Monday, 25 July 2011

TransFormers (Movie) Deep Space Starscream (Target Exclusive)

There's something about Movie Starscream that seems to attract colourschemes in the beige range. Both the original Voyager and the Revenge of the Fallen version were very beige, despite the character in the movie being very clearly grey or silver, for the most part. Bad enough that Starscream had such a controversial design ('monkey-chicken' being one rather unflattering description), with a wide, heavy torso somehow supported on comparatively spindly, bird-like legs, he had to have such a drab colour as well? But was that the only problem with the original Starcream toy..?

I did buy the original, beige iteration of Movie Starscream but, as with most of the original movie toys, I started adding paint here and there, to improve the overall rather neglected look of them, and ended up coating almost the entire model in Mercedes Smoke Silver. That being the case, there will be photos of my custom up here eventually, but I figured this would be the best place to start with the basic, unadulterated model. OK, Deep Space Starscream a 'Premium' repaint but, other than that, it's unadulterated...

Vehicle Mode:
Well, where to begin? As with many TransFormers planes, Starscream looks great from above - the angles and subtle curves of the F-22 Raptor are well-represented, although the tail fins are not only the wrong basic shape, but skewed backward, like older jets, rather than the almost balanced trapezoid shape on the real-life Raptor.

From any other angle, Voyager Starscream is a disaster: from the front or sides, you see a distinct lack of jet intakes and, in their stead, two honking great barrels of something. The Raptor's elegantly concealed weapon systems are ignored in favour of ginormous, ultra-sensatively-spring-loaded missile pods and, if you don't fancy making use of the launchers, an additional rack for missiles that flips out of the back of the launchers. Looking at the rear of the plane can only be described as a mistake... Everyone has heard of 'Visible Robot Head' Syndrome, but Starscream suffers from that and 'Visible Robot Feet' Syndrome, not to mention 'Oh My God, Are Those His Arms?' Syndrome. There is a small, rubbery flap that attempts to both cover Starscream's head (at which it fails) and serve as the implication of the F-22's afterburners (at which it also fails), but it's a futile gesture in such a poorly executed model.

He's also one of the few - probably one of the only - full-sized TransFormers planes that does not have an undercarriage. Starscream doesn't need one. He flies around with his own personal landing platform permanently welded to the underside of the plane.

But, still, there are positives. The colourscheme on this version of the mold is fantastic - not only is the flat grey (hurrah!) plastic supplemented by a generous application of metallic paint, he also has something approaching real-life (as in CGI model) squadron markings on the tail fins. There's the Decepticon logo, and 'FF 1st FW' out the outside of each one and, maybe it's just me, but I always think the '1st FW' line looks like 'TFW', possibly referencing the TransFormers fan-site Transformer World 2005? The paint job is supposedly intended to reflect Starscream's appearance in one of the short vignettes during the end credits of the movie, where he's seen jetting off out of the atmosphere, following Megatron's defeat... Other than appearing slightly shinier, though (and, OK, pretty much on fire), his appearance in that sequence was identical to that in the rest of the film.

The spring-loaded missile launchers, while over-sensitive and surely liable to blind someone one of these days, do have quite a neat feature. The large plastic wheels in the underside are geared to rotate the three launch tubes and, with a flap positioned just behind the rotating section, the missiles can be automatically launched as the plane... erm... rolls on the ground. Doesn't quite fit with the idea of an 'aircraft', does it, Hasbro?

So, not a great alternate mode... but certainly better than a scaled-up version of the Legends figure.
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Robot Mode:
Oh dear... Robot mode really isn't much better, is it? In terms of screen accuracy, it's pretty rubbish, with the flaps and wings and things sitting in entirely the wrong places (darned pre-production artwork and its vaguaries!), ridiculously broad shoulders, massively puffy arms that don't even have proper hands and positively thunderous thighs.

Other than all that, it's not too bad as a representation of the extremely unusual movie look of the Decepticons' Air Commander. The silhouette is basically correct, it's just the details that let it down. But, let's face it, Starscream was an awesomely complicated CGI model, and must have cheated greatly to transform into an F-22 in the first place. The designers of this toy had a real uphill struggle, and did an admirable job of creating a three-dimensional, transforming version - and one must always remember that these things are toys for children, not statues for display.

The way the torso collapses, and the cockpit section flips back and pulls open to create Starscream's distinctive chest, while the nose of the plane flips up onto the back, is a clever piece of design. Awkward and massively oversized though they may be, the arms are very poseable, but the lack of hands is a terrible loss. I'm not sure whether the claw things that can be pulled out from between the launch tubes are an attempt at turning the launchers into hands, or at mimmicking the blades that pop out of Starscream's wrists when he activates his missile launchers in robot mode... either way, their effectiveness is undermined by the fact that they're molded in soft rubber.

The legs may be overly angular and chunky, but they're fairly poseable, with hips and both upper and lower 'knee' joints on ratchets, making them very stable. The ankle is pinned, though, so the feet aren't quite so useful, but the rotation joint just above the upper 'knee' means he can adopt some quite dramatic and dynamic poses.

The head mold is, frankly, terrible. I'm not sure any of the toys from the first movie did particularly well with their heads, but whoever sculpted Starscream misinterpreted the artwork to an incredible degree. Fans complained enough about the 'insectoid' look of the CGI model, but I quite liked his alien look, and for it to become this monstrosity is a huge disappointment. The whole head is basically too flat, and the face and collar are raised up on a completely unnecessary 'neck'. It is well painted on this version, however, but the light piping has been painted over to give Starscream his 'Decepticon Red' eyes.

While much of the paintwork visible in robot mode is only held over from the plane mode, it's nice to see a bit of red detailing on the insides of his elbows. That mechanical/piping detail is lifted directly from the CGI, and having it painted in makes a huge - positive - difference to the overall look of the toy.
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I have to say that, even after the Revenge of the Fallen Voyager and the utterly awesome Leader class version of Starscream, I'm still pretty fond of the way this thing transforms. The collapsing/expanding torso is very smartly designed, and the way certain parts are molded for a dual purpose is nicely done. He may not transform into a particularly convincing fighter jet, but Starscream is a pretty neat toy.

It's just a shame that the rear flaps of the plane are so obvious on his shoulders, and that the CGI's robot 'wings' are sticking out of the front of his shoulders, rather than the back... but, as the first iteration of such a unique and alien design for Starscream, this Voyager class toy stands up well despite its myriad flaws. I'd have to say most of that is down to this superb 'Premium' finish, and the original mass release is pretty mediocre by comparison.

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