Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Last Knight/New Designs - Early First Impressions

So, we've been seeing photos from a couple of toy shows featuring toys from the line accompanying the new live action movie, The Last Knight and many of them look... familiar. Bumblebee is yet another reshelling of the honed-to-perfection figure they got right back in the Revenge of the Fallen toyline (only to take several steps backward with each subsequent figure, culminating with the over-simplified mess of a toy based on the over-complicated mess of CGI that was Age of Extinction 'Bee). Drift and Crosshairs are reshellings, with the most exciting aspect of the two of them being Drift's new, eyeball-melting orange colourscheme and an inverted transformation versus the AoE Deluxe. There's a new Optimus Prime - obviously - which looks leagues better than either of the Leader Class figures from the AoE toyline, despite being only a Voyager. The only major improvements are with the Decepticons... A new Barricade looks decent, a new seemingly generic character known only as 'Berserker' is the Crankcase toy we should have got in the Dark of the Moon toyline, rather than the brittle piece of crap than came out at the time...

...And the new Megatron...

...Actually looks fantastic. Yes, his alternate mode is another Cybertronian jet rather than a development of his Dark of the Moon post-apocalyptic death tanker, and so it loses a few points in my estimation, but at least it actually looks like a jet this time, rather than an obscure weapon liable to inflict as much injury on its wielder as on its intended victim. Robot mode is suitably terrifying without resorting to just being a mass of shiny spikes...

And yet...

...Maybe it's just me, but Megatron no longer looks like a TransFormer. OK, let me clarify: The original live action movie Megatron didn't look like a TransFormer because he was just a mass of shifting spikes that proved impossible to turn into a decent plastic toy at any scale. Revenge of the Fallen Megatron had exactly the same problem, but the toy wasn't a complete disaster given what the designers had to work with, it just needed some third party upgrades to make it right... And yet, without a recognisable, real world alternate mode 'disguise', it was still a bit crap as a 'Robot In Disguise'. Dark of the Moon Megatron was the first halfway decent version, with a recognisable, terrestrial 'disguise' (albeit at a stretch considering Earth wasn't a post-apocalyptic wasteland in that film), leading to an excellent Voyager class toy that would surely have been a triumph as a Leader class toy. Then the design went batshit crazy all again with Age of Extinction's Galvatron, where the vehicle mode was excellent... but the robot mode gave so little indication of being something that turned into a truck, the toy had to resort to being a shell-former.

The new version of Megatron - and I'm sure the movie will go to great lengths to explain why he's gone back to that name rather than continuing as Galvatron... assuming it's even the same robot - has a far more believable alternate mode, despite not being based on a real-life vehicle of any kind. Unlike the first movie Megatron's jet mode, this one appears to have visible means of propulsion - highlighted by what appears to be a pair of large sculpted flame missiles - and a cockpit-analogue rather than a visible head. While we've not seen any images of the underside of the toy, the look of the Leader class vehicle suggests a fair bit of the robot might be visible below, but not to the extent of, say, RotF Jetfire. The Voyager class version actually has chunks of the robot's leg embedded in the wings as well, but still makes a decent robot. In short, it seems like a reasonable amount of thought has gone into designing the new Megatron's vehicle mode.

Robot mode, though..? While I was certainly no fan of the Shrike-like silver-and-chrome spiked look used in the first two movies, I'm not sure about this new fantasy aesthetic. Given that we've seen one dragon in the trailer, and toy images of a second, Megatron's look is more TransFormers: Skyrim than anything that has gone before.

It's almost as if there's a new crossover toyline, in which alien knights from some bizarre mediaeval future have been given the ability to shape-shift into spacecraft... except that there's just so little evidence of an alternate vehicle form in the robot's design that the alternate mode almost seems incongruous, if not superfluous. Granted, it's a development of Age of Extinction Optimus Prime's new look, which exhibited precious little sign of being a robot that could turn into a truck because it all happened by way of CGI trickery, and the resultant toy was a bit crap... but it strikes me as a very poor decision on Hasbro's part to allow these sorts of designs to appear in the movie, when it doesn't really match the aesthetic of most of the other robots in the movie, let alone translate properly into plastic.

Right now, based on what little I've seen of the movie in trailers, etc. I'm not looking forward to the completed movie and may even skip on it altogether... The toyline appears to have even fewer figures that I'd want to purchase than the Age of Extinction line, but we'll have to wait and see what sort of whims take me when they finally start appearing on shelves and online.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Titans Return Hot Rod & Firedrive

It should come as no surprise that, when the Classics line came along in 2006, certain characters from TransFormers: The Movie - set in 2005/6 - featured quite prominently. Hot Rod - rebranded as Rodimus, no doubt for complex legal reasons - was one of the very first releases, and the mold was reused about a billion times over the years, twice by the Collectors' Club, and most recently appearing in a Platinum Edition boxed set. It was a decent mold for the time, but certainly not one of the best... and plenty of people have been wanting a proper Deluxe class update of G1 Hot Rod for a good few years, given that we have two Masterpiece versions as well as interpretations for other continuities (though surprisingly not TF Prime where, arguably, Smokescreen took his role).

Cut to Titans Return, where Hasbro is basically reliving their glory days once again by rebooting the entire Classics line, and remaking quite a few characters who received adequate toys ten years ago, but are now considered ripe for updating into the latest part of the continuing Generations line... and, finally, we have a Hot Rod named Hot Rod rather than some variation of Rodimus...

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