Saturday, 27 February 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Jetfire

What better way to follow up GF Sonic Bomber than with this?

When it was announced that Revenge of the Fallen would feature a cantankerous 'old man' robot, many fans naturally assumed this would be Kup. Many fans were wrong... so very wrong... What we were treated to instead was a foul mouthed, senile, babbling junkpile named Jetfire, supposedly one of the original Seekers.

So far, so G1 fanservice... After all, Jetfire and Starscream are widely reported to have been friends before the Great War. But the title Seeker is used in an entirely difference context in RotF... here, they were sent out into the universe, seeking the Allspark.

Bizarrely, it seems a whole bunch of them ended up on Earth (so near, yet so far), with Jetfire ending up as an exhibit in the Smithsonian, awakened from his rusting slumber by one of the last remaining shards of the Allspark.

As a character in the movie, Jetfire was a lot of fun, if underdeveloped. Some of what he said didn't make sense in any context, but Mark Ryan's voice and delivery gave him a lot of character... And a Mancunian accent. Strange, then, that the toy seems to think he's Scottish, but more on that later.

Vehicle Mode:
Well, it's a Blackbird. One of my favourite planes of all time, the original spyplane and, until recently, one of the fastest things in the air. As models go, this is a very faithful and detailed representation of the plane... As long as you don't look underneath. For, below the finely-sculpted upper half lurk ginormous chunks of robot, which no effort has been made to disguise. It's just like Universe Darkwind, really. Everything is there, and painfully obvious. From the hips sticking out from the rear, to the hands grasping the undercarriage up front, the entire robot is quite plainly visible.

But let's ignore that for a second.

The sculpt of the plane is very impressive, but the thing that first strikes you is its size - Jetfire has easily one of the largest Leader Class alternate modes ever, its length almost matching the width of the coffee table I've taken my photos on. While there's barely any painted detail (the cockpit, a few stripes) the markings they've added really give the impression of attention to detail, from the scuffed Deception insignias on the wings and the Skunkworks logo on the tailfins, to the name of the pilot stamped just below the cockpit. It's even cast in a reasonably solid dark grey plastic. Not quite the matte black one would expect from this early stealth jet, but a decent attempt.

Really, the only letdown is the visibility of the robot parts. Considering the engineering that went into RotF Optimus Prime, I'm sorely disappointed by this.

Robot Mode:
All things considered, there was probably no way a real-world toy could ever successfully emulate the complex transformation of Jetfire from Revenge of the Fallen. Still, this is probably a decent attempt overall. Sadly, the sacrifices made to accommodate combination with Prime mean that Jetfire is far bulkier and blockier than he should be, given his size, and isn't really that poseable in his own right. Most of the expressiveness you'll get out of this model will come from the arms, which offer only the basic articulation, and are only slightly impaired by vehicle mode parts.

The thing that immediately hits you about this robot is the colour scheme. It's hopeless. Where on Earth did all this silver/grey and stormy blue come from? Compared to the Japanese version, this is far too light and far too blue. Furthermore, the lack of proper articulation for the head (thanks to the utterly redundant "push my lever" gimmick, where his head shimmies from side to side, his head - not his painted-over eyes - lights up, and he says "Jehtfiyer's muh neem" with a bizarrely Scottish accent) do not make for the most impressive toy.

I'm not even sure why they bothered with the lights and sounds in this one. Even if they got Jetfire's accent right, the flashing light in his head and on his chest add nothing to the toy. Removing these electronics could conceivably have allowed improvements to the toy has a whole, so I don't understand Hasbro's obsession with sticking LEDs and tweeters in all the Leader Class toys.

And, continuing the awkward trend set by his vehicle mode, he has far too many plane parts just hanging off his back. Certainly the movie model had some of this, but it was far more stylishly arranged. Again, were it not for the necessity to combine him with Optimus Prime, I'm sure more could have been done with this robot mode.

Transformation can only be described as awkward. Plane-to-robot is easy enough, but aligning all those panels on his back is a true nightmare when transforming robot-to-plane. It should be quite simple, considering the robot mode is essentially suspended from the bottom of the plane but, like the original movie Megatron, there's a fair bit of 'folding this part over that' to compress a very long plane into a fairly stocky robot.

In spite of all its weaknesses, I really do like this toy. Obviously, being a big fan of the Blackbird, the vehicle mode is a winner, and the fun factor of the character does counterbalance some of the awkwardness of the toy. Sadly, though, the combined mode does neither model any favours - it drastically reduces Prime's poseability (the toys are effectively standing back-to-back), and looks almost nothing like the combined form shown in the movies. You can't even angle Jetfire's boosters over Prime's shoulders to act as cannons. I'm also pretty sure it would have been easy enough for parts of the boosters to separate off and swing outward, to closer match the movie model... but they're entirely solid.

Getting the colourscheme right would have dramatically improved the overall look of this model - I do kind of wish I'd held out for the Japanese version - but the model is essentially flawed by its own concept... not to mention some poor jointing in the legs.

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