Tuesday, 8 March 2011

TransFormers Animated Swindle

One of the greatest things about the much-maligned TransFormers Animated, both in the toys and the cartoon, was the amount of character exhibited by its... erm... characters. Because it was all so heavily stylised, it wasn't just the robot modes that were lavished with attention, and made to look unique... the vehicle modes benefitted as well.

Another great thing - as I'm sure I've mentioned in other posts - is the sheer number (not to mention the quality) of its G1 nods and references... so when an awesome character like Swindle turns up in the Animated continuity, surely you can expect something special..?

Vehicle Mode:
Erm. Right. I'd have to say that there is absolutely nothing special about Swindle's alternate mode. Molded almost entirely in a dusty, greenish yellow - desert camoflage, perhaps - this model appears to be supplied with virtually no paintwork as standard. Of course, this is not the case, but the paintwork is certainly not as extensive as it should have been, given the amount of molded detail present.

The main windscreen is molded in transparent purple plastic, as is the front grille, for reasons which don't quite become apparent in robot mode. Other than that, and the headlights, there are four painted windows, and the entire rear of the vehicle is bare, despite a row of three lights above the rear windscreen, molded detail for the rear lights, and an obvious bumper. There seems to be some paint on a couple of boxes sticking out above the rear wheel, but I see no obvious purpose either for the boxes or the paint, considering they're molded in the right colour of plastic.

My photos of this model are a bit crap, I have to say - the difference in colour between the bonnet and the rest of the car is not so apparent in real life, and it's almost as matte as the bare plastic.

The only real highlight in vehicle mode is that the unfeasibly large cannon can be mounted on Swindle's roof... and the spring-loaded launch mechanism shows orange 'lights' when the cannon is loaded, switching to transparent purple when it's fired... So perhaps that's where all the paint went...

Robot Mode:
It's safe to say there's a bit more paintwork visible on Swindle's robot form. Mostly the gunmetal colour of his face and, bizarrely, the faked grille on his abdomen. This is one of the more confusing aspects of the Animated aesthetic - since real, physical transformation cannot hope to achieve the distortions required, much of the vehicle detail on the robot mode is faked... but then, why? Why not just accept that the robot's waist is not the front of the car, and give it a unique design? Who knows?

The weirdest thing is that Swindle's hands, upper arms and legs are molded in transparent purple... which makes little sense in terms of the robot's design (other than to make use further of the plastic that allows his excellent light-piped eyes) or in terms of the toy's longevity - transparent plastic tends to be rather more brittle than the opaque kind used for the rest of his body.

Just like his cartoon model, Swindle is a very heavily armed robot. Not content with weilding a cannon that's almost as long as he is tall (surely arousing Megatron's 'big gun envy'), he has a pair of shoulder-mounted things that look pretty dangerous. Based upon my hazy recollections of the TV show, I can't remember if they're laser guns or shield emitters... but they remind me somewhat of the two extra heads on Flame Convoy. And if you still don't think he's packing enough firepower, a Gatling gun can be flipped out of his stomach.

The head mold on this thing is truly awesome - not only does it perfectly evoke TFA Swindle, but it does equally well with just about every incarnation of the Decepticons' answer to Derek Trotter. The large, light-piped eyes (cleverly molded to retain his prominent 'pupils') and the barely concealed contemptuous grin would not work in Swindle's favour if he ever ended up in a police line-up.

Swindle is a bit of a bugger to transform. The hip and shoulder joints are particularly stiff (all the more concerning since they're molded in transparent plastic) and the forearms can be quite a pest. The bonnet is tricky to separate and to reconnect, and doesn't peg into the wrists very securely. There's also a bit of a clearance issue with his shoulders and the shoulder-mounted weapons... but he gets there in the end.

With such stiff joints and such large, fixed feet, it should come as no surprise that Swindle isn't among the more poseable models in the Animated lineup. Getting him to stand up straight can be difficult enough, as he tends to be back-heavy, and his heels are never quite flush with whatever surface he's standing on. The arms aren't much better, either, with his oversized forearms clashing with his shoulderpads even without bending the arms at the elbow.

For such an excellent character, the toy version of Swindle is full of disappointment - from the lacklustre vehicle mode to the stiff and awkward robot mode, it just doesn't live up to its potential. I'm sure stickers from Reprolabels would improve it, but it still manages to be a bit of a brick, in spite of its reasonable selection of joints.

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