Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Reveal the Shield Lugnut

Now here's something strange and special... A new character created for the TransFormers Animated aesthetic has jumped continuities into the extended Classics/Universe line. Strange choice, considering how many characters from G1 (and, of course, the many subsequent lines) there are to get through before Animated, which is still only a couple of years old. There were plenty of nods to other continuities within Animated, but this is the only the second time it's happened this way round (the first being Lockdown). Do Animated characters need or deserve such reimagining?

Well, in Lugnut's case, I'd say he probably needed it. The Animated toy, while Voyager Class, was actually surprisingly small in robot mode - almost wider than he is tall - with giant, unwieldy arms on a chunky body held up by spindly legs. OK, fine, that's a basic description of the whole TFA aesthetic, so it's no surprise... but Lugnut in the cartoon is huge, and his proportions look OK when he's towering over everyone. When he's shorter than some of the Deluxe figures, it doesn't work quite so well.

Vehicle Mode:
This is one confused aeroplane. It takes some design cues from the likes of the B-17 and the Lancaster bomber, but just as many from Lugnut's Animated form. This is closer to being a real-world plane than that ever was, however... and yet still not quite. The nose is taken directly from Animated, but there's the addition of a proper cockpit sitting on top, and further back toward the wings. The design of the hull almost makes it look like a flying boat - something akin to a Shuihong 5, perhaps.

The first thing that hit me about this model, when I had it in my hands, was the enormous wingspan - something in the region of 34cm/13" - and they actually look like wings for a change, rather than the usual chunky things that only look like wings from one angle. Sure, he's got a large chunk of something about halfway down each wing, but it's designed to look like it should be there. All the more amazing when you consider these things somehow turn into the robot's arms.

The next thing to strike me was how well armed he is... potentially, anyway. Technically, straight out of the box, he only has his tail gun (which flips up to reveal a spring-loaded missile launcher) and the two cannons on either side of the nose. Look closely, however, and you'll find that he's positively bristling with the clip-on weapon ports that have been turning up in these more recent figures. One on each wingtip, two on each engine, one on the tail, then three on the underside of each wing and another four - quite long ones - on the edges of the hull. That's 17 connection points that I count... and some of them could easily accommodate more than one connection!

Lugnut's paint job is fairly simple. Sensibly, he's molded mostly in a sober military green, with his designation - LU-6 NU-7 - printed in white across the two wings and on his tail. The yellow and black striped pattern from the Animated character model has been applied to the front ends of the engines, which also have a dull, goldish paint for the turbines. Then there's a large shark's teeth design applied to each side of the nose, making the plane seem even more fearsome, and referencing that great tradition of painting some kind of shark's teeth design on military aircraft. The most obvious oddity in his colouration is the red hinge behind the cockpit, which stands out unnecessarily. His molded detail stands out fairly well in all that military green, but I can't help thinking some of it, particularly the tail gun, could have used a black wash...

My one and only real gripe about this plane is that the nose is molded entirely in soft, rubbery plastic - and two colours of it, at that (military green, and a transparent red for the windows). Sadly this is prone to warping and, on mine, the underside will not stay pegged together (like the nose pieces on Galaxy Force Master Galvatron), and the corner piece on one side won't sit flush with the plane body. Still, from most angles, it looks like it fits together well enough.

Robot Mode:
Looking at this thing, I can't quite decide if they were originally intending to place it in the movie continuity. The alternate mode is just realistic enough, and this robot mode is certainly bizarre enough... but there is, perhaps, not enough superfluous detail to merit his inclusion in the movie world.

I don't have the animated version to compare, but I'd imagine this version is slightly taller... and he certainly fits the Voyager size class of the Classics/Universe line better than the Animated version. There are plenty of design cues taken from the Animated model - he's still fairly top-heavy, and the split nose design of his chest is a direct lift, even if the colourscheme isn't (but, let's face it, who'd use a purple bomber?). However, the legs have beem made bulkier (and quite cleverly, too) so he exhibits something more like believable proportions. His hips are still very narrow, but the legs on this one nevertheless manage to look as though  they could support the robot's upper body.

Considering this thing adheres to the grand tradition of aeroplane TransFormers, and has the entire tail of the plane just hanging off the back (well, it's generally the entire nose, but you get the idea), it's nice that the designers incorporated a way to collapse it in as close to the torso as possible. It's noticeable, but not glaringly obvious from the sides and, from the front, it's barely visible. In this mode, the tail and its spring-loaded missle launcher can flip up to become and over-the-head missile launcher. More of a mortar, really, considering the angle, but reasonably effective nonetheless.

The parts that I'm really impressed with are the arms, though. As mentioned, they're formed from the plane's wings. Surely they're too long and thin to be effective? But no... they're jointed in such a way that the 'flaps' on the inner part of the wing fold around to bulk up the bicep, and the wing tip folds back over the jet engine/weapon pod to form part of the forearm. That he also has articulated fingers is just awesome. Animated Lugnut suffered from using the plane mode's 'bombs' as claw-hands, and just ended up looking daft. This version looks downright dangerous, as well he should.

The head sculpt is possibly a bit too close to Animated Lugnut to fit any aesthetic other than Animated... but then, the first live action movie toyline featured a couple of Decepticon 'drones' with similar monocular faces. It's quite cool that his mouth opens, but this movement is restricted if the head is moved around on its ball joint.

Colourwise, robot mode introduces purple... referencing the Animated version to be sure, but somewhat incongruous on a robot that's still otherwise military green. There is a dab of metallic paint on his kneecaps, too, but that fits in with the green. A few spots of red turn up also, and I honestly cannot fathom why... The same pieces could easily have been molded in green or black, and they would have been far less jarring.

For the most part, Lugnut is fairly easy to transform. The only part that foxed me initially was the way the legs fold in to become the bottom of the hull, but that was only until I realised that the hips kind of fold back on themselves, something like RotF Mixmaster. Also impressive is the way the head automatically pops up or down as the tail section is moved into place, as appropriate to either mode.

You'd think that the arms would be quite awkward and, in one small way, you'd be right... He can't swing his arms backwards at the shoulder. In reality, this is a very small handicap because, in just about every other significant way, Lugnut is very poseable. He may have strange, clawed feet, but they're jointed in such a way that they present a very stable base, he has waist rotation, and the arms have an excellent range of motion. Add in the expressive possibilities of his articulated hands, and this becomes one of my favourite non movie-line figures from the last couple of years.

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