Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Human Alliance Bumblebee

Considering the sheer number of variants of Bumblebee released for the first film (Deluxe Old Camaro, Deluxe New Camaro, Deluxe New Camaro with remolded Battlemask Head, Deluxe New Camaro with Black & Yellow Paint Reversed, Statue, Legends... Beatmix... the list goes on...), it's no surprise that he's still getting a fair bit of attention in the second film. Set up to be the character who provides the audience with a connection to these giant alien robots, Bumblebee was given the lion's share of the screentime, action, and facial expressions.

For the Revenge of the Fallen toyline, Hasbro has created an new subline - Human Alliance - where Binaltech/Alternator fans are given their heart's desire: Cars that are of approximately 1:24 scale, transform into movie-like robots, and come with human drivers. Who could want anything more?

Well, me, I guess... the first in the line - Bumblebee - is a decent representation of the character, but is lacking in a few areas...

Vehicle Mode:
What can you say? It's an excellent rendition of the new Camaro - a powerful, intimidating muscle car, built for street racing and generally showing off. It's molded largely in yellow plastic (with sparkles to simulate the gloss of the car's paintwork, I'd imagine), with translucent blue for the windows. While the edges of the windscreen and the wing mirrors are painted yellow, the edges of the rear window are not, which is a bit of a letdown. Still, the petrol tank cap and the Camaro nametag on each side are painted silver, and the Chevrolet badges, front and rear, are painted appropriately, so it looks generally pretty good.

Interior detailing has been attempted but, aside from a dashboard (which is hardly complex detailing) it's not particularly successful because of the way the 'Human Alliance' gimmick is utilised. Yes, there are seats and yes, the figure can sit in them (with the aid of pegs and sockets) and even hold the wheel... but the interior is nowhere near as realistic as Binaltech/Alternators. The reasons for this become apparent in robot mode.

Driver's and passenger doors both open and, while it's clear from some very visible seams that this is not a model car, it works very well, and would probably sit quite comfortably on a shelf of Alternators in car mode.

It's not perfectly in scale with the Binaltech/Alternator series, but it's probably not that far off 1:24. Then again, putting the Alternator Dodge Ram up against this and the Binaltech Mazda RX-8 probably illustrates that the Ram was never in scale with the rest of the line - I'm pretty sure it's far too small compared to the RX-8, but may well be quite accurate to the Camaro. Not that I know cars... that's just my impression.

Robot Mode:
This is why I'm tempted to say that Human Alliance Bumblebee is as close to a true 'Ultimate' Bumblebee as we're going to get (at least until the toyline for movie 3). Sure, it doesn't have lights and sounds, nor speech, nor an auto-firing action... but this is a fairly detailed and reasonably accurate model of the character from the movie. It's far from perfect - the rotation-only ankle joints are a particular pest, and I'm pretty certain they could have been replaced with ball-joints to increase posability. I'm also not that happy with the fact that one of his arms is fixed in gun mode (just like Ultimate Bumblebee and the RotF Deluxe), when the missile-firing gimmick could have been sacrificed for something that switches between gun and hand.

But these complaints are from the point of view of a 35 year old collector, rather than the kids this is intended for. I'm sure the missile-firing gimmick is great fun for the proper age-range and, frankly, ball-jointed ankles or not, this thing poses just fine. The construction of the feet is far more movie-accurate than the Deluxe or Ultimate models, with its two angled 'rear toes' on each foot. This goes to make the model very stable, as long as the feet are reasonably flat. The knees are articulated at two points, meaning they can bend further, there's a full 360 degrees of rotation in each thigh (a symptom of the transformation, but very useful for posing!) and the hips are more than adequate. There's even waist rotation, though the car panels on the thighs can get in the way of this. In the upper-body, the arms are well-articulated, and the only griped I have about the head is that, while ball-jointed, the molding of the neck prevents any tilting.

The face sculpt is nice and accurate, with big, blue, light-piped eyes that are incredibly effective. Finally, the head sports a gimmick that was strangely lacking on the original Ultimate Bumblebee - the battle-mask. It's not exactly right - the movie had it as two separate pieces, with a grille that folded in over the eyes from the outer edges of the 'eyesockets'. This has it as a one-piece thing that slides down over the face, grilles included. It looks good enough, though, and adds a whole new dimension to the toy.

The Human Alliance takes on a new level of meaning in robot mode also: the Sam Witwicky action figure (a reasonable attempt at a very gormless and zombie-like Shia LaBeouf) can attach to various points on Bumblebee. Rotate his right (gun) arm 180 degrees, and Sam can sit in the car seat there... though it looks like he's just along for the ride, or acting as fleshy armour for Bumblebee's forearm. Rotate his left arm, and the other car seat comes with twin blasters mounted on the headrest. These can be swung round from the back for Sam to fire. There's also a plug on Bumblebee's left fingers, which can support the human. Finally, there's a platform folded away on Bumblebee's back (the inside of the roof of the car) upon which Sam can stand to fire Bumblebee's shoulder launcher and/or the over-the-head dual cannon on his back. A pretty neat feature, though not necessarily movie accurate... And I'm not sure how much play value these tiny action figures add to a TransFormers toy...

Transformation seems horribly complicated the first couple of times but, once you get the sequence of moves in the right order, it's pretty simple. I do worry about some of the joints - signs of plastic stress were appearing after only a few minutes due to some rather stubborn joints, particularly those with metal pins though very small parts. On the whole, though, it seems pretty sturdy. The weakest link is the chest parts that pop out and rotate - being spring-loaded, they are all too inclined to pop back in.

Sam Witwicky:
Best forgotten and thrown out with the box.

Oh, OK... it's quite poseable for something so small - knees bend and rotate, hips bend and rotate, the chest bends and rotates a little, the arms can swing right round and out, and the head can turn... Its nothing new - except in size - but part of me can't see the point, even for young children - getting it into the car is a very fiddly process.

Despite being the right size for Bumbleebee, he's rather too large for Binaltech/Alternators... and not just because none of them have legroom! What this says about scale, I have no idea...

I'm not too impressed with the images I've seen thusfar for HA Sideswipe, versus the Deluxe, but I may reconsider closer to the time. Rumour has it there's a HA Ironhide in the works... and that could be fantastic.

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