Sunday, 13 April 2014

Revenge of the Fallen Jolt

I have a lot of complaints about the first two TransFormers movies. I mean, the third is far from perfect, but at least it has something approaching a plot. The first movie is a poorly conceived introduction to the transforming robotic lifeforms from Cybertron tacked onto a 'heartwarming' story about a boy's first car, and the second is a ridiculous jumble that jumps around the world without ever really going anywhere. Worse still, it's far too obvious that some of the characters are there only to advertise Chevrolet's latest products.

Jolt is probably the most glaring example of this. Whereas the Twins had plenty of screen time and far too much questionable dialogue (must confess, I don't see them as racist stereotypes because I saw them as hillbillies talking 'street'... nothing about them made me think they were supposed to sound 'black'... but maybe that's just me), Jolt had maybe fifteen seconds of screen time, there was maybe one line of dialogue attributed to him that's equally likely to have come from Sideswipe, and his most significant role in the film was using his electro-whips/sparky arm phalli to magically graft bits of the deceased Jetfire onto the recently resurrected Optimus Prime.

In many ways, it was surprising that Hasbro even bothered to make a toy out of him (licensing deals notwithstanding), so how does he shape up?

Vehicle Mode:
The first warning sign with Jolt is the small number of seams. Granted, it makes for a nice, smooth and fairly detailed representation of the Chevy Volt, but you can guarantee it means a robot covered with massive panels of car, like Sideswipe (in both Deluxe and Human Alliance forms). Still, that's for later...

Jolt is very blue. In fact, he's a rather nice, vibrant blue with a very convincing metallic swirl. The front and lower half of the car shell is molded entirely in this plastic, while the top and rear is largely painted a fairly well-matched colour, with the rear bumper using the metallic blue plastic. The front of the car has the headlights and grille painted silver, and the Chevy logo picked out in gold. At the sides, his hubcaps and wing mirrors are painted silver and, at the back, he's got a huge panel painted black with the rear signal lights picked out in red - quite unusual, for Hasbro. The Volt logo is stamped across the back in silver, but the rear Chevy logo has been left black. Overall, in vehicle mode, Jolt ain't left wanting for paint like some of the other first uses of a movie mold.

The blue plastic of his windows does a fair job of concealing the robot parts within while also letting a bit of light through. The drawback to this is that one can see how hollow the back of the vehicle is through the large rear window. Also, some of the stranger seams in the vehicle are in the rear window. Rather than matching the lines of the vehicle, there's a weird curving seam running up from the middle of each side to the central seam that runs almost the full length of the car.

Considering this vehicle mode is little more than a set of car body panels tabbed together around a robot, it's surprising how solid Jolt feels in vehicle mode so, to begin with, at least, he looks pretty cool.
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Robot Mode:
Since Jolt had so little screen time - and was virtually never seen unobstructed or entirely on-screen - it's difficult to say how good the toy looks compared to the character in the movie... but it's pretty safe to say it's not the best of models. Also, with so much of the paint budget already spent on covering over the transparent plastic at the rear of the vehicle and on the roof, robot mode ends up looking incredibly plain. The chest could have done with a few more touches of metallic blue, and what looks like tyre patterns on his thighs is only half painted, leaving it looking rather daft. He does have a bit more variety of colour, with bright cyan - almost 'Allspark Blue' - on his shoulders and pale grey for his biceps and knees, but the absence of paintwork is all too obvious.

The arms seem rather clumsy because they're wearing the car's roof and side windows as 'armour' - which was not present on the movie character - though, surprisingly, they don't get in the way that much. They also conceal a rather weedy attempt at representing Jolt's main weapon from the movie, the aforementioned 'electro-whips/sparky arm phalli'. Sadly, they're pretty pathetic - since they have to conceal alongside his forearms, they don't extend his reach very much, maybe about an inch. They're operated by a small wheel on his inner wrist, and just flip out and back in under the vehicle roof. His hands are tiny and claw-like, and are pretty much concealed by the vehicle's roof.

The head sculpt is actually rather nice and interesting... but what little production artwork of Jolt there is, shows that it's exceedingly inaccurate to the movie character. It features a mixture of the metallic blue plastic, metallic blue paint and silver paint and, while the eyes are light-piped, they never actually receive any light because of the extrusion of grey plastic just behind his head.

Mech Alive:
Many of the Deluxe class toys from Revenge of the Fallen either had no 'Mech Alive' feature or it was pretty minimal. Jolt's is quite cool - as his waist rotates, things move inside his torso - but would have been better with a lighter colour of transparent plastic and a bit more paintwork on the chest.
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With so many panels, Jolt can be a pain to transform. Most of him comes together fairly well, but the arms, front wheels, side panels and windscreen are all on the same set of joints and consequently tend to clash a little. Its not entirely clear in the instructions - or any photos online - what the 'correct' configuration is for the vehicle's side panels in robot mode, so they just tend to stick out at the back. It also seems a little weird that the bonnet stays in one piece, connected by a hinge at the front, meaning the front grille/bumper halves get kind of pushed aside at the back. They're certainly intended to stick out, but the bonnet just sits between them, looking out of place. Another confusing factor is his feet. Theoretically the halves of the rear bumper are supposed to split and rotate to form a vertical 'toe', but the large tab on the right foot means it's always sitting off the ground and at an angle, so it's best to leave them horizontal - more-or-less in their vehicle mode position, as in the photos above.

The most amazing thing about Jolt is that, despite his blocky design and the huge panels of car surface attached to his body, he's incredibly well articulated. The arms have excellent freedom of movement that's only hampered by the way the shoulders are attached to the car's front wheels, which don't actually connect to anything within the body. Moving the arms generally pulls them out of place, often causing his backpack to shift as well. Due to the strange construction of the feet, they are remarkably well-suited to dramatic posing and the awkward legs actually have a great range of movement to support this. He's also one of the precious few Deluxes to have waist articulation, which allows for a much more dynamic look. What's utterly unforgivable, though, is the restriction placed on the head by the large slab of plastic just behind it. Despite being on a ball-joint, virtually all movement is blocked, and the light-piped eyes are rendered utterly ineffectual.

The problem Hasbro and Takara Tomy's designers had with the first movie is that they only had pre-production designs to work with... and Jolt feels much the same way. In fact, I recently read a snippet of an interview with a couple of Takara Tomy designers who worked on the Revenge of the Fallen line, and they mentioned - quite casually - that work on Jolt had been put on hold when Hasbro told them he wasn't in the movie... so when he became a last-minute addition to the robotic cast, they had to pick him back up again... and it shows. Something just feels incomplete about him.

That's not to say he's a bad toy - quite the opposite. Jolt's plastic form has its flaws, but it's very poseable - apart from the head - and, while it may not be entirely faithful to the look of the final robot in the movie, it manages to be pretty cool. In fact, I'm surprised it was never repainted into any other characters - this model got one repaint as 'Electrostatic Jolt' for the Hunt for the Decepticons subline, while the Dark of the Moon version - literally an entirely new mold - didn't get a single repaint, except for the upcoming Japanese Age of Extinction 'Lost Age' subline... a repaint which, bizarrely, tries to replicate Jolt's look in Revenge of the Fallen.

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