Sunday, 6 June 2010

N.E.S.T. Global Alliance Brawn

One of the more interesting effects of the TransFormers movies is that lesser-known characters from Generation 1 are being reborn in its wake. No appearance in the movies themselves, yet the character is re-imagined and recreated in the Movie style. Some of them are familiar designs with new names attached, thanks to trademark issues, then others are familiar designs with 100% authentic G1 names attached. Brawn is an example of the latter.

It is almost ironic that the movies have spent very little time on characterising the robots involved, yet the toyline develops small nuggets of backstory not only for them, but for these extra characters as well. It's almost a toyline advertising a film franchise, rather than the other way round.

Back in the days of G1, Brawn initially got a fair bit of page space in the comics - including a story of his very own, where he went completely nuts - while appearing very little in the cartoon. His few appearances did very little to show anything of his character, other than being ever ready to punch some Decepticons in the face. They didn't even touch on the one weakness listed on his Tech Specs, meaning he became little more than Generic Cannon Fodder. I wonder if Generation 1 would be done better today... perhaps written by the folks behind Beast Wars? With 12+ episodes per series, surely more could be done to develop each character? That just wasn't a priority back in the 80s. Still, New Brawn has even less character - on the UK packaging, all it tells you about him is that he's after Rampage, one of the Deluxe Decepticons from the same wave.

Vehicle Mode
Strangely not dissimilar to one of the RotF versions of Ironhide, though perhaps resembling more of a souped-up Land Rover rather than another Humvee. This is a vehicle mode designed for combat, harsh conditions and off-road environments. The flatbed area at the back is somewhat unusual, and not exactly in keeping with the look of the front, but it looks decent enough. The vehicle is generally quite solid, but a fair proportion of it is a shell around the robot inside.

There's not an awful lot of paint detailing, either - the headlights and indicators, rear lights (red only), lamps above the cab, a small silver disc on one side of the roof and a couple of NEST logos on each side are about the extent of it. The rest is the base plastic colour for each piece. Bland, but not inconsistent with the vehicle. I might eventually paint some of the bars - silver or black, not sure which would be better - just to break up the brown plastic... but it's not flat brown, there is a metallic flake component to it, so it's not a completely dull vehicle. I probably would have preferred him in the same kind of military green as G1, but this colour works well enough.

The roof-mounted gun is an interesting addition - more like Outback, G1's later remold of Brawn - and, while it doesn't move in any way in this mode, it has a few tricks up its sleeve all the same.

Robot Mode
Let's face it: Brawn is top-heavy. In some respects, it just helps him live up to his name - he looks very brawny and butch... something like an American Football player in full armour, in fact. In fact, the legs almost look as though they're padded in a way similar to the knee-length jodphurs worn by American Footballers, and the feet even look a bit like shoes...

NEST Brawn's robot mode didn't inspire me to begin with... there seemed to be way too many vehicle panels hanging off him, and not nearly enough of a vehicle component to his appearance - the front grille split across his knees is really the only sign that this thing was ever a car. But then, the way the vehicle panels have been used is somewhat reminiscent of the G1 original. Consider the whopping great panels on his shoulders: Does not G1 Brawn have the entire side of his vehicle mode as 'shoulder wings'? This version goes further: there are 'wings' on his shoulders and another pair of massive vehicle panels sprouting from his back.

The weirdest thing about Brawn in robot mode is that his colourscheme is so different from his vehicle mode... and so much more in keeping with the green and yellow of G1. While the appearance of his head isn't anything like the original, it does at least keep to the idea of a helmet, with no real 'face' to speak of. I'm not exactly inspired by the head, but it's not awful... Though the light piping could have been better.

Vehicle mode's roof-mounted gun folds out and becomes an over-the-shoulder gun, and is neatly aligned so that, while in vehicle mode the barrels are at a seemingly random angle, they're properly 'upright' on either shoulder.

Transformation is deceptively simple, but with a couple of very interesting elements. While a good chunk of vehicle mode just sits in great panels on his shoulders and back, and very little of it is actually used to any degree by robot mode, it does at least look like armour panels. This suits the character reasonably well. The bonnet and windscreen of the vehicle split in half and become a kind of armour 'skirt' on the side of each thigh.

What really impressed me about his transformation is the way the arms come together. In vehicle mode, the arms make up the rear and the roof of the vehicle, sitting either side of the roof-mounted gun. During transformation, the roof hinges back over the flatbed and merges with it to form the forearms, and the two handguns are already in his fists.

Poseability is, as I hope the photos capture, pretty darned awesome. The back and shoulder panels do impede his movement a little, but the large, firm ball joints on his shoulders, and the rotation joints they connect to, allow for some very dynamic John Woo poses with his twin pistols. The knee and ankle joints allow for some very natural poses in his legs, but the hip joints on mine are a little loose, and he tends to flop around there if placed in awkward positions.

The more I look at it, the more I think it should have been Outback rather than Brawn - the colourscheme is closer to Outback (in vehicle mode, at least), and Outback had a roof-mounted gun, while Brawn was a basic Land Rover kind of thing. There's also the fact that, not only does the roof-mounted gun carry through into robot mode, he's also armed with two pistols... For an Autobot whose G1 motto was "Might over Microchips", and who tended to get by on physical strength alone, NEST Alliance Brawn is rather heavily tooled up. Maybe this is indicative of Hasbro's intention to repaint this mold into Outback at a later date but, frankly, unless the head mold is particularly good, I can't see myself buying another iteration of this mold.

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