Sunday, 27 March 2016

Hunt for the Decepticons Terradive

Possibly one of the strangest things about Michael Bay's TransFormers movies is that there are so few flying Decepticons. We've had Starscream, we've had Blackout, we've had Laserbeak... and that's pretty much it. The toylines expanded on this with repaints of the original and multiple versions of Starscream for RotF, plus the odd few additional characters from the associated fiction. Weirdly, though, even in the extended toyline, there still seem to be more airborne Autobots than Decepticons

One of the most enduring kinds of TransFormers toy designs is the Generation 2 Cyberjet. They have been reused and remixed time and time again, with straight repaints and mold upgrades. As one of the few airborne Decepticons in the extended toyline for Revenge of the Fallen, it was surprising to find Terradive so familiar, though he's still very much his own mold.

Vehicle Mode:
As a plane that's halfway between the Russian Sukhoi SU-47 and the kind of jets you see in anime and sci-fi, Terradive has a unique, elegant and futuristic look (amusing that these planes with forward-swept wings have been knocking around as 'testbed' aircraft in one form or another for more than 50 years, but they're still never used for anything else) while retaining a fairly traditional fuselage design. What I find quite interesting with the SU-47 comparison is that Terradive's wings - both front and main - and tailfins are angled far more dramatically than any real-world forward-swept wing planes. The main wings are angled down and slightly forward, like a bird of prey in mid flight. The smaller wings, either side of the cockpit, are angled upward, and then the fins at the back are sticking out to the sides more than they are sticking up, though this is perhaps to compensate for the lack of rear flaps - the space they might occupy is taken up by robot parts.

The layout of this model is very much akin to the G2 Cyberjets in that way, the only significant difference being that the arms fold away a la Energon Starscream/Superlink Nightscream. By and large, the legs have less visible impact on this model due to the fact that they're attached to the robot's wings, rather than trying to pretend to be part of the main body of the plane. This gives the robot legs a certain amount of context, though it does make the fuselage seem wider than it needs to be. That said, they also contain his rear landing gear, and feature molded detail on the underside which could conceivably be some sort of VTOL engine, so that kind of evens it out...

In terms of detailing, all the usual panel lines are there, and transformation seams are mostly placed to fit in with the panel breaks, or so they're covered up, to an extent, by the paintwork. The use of colour is quite basic, but the black paint does a good job of mostly following the panel lines or the natural contours of the jet and fitting to the transitions between painted orange plastic and black plastic, while the white paint just sits in blocks on the tips of his wings. Either side of the cockpit are a couple of recessed gun ports, and the nose looks as though it features the beginnings of an in-flight refuelling probe, making this a rather more detailed design than a lot of contemporary TransFormers jets.

The biggest difference between Terradive and the average G2 Cyberjet - or its earlier decendants, for that matter - is that absolutely every single part of his jet mode pegs together very securely. There's none of the finagling and finessing of parts that never sit flush because they just hinge into place separately. All kinds of things that you wouldn't necessarily expect to peg together do, creating a good, sturdy jet mode. It's also far slimmer of profile that any of its ancestors

The colourscheme is interesting... despite the orange being quite gaudy, the colours as a whole work pretty well - he looks like a test plane or a display plane. What's rather odd about it is that, while the name refers to a G2 character, neither the aircraft design nor the colourscheme reference that character or, indeed, any other character named 'Terradive'. As far as G2 goes, the colourscheme might resemble that of Hooligan if it also involved tiger-striping of some sort.

Terradive comes with one of the stranger weapons from the extended RotF toyline: a spear/trident. Not quite sure how that fits with a plane, let alone a robot in disguise... but it does attach rather neatly to the underside of the plane thanks to a hinged c-clip at the rear and a longer clip roughly in the middle of the fuselage. Due to the way it attaches, it only really fits when the trident is completely folded up, with the outer prongs turned inward. Conveniently, the landing gear are all long enough to give Terradive decent ground clearance even with the weapon attached, but not the the point where they seem artificially long when it's not. It's also interesting to note that the weapon attaches in two places - via a mobile c-clip at the back and a slot in the middle of the jet's underside - to keep it nice and secure.
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Robot Mode:
While Terradive still looks rather like a Cyberjet in robot mode, there are quite a few differences, not least the way the chest is organised. Rather than simply folding down and giving him a nosecone crotch, the tip of the nose folds back up and, along with the smaller wings, becomes part of a weirdly protruding chest. Personally, I find the look of the wings on the legs more than a little odd, almost giving the impression of either the tails of a very long coat from the front (shades of AoE Crosshairs?), or bell-bottomed trousers from other angles. All the limbs are astoundingly skinny for a robot of this size, but that is another symptom of the mold upgrade and the resultant reduction in overall mass. Terradive doesn't look bad because of it, just unusual - he's a bit of a stringbean, as TransFormers go, with long legs and narrow hips to complement his rather long upper body.

Despite the orange plastic being quite a lurid shade, it's not utterly repulsive and even not unsuited to a Decepticon... as long as we're talking about the acid trip that was Generation 2. While the majority of the upper body is almost Sunstorm orange, it's broken up quite nicely by metallic paintwork on the underside of the jet's small, front wings - now effectively his robo-pecs - which highlights some molded mechanical detailing. There's also a weird metallic cage/flap thing that covers over part of his cockpit, but it's a very strange effect. White plastic appears on his shoulders as a reference to the white paint on the jet, and the clever design conspires to place his tailfins on his back, just like a G2 Cyberjet's main wings would tend to be.

The spear/trident still doesn't make sense as a weapon for a giant alien robot that turns into a flying maching, but it has an interesting feature whereby the head is either closed up to form a spear head with the grey central block pushed forward, or opened up to form a trident when it's pulled back. In many ways, it's almost as if this thing was designed to be Depth Charge, but Hasbro wanted another jet rather than an aquatic vehicle. When not in use, the spear can be stored using either of the two jet mode connections - either hanging off his shoulder or slotted onto his back. If the situation calls for ranged weapons, it is possible to transform his hands back into his wrists, leaving the afterburners to represent a very movie-styled blaster, somewhat like the Dreadwing drone from the first live action movie toyline, though I'm not sure if that's official...

As observed in the Depth Charge write-up, the head sculpt is well-suited to that reuse. As a standalone figure in one of the movie lines, its aesthetic is well and truly off, unless the 'face' is meant to represent a silver battlemask covering most of his actual face, yet leaving his gold cyber-goatee'd chin out in the open. This is another of those head sculpts that would have had excellent light piping, but the plastic used is clear and colourless, and the eyes have been painted over in opaque red.
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The physical similarities to G2 Cyberjets mean that his transformations is inevitably similar, though the way the chest is formed, and the fact that the wings are on his legs - hinging into place via an arm-and-wheel arrangement not dissimilar to Galaxy Force Noisemaze - mean he remains unique. The biggest improvement is the way everything pegs together securely, not just in jet mode but in robot mode as well, though some of the additional steps cause complications. The way the nose of the plane folds up, yet has to allow the protrusions from the hips to swing down below it, can be a little frustrating, but it improves the stability of the torso further. It's an interesting trade-off because, had the nose remained one solid part that stayed pointing down, like the old-style toys, it wouldn't have been floppy enough to require the extra stability the hip section gives it.

Like the best of the movie figures, Terradive has excellent articulation and reasonably good balance once the two halves of each of his feet are in a position to properly support his mass. The hips - ball joints followed immediately by a thigh rotation joint - offer incredible range, but the knees are comparatively limited, while the arms have decent range at the elbow which is then supplemented by the transformation joint, effectively giving him a double-jointed elbow, and the wrists can rotate. The arms seem to have been designed with the trident weapon in mind, as the multiple joints allow him to wield it convincingly with either one or two hands. The head is on a ball joint, but this is a little restricted by a raised collar and a protruding rim around the socket.

By this point, the G2 Cyberjet formula is more than just 'tried and tested', it's reached the point where it's so overused, it really needed the the heavy upgrade that Terradive represents. It takes the best elements of the format and upgrades them both in terms of form and function. I would have been happy with a Cyberjet-derived figure where the shoulders peg into the torso, but this is far more secure in both modes, and has the level of molded detail one would tend to expect from the movie line, making it another fine example of the toy of a character who wasn't in the movie being better than many of those for characters who were. That said, aside from the comparatively high level of 'realistic' detailing on the jet mode and complicated tech detailing on the robot parts, nothing about it really fits with the movie stylings, yet it's too overburdened with technical detail to fit anywhere else.

Gotta say, I wouldn't say no to a repaint as Cyclonus, as long as it got a new head... and a new weapon...

2 comments:

  1. Nice review! I really like this toy and found his compact jet mode and spindly robot mode quite refreshing. He is rather pose-able, which is kind of cool.
    As for his name, I saw it as a reference to the Armada minicon Terradive, who would transform into a jet as well as a 3 pronged claw weapon, erm, but I'll admit it's a pretty weak connection.

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    1. Aha, thanks for pointing that out - never made the connection myself 'cos I've forgotten the names of virtually all the Mini-Cons I have, but it certainly makes some sense, as well as being the kind of odd reference Hasbro do sometimes make with their toy names... And, weirdly, I remember that Terradive reminded me a bit of Cyclonus as well, because of the way the nose of his jet mode ended up looking like horns in robot mode.

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