Monday, 25 April 2011

Fast Action Battlers Disc Blast Frenzy

Frenzy was easily the most fun character from the first live action TransFormers movie. Small, hyperactive, foul-mouthed and completely bonkers, it seemed that he was always the kind of character who took on more than he could really handle, as if he had something to prove, being so small. He was also one of the most blatant references to the G1 cartoon: First seen on Airforce One he transforms into a portable CD player to escape detection, only to be picked up and taken exactly where he needed to go by one of the stupid humans, exactly as always happened with both Soundwave and Blaster (normally accompanied by similarly stupid human saying "wow, who left this here?".

But Frenzy isn't just an accomplished infiltrator. After hacking into the Airforce One computers (and thereby the entire American military network), Frenzy singlehandedly took on a whole load of the US President's guards, escaped to meet up with Barricade, and flipped off the survivors of his assault. Even getting cut in half wasn't enough to stop him (which doesn't help explain Jazz dying but, hey...). So, considering how spindly his robot mode was, and how unlikely his transformation into a CD player was, how on earth could they possibly make a viable transforming toy out of him?

Alternate Mode:
The answer, quite simply, is that they cheated. The most accurate Frenzy model was the Robot Replica, though even that was missing quite a few important joints, works better as a statue than as an action figure and was, let's face it, in completely the wrong scale. Other than that, though, Frenzy only turned up as a little plastic figure in one of the movie scene packs (along with Deluxe Barricade and figures of Sam and Mikaela), with the standalone Barricade figures, then in the Human Alliance range, as a small, poseable 'partner' figure, again with Barricade... and as this Fast Action Battler.

FAB is the line of simplified TransFormers, all completely out of scale to keep to the same price point, and intended for younger kids. Mostly, they were also a little deformed and chunky-looking... but then, mostly, they were vehicles. Frenzy manages to be reasonably true to the movie by turning into a portable CD player... although not the same kind as used in the movie. At first glance, it's a decent enough job but, upon closer inspection, the front is literally made of seams, none of which follow the natural seams of the machine.

The CD eject/blade launcher gimmick works in this mode as well, since it's just a friction-based thing with an enormous, protruding button. The aerial is on a ball-joint, so it can be pointed in just about any direction... not that it'll improve his reception: the tuning is locked to 'Frenzy' 97.7FM...

Robot Mode:
Once transformed, you can see exactly why there are so many seams across the alternate mode... it's very cleverly designed to basically turn inside out to reveal the robot mode. There's no way it could ever be true to the CGI model from the movie but, all things considered, they've done a reasonable job. There is actually no way the robot Frenzy could possibly transform into a portable CD player, so getting any kind of robot mode out of this toy is an achievement.

So... it only looks good from the front (if you can ignore the 'halo' effect of the back of one speaker) and absolutely terrible from any other angle. It's not exactly poseable because of the type of joints they've used (no ball joints at all, though the hips are something similar), and it has a great deal of trouble standing up because of the terrible jointing of the legs (Frenzy has two knees on each leg... this toy has none, but he does have an inexplicable and functionally useless twist joint at the lower knee) and - on mine, at least - impossibly floppy hips. His arms seem too long and, naturally, neither one can transform to reveal a machine gun.

But, this awkward looking thing does retain Frenzy's other weapon - the disc/ninja star that can be launched from his torso... and it's a surprisingly effective gimmick, almost balancing out all the negatives. Another positive is the fantastically detailed head sculpt... or what there is of it, anyway... There's no neck joint unless you count the transformation rotation, but the plate which covers his face sort-of pegs into his shoulders, so it's not intended that he should turn his head.

I can't help but think this toy would be infinitely better if they'd only painted the whole thing silver (on the inside, at least). At it stands, there are only a few metallic highlights on the sides of the torso.

Considering the size of this toy, part of me is a little disappointed that transformation basically amounts to flattening the limbs against the body, then folding one half right the way over to the other side... but then, really, that's a very cleverly-planned transformation. It accomplishes the impossible task of turning the robot Frenzy into a portable CD player.

I basically bought FAB Frenzy because this is the only transforming version of him available (and, no, the folding-up mini-figures from Deluxe and Human Alliance Barricade do not count), and he played such a large part in the movie, it's a shame he didn't get a few more toys. Considering that the Scouts from the Revenge of the Fallen line included the toaster-bot, I wouldn't be surprised if they could make a far better Frenzy now - even as an FAB - than they could back in 2006, when this toy was designed.

It's never going to join the ranks of the collectors' item but, for what it is - a cheap and simple transforming kids' toy - it's certainly not terrible.

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