Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Generations (30th Anniversary) Megatron

And so begins the 30th Anniversary of the TransFormers toyline, kicking off with a set of Deluxe Class toys based on new character designs from the IDW comics. Considering the line has been going for thirty (not quite continuous) years, one would tend to expect Hasbro to pull out all the stops and create something incredible to mark the occasion. Certainly, things like the new Metroplex fit that bill, if you're into massive hunks of plastic that pretty much require their own display space, but with the 20th Anniversary having been celebrated by the commencement of the original Japanese Masterpiece and Binaltech lines, what does the third decade of Transformers mean to Hasbro?

Well, in the States, these 30th Anniversary figures are all receiving some level of premium treatment, with the Generations Deluxes packaged with reprints of each character's IDW 'Spotlight' comic - a perfect purchase incentive for the beginnings of Hasbro's 'Thrilling 30' year celebration. No such luck with the UK version, though - and the backing card is actually smaller as a result. The front shows the same awesome artwork - by Clayton Crain, based on Don Figueroa's original design - while the back gives and insultingly brief (one sentence, thirteen languanges) bio of the character: "Has become a tyrant instead of a hero". It's just about intriguing enough for me to want to know more, but it's pretty pathetic given the presumed importance of the toyline.

Vehicle Mode:
Over the years, Megatron has tended to be either a gun or a tank. There have been a few oddities along the way (G2, Galaxy Force and Alternity all feature Megatron as a car, Beast Wars/Machines had dinosaurs, dragons and even a crocodile, RiD was a wacky multi-changer, Animated was a sort of helicopter and he's even been a training shoe) but, by and large, he's remained vaguely similar and consistent. There was an unreleased G2 version (to be packaged with Starscream, both using the G2 Dreadwing/Smokescreen molds where Megatron would have been a Stealth bomber) and a Machine Wars cyberjet have been the only occasions where he's been a vaguely terrestrial aircraft...

...Until now, where a Hasbro have created in plastic what Don Figueroa and IDW comics created as a contemporary update for the Decepticon leader. Like the intended G2 repaint, he's a Stealth bomber of the 'flying wing' variety, and he looks pretty cool and compact. In fact, that's an understatement: he actually looks tiny, albeit very well realised.

And therein lies the first problem. While I can understand Orion Pax, Trailcutter and Yet Another Goddamn Bumblebee in Deluxe Class, Megatron surely demands Voyager... so Hasbro have fumbled their 30th Anniversary of TransFormers almost immediately.

Considering this is a folded-up robot, it's remarkably slim, with the bulk distributed quite cleverly and evenly. I still wouldn't expect a plane to fly if it looked like this toy, but it's a better job that some, and certainly doesn't look like the bad old stereotype of a plane with a robot stuck to the undercarriage.

Much of the top of the plane is molded in dark grey plastic with fine metallic flakes, though the wing tips are translucent purple, painted over to match the plastic... and it's a very good match, just for a change. Rather than using a plain dark grey, the paint also features the same kind of metallic flakes, though only the top surfaces are painted, and those quite sparingly, leading to some translucent purple being visible at the seams. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however, since the concept art features lots of glowing purple panel lining. Some details are picked out in silver (possibly with a slightly purplish tinge... my eyes can't quite tell, but it certainly seems so in these photos, and it seems unlikely Hasbro would use two colours of metallic paint where one would suffice) and the windows are painted red, making him slightly reminiscent of the G2 Dreadwing mold (a homage to which will be the second usage of this mold, in blue, to match the G2 toy and its Robot Masters repaint, Gigant Bomb).

There are no additional weapons in this mode, and he only sort-of has an undercarriage - there's a fold-out fixed 'wheel' at the front, and two rounded protrusions toward the rear that are supposed to look like wheels. When you remove his wing tips - as the first stage of transformation - he makes a passable UFO... and I suppose his robot mode weapon could then be mounted in either of the 5mm holes toward the sides.

Robot Mode:
One prerequisite with a Megatron figure is that he has to look powerful and imposing in robot mode. This model is a bit hit-and-miss. The upper half is hugely bulky, with large arms and a broad, heavy chest... but the chest quickly tapers to a tiny waist and comparatively thin legs. They look a little better from the sides, and the folding part on the lower leg can fold in (supposedly the correct thing to do, despite it revealing an unpainted part on the shin) or out (which appears to match the box art more accurately, but leaves the legs looking very hollow). It looks strangely like a two-part gestalt, joined at the waist, where one part is much bigger than the other.

More purple is revealed in this mode, with the biceps, thighs and heels being molded in a pale, greyish, vaguely metallic purple, somewhat similar to the barely purple metallic paint. There's also a sliver of purple visible in the cracks between his shoulder panels and the upper chest panels either side of the folded-down cockpit. There's also a more vivid purple plastic used for his groin, his fists and for his ankle joints. The first two are true to the box art, though that features some groin panelling in the dark grey metallic colour used elsewhere in the body... details which do not appear to exist on the toy.

The weapon attaches very securely to either arm via a hinged 5mm peg, though the hinge is present only to disguise the peg in Megatron's alternate mode, rather than to offer any additional poseability for the weapon. As previously mentioned, it's composed of the wing tips - they don't peg together especially well but, equally, they're not prone to falling apart. Once connected, the top part just needs to be levered back to extend the 'barrel'. It's a bit oversized... that is, until you remember this is Megatron, and oversized the arm cannon is basically his thing.

Megatron tends to have some form of 'bucket head', part of the character's look since the G1 cartoon, and this model is no exception. It's almost a development of the terrible Classics Deluxe tank Megatron, and actually seems a little small for the body, but it's an excellent sculpt with plenty of detail. It's also nice to see that the translucent purple light piping wasn't painted over... even though it might have been an advantage to do so with this particular model: translucent plastic isn't as good at letting light through, even without that large panel on his back, sticking up behind his head.

After uploading these photos, I realised I'd slightly mistransformed him - the panels on the backs of his shoulders are hinged and are supposed to be folded out for better accuracy to the artwork. It also gets them out of the way for better mobility in his arms.

This new Megatron's transformation is simple, yet very effective. I have only two gripes about it: first, things just don't like tabbing into place when transforming him into jet mode - the legs only loosely connect to the central panel on the back, and they're held in place by the arms... which aren't that secure either. Likewise, the shoulder panels don't tab in very securely in robot mode, and the hinged arm that leads to the shoulder's ball joint is rather loose, so the arms tend to sag when posed. Second, the ball joints at the hips are ridiculously tight, to the point where some plastic stress is already evident, just from a couple of transformations. They have to rotate 180degrees to get the lower leg into place for folding into the body, and they really don't like to do so.

These issues also hamper poseability somewhat. The shoulder panels pop out whenever the arms are moved, and the bicep swivel joints are almost rigid compared to the shoulder ball joints and the hinged arm they're mounted on. On the upside, the worryingly stiff hip joints do mean the legs are reasonably solid for posing, though the feet don't have a brilliant range of motion. The head is on a ball joint, but it's both restricted by Megatron's collar and the stiffness of the joint itself. My only other gripe would be the elbow... which barely manages a 90degree bend.

I really, honestly wanted to love this model. It's been years since there's been a Megatron who looked truly brilliant, and this stealth bomber incarnation had so much potential. The way the weapon is incorporated into his alternate mode alone is nothing short of brilliant, and for a weapon formed of alternate mode parts to look so cool is a rare thing indeed... So it's a shame this figure, overall, is very disappointing. All the parts that should have pegged together securely are loose, and all the parts that should have been easily mobile are worryingly stiff. Additionally, this incarnation of Megatron is rather short, reaching approximately head height to the Classics Seekers. In theory, it's a great model... it just should have been a larger size class.

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