Saturday, 27 February 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Megatron

The first TransFormers movie raised two important questions:
  1. With Megatron killed by the power of the Allspark, who would lead the Decepticons in the inevitable sequel?
  2. Would its toy suck as much as the original movie's Leader Class Megatron (which will be reviewed eventually... Honest)?
Well, golly gosh, if they didn't bring Megatron back with the power of the Allspark, then turn him into a sort of tank thing that's somehow capable of interplanetary flight...

...Which basically answers both questions.

Seriously, though, this is the second attempt at a toy of a movie Megatron, with an equally outlandish design. Somehow, the designers at work on the TransFormers movie seem to think that making Megatron into something resembling The Shrike constitutes a valid attempt at depicting the Decepticons' leader. Little regard is had for the poor souls who have to turn these bizarre arrangements of spikes and guns and more spikes into a transforming toy to be purchased by children (and collectors), and the first movie Megatron served as a fine example of why one should not design an enormous, bulky robot that turns into a sleek, slender jet. It just didn't work.

This time, though, we have an enormous, bulky robot that turns into an enormous, bulky tank... Surely that's a better fit?

Vehicle Mode:
One of the first things fans picked up on when concept art of the new, upgraded Megatron were leaked, was that his head was clearly visible in his alternate mode... almost as if it wasn't so much a transformation as getting down on his hands and knees and calling it an alternate mode (Actually not uncommon, if you consider Armada Megatron). Was this a clever reference to the barely disguised head on the original movie Megatron toy? Was this, perhaps, a mid-transformation shot?

Sadly, no.

RotF Megatron is a tank, yes, and the arrangement of parts is not entirely dissimilar to Armada Megatron... but at least that toy made some attempt to disguise the robot's head. This seems to actively revel in its presence, as if the idea is to suggest Megatron taunting and snarling at his intended target even when in vehicle mode.

The daftest thing - truly, bizarrely, colossally stupid, when you look at the way tanks have evolved on Earth over the last 70 years or so - is that the turret, this huge, imposing, powerful gun turret... does not turn. It's fixed in the direction the vehicle is facing. This is because (a) it needs to peg in place for the sake of the alternate mode's stability and (b) even if it could turn, the tank's body would get in the way before it turned more than a few degrees in any direction.

And, no, it doesn't tilt upward either.

On the upside, the colour scheme is far better. It's a proper, flat grey, rather than the original's bluish attempt at 'silver', and the sparse paintwork is more sensibly applied - no blue 'metallic wash' here... just a few highlights in silver and gold/copper.

It's a good, chunky tank but, frankly, they need to give Megatron a proper disguise alternate mode for the third movie. I get that they're trying to show that Megatron doesn't see the need to disguise himself, but it didn't work in the first movie, and it really didn't work in RotF.

Robot Mode:
Well, what can I say? Starting off with the positive, it's a far better toy that the original movie Megatron - much more stable in a variety of action poses... And yet... And yet...

It's still looking more like The Shrike than anything one might recognise as Megatron... he's made up of sharp angles and spikes. Sure, it looks better on average, but what's with the tiny left arm? It's nothing like how it appeared in the movie. Worse still, the right arm is far too large. Articulation suffers needlessly - it would have been easy enough to include a ratcheting joint at his elbow, even with the spring-loaded missile gimmick. For once, I wish they'd foregone the missile and just given the toy more lights and sounds.

Yes, you read that right. A light in the barrel of a smaller, articulated gun arm would have been a huge improvement. As far as lights and sounds go, all you've got is lights in the eyes and chest, and a voice clip that says "Megatron". Seriously, what year is this? G1 Galvatron offered better.

The arm is further bulked up by its other gimmick - the unfeasibly large claw/sword. In so many ways, both of these features were done better on the Voyager Class version... if only they'd got the colour right.

The head sculpt seems to be trying to imply G1 Megatron's 'bucket head', but the spikiness distracts the eye from such references.

Transformation is, as you might suspect, not especially complex. It basically folds over itself, with the arms going behind its back, and the legs flipping up against the chest. The problem with both Megatron toys is that the toy designers were faced with the impossible task of turning the movie's mass of shifting shards into a workable toy. It's inevitable that much of that becomes molded detail on great chunks of plastic that barely move.

In so many ways, I regret buying this incarnation of Megatron (at full price) just as much as I do the first movie's effort. It's far too big for the level of complexity involved, the paint job is unimpressive, and the gimmicks are terrible... But it's the right size for facing off against RotF Leader Class Optimus Prime and Jetfire, so it had to be done.

It was said (by the writers, if I remember correctly) that this was originally intended to be called Galvatron, but they decided that would be too confusing for the non-TransFormer fanatics in the audience. Personally, I wouldn't worry so much about that as I would actually coming up with a worthwhile reason for changing his name in the first place. What happened in the animated movie worked for the animated movie... poorly explained resurrections using cannibalised parts do not a new character make. And, let's face it, at the end of RotF, Prime had combined with parts of Jetfire, but he was still Optimus Prime.

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