Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Revenge of the Fallen... The Fallen

When the title of the second live-action TransFormers movie was announced, a ripple of interest travelled through the fandom... What did 'Revenge of the Fallen' mean? Was is the fallen Decepticons, such as Megatron, returning to wreak their revenge..? or was the Bayverse about to introduce a character invented by the comics? When it was finally revealed that the 'Fallen' of the title was, indeed, 'The Fallen' there was the usual round of cautious enthusiasm dampened by the fans' expectation that Michael Bay's franchise would continue to ruin everything they hold dear... and sadly, they weren't wrong.

One of these days, I'll learn... One of these days, when there comes a TransFormers character so bizarre, that no genuine alternate mode can possibly exist, I'll decide not to buy it. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this lesson for the original TransFormers movie, so I bought Megatron. Nor did I learn in time for Revenge of the Fallen so, not only did I buy Megatron again, but I also bought this, the Voyager class interpretation of the Bayverse monstrosity that is the titular Fallen...

Vehicle Mode:
Supposedly this is some kind of Cybertronian dreadnought/battlecruiser and, while you can safely say it doesn't just look like a folded up robot, I can't imagine anyone looking it this and thinking it's any kind of aircraft or spacecraft either. It looks slightly organic and, while the parts that become the robot's legs aren't obviously legs here (hell, they're not obviously anything) part of me just sees roadkill when I look at this... I'm sure someone out in the fan community will have found a 'space chicken' transformation. On the upside, the robot's head is at least covered over (rather halfheartedly, I must say)... on the downside, the hands and feet aren't exactly disguised in any way, and many parts appear to be in conflict with each other.

The colourscheme is... curious. Dark green is not a colour I would have associated with The Fallen from the movie... Dark gunmetal maybe... and he may even have been a valid use of Hasbro's typical 'black in place of silver' tactic. Green does present a contrast to the lines and splodges of orange and red (being a throwback to the comics' depiction of The Fallen as being, essentially, fire inside a transforming suit of armour). Unusually, there's a fairly huge amount of dark gunmetal paint on here, too - coating the outer ridged areas on the... er... pod things sticking out on top of this mode, almost like boosters of some kind, as well as being on the prong-things sticking out either side of what could be a cockpit at the front, and also on the smaller 'wings' in front of what could be the command bridge, roughly in the middle of the vehicle.

Three landing runners can fold out of the underside, neatly reminding you which way up one should hold this monstrosity, but that's about the only concession to making this a realistic vehicle. I know The Fallen doesn't actually transform in the movie but, to me, that means Hasbro/Takara either shouldn't have made a transforming toy of this character, that they should have come up with a more impressive alternate mode... or, as with Megatron in the first two live-action movies, that they should have exercised a little more creative control over the movie. This just looks bad.
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Robot Mode:
Basically, this is what would happen if you let H.R. Giger design a TransFormer... only his would undoubtedly involve more genital referencing. Seriously, though, this 'robot' would not look out of place in an Alien movie... he just needs a tail and a slightly more elongated head.

The distribution of green (almost everywhere) and orange (panel lines) remains the same as the alternate mode, but there's a lot more (visible) gunmetal on the shoulders, lower torso and the armour on his knees and shins. It seems odd that his 'toes' are grey, considering the only other place that colour of plastic appears is on the backs of his legs and his alternate mode landing gear. Then again, this toy is an exercise in 'odd'.

The head sculpt is not exactly accurate to the movie character, and the use of transparent red plastic within the face suggests some light-piping was intended, though it doesn't actually work. The 'feathering' on either side of his face reminds me somewhat of Jetfire, but the overall effect is rather Egyptian - reminding me of those striped headdresses that appear on a pharoah's sarcophagus, or in paintings of some Egyptian gods. Given the setting of the movie's climactic battle, this is surely not a coincidence. The other thing this version of the head reminds me of is the helmets used by Predators... albeit rather elongated. The face was meant to be the origin of the Decepticon insignia (and certainly looked that way on the movie posters) but, as with Generation 1, the movie continuity's Soundwave was more similar in design.

Pulling the head forward reveals a pair of spring-loaded transparent red panels, described by the box as "energy absorption panels" which... just kind of stick out of the sides of his head. There's another set on each upper arm, too, though these don't move quite so much, and aren't exactly concealed to begin with. These panels weren't referenced in the movie in any way, so it's puzzling that they were included at the expense of proper head articulation.
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OK, let's be honest here... If you actually pick up The Fallen, it won't be for his amazing alternate mode, because it isn't. Transformation is basically moot... It's also a touch frustrating because of all the tabbing into narrow slots, and the fact that it's almost impossible to tell whether it's successfully transformed or not, because the alternate mode doesn't make any sense. However you do it, his hands are visible to some degree or another, and all those weird flaps that connect his elbows to his waist are just kinda sticking out. It actually reminds me somewhat of those inner robots the G1 Pretenders had in the way it folds up.

Some of the jointing, particularly the elbows and wrists, is downright bizarre, though it does allow for surprisingly good articulation, in spite of the ridiculous spring-loaded feet. The Fallen is quite capable of looking reasonably dynamic and very imposing and, while the arm-waist hitching option restricts his mobility, it's a neat addition to the toy. The use of rubber for the head makes some sense - the feathering might otherwise be brittle and prone to breakage... but using it for the hands, and giving them such awkward jointing is a very strange decision on the designer's part.

The overall design of The Fallen examplifies everything that was wrong with the TransFormers movie robots: it's spindly and overly organic. It's also very obviously evil, when The Fallen was supposed to be one of the first Primes - rather than make him look like a former good guy, they chose to make all the other Primes look like spindly Gigeresque creatures just so The Fallen could look suitably evil. For my money, this misses the point completely. Then again, the same could be said of the movie...

It's difficult to recommend this toy... or even the Hunt for the Decepticons remold/repaint. Of the two, this has the better colour scheme, despite being largely wrong, but the later version benefits from an more accurate head sculpt (complete with "give me your face!" gimmick) which is actually mobile, and it comes with an interpretation of The Fallen's staff weapon from the film. Whether or not that outweighs the terrible design and the garish dark blue, AllSpark Blue and turquoise colour scheme is not a matter on which I shall venture an opinion.

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