Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Waspinator

Second on the agenda for this week is the so-called '30th Anniversary' Generations take on Beast Wars Waspinator, not least because I've already written up the only other version of this character I have, the 2007 Reissue with its mostly show-accurate colourscheme.

Of course, that reminds me that I have yet to write up the TransFormers: Animated version... but there's so little of TFA that I have written up, that's sort of forgivable.

It's slightly puzzling of Hasbro to include Beast Wars in it's 'Thrilling 30' anniversary lineup because Beast Wars will celebrate its own 30th anniversary in 2026... but with Rhinox already out and looking awesome, Hasbro seems to be trying to make up for its early mistakes with the hideous Classics Cheetor and Dinobot.

...But which end of the reboot spectrum does Waspinator fall into?

Beast Mode:
So... Waspinator is a large, mostly green wasp. Deal with it.

Despite the unusual and unrealistic colourscheme, Waspinator looks pretty good from most angles. The back end is as lumpy as the original, but the stinger is now translucent colourless plastic rather than just a tiny black nub at the tip of the yellow and black striped abdomen, and the whole section hangs together far better. The head is very accurate to the TV series CGI, with its more angular, splayed mandibles and slightly more evil-looking metallic blue compound eyes. The antennae are fixed, but the legs are rather more mobile than those of the original (albeit arranged in a rather peculiar, almost backward fashion). On the upside, he does stand on them.

There's a fairly clever gimmick in this model, in that tugging on a brown lever on the insect's thorax will swing the wings forward. The wings themselves are mounted on ball joints which give plenty of upward movement but absolutely no downward movement, so having the wings swing backward and forward seems like and odd choice - it never really simulates the flying action of a wasp. Like the older version, the wings are molded in translucent colourless plastic but, due to the change in the way his weapon works, they don't double as storage for missiles. I'm also a little disappointed that they don't have the same iridescent coating as the reissue, but that's a small complaint.

Where this model really falls down is in the undercarriage. While the original had the robot's arms folded up on the belly, and barely visible from most angles, this version has them pegged into the body, running down the sides, leaving the hands very obviously sticking out over the abdomen. The robot's legs take the place of the arms, running down the underside of the body, and adding massive amounts of bulk to the thorax. All of this is very visible from the front and sides, leaving Waspinator looking like a real jumble of techno-organic design, and almost as bad as those TransFormers jets that are a robot folded up on the underside of a complete jet.

Robot Mode:
This model was clearly designed with robot mode in mind, because it look excellent. It's not perfect, still missing lots of paintwork to really make it match the CGI from the TV series. Plenty of detail is painted in, but all kinds of stuff is missing, most notably on the shoulders and face. While the paint job seems pretty good in general, I can't help thinking some of the yellow paint would have been better replaced by gold.

While this isn't necessarily a perfect rendition of the Beast Wars character, it's a heck of a lot better than the original toy in almost every way, and features plenty of visual homages to the toy and the CGI model - the knees, particularly, are designed to look as much like the original toy as possible. The proportions of the figure are overall much more pleasant than the original, though it retains the broad, protruding chest.

On the downside, the homage brings its fair share of problems, not least the retention of the insect legs sticking out of the forearms, and the wings and abdomen hanging off the back. In some ways, the including of the wing gimmick harms the robot mode of this model as it's not as easy to keep the wings in any useful position other than hanging down like a cape. The gimmick is actually more useful in robot mode as the wings now at least flap up and down, but with the insect legs sticking out of his forearms, they're not entirely unobstructed.

Just like the original, Waspinator's weapon stores at the end of his abdomen but, unlike the original, it's not a large, spring-loaded missile launcher. Quite wisely, I suspect, Hasbro have opted to create a weapon that looks more like the CGI from the TV series, in that it's more compact and has a shorter, sharper 'stinger'. The tip of the gun is molded in the same translucent plastic as the wings, and simply folds away to stow in the abdomen.

Generations Waspinator's head sculpt is an excellent rendition of the character's head from the TV series - a far better head than the bland, almost featureless original toy's. It has all the spikes and mandibles, but the back half is translucent plastic to enable some amazing light piping for the eyes. It's also lacking a lot of paintwork, which would have made a huge difference - darkening the spikes on the sides of his head, adding the yellow/gold rimming of his mouth and painting in the black stripes on his antennae would have done wonders to bring out all the detail that's otherwise lost in the shadows.

This version of Waspinator is a lot easier to transform than the original, which was a mass of ball joints, most of which were loose. Many aspects of the transformation hark back to the original, but the overall design is much improved, much more sturdy. In particular, the insect head isn't two entirely separate pieces that can flop around independently and barely stay in place in either mode - the two halves are connected to the paler chest piece and simply snap open or closed around it. The lack of disguise for the arms and legs is disappointing, but both are that much more stable than those of the original that I'm willing to let it slide. The way the groin swings around between modes is pretty cool but, on mine at least, it doesn't clip into robot mode very well.

With the original made almost entirely of ball joints, the figure was often difficult to keep upright. Loose hips and knees, coupled with rigid feet and back heaviness meant it would fall over backwards all the time. No such problems with this fellow, even though I do find his hips a little on the floppy side. The knees don't have a great range of motion, but the feet - now made up of hinged toes and heels - mean he's overall more dynamic. The arms are about the same as ever, but now have articulated wrists.

I may never understand how or why green became the primary colour of Waspinator. I mean, this guy transforms into a wasp... and they don't tend to be green, right..? Nevertheless, the earlier version of Waspinator had a pretty decent alternate mode, albeit with exceedingly floppy, disproportionate back legs. It was comparatively compact and looked essentially wasp-like. This update is something of a curiosity. It makes several key changes to the way he transforms, all of which have a direct impact on the way he looks in both modes. The alternate mode very clearly suffers in favour of a much improved robot mode and so, much like Generations Rhinox, Waspinator has taken the place of the older figure on my Beast Wars shelf.

The wing-swinging gimmick is interesting, but doesn't add a great deal to the toy and, arguably, the toy may have been better overall without it. A more thorough paint job may have been preferable, but the figure is great fun and definitely worth grabbing for any Beast Wars fan.

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