Thursday, 28 July 2011

TransFormers (Movie) Ratchet

Of all the things that had 'fans' in uproar about the first Michael Bay-directed Transformers movie, Ratchet's appearance was probably the daftest. G1 Ratchet was, of course, an ambulance made out of the Nissan Cherry Vanette mold (aka Diaclone's Onebox Vanette... Although, bizarrely, the toy appears to have been based on a vehicle that didn't see the light of day until several years after G1 made its debut, let alone Diaclone!), and was one of the most ridiculed models in the line - he had no head, barely had arms, and was a terrible 'robot' sat upon a mobile 'repair bay'. Rather than sticking with the ambulance theme, Movie Ratchet becomes a rescue vehicle for the Fire Service. A strange choice, to be sure...

Vehicle Mode:
Leaving aside the politics of the licensing deal behind the vehicles used in the live action TransFormers movie, there are advantages to Ratchet disguising himself as a Fire Rescue vehicle rather than an standard ambulance. What we have here is a heavily modified Humvee which, at the back, is more or less an ambulance but, everywhere else, is vehicle designed for just about any terrain, and tough enough to get into the dangerous situations the Fire Service are likely to encounter.

Aside from the bullbars and roof rack there are few molded details that define this as anything other than an ambulance, most notably the spade and wrench-like things (not sure what they're called, but they're not wrenches, and their function is basically the opposite of a vice - they're for forcing things open/apart) molded into the roof just below the rack. Despite the fact that the bulk of the vehicle is flat panelling, there's a fair amount if detail molded all over, from the ridges and handles on the doors to the lights on the sides and above the cab, even the various hitches on the front and rear bumpers... And, of course, not forgetting 'HUMMER' molded into the front grille.

Where it's lacking, by and large, is the paint job. Straight from the box, most of the molded details are unpainted, and the red emergency flashers are woefully underdone. Much of the paint budget appears to have gone on painting the doors green, since they're molded in transparent blue, but at least it's a reasonable match to the plastic. It's nice to see all the headlights and front indicators - even the lights on the roof rack - painted appropriately, though the rear end is a little lacking. Of the movie models, as far as extra paintwork requirements go, Voyager Ratchet's alternate mode was probably the most in need.

Both the roof rack and the bullbars are removeable, but the holes left by the removal of the latter and the details exposed by the removal of the former mean that Ratchet really does need these un-ambulance-like parts to be fully effective in vehicle mode

One rather cool thing is that the windscreen, despite being split for transformation, manages to look almost seamless unless you're looking closely. Sadly, there's no molded cab detail and, in fact, you can see a rather significant transformation part quite clearly within. It's also pretty impressive to see wing mirror that stick out the way these do, but I guess that's what you get when Hasbro license the vehicle used in the movie.

On the downside, the undercarriage leaves the robot's arms in plain sight and, while there is some molded detail inside the wheelarches, none of it is specific to the vehicle mode.

Robot Mode:
Like Ironhide, Voyager Ratchet remained largely untouched between the first movie's toyrange and that of Revenge of the Fallen. There were numerous repaints, but Ratchet didn't get any remolded parts - not even the head. The again, Ratchet's is probably the only head they got more or less right the first time round.

Ratchet looks pretty good - well-proportioned, detailed, and pretty mobile. The legs are too blocky to be accurate, but some attempt was made to mitigate this by molding a lot of detail on the outsides. Even so, those details needed some additional paintwork to really bring them out. And paintwork, again, is where robot mode falls down. There's an amazing amount of molded detail on the upper legs and the arms, but the vast majority was left as plain plastic. The parts of the forearms that were painted were dark grey, so I covered over much of it with silver, and used copper to pick out certain parts.

Broadly speaking, though, he's very accurate to the movie CGI. The tyres on his shoulders are actually supposed to be the lights from the roof rack but, in terms of using what's available to make the best approximation, they did an excellent job.

Two glaring flaws really stand out on this model - the vehicle's doors (and the large panels that fold over them) stuck on the backs of his shoulders, and the roofrack hanging off his back (which literally sticks out - and at quite an angle!). The latter is detachable, though, and intended to be used as some sort of claw weapon - it attaches to his forearms, and the green peg within the wheel is a slide switch that opens and closes the claw. Why this was included is anyone's guess - Ratchet never uses anything like that in the movie.

What he does use is some kind of blaster and a rotary saw, both of which transform out of his forearms. What this model has instead is some kind of butterfly-shaped 'axe' weapon which can be pulled out of his right forearm. The same green detail is molded into his left arm, but is a solid part of the arm.

I was really impressed with the way Ratchet transforms. He takes the standard G1 'vehicle-front chest' and quite literally turns it on its head, and the way the cab collapses down and the lower body hinges into place underneath was very original.

Ratchet is fairly poseable, though the feet are very limited in their motion, and the knees are somewhat restricted by rear bumper panels hanging off the backs. As far as I can tell, the only Automorph gimmick Ratchet has is in the legs - as the feet are rotated down into place, a pair of panels on the inner face of each lower leg push out, giving his otherwise boxy legs a bit more shape.

The mold isn't perfect but, unlike Ironhide and the myriad modifications to his mold, Ratchet stood the test of time, and I haven't felt the need to replace this now 4 year old Voyager with any of the repaints or the Deluxe-sized versions. That said, I suspect either of the Deluxes could have been improved if they'd been scaled up to Voyager class.

A few extra weapons wouldn't have gone amiss, though...

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