow... The whole thing was a catalogue of poor design, quite apart from the fact that it was a frikkin' robotic dinosaur. The Dinobots are why I was initially quite sceptical of Beast Wars.

Weirdly, and as mentioned in my write-up of Classics Grimlock, I bought a full set of Justitoys' World's Smallest Dinobots - at no small cost - because the idea of them appealed to me. Other than being scaled to the authentic Takara Tomy World's Smallest line (based on their comparative sizes on the TV show), they were functionally identical to the full-sized version in every detail. They were a curiosity and a massive aberration in my collection, picked up largely because they were made available as a complete set, whereas G1 Swoop was never released in the UK. As it turned out, they're not great quality, and part of me rather regrets buying them.

Still, something must have convinced me to buy this behemoth... Let's see if we can figure out what it was...

Dinobot Mode:
The first and most obvious thing about this update of Grimlock is that his proportions are far better. The body is slimmer and longer, the legs are in a better position and don't seem quite so huge (despite being proportionally wider). The next most obvious thing is that the overall model ain't remotely based on the G1 toy, it's based wholly on the animation model from the TV series, but with a Masterpiece-enhanced level of detail based on the G1 toy. Thus you have extensive panel lining, rivets, tech detailing everywhere, gold and silver chrome where appropriate, and nothing like the extent of sticker detailing of the G1 toy.

This also means that Grimlock is even less like a real T-Rex, with unfeasibly long arms bearing three claws mounted on his sides, rather than stubby, two-clawed arms mounted on his chest. On the upside, the arms - and claws - are almost freakishly poseable. Also, maybe this is just me, but the head looks a little on the small side for Grimlock...

That said, there are four cool features in the head alone: opening the jaw reveals some kind of gun sitting in Grimlock's gob (I seem to recall he occasionally breathed fire... despite that being part of Slag's remit); pushing a cunningly-disguised button on the lefthand side of his face (right where his jaw meets his head) makes those chromed teeth snap shut (sometimes... it can be a bit fiddly and sticky); it's possible to change Grimlock's eye colour to be either toy-accurate (red) or cartoon-accurate (blue) by opening the forehead and spinning round the eyepiece. Strangely, this eyepiece is transparent, colourless plastic... so, were it not for the fact that the eyes are painted over with completely opaque paint, they might actually have offered coloured light piping... when viewed from the sides, at least; finally, if you turn the head left or right, Grimlock's tail moves in the opposite direction thanks to some clever gears inside.

Aside from those, there are several improvements, both to the G1 toy and the animation model, not least of these is the way the detail on the back is dealt with. Naturally, since this mold was created from scratch as 'Masterpiece Grimlock', they haven't incorporated the former-Diaclone toy's cockpit, though a similar-looking ridged area is still present toward the base of the tail. What was once a pair of long protrusions serving only as the location for a couple of hinges on his back has now become a pair of rocket boosters. They're unpainted plastic, but they feature more than enough detail  to suggest that they serve a purpose... Though I don't recall Grimlock ever flying in either mode... unless you count his few seconds of 'falling with style' (to quote Buzz Lightyear) in the animated movie...

The neck and belly draw more design cues from the G1 toy than the animated model, not least because they're both still gold chrome. There is an incredible amount of molded detail on them, and this update retains the clear plastic 'window' effect on his collar and at the top of his belly.

The majority of the model is molded in grey plastic with a fine metallic flake component. It doesn't look metallic, as such, but neither does it look completely bland. There's not a great deal of paintwork, just a few references to some of the G1 model's stickers, as well as a few pieces of coloured translucent plastic on the tail referring to aspects of the animation model.

Dinobot mode would almost be imposing... were it not for the comically small head and excessively long arms... though, sadly, he cannot adopt the "why boy hit my nose?" pose.

Robot Mode:
If Grimlock appears a little comical in Dinobot mode, there's nothing funny about him in robot mode: this guy is 'capital-i' Imposing. Everything about this robot tells you he's not a character to mess with.

As with Dinobot mode, this model strikes the perfect balance between faithfulness to the G1 toy and the animation model from the TV series, throwing in a few improvements along the way. While Dinobot mode manages to be comparatively slimmer than the original, robot mode remains every bit as bulky - broad, heavy chested, with those massive arms and thick, powerful legs... and it's good to see, in this day and age of cost-cutting hollowness, that Grimlock looks completely solid. Even the insides of his 'wings' (Dinobot mode's chest) are stacked with all kinds of detail, rather than just structural reinforcements.

The head sculpt, quite apart from its own eye colour-change gimmick (this one operated by a red switch on the back of his head, and switching between metallic red and blue), is another massive improvement both on the G1 original and the animation model - more refined than the former, more detailed than the latter, but using its basic silhouette. There's even the suggestion of the 'tooth' pattern seen in some of Grimlock's more recent comic book appearances - there's no molded detail to that effect but, considering the way the faceplate is designed, the indented areas on his cheeks almost encourage one to fill in the missing details. Overall, the head suits the proportions of the body much better - the G1 version was a tiny head on a massively bulky body, this one seems to be the perfect size.

The figure isn't exactly packed with features but, versus the average Leader Class figure and its unnecessary light and sound effects, Grimlock has all the features he needs. Aside from the eye colour-change gimmick, his right hand contains an LED feature much like G2 Battle Convoy/Laser Optimus Prime. Pushing a button the back of his shoulder activates the light, which can illuminate his 'Galaxial Rocket Launcher' or his Energo Sword. The effect is more readily apparent on the former, but I'm sure the latter would look excellent in low light.

The weapons themselves are fairly impressive, even without the light-piping feature. They're both pretty hefty, and it's especially nice to see a TransFormer armed with a weapon that's described as a sword, and is actually of the right sort of size. While the gun is molded largely in plain black plastic with a transparent core for the lighting effect, the sword seems to be molded entirely in transparent plastic, with the base covered in red chrome, to excellent effect. Either weapon fits snugly in the right hand, but only the sword sits particularly well in the left, thanks to an additional peg on the underside of the guard. The awkward positioning on thumb coupled with the shape and looseness of the fingers mean the left hand doesn't offer much grip.

As a bonus, the UK, TRU-exclusive release was packaged with the crown that came with the second Japanese release (a redecorated version made to look like the Marvel Comics version of Grimlock). It's a fairly basic, gold chromed crown, based on the thing he wore when he made himself Autobot leader in the comics.

The most surprising aspect of Grimlock's transformation is that it's effectively identical to the G1 original, just with a few tweaks and improvements. Most notably, his tail - left hanging on the outsides of his shins on the original - folds away into his lower legs, bulking them up and making him appear more solid and - I can't believe I'm writing this - more realistic. I'm also impressed by the way the Dinobot head folds down the back - it's far flatter than the G1 original. Another cute feature of transformation is that his Autobot insignia slides into place on his chest as his body is pushed together for robot mode. It doesn't align perfectly... but then, you could say the same about Grimlock and the Autobot cause...

Grimlock's articulation in both modes is excellent, not least because of the improvements on the G1 model. While you can't put Dinobot mode into an especially convincing running pose, the legs are very well jointed, though not quite well enough to allow his legs to be posed as a proper T-Rex's would. The simple fact that they have ball joints at the hip, and a rotation joint just above the knee gives him plenty of dynamic range. The long, skinny arms also have ball joints at the shoulder, then a hinged elbow giving a touch more than 90degree rotation. The wrists are fixed, but the claws are individually jointed, so the arms are very expressive. Added to this, the mobile head and tail and the opening mouth make the Dinobot mode something very special. He may not be an accurate robotic Tyrannosaurus, but he's certainly an excellent Grimlock.

Robot mode is even more impressive, however - the ball jointed Dino-hips are his shoulders, and his arms seem to have more freedom of movement than they did as legs. His legs are fully articulated at the hips, with forward, backward and outward movement, as well as a rotation joint right at the hip. The knees can be a little stiff, but that does help him stand steadily - considering how much Dinobot bulk is now in the upper body, Grimlock does tend to be top-heavy. He even has semi-articulated 'toes', making it easier to plant his massive feet firmly on the ground. The head has an excellent range of motion and, while there's only a tiny bit of waist movement, coupled with the other articulation, it's more than enough to ensure Grimlock looks powerful and dynamic in any pose. I have found that his chest has a tendency to sag, but that's easily fixed.

Like most of the later Masterpiece models, Grimlock has only a few pieces of die cast metal - all the Dinobot toes, the shoulder joints (leading to plastic sockets in the arms) and the central part of the robot's groin, plus a few structural pieces. All are nicely painted to match the rest of the model, and the only drawback is that the extent of die cast in robot mode's upper body can make him tricky to balance.

One small thing that I especially like about this model is that virtually all of the screws are covered over by little plastic caps, to better ensure the continuity of the model. This isn't a common feature, even in the Masterpiece line (MP10 and Soundwave feature open screw holes, MP03 and Skywarp have some covered), but it's especially appreciated - and effective - on Grimlock.

In all honesty, and as someone who loathes the Dinobots, I'm forced to admit that the Masterpiece version looks phenomenally good. It's also perfectly scaled for the Classics/Generations Deluxes and Voyagers - he towers over Optimus Prime just the way he did in the TV series and animated movie. He was also one of the cheaper Masterpiece models, weighing in at only about £60 at UK retail (exclusively at Toys'R'Us), versus over £100 for the import when it first came out, and an average of about £200 on eBay now, so he certainly presents good value, and considerably better value than Masterpiece Rodimus Prime.


  1. What I really love about this figure is that they resisted the urge to make his T-Rex mode modern. I remember when I was a kid, everyone thought T-rexs walked dragging their tail on the ground. That and Brontosauruses were real. It certainly wouldn't be G1 Grimlock otherwise.

    He has one more gimmick as well, I think you push down on his Rex hips it activates his head and tail action. Been a while since I have toyed with mine, but it's something like that and involves awkwardly applying pressure to the hips.

    Also looks good with Legion class classics Wheelie standing on the back of his neck too! :D Which is really the only use for Wheelie :p

    1. Yes, the designers were particularly canny with this one. The curve of his body is such that he's most easily positioned in his classic G1 'dragging his tail' pose (and, let's face it, he's most stable that way too!) or more like Beast Wars Megatron, with the tail somewhat raised - the mobility of his head ensures he doesn't end up stuck looking at his own feet.

      Thanks for the tip on the additional feature, Tets... I'd noticed that there was some 'travel' in his hips, but hadn't connected it to the geared movement feature. I'll have to give it another go, but it may just be that the gears don't properly mesh in mine.

      And, you know, I should have thought of including Wheelie in some of the photos... I have the G1 version in storage... not that he could sit anywhere, considering his terrible, terrible legs...