Sunday, 30 June 2013

TransFormers: Prime Optimus Prime

TransFormers: Prime caught a lot of flak initially for robot designs that seemed to be the illegitimate offspring of the much-loved, prematurely cancelled TransFormers: Animated series and the much loathed live-action movie designs. Personally, I'm more cheesed off that, as a co-production with a satellite TV company, the only way I could watch the series initially would have been by forking out for a subscription and the necessary hardware.

Or YouTube, of course.

Like any TransFormers series since G1, it has its share of detractors... but few can deny that the stories are more coherent and substantially darker in tone than anything that has come before (surprising, given the involvement of Kurtzman and Orci). Hasbro followed up their confounding decision on the creation of the show by releasing the Prime 'First Edition' line, only to cancel it before most people had a chance to find the toys. What came next was subtitled 'Robots In Disguise'... but was it an improvement?

Vehicle Mode:
In general, one thing you can count on is that Optimus Prime will be done right - he's one of the most important characters in the history of the toyline, after all. Broadly speaking, this version is no exception in vehicle mode. He's a long-nosed truck, similar to the Peterbuilt truck from the live-action movies, but with the addition of a windvane. From the front and sides, he looks pretty good, if a little boxy... it's only from the rear that he looks like a bit of a disaster, because the back of the cab is completely open, revealing robot parts. This model is notable for having a decent-looking trailer hitch though, to my knowledge, the only times Prime has had a trailer in this series, he's been towing special cargo - it's not part of his regular look.

The colourscheme is about average for a contemporary Optimus Prime - a bright, very saturated red, and a mid-blue, with dashes of silver here and there. From the sides, a couple of shortcuts are rather obvious - the areas around the side windows are unpainted grey plastic, and stand out quite badly. Also, the exhaust pipes - molded in soft rubber, no doubt 'for safety reasons' - are unpainted. According to the show, Prime is meant to have some blue towards the lower back of the cab. On both the Deluxe and Voyager versions of the First Edition, this blue was painted in... but on this mainline release, it's left as bare red plastic.

There's not much else to be said about the vehicle mode, other than that his weapons can attach either to his trailer hitch or to one of the holes either side... though why you'd want to do that is another matter entirely.

Robot Mode:
Initially, I was upset that First Edition Prime wouldn't be available in the UK shops. Flawed and cheaty though it was, the end result was a fairly accurate representation of the character from the TV show, with minimal truck parts hanging off. The first photos of the mainline robot didn't change my mind, because of the silly spring-loaded, LED-lit weapon. Why have transparent blue forearms when it doesn't reference anything from the TV show, and the LED in the weapon doesn't even light his forearms? And what's with those massive panels of truck side hanging off his back at a weird angle? That backpack doesn't do the model any favours.

Then there's the paint job... while the darker grey plastic has a vaguely metallic colouring and texture, it's just not shiny enough, and the only silver paint visible on robot mode is on the lower part of his shins, his mouthplate and around his chest-windows. Worse still, the red panelling that's meant to be below the windows on his chest wasn't even painted, so it's two different shades of grey. Hasbro seems to have forgotten that Optimus Prime is something of a flagship character (something distinct from, say, the 'kid appeal' character, as Bumblebee has become), and really deserves some extra attention.

Prime comes with two weapons. The aforementioned spring-loaded, LED-lit gun resembles the weapon which transforms out of his forearms in the TV show... though the bit that either plugs into his forearm or into his hand is molded like his forearm, making it a little redundant. I'm sure that, with a bit of effort, the designers could have had this gun folding out of his actual forearm, making for a far more impressive gimmick in the toy... but that would have had to lose the LED, and everyone knows kids like their electronic lights, right?

The sword is interesting for two reasons: it doesn't resemble the swords Prime uses in the TV series in the slightest (reminding me rather more of Megatron's sword from Superlink/Energon), and it's molded to be held in his hand, rather than to plug in over his hand.

The head sculpt is disappointing - for one thing it looks too small, but mainly because it's a fairly standard sculpt with the battle mask in place. It's rare for Prime to be depicted without a mouth plate, so when it only comes into play at appropriate moments in the TV series, it's a real shame Hasbro didn't follow the fine example they set with TF: Animated and show his face, if they weren't able to make the battle mask optional on a head this small.

Transformation is interesting and innovative, though there are several parts that are quite frustrating. In many ways, once I had the figure in hand, I realised that it's far more impressive than the First Edition model - if nothing else, it doesn't fake the windvane shoulders, so the feet don't have windvane hanging off their heels. It also doesn't fake the window chest... at least, not to the same degree. On the downside, the smokestacks are in the wrong place, and the positioning of his front wheels in robot mode isn't so accurate or as aesthetically pleasing as the First Edition.

For the most part, the TF: Prime line has excellent articulation, and this model acquits itself well. The panels which flap down to form the shins do get in the way of the feet somewhat, but he can stand stably in a good variety of positions. Considering how much bulk he has on his shoulders, they're remarkably mobile, though those large panels on his back do get in the way a little. The only real disappointment is the lack of a waist joint. By the looks of the model, it would have been easily doable, and the First Edition has a kind of waist joint (albeit in slightly the wrong place), though the range of motion offered by the ball-jointed hips and the upper thigh swivel goes some way to mitigate the omission on this model.

I guess I'm happy with this version of Optimus, and probably moreso than I would have been with the First Edition, despite its overall better look, because this one cheats less. The electronic weapon, like so many recent TransFormers offerings, are overwhelmed by their gimmick, but it's an interesting effort nonetheless... Just a shame that the sword is completely wrong...

All that said, if I ever happen upon the First Edition, I may well pick it up...


  1. I remember a rumour a few years ago, that initially there were no plans for a Prime line as such. Prime figures were going to be included in the Generations line and that's where the FE versions came from.

    Even though FE Prime 'cheats' on the wind shield chest, which I don't really see as a problem personally, I much prefer the FE over the regular release. RID just looks a bit blech, especially from the back and those weapons are horrible.

    1. Hiya Tets! That rumour would certainly explain the shoddy handling of the First Edition line... but it seems bizarre that Hasbro would create a TV series and not let it have it's own toyline. Then again, Hasbro haven't been known for their brilliant decision-making in recent years... Especially when they have movies, TV series and the ongoing Classics/Universe/Generations projects on the go simultaneously.

      What I find puzzling is that, having released a perfectly good set of toys under the First Edition banner, they went back to the drawing board with all of them. I've only bothered picking up FE Arcee and Bulkhead thusfar, and they are way better than the RiD versions... they don't need the spring-loaded, LED-lit gimmicks. Why remake them completely, when good molds already existed? More of that awesome decision-making...

      RiD Prime is a decent enough stand-in, better in a few ways, vastly inferior in most... And it gives the third parties an excellent opportunity to provide alternate weapons ;)