Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Revenge of the Fallen Starscream

The original movie Starscream had more than its fair share of detractors, both in terms of the character model (which, for the record, I quite liked because it was so different from the 25 year old image of the Seekers) and the toy. Bearing in mind that the toy was made based on pre-production artwork, I've always considered it one of the successes of the first movie. Sure, it's F-22 Raptor mode is a little chubby in the undercarriage. Sure, the missile launcher/arms are painfully conspicuous in plane mode, and dreadfully out of proportion in robot mode. Nevertheless, the transformation was clever, and the resultant robot, while chunky, was effective. The original tan colourscheme was way off, though, and Hasbro saw fit to correct their error by releasing Deep Space Starscream into the Premium series of movie repaints.

Noone should have doubted, though, that huge improvements would be made in between the first toyline and the sequel. That said, while the improvements are significant... so are the shortcomings.

Vehicle Mode:
Substantially less chubby, but still an F-22 Raptor. I'm not entirely convinced the proportions are quite right - the nose seems a little short, and the front end is still quite bulky. Overall, it's a huge improvement of the original movie Starscream... and even has a proper, working undercarriage, rather than relying on wheels built into the bottom of the plane and the robot arms.

That said... the robot arms are still a problem: while the original had no hands to speak of - just large, rubbery claws surrounding it's missile launchers - this one has hands sticking out at the back of the plane. And guns. The arms may be better-hidden than on the original, but they're still awkwardly placed and obtrusive. Not even the distracting detail of the accurate-looking afterburners above can disguise the claws.

It has also been pointed out by some that the F-22 does not 'carry' missiles in the way this model suggests - everything is kept internally so as to keep it's radar profile low. Obviously this is not possible on a model this size, particularly considering the way the wings transform, so the compromise is acceptable.

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Robot Mode:
Rather a mixed bag, I fear... While broadly more accurate than the original, this is still far from perfect. The most obvious complaint is that, while the arms are a huge improvement on the original, they still don't sit right at the shoulder, and the articulation is very limited. The hands are great, but they barely move - even a little wrist rotation would have been great, if simplified hands with articulated fingers were out of the question. My personal gripe is with the legs... despite having the same animal-styled legs as the original, they somehow look flatter - the backward part isn't quite long or bulky enough to make much of an impact. From the front, you'd be hard pressed to notice anything unusual about his legs, and this isn't helped by the flat knee panel that just sits there, sticking out and obscuring the mid-leg. The feet also seem too small, and they lack even the limited poseability of the original - balance in action poses is a huge problem. I also feel that the hips are too far up the sides... and it almost looks as though they were originally intended to slide down, to lower the hips and bring them closer together, like the character in the movie... possibly budgeted out of the design... or perhaps I'm just wrong.

All that said, it's actually a pretty decent model and, in many ways, a far better representation of the movie character than the original toy, or even the Deep Space repaint.

In both modes, the 'Cybertronian tattoos' are something of a distraction... Utterly incongruous in plane mode - it is supposed to be a disguise, after all - and patchy-looking in robot mode... yet oddly reminiscent of Maori tattoos.

The head design is a huge improvement, closely matching the movie model, but losing points due to lack of paintwork to bring out the detail. Oddly, they have painted over his light-piped eyes - a trick they missed on the original movie Starscream and 'corrected' (if you can call it that) on the Deep Space repaint.

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Transformation is bizarre, but very cleverly planned... Essentally, after unhooking the wings, the entire body splits in half and folds around the cockpit section, with the tailfins folding up at Starscream's groin.

Mech Alive:
Many of the Mech Alive gimmicks are along the lines of 'move a part, and gears turn'. This is what happens with Starscream. Turn his head, and the translucent orange gears in his chest (the bulk of which is formed by flipping round the plane mode's tail flaps). It's quite a neat gimmick, though largely pointless beyond the pleasing aesthetic of the moving gears... and it does mean he can't look up or down - only side to side.
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