Friday, 20 February 2015

Revenge of the Fallen Arcee

(Femme-Bot Friday #6)
I figure it's only fair, having mentioned in several other write-ups that I quite like the Revenge of the Fallen 'wheelsnakes', that I should actually write about them finally. They're a contentious creation in the eyes of the fandom, because a perfectly good-looking Arcee was left out of the first live action TransFormers movie supposedly because the filmmakers felt it would be too difficult to explain an apparently 'female' alien robot, only for Revenge of the Fallen to feature three (or possibly one which operated as three separate units) without any explanation whatsoever. Then again, that was probably the least of RotF's sins.

They were also among the first non-humaniform Cybertronians, along with Demolishor, seen by the audiences, and that opened a whole different can of worms. Sideswipe skating around on his wheel-feet the fans could accept (kinda)... Femme-bot torsos scooting about on one- or two-wheeled tails was something else entirely. Aren't femme-bots meant to be... y'know... sexy, or something?

Vehicle Mode:
As a fan of motorcycles generally (though very much put off riding them by the idea of falling off or being hit by a careless car driver), I can't help but admire RotF Arcee's vehicle mode. The original movie toy's look was good, but this is far sleeker, almost like something one could sit an action figure on, if only one the right size was available. Granted, the petrol tank area looks rather larger than would be comfortable for a rider given the overall shape of the vehicle, but that can be overlooked because it's a transforming robot, not a toy bike accessory for an action figure.

The colourscheme is fairly basic - pink and black over the most of the vehicle, with a tiny patch of silver on the petrol tank and the exhaust pipes painted black. Since there's not an awful lot of complex molded detail, Hasbro decided to add a couple of Cybertronian glyph tattoos - one on each flank - just to liven things up a little. There is a bit of silverish 'frosting' on the petrol tank and the side panels as well, but it doesn't do much for vehicle mode.

What's particularly impressive about this is that a whole bunch of folded up robot parts are visible on the righthand side of the vehicle but aren't easily identifiable as such thanks to clever molding. It's kind of a tangled mess, but it looks like the kind of tangled mess that forms the inner workings of a motorbike. It might have been nice if some of it had been painted silver to bring out the detail a little more. Likewise, some of the bike's other parts could have been given a metallic finish, but have been left plain. The wheels themselves have been painted to match the red sections of the bike, and that improves the look of the vehicle. Much of the paintwork is not strictly accurate to the look of the character in the movie, but neither is the mold, when they're properly compared.

An addition to the package in both forms of RotF biker femme-bot was a dual-function chunk of plastic. Arcee's looks almost like a side-car and attaches to the rear wheel. It has a pair of machine guns mounted on its sides and even has a couple of touches of red paint to better link it with the main vehicle. Not sure I'd want to be the passenger, if it is a side-car, since it sits so low to the ground, but it's better at keeping the vehicle mode upright than the pinned kickstand which, as is often the case, is a bit too short to be entirely reliable.
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Robot Mode:
The thing about TransFormers as a toy range is that, by and large, it has focused on robots that are broadly humanoid in form. Ever since G1, they've had one head, two arms and two legs, so anything that deviates from that structure will tend to be perceived as 'wrong'. Thing is, one has to remember these are alien robots and so, while Earth's dominant species slowly evolved over the millennia into upright bipeds, that evolutionary path ain't necessarily going to hold true for other planets... and that goes double for a planet of sentient robots who can change their form anyway.

Hence, for Revenge of the Fallen, we got a team of femme-bots who trundled around on wheels rather than legs and feet and, certainly in the movie, it seemed a very effective system. The upper body is connected to the wheels by something very like a multi-axis industrial robot arm which allows it to move around far more easily and mostly independent of the direction of travel. Naturally, in Deluxe class plastic form, much of this is simplified, but the overall effect is a brilliantly asymmetrical robot, 'standing' on two wheels. Part of the asymmetry is an aspect of Arcee's design, while part of it is simply down to the necessities of the toy. Her arms are different lengths and don't quite move the same way, but she looks pretty interesting.

That 'frosting' effect that seemed rather pointless on the motorbike is now on the robot's chest, and so is a little bit more understandable. That's probably the most extensive bit of paintwork, though, and the torso-arm reveals no paintwork in this mode... which is a real shame as there are some panels which should have been painted to match the vehicle's pink shell. At least one later repaint fixed this oversight, but all of them had their own decorative issues.

The sidecar comes into full use in this mode, as it's the only thing keeping Arcee upright - there's nothing on the main robot that can flip out as a stabiliser, so her wheels just clip into the 'seat' area. It's generally quite stable, but it is rather a distraction and nothing similar appeared in the film. Plus, I suspect the weapons would be a bit useless since they're now mounted at ground level.

Thankfully, that's not the only armament Arcee has - her left arm features something that seemed to be a gun in the movie but which, for the toy, deploys a short, translucent blue blade. This is quite similar to the spike depicted on Elita-1's left arm and it's disappointing that a spring-loaded mechanism was wasted on such a short blade when it could have accommodated a missile.

Arcee's head sculpt is an excellent attempt at capturing some of the minute details of the CGI - it looks very good, it's well painted, but it looks a touch too small on this body thanks to the subtly expanding chest and weird arms. It may not be feminine, strictly speaking, but at least it doesn't have the original movie Arcee's peculiar beak.

Like most RotF figures, Arcee has a 'Mech Alive' gimmick, but it's pretty laughable: move her head forward and back, and some gears - which are barely visible between her chest plates - will rotate. Other than that, one notable feature is the hinged section on her back which was intended to facilitate her connection to Chromia and Elita-1 to create a larger, multi-wheel biker femme-bot.
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Remembering how the torso-arm section folds up for bike mode is the only truly complicated part of transforming this toy, and I'm not sure how many other figures in my collection are quite this prone to popping just about every ball joint during transformation. Once you know the proper sequence, it's pretty quick and satisfying to go from one mode to the other, but there is one very puzzling aspect. The front of the bike can split open... but it serves no obvious purpose for transformation. It looks daft if left split open, and doesn't recombine in any other way.

Her multi-axis torso-arm is a mixed blessing. With ball joints at either end as well as a hinged joint and a swivel joint in between, it should be very adaptable. For the most part, it's perfectly adequate, but some of the molded detail likes to get in the way, and the lower ball joint doesn't offer the greatest range to begin with. The right arm has a ball joint at the shoulder and at the elbow, but the bulk of the forearm reduces its mobility, while the left arm is just plain messy, and the large bike panel tends to get in the way.

Nevertheless, this is a solid representation of the intriguing and imaginative CGI. The 'wheelsnakes' are a very novel take on the idea of femme-bots, and easily the most alien representation of any Cybertronian that the movies had to offer. The design is closer to some kind of mythological creature than any of the other robots, however bizarre their proportions, and it's a shame they - or more like them - didn't appear in the later movies. In the concept art, all three of the wheelsnakes are strange and beautiful creatures, and this toy does a more than reasonable job at recreating this incarnation of Arcee in plastic.

It's not for everyone, certainly, and most folks seem to prefer the original - non-appearing - movie Arcee because it's more humanoid. Certainly, there would be no way to repaint this into a dominatrix but, to me, it's no less sexy for being unusual.

The real shame is that Hasbro failed to release the third unique Deluxe 'wheelsnake' mold - Elita-1 - or the instructions for creating the much-hinted-at gestalt form. As far as we know, since no testshots ever surfaced, the third mold was never even created, so it has been left up to fans to join the three released toys - this one, Chromia and her Elita-1 repaint - into the closest approximation they can manage.


  1. Not quite my cup of tea, but I appreciate the effort in it. I wonder if the chest gears could be a boob wiggle?

    Out of the Alien looking TF from ROTF, I quite like the look and adaptability of Rampage.

  2. You could be onto something with the 'boob wiggle' idea, Tets... Perhaps those gears were originally to be connected to the shifting chest plates such that moving the head/neck caused a sort of 'breathing' action, but it eventually got cut to keep costs down...

    Rampage is pretty cool, too, and fits surprisingly well with the first movie's Bonecrusher, despite him not being a construction vehicle. He's certainly another Deluxe that could have done with being a Voyager to allow for better articulation and (perhaps) better CGI accuracy.