Saturday, 8 January 2011

Human Alliance Jazz

It cannot be overstated (certainly not within this blog, at any rate) how beneficial the live action movies have been to TransFormers as a toy line. Without the impossible CGI transformations, we wouldn't have the level of complexity that we enjoy with the more recent lines, not least the TransFormers/Revenge of the Fallen toy lines.

Human Alliance is one of the highlights of this new level of complexity, with the added benefit of a whole new level of screen accuracy. I've not yet written up the movie Jazz figures, but the Deluxe Class models - while not significantly smaller in vehicle mode - are inferior to this model in every way. Granted, the toy designers for the first movie line were working with pre-production artwork all the way, but Jazz suffered from poor proportions, terrible articulation, and a serious case of being made short and stubby. Technically, Jazz was supposed to be one of the smallest Autobots (um... Bumblebee anyone?), but the Deluxe was terrible. Thankfully, this version remedies all of that.

Vehicle Mode:
I've never been quite sure what to make of the Pontiac Solstice. It's nothing like their older, more iconic cars such as the Trans Am and, in all honesty, it looks to me like any other car without a sense of its own identity - something all the manufacturers appear to be sliding toward these days. It's a curvy, two-seater sports car, but it just looks too soft to be a proper sports car. Even having a spoiler on the back doesn't turn it into a street racer's dream. The front end is kind of blobby, and it looks like an 'everycar' from every other angle... Somehow it just doesn't scream 'Autobot Special Operations Agent Jazz' to me. After all, his motto was "Do it with style or don't bother doing it"... and nothing about this vehicle stands out. Still, it's reasonably Porsche-like and, with Pontiac being a GM brand and this iteration of the Solstice being contemporary with the first movie, it was probably the best fit they could manage.

This model has some excessively visible seams, though several of them are well enough placed that they don't utterly ruin the fluidity of the vehicle mode. As with other models in this line, the car's doors open (and actually play a rather more active part in his transformation than most) and the dashboard is reasonably detailed so, in some ways, Human Alliance could be seen as a spiritual successor to Alternators/Binaltech, since the vehicles are similarly scaled.

The paint job is a bit bland - largely just the flat silver, with a couple of touches of red at the back and, of course, for the Pontiac arrow on the nose. The indicator lights, brake light, and the lower, circular rear lights are unpainted.

Robot Mode:
Straight off, this is easily one of the best Human Alliance models so far, but I do hope they carry on with the line, refining and improving with each new character. Jazz's proportions are much more movie-accurate and, while his transformation and certain aspects of his robot mode do not match the CGI, it's a far better attempt than the Deluxe version. One case in point is the arms - somehow, the CGI version manages to have the headlights on the wrists, and yet keep the front wheels at the shoulders - this toy compromises by faking the wrist headlights using the car door windows and some vaguely appropriate, yet entirely unpainted molding.

The common factor in the HA line is the huge car part backpacks the robots have. Happily Jazz is one of the better ones, with the bonnet and roof folding together quite neatly. The CGI model's spoiler is even represented by one of the fold-out weapons, a rifle that can be operated by his partner sitting on his shoulder.

Articulation is generally excellent, let down only by the lack of movement in the feet. That said, an additional 'toe' can be folded out from the heel to aid balance in some of the more extreme poses.

The hightlight of this model is the head - so far, only half the HA models have had 'battle mode' faces - Bumblebee's visor being an easy and effective example, while Sideswipes flip-down mouthplate is spectacularly ineffective. Jazz has a little lever on the back of his head that delivers a spring-loaded visor over his eyes. Considering this visor is one of the most recognisable features of Jazz, it's good to see it used so effectively in this toy.

Yes, because that's not all... While Bumblebee, Sideswipe and Barricade make do with only one accessory each - their partner mini action figure - Skids, Mudflap and now Jazz have motorbikes as additional accessories. The former two are partnered with Arcee (modelled on Chromia) and Chromia (modelled on Arcee) respectively, while Jazz gets a bike that transforms into the gun/shield weapon he used in battle against Megatron at the end of the first movie. While it's a little lacking in paintwork - only silver on the sides - it's an excellent little model with a simple yet brilliant transformation, and the way it plugs into the robot's arm is a prime example of excellent toy design. Due to the way it's pegged, it can only properly attach to the right arm, even though there's a hole for it on the right.

In vehicle mode, in common with Arcee and Chromia, the mini action figures can ride the bike quite effectively, and it seems this is the only reason that (a) it's modelled on the bike Lennox commandeered during the first movie's final battle, and (b) that Jazz is partnered with Lennox for Human Alliance.

Captain William Lennox:
Um. Yeah. It looks nothing like Josh Duhamel (not least because the hair is the wrong colour), and he's wearing the NEST uniform from Revenge of the Fallen, rather than the camoflage he wore in the first movie. Not that anyone wants consistency in their TransFormers... not really...

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