Saturday, 30 January 2016

Hunt for the Decepticons Battle Blade Bumblebee

One would think that, eventually, Hasbro would stop making Bumblebee toys. Sure, he's the 'Kid Appeal' character, but he ended up with dozens of toys in all the size classes for each movie, totalling several billion variations of the yellow Camaro on the shelves and pegs.

OK, maybe a slight exaggeration, but surely they'd eventually be satisfied enough with one particular model in each size class (especially the Deluxe class) be be able to say "that's it, we've done all we can"..? At least until the next movie and the next model of Camaro, right?

Vehicle Mode:
I am officially sick of the yellow Camaro as Bumblebee's alternate mode. There, I've said it. Thankfully, I have only one more movie Bumblebee to tackle (DotM MechTech Nitro Bumblebee), but I've yet to take photos of him...

Assuming the existing Bayverse continues in some form or another, I sincerely hope that we're given a rest from Bumblebee entirely, or at least that he gets a new, non-Camaro vehicle mode.

This is another decent representation of the car in terms of its molded detail, let down - as usual - by a crummy paint job. The front end looks great, but the stripes don't run everywhere they're supposed to and the rear end looks like a knockoff with its perfunctory splashes of red in the rear lights and absolutely no attention paid to the Chevrolet badge, numberplate or the exhaust pipes. But, hey, at least the hubcaps are silver!

Amusingly the seams at the front are suspiciously similar to those of the Human Alliance version... which bodes well... at least for those who like their movie TransFormers toys nice and complex.
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Robot Mode:
The first thing that strikes you about this version of Bumblebee is that he's really tall - taller than any other Deluxe Bumblebee and, in fact, virtually ever other movie series Deluxe. Looking at him on more detail, it quickly becomes apparent how this figure has evolved from all the other iterations. The legs, for example, are barely changed from the first Concept Camaro Bumblebee - a hinged heel piece as well as dual-hinged knees and car panel/thigh armour are about the only differences. The upper body is full of refinements, however. The chest behaves very similarly to the Human Alliance version (but, thankfully, without the irritating spring-loaded elements). The arms have been wholly resculpted to better resemble the on-screen character and to remove any extraneous car parts, and there's enhanced molded detail all over the body - even where they could simply have reused parts from existing iterations of Bumblebee, some new parts have been created specifically for this figure.

As with vehicle mode, the paint job is a little lacking. The arms and crotch have touches of silver paint, there are touches of yellow paint on his waist, knees and shins, but there's no detail paintwork on his forearm armour chunks or even on his toes. It's a good thing that the grey plastic used for the majority of the model shows off the molded detail so well, or this could have been a disaster.

The big draw on this figure, though, is the new handling of his weapons. While all previous versions either gave him hand-held weapons or had one arm ending in his blaster rather than a hand, this model uses the large yellow armour chunks on his forearms to conceal two different weapons. The blaster isn't especially convincing as it doesn't fit snugly around his folded-back hand, it simply hangs out over the wrist and since it's unpainted yellow plastic, to better match the rest of the wrist armour, it just looks weird. Sadly, there are also problems with the weapon that gives this version of Bumblebee his name: the spring-loaded feature of the battle blade only flips out the handle - the blade itself has to be unfolded manually... and it's mounted the wrong way round. Given that the publicity photos of this figure showed the axe the right way round, it would appear that, at some point during production, the arms got switched around. Short of remolding the blade, that's the only way it can have gone wrong, and the stock images of the toy could easily have been flipped to compensate for the reversal.

The head sculpt is probably the best, most finely-detailed ever seen on a Deluxe Bumblebee, not least because it features both light piping in his ginormous round eyes and a slide-down battle mask. The face looks as though it was created directly from the movie CGI and, while the mask isn't strictly accurate and completely obscures his light-piped eyes, its inclusion on a Deluxe is a huge bonus. Due to some very clever design, deploying the mask also makes it look as though his two 'horns' have lifted slightly.
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Transformation is broadly the same as earlier Deluxe Bumblebees, just with a few extra steps and a few additional details, particularly on the upper body. He's one of the more complex movie Deluxes, but still fairly intuitive. It carries some obvious influences from the Human Alliance figure's transformation which, sadly, does leave the vehicle's front wheels just dangling between his shoulders and his door wings, but the benefits outweigh the apparent laziness of this choice. My one gripe is that there's just too much car bonnet running from his chest, up over his shoulders and on to his back, and it might have looked better if they'd been able to hinge half of it down slightly to better conceal the sheer length of it.

With the additional complications in transformation, one could be forgiven for expecting articulation to suffer, but here, again, it's an improvement in every way imaginable. The most obvious factor is the introduction of waist rotation - which isn't even required for transformation - but there are other, more subtle improvements, including the double-hinged knees (a small part of the reason he's taller than some older Bumblebees), a rotation joint just above the elbow and, for no obvious reason, a hand with an independently hinged thumb. Now, for this to have been perfect, it would have needed a rotation joint below the elbow as well, so he could bend his arm and keep the forearm weapon chunks in a more natural position... but it's hard to criticise any arrangement which allows a figure to facepalm.
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I honestly think that this was - and remains - the pinnacle of movie Bumblebee toys. It's packed with features without having removable/gimmick parts and is easily the best representation of the movie CGI apart from its typically meagre paint job. Hasbro could - and probably should - have simply kept retooling this model rather than creating new and utterly superfluous molds for the Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon toylines. Given a more extensive paint job, this could have been a Deluxe class Masterpiece figure, so it's a real shame Hasbro didn't wheel it out again for Dark of the Moon (instead we got a cut down version with single-jointed knees and the arm-mounted weapons removed in favour of the daft Mechtech transforming weapon) let alone make more of this model, in the way of the 'Premium Series' lines of the original movie, and, with a completely redesigned Bumblebee in Age of Extinction, it seems unlikely that this mold will be used again.

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