Monday, 26 May 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Rhinox

While comparatively few of the original Beast Wars figures were especially realistic in terms of molding or colouration, Rhinox was easily one of the worst. The body wasn't awful, but the head looked as though it had been designed by someone working from a written description rather than any visual reference.

Since he's such an important and well-regarded character, Hasbro saw fit (eventually) to completely remake Rhinox, from the ground up, in an attempt to give him both a true-to-life beast mode and a more CGI-accurate robot mode... And then released it in the 'Thrilling 30' toyline which didn't get very far in the UK before being cancelled in favour of the rebranded Generations toyline which will, for a while, at least, focus on the Age of Extinction toys.

Another masterstroke for Hasbro UK's TransFormers brand team, masters of forging disaster from the materials of awesome success.

Beast Mode:
So, straight away, Rhinox in beast mode looks like a Rhinoceros... or, at least, as though he has been designed by someone who had some idea of what a Rhinoceros is supposed to look like, even if they clearly have no idea of their colouration, or the differentiation in species: just like the original, the body sculpt features the 'plated' look of an Indian Rhinoceros, but the two horns of Black or White Rhinos.

The pale, anaemic beige is pretty hopeless (even without the inconsistency of my photographs, below - hurrah for the British summer and its inconsistent daylight!). This is one of those situations where a dull, dark grey would have been preferable (albeit not accurate to the CGI character, who was brown). Failing a more sensible choice of plastic colour, a simple black wash would have done wonders for the overall look of the model, bringing out lots of molded hide texture detail. Even the Japanese version went wrong, casting the rhino in an almost coppery metallic brown. I'm also a bit curious about the horns... I mean... why such a stark white? Rhino horns, unlike Elephant tusks, tend to be the same colour as their skin. Likewise the toenails...

There are some downsides to the detail on the sculpt. First and foremost, there are some areas where robot parts are all too obvious - the backs of his forelegs display the robot's forearms, and the backs of his back legs show... well, they're the undersides of the robot's feet but, in this mode, I'm not sure what they could be. Then there's the all-too-obvious seams around the bases of the ears, which are a separate piece of rubbery plastic sticking out through two holes in the Rhino's head... It almost looks as though Rhinox transforms into an animatronic Rhino rather than a real one.

There are two points about this model that are outstandingly poor, though - the rear section is molded in ill-fitting soft rubber and includes a completely static molded tail, and none of the legs are intentionally mobile in beast mode. They move, slightly, but not in a way that's conducive to posing the beast.

Robot Mode:
Straight away, Generations Rhinox looks better than the 1996 Beast Wars original - gone are the huge shell pieces hanging off his hips, the whole forelegs hanging off his biceps and the weird, never-used 'mutant' head. What we have now is far truer to the CGI of the TV series, and yet better-designed and more detailed. His proportions are what you'd expect from a big bruiser, so he looks large and powerful. He's still substantially smaller than the original Beast Wars Optimus Primal, but at least he's now bigger than the likes of Cheetor/Tigatron and Dinobot. On balance, he seems to be in proportion with the other toys as far as the CGI from the TV show is concerned.

While the beast mode is a huge mass of beige, robot mode introduces the traditional golds, greens and dark gunmetal to break up the monotony of the model. The shades used are pretty much spot on, making all the more annoying that the base colour of the Rhino is so pale. He doesn't 'pop' visually as much as he could have, had Rhino parts been molded in a darker brown or, at least, granted a dark wash.

One of the biggest problems with the original Rhinox toys were that he only had half the requisite number of Chainguns of Doom, and it looked virtually nothing like the CGI from the TV show as it had been molded to be used as a saw with a pair of flails attached. This new version comes with two guns, they're molded to look precisely like the weapons he used in the TV show, they're geared for spinning action... but the 'blades' are entirely unpainted beige plastic and look rather cheap rather than dangerous. Curiously, he has two round ports on the backs of his shoulders that are, apparently, intended for weapon storage... but surely it would have been better to attach them to his rear 'skirt'? The guns work nicely, spinning merrily at the push of the plungers, but they don't fit in his hands especially well because of the way the fingers were molded - he doesn't grip the guns, just lightly grasps them. On the upside, despite having his full complement of ballistic weapons, they still store internally in his beast mode!

The head sculpt is an effective rendition of the CGI model, but some fans have complained that he lacks the trademark lips of the character in the TV show. I'm not too fussed about that, but I am bothered by the impression that the pieces of his head were molded with a view to light-piping his eyes, yet all were eventually cast in opaque green plastic, so his eyes are painted instead. On the upside, his head does have a Maximal insignia stamped on either side of the central gold crest, just like the character in the TV show.

One thing this new Rhinox lacks, versus the version from almost 20 years ago, is the sword... but since he never used it in the TV show, that's not a terrible loss.

Once you get used to the order in which things happen, Rhinox's transformation is pretty simple and very satisfying. He has lots of panels that have to be moved in the right order, and the last few connections in getting him back into beast mode can be a pain, but most of the process is great fun. The rubber butt-plate is very frustrating, though, because it never quite lines up correctly and, being molded in soft rubber rather than rigid plastic, has a tendency to warp rather than sit in the correct place.

The original Rhinox tended to be slightly back-heavy, despite having a fold-out heel piece. This version retains the back-heaviness but has lost the additional heel. Making matters worse, the knee joints on mine (and, I gather, pretty much all of them) are incredibly loosely pinned. That said, and clearly in an effort to improve poseability, he has ankle joints that (should) allow him to stand firmly, even with his legs splayed.

While I was never a huge fan of the original Beast Wars toyline, I am completely blown away by this model, in spite of all its myriad flaws. It's an excellent reimagining of a much-loved character which transcends the poor colour choices, the missing paintwork and the floppy knee joints. I'd imagine that this is what Rhinox would have looked like in the TV show, back in the day, had the artists and computers been up to the task.

Given that it took something like five years between the Universe/Classics Cheetor and this, it's clear that the designers have put a lot of thought into this model, and the result is a much improved figure. Other than fixing the colours, the only improvement I could have wanted is more articulation in the beast mode.

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