Thursday, 22 May 2014

Age of Extinction/Generations High Octane Bumblebee

For a good long while, and new TransFormers line would feature only two certainties: a new Optimus Prime and a new Megatron/Galvatron. Then the movies happened, and suddenly Bumblebee - a character virtually forgotten since the mid-eighties - seemed to become Hasbro's primary focus. Each toyline, they seemed to feel, required at least two variations on the theme of Bumblebee, in every size class, to the point where you could troop-build with Bumblebees...

Whether there was truly ever a market for this suffusion of yellow (Douglas Adams references FTW!) remains open to debate. Certainly, I have a friend who, in the wake of the original TransFormers live action movie, decided to start collecting nothing but Bumblebees, but I'd guess people like that are a happy minority. I ended up buying a total of five Deluxe class Bumblebees over the course of the movie toylines, but only one - Battle Blade Bumblebee - has stood the test of time.

Now, of course, a new movie means a new Bumblebee (or twelve). I'm sure you're all just aching to know how this one stands up against his forebears...

Vehicle Mode:
Having been a 1976 Chevrolet Camaro, then several annual variations on the Concept Camaro, it seems odd that Bumblebee now transforms into an even older model of Camaro, this one from 1967. Weirder still is that, despite being a whole 9 years older, this model of Camaro looks more contemporary than the '76 version. Just goes to show how strange car designs - or car designers - can be. Or perhaps it's just the customisation of the car that makes it thus...

There's no denying it's a decent-looking car - very old-school muscle car, and very much in the tradition of TF Prime Cliffjumper. Also, possibly taking its cues from the TF Prime TV series, this 'undercover' Bumblebee has reversed his traditional paint distribution. He's now a rather lovely matte black (partially molded, but a good deal of it is paint over transparent plastic) with very few yellow highlights - some stripes at the front a coating for his spoiler, and an Autobot insignia on each side being the extent of yellow that's intentionally visible in vehicle mode. With the windows in transparent and colourless plastic, his internals are clearly visible in vehicle mode, and a couple of blocks of yellow interrupt his bonnet as a result of one small aspect of his transformation. I'm not completely certain, but I think the hubcaps are painted with a very dark gunmetal colour, but it's so close to being black, it may just be that the plastic there is shinier than that of the 'tyres'.

It's not a particularly detailed model - most of the car surfaces are smooth and the transformation seams are mostly in sensible places to minimise their impact on the vehicle. There is one oddity in the mold - which appears to be the case on all models rather than being limited to mine - in that the seams of the boot are clearly molded on the piece of transparent plastic that includes the rear window, but are scuffed to the point of being almost invisible on the rearmost sections of the car.

There are no headlights - just a grille at the front - but the tail lights are present and unpainted... along with a circular badge and the number plate panel. Without having seen much of this version of Bumblebee in the movie, I don't know if this is true to his updated CGI look but, to be honest, it looks a bit cheap. He's also remarkably small compared to the only other Deluxe I have thusfar, Crosshairs...

Something else that's odd about this model, versus some of the older Bumblebees, is how hollow the car seems to be. Just about every earlier iteration of the character packed the robot into a larger vehicle form quite tightly, but this Camaro is comparatively gappy towards the rear.

Robot Mode:
Over the last seven years of TransFormers movie toys, I've grown somewhat accustomed to weirdly proportioned robots, but High Octane Bumblebee takes it to a whole new level. He has incredibly stubby arms and positively negligible thighs, while his shins seem to go on forever. He also has a really, really tiny head. When he's in hand, or posed, he doesn't look too bad... but just standing around as straight as he can manage, his proportions look awful.

Each version of Bumblebee has suffered some degree of backpack, but I'd have to say this one is probably the worst. Most of the others just have had the car's roof folded up to varying degrees and hanging off his back... this one has a fair old chunk of the car's bonnet sticking out behind his head. From the front or back, it looks OK... but from the side, it looks a little daft. No surprises, then, that he tends to be a little back-heavy.
Like several other movie Bumblebees, this model comes with a built-in weapon but, unlike the others, it's a tiny, friction-operated thing permanently connected to his right forearm. Like most friction-operated launchers, it's not especially powerful, and I rather wish they'd made the missile shorter, if only so it wasn't so inclined to bend.

While his vehicle mode was virtually all black, robot mode brings back Bumblebee's familiar yellow... only it's a far richer sunshine yellow that any of the previous models... in fact, it's bordering on orange. It's coupled with a strange beige-y grey and a few black pieces, neither of which are especially flattering. It's very strange to see the bulk of Bumblebee's torso molded in yellow considering every previous version used either grey or black... And considering many of the same old tech details are visible, it looks wrong for them now to be so bright. Most distressingly, there seems to be no paintwork that is specific to robot mode beyond the small amount applied to the head.

Speaking of, each new version of Bumblebee in the Deluxe class has tended to have a slightly improved head sculpt. Sometimes there are fun features like a mobile visor. Sometimes you just get light piping. This sculpt is probably one of the best, if not the best, so far... so it's a real shame that it's so darned small, and that the completely colourless light-piping is covered over with mostly-opaque cyan paint.

What's most interesting about this Bumblebee is that, despite being so very familiar in both vehicle and robot modes, not a single part is recycled from any of the previous movie Bumblebees. Transformation is broadly similar to all the Concept Camaro models, just without any of the automatic bits, geared bits, or spring-loaded bits. What it has instead is a deeply frustrating chest transformation, where the car's front splits in half, then has to angle down slightly and plug into a cavity in the main part of the torso. Once it's in, it's nice and secure... but getting it in can be very annoying. It also has weird flaps above the chest which, OK, reference part of the CGI model... but they don't do it very well. Its proportions are probably better than those of the Leader class model from Dark of the Moon, but the head is similarly undersized for the rest of the body. Transforming him back into car mode, the use of transparent plastic for some key structural parts - particularly where the car doors plug into the chunk of car body including the rear windscreen - worries me. The joints aren't as delicate as some from the Dark of the Moon Deluxes, but I am concerned that the peg will eventually break the loop it plugs into whenever I see how far it flexes when I try to connect the parts.

The proportions may not hinder his poseability, but the quality of some of the joints certainly does. The shoulders are on pinned hinges for transformation, and that joint is far looser than the actual semi-ratcheting shoulder joint, so actually getting the arms to move the way you want them to can be a real trial. I like that his elbows are articulated rather more naturally than the majority of Bumblebee models, and that the forearm armour doesn't get in the way for the most part. Despite being on a ball joint, the head doesn't have a vast range of movement, but it's nice to see the ball joint in a more natural postion, at the back of his head rather than in the middle. The fact that the soles of his feet are angled means that he must have his legs splayed slightly just to stand up straight but, on the bright side, it does assist his range of dramatic stances, up to a point.

This is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's quite a clever model, marred only by some slightly dodgy choices in construction... on the other hand, it's yet another goddamned Bumblebee, and the (lack of) paint job is very disappointing. I already can't quite believe I actually shelled out £15 for him. It's not the worst version of Bumblebee, but it certainly ain't the best.

One last noteworthy point is that the feet have peg holes in them. Considering Crosshairs also has a peg hole (in a place that is less conspicuous than his feet, and yet very conspicuous in itself), it's tempting to think that Hasbro has some kind of diorama or display stand in the offing, and that it will feature small pegs to allow for some awesome displays... I'll have to keep an eye out for similar holes on any of the later models I purchase...


  1. I have very little interest in another movie Bee. I have old/donated all but battle blade Bee. While I like this Comaro look, his look of old man with his pants up too high in robot mode and all the car hanging off his torso really puts me off even more.

    1. Agreed! The old excuse that "kids love Bumblebee" really can't be true (anymore?) considering the HO Bumblebees still on the shelves now...

      Then again, either I'm getting to Toys'R'Us just after they restock their shelves, or none of the AoE line is shifting very well.