Saturday, 23 April 2011

Robots in Disguise Megatron

This is going to be a bit of an unusual one... Robots in Disguise, as a toyline, was a strange mish-mash of almost excessively humanoid Autobots and Beast Wars throwback Decepticons... or were they still Predacons... that's not entirely clear, as different characters had different insignias, and both traditional Decepticons and Predacons were represented. Indeed, some of the Decepticons were basically repaints of Generation 2 molds.

Megatron (and the slightly remolded 'upgrade', Galvatron) is very definitely a Predacon - as the prominent Spark Crystal will attest - but he's also very far removed from the true Beast Wars aesthetic.

Robot Mode:
So here we have it... Certainly this model retains some design cues from the many Beast Wars/Beast Machines forms of Megatron - the teeth/mandibles on the sides of his face in particular. The wings bespeak of the time he spent as a robotic dragon. The colourscheme appears to reference the original Beast Wars Megatron with its predominance of black and purple.

It's an amazingly detailed sculpt, too. Just about every surface seems to have some kind of detailing, much of it very organic in appearance. It's almost as if this Megatron comes from the time after the conclusion of the Beast Machines story, when Cybertron had become a biomechanical planet. Strip away the wings and, in terms of appearance and proportions, Megatron could almost be a human in a costume.

And if the sculpt is impressive, it really looks as though no expense was spared in molding and painting this model. There are three different colours of transparent plastic, and chrome is used quite lavishly and in several different colours, though much of that may just be the basic silver-chrome with coloured overpainting. As well as this, silver and tarnished gold metallic paints are used along with a greenish, pearlised paint for his face and several other details. The purple plastic isn't plain, either - most, if not all of it is subtly metal-flaked.

This mold may not have the ball-jointed smoothness of many of the Beast Wars models, but it's not without articulation. In fact, the only joints that really let it down are the ball joints in the ankles, which are not quite firm enough to support the weight of everything above the ankles. That's not to say it can't be posed well, just that it needs time and patience to get the best out of it.

In keeping with the rest of the model, the weapons are a little odd, too. It's not entirely clear if they're supposed to be missile launchers (they are friction-based, rather than sprint loaded) or swords, but Megatron can wield them in several ways, even combining them into a staff of sorts. They also plug on to various pegs dotted about the body, both for robot mode and for the several alternate modes.

Alternate Modes:
Here's where the weird really starts. Aside from robot mode, Megatron has 5 documented alternate modes (in order of the photos, below: Bat/Gargoyle, 2-Headed Dragon, Giant Hand, Jet and Car). They're all very different, and some are less successful than others, but each one is interesting in its own way.

Bat/Gargoyle mode kind of reminds me of one of the creatures from the Silent Hill movie - the guy whose legs are strung up behind his head with barbed wire and drags himself around on his hands... because that's essentially what the 'transformation' entails. There's the small matter of extending the wings and flipping out a sort of 'snout extension' from the chest, but its appearce is not sufficiently different from robot mode for it to be instantly recognised as a Bat/Gargoyle, rather than Megatron practicing some kind of contortionist act.

Two-Headed Dragon mode, meanwhile, looks pretty impressive and fearsome... even though it's effectively little more than Megatron doing a hand stand. Once the feet are folded together and the armour panels flipped back, his legs make very convincing dragon necks. The extra pair of tiny arms don't look particularly dangerous, but they are quite well articulated (two ball joints in each - one at the 'shoulder' one at the 'elbow'), and the legs are even reasonably poseable, albeit with the necessity to use the tail to keep him balanced.

Giant Hand mode is possibly the most bizarre alternate mode in the history of TransFormers (though I'm sure someone out there will find something to top it, eventually). It's one of those things where, until it's finished and you really look at it, it just doesn't seem plausible that a humanoid robot could turn into a giant hand... and yet it works quite brilliantly. Yes, you have to squint a bit to really believe it, but it's surprisingly effective... and the fact that it has a trigger-activated 'clench' action (OK, more like a 'wave' or just a waggle...) really adds to the bizarre fun of it.

Jet mode is, understandably, nothing like any terrestrial jet. There are subtle similarities to Cyclonus (forward-swept wings, long nose, enormous engines) but, in some ways, it actually just looks like another kind of dragon. One cool feature, that isn't immediately obvious during transformation, is that there is actually a landing gear that folds out of the chest. Unfortunately, that's the only wheel - at the back, or on the wings, he's just resting on the gold chrome pieces on the undersides of the wings.

Calling the final mode a car is misleading to say the least... though I was, at one time, more than a little worried that someone at Warner Brothers would see it and decide it was the perfect design for a new Batmobile (and it's not inconceivable that it actually happened, considering the look of the car from the two Schumacher Batman films, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin). It's actually not that different from jet mode, just upside down and with the wings folded up but the engines folded down.

As a robot, Megatron looks pretty cool... if a little extravagant. What really hampers this model is the fact that it was made to service six modes reasonably well, rather than focusing on one alternate mode. As such, none of the alternate modes are especially impressive or convicing, with awkward gaps and flimsy joints all over.

It's not a terrible toy, by any standard... it just doesn't seem to fit the concept of 'Robots in Disguise'. Then again, nor does it fit with either the Beast Wars or Beast Machines continuities... It's unlikely that this model will be revisited by the Classics line, but it remains an impressive curiosity in its own right.

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