Monday, 8 September 2014

Cybertron Unicron

Following the animated TransFormers movie back in 1986, Hasbro made a couple of abortive attempts to create a Unicron toy, but it wasn't until Armada/Micron Legend - sixteen years later - that the first proper, transforming Unicron planetoid turned up. That got repainted for Energon/Superlink to represent Unicron his is dormant/deactivated state. However, for Cybertron/Galaxy Force, he got a whole new mold.

Don't get too excited, though... it's not a whole new planetoid...

Vehicle Mode:
Honestly, I cannot think how to describe this other than as a 'vehicle'. From the front, it almost looks like a space craft, but the molded treads at the front and the ginormous wheels at the back suggest it's more of a ground-based vehicle...

...But it's Unicron, so it's spiky. And orange. The spikes at the front are a decent reference to the mandibles of his planetoid form, while the protrusions from his sides are molded to look like remnants of his ring. The large side panels, too, look like parts of his original form, albeit in the wrong colour, as his planetoid form was largely grey and/or purple. There are touches of metallic purple paint in strategic locations, but really not nearly enough for this to work.

The central part of the vehicle is a bit random. It starts with something that almost looks like a cockpit at the front. This leads to a reference to movie Unicron's internal chompy-jaw (or maybe just the 'mouth' of the Armada toy?), then what could be a radar dish (but is actually just a really poor attempt at 'disguising' the robot's head) flanked by a small machine gun on a ball joint and a large spring-loaded missile launcher on a largely ineffectual hinge and swivel. Behind these is a pair of (probably) afterburners around his key slot, all above those large and incongruous dune buggy wheels.

Unicron's key-activated gimmick works in both modes: plug in the key and his chompy-jaw opens up and deploys a three-barrelled translucent orange cannon thing. It's a bit of a let-down after Armada Unicron's enormous mega chest cannon.

Of course, it strikes me now that this vehicle mode is somewhat similar in feel to the awful alleged 'tank' mode of Dark of the Moon Shockwave... albeit less spiky...

There's all kinds of molded detail all over the model, particularly on the side panels, which could easily be fragments of the surface of his former planetoid mode. The orange plastic doesn't hide the detail, but it honestly could have done with a dark wash to really bring it out.
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Robot Mode:
Oh, how the mighty have fallen... There are loads of great visual references to both the animated movie character and the old Armada toy on this thing, but the first thing that strikes you is how small and skinny - almost skeletal - he looks. That impression isn't helped by the head sculpt, which has a serious skull-in-a-samurai-helmet vibe going on. I'm surprised, in fact, that this hasn't been repainted as Bludgeon (officially, at least).

This robot looks odd from just about any angle, for myriad reasons. The feet are huge, quite dangerous-looking claws that wouldn't look out of place on some sort of beast-former. Those skinny legs have the vehicle's (comparatively) massive side panels attached to the sides when, just for once, they might have looked better (and certainly more appropriate) hanging off the body as wings. He suffers from the 'long shins, tiny thighs' syndrome which is surprisingly common to contemporary TransFormers toys, his widely-spaced ball-jointed hips are covered over by a weird crotch plate that was the front of the vehicle. This then leads up to what can only be described as Unicron's bust... which is pretty large (and comparable to his enormous arse-tyres... I wonder if this was ever planned to be a fem-bot..?) and features the key-activated chompy-jaw/triple-barelled cannon which looks even more weedy in this mode compared to the Armada model's Chest Cannon of the Apocalypse.

The arms seem comparatively small and are weighed down by both the treads and the grey mandibles from the front of the vehicle mode, which hang off his wrists at an awkward angle rather than folding back flush... though the mandibles can be flipped back underneath the fists to look like large daggers. The shoulders are clear references to both the Armada Unicron toy and, in the finer details, to Galaxy Force Master Megatron/Galvatron.

The head, sitting on the back of the vehicle mode's dish-thing, seems a little high up based on the proportions of the rest of the model - it's certainly raised up beyond the top of his collar - and, while this contributes to the strange look of the figure, it's possibly one of the least weird feature of the overall model.

As with vehicle mode, he has the ball-jointed machine gun and the vaguely mobile launcher available in robot mode with no improvements to the range of motion. It's a bit of a shame that they can't be stowed away (particularly the large spring-loaded launcher, which looks too big in robot mode), and they really don't seem to fit the idea of Unicron.
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Since it had been on display on my shelves for several years before I took these photos, I have to admit that some elements of his transformation were somewhat confusing. The way the arms transform put me in mind of Binaltech/Alternators Grimlock/Wheeljack because of the way the shoulders have to be moved around and positioned just so for vehicle mode. Most of the transformation happens below the chest, with the remainder of the torso being made out of the front of the vehicle sort of concertinaed down. It's one of those TransFormers toys that flouts the idea of being a 'robot in disguise', though the head is still rather better concealed than the likes of movie Megatron or Galaxy Force Starscream.

Unicron is one of the more extensively articulated models from the Cybertron/Galaxy Force range, though that doesn't always work in his favour. The legs are excellent and he balances well on is thin, long feet... but the hip joints are fairly weak, so wide-legged stances can often lead to him crumpling to the ground. He does have waist articulation, but the crotch plate gets in the way as it's attached to the upper torso. His elbows have both hinge and swivel joints, offering decent range of motion as long as you're satisfied with a 90° bend in the elbow. The head is pinned, when it really could have used a ball joint, but it works well enough.

Not having seen either Galaxy Force or the US 'remix' known as Cybertron, I've no idea whether this actually appeared in the show or if the idea of a 'seed of Unicron' even came up, but he does seem to have appeared in the accompanying comic.

This is a rather weird model, and we all know how much I like weird TransFormers (up to a point). I'm honestly surprised that this has only ever been re-released as subtle variations on Unicron, when it could so easily be reworked into something original (or perhaps a pre-Beast Wars Tarantulas?) It's a decent model, overall, and kind of reminds me of Noisemaze in some respects. When I bought this, I had my doubts about it - why would anyone think such an odd-looking Deluxe class Unicron was a good idea? - but it's actually rather cool, and well worth a look, if only for curiosity value.

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