Saturday, 21 June 2014

Age of Extinction/Generations Evasion Mode Optimus Prime

While I liked the Leader class Optimus Prime toys from the first movie and raved about the almost unbelievably good update for Revenge of the Fallen, both toys suffered in a small way from the inclusion of electronics. These added to the weight of the figures and caused the occasional balance issue. The Voyagers, meanwhile, often ended up with a truck nose backpack and lacked a lot of the detail of the larger format toys.

What I wanted, ideally, was a Leader class figure without the gimmicks, so the space thereby made available could improve both the detail of the model and the 'accuracy' (meaning complexity) of the transformation. While Hasbro will never have the common sense to design TransFormers according to my whims, are they at least going to compromise?

Vehicle Mode:
Considering this thing is called 'Evasion Mode' Optimus Prime and is clearly based on Prime's early appearance in the Age of Extinction trailers, as a rusty wreck of a flat-nosed truck, it seems rather strange that Hasbro's first release of this mold is actually a slavish G1 homage. Optimus Prime's cab is a halfway decent red with darkish metallic paint for the bumper, grille, headlights and window frames and the characteristic silver stripe (albeit not necessarily in the place the mold originally intended). The back end of the truck is a fairly dark blue - darker than my photos suggest, though lighter than both the newer Masterpiece Optimus Prime and the RotF model, and certainly lighter it should be for a true G1 homage - making this 'Evasion Mode' rather incongruously eyecatching.

The molding on the cab is largely excellent, including all the rivet details one might expect from a movie model. The only problem is that every single transformation seam is blatantly obvious, not least where the stark red shows through between parts that are painted silver, or where the window frames never quite match up, no matter how much jiggling you do. The front windows (and some of the cab around and above them) are molded in clear, colourless plastic, which shows through to all kinds of interior detail that really shouldn't be visible. The side windows are molded in red plastic and painted over in the darker metallic colour from the bumper and grille. While I don't think that's an ideal situation (black might have been better for the windows themselves), it's certainly preferable to the look of the front windows. I mean, I know RotF Prime had all that Mechtech detail behind his windows in truck mode, but he could get away with it... this just looks untidy.

From the back, the cab looks pretty hopeless - not even a well-sculpted, foldaway smokestack can detract from the very clear opening into the vast chasm of the cab's interior in which Prime's head is easily visible. It's also fairly apparent, even from this angle, that you're looking at the inside of robot mode's chest, with its windows (complete with mini wiper details) at the bottom and the bits that flank his grille/belly above them.

The silver stripe should, I'm sure, have been much smaller and higher, in the thin, slightly recessed strip just above where Hasbro painted it. This wraps around to the front of the truck and leads up to the grille, but it also leads to the area from which the molded windscreen wipers spring forth. The stripe is OK where it is... and gave them an obvious place to stamp his Autobot insignias on each side (rather than the more common location in the top rear corner of the cab sides, despite these spaces being available)... but it does seem a bit too big and bold.

The actual rear of the truck is pretty interesting - they've molded some trailer hitch detail into the soles of his feet, which works rather well. The overall effect isn't especially convincing - just that little bit too much foot detail is easily discernible - but it's not overly bulky like the Masterpiece models. It is perhaps a little disappointing that the very back of the truck lacks any truck-like molded details, but there have been worse omissions in the long history of TransFormers. It's here that I start to find it puzzling that his feet are painted to match, when leaving them as bare grey plastic would have looked equally good, and a touch of black paint on the trailer hitch itself would have completed the picture. I guess that Hasbro really were going for the full-on G1 homage with these blue feet, rather than making him Movie-style G1 and leaving them looking almost metallic. Sadly, the trailer hitch is unlikely to ever accommodate a trailer for this model.

I haven't bothered taking any pictures with the included weapon mounted in any of the three possible locations (the roof of the cab or on either side of the trailer hitch) for two reasons. First and foremost, it looks terrible wherever you put it. Second, but just as important... it's DotM Megatron's gun!

Robot Mode:
Here, Hasbro's G1 homage falls a little short... it's just too bland on this 'stopgap' robot mode that is Optimus Prime between the end of Dark of the Moon and the beginning of Age of Extinction. Part of the trouble is that the entirely faked (though at least multi-part) chest doesn't even try to emulate vehicle mode - the silver stripe is gone and the new grille is bare grey plastic rather than painted metallic. Also, keeping to the G1 accuracy over movie accuracy, the bits that curve toward the centre of his waist below his headlights are painted red in this model, rather than blue... even though there's no shortage of blue paint applied to the model.

...And so we get to Prime's feet again... and, as it turns out, his fists... because both are molded in the sort-of-metallic grey plastic and painted blue. It's quite a substantial coating, too (he writes, as his model is standing in a ramekin filled with white spirit, to get rid of the paint on his feet!). If I think about it too much, it's actually kind of annoying that the blue paint was applied to his feet and hands rather than to the fronts of his hips or the curvy waist bands (for example).

Further weirdness in the paint job includes the fact that his smokestacks - again, molded in grey plastic - are painted red. These parts aren't even visible in vehicle mode, so surely Hasbro could have saved a bit of the paint budget by painting only those parts that are, and leaving the smokestacks grey? After all, if G1 Prime had silver/chrome/metallic-looking smokestacks, why not this one? Some of the molded detail is lost under all that paint, too.

The unpainted areas are just as jarring: the legs and robot-specific parts of the arms are bereft of paint and, considering the rather slapdash molding of the shoulders - small enough to fit inside the truck and therefore too skinny to ever look right - they could have used a touch of silver on the little barrel things on his shoulders if nowhere else. The protrusions from his shoulders - which are the steps up to the cab in vehicle mode - should never have been left unpainted as they end up looking out of place in red.

On the upside - if you can consider it so - this is one of those very rare TransFormers that actually looks pretty good from behind. There's all kinds of unnecessary molded detail, in particular the trailer hitch on his lower back, and even the way the thighs are hollowed out doesn't look terrible. One rather clever bit of molding is that parts of panel which forms some of the front of the truck have been molded in such a way that they represent the 'sunshade' panels on the tops of Prime's chest in robot mode. They're not painted for that purpose, but the detail is there.

Due to the way the arms transform, the parts that make up the forearm and elbow are molded in such a way that they only look right when the 'elbow' is slightly bent, otherwise the moldings don't match up. It's not a terrible compromise, though, and I'm not sure I often pose my models with their arms perfectly straight anyway.

The head sculpt is good, but its paint job is very G1 - all-blue helmet, all-metallic face - and its light piping is excellent albeit colourless. This is also the very first movie Optimus Prime I've owned which does not use his battlemask, which makes for a very pleasant change. The detailing of the face is very thorough - far sharper than most of the others from previous movie toylines... though he does seem a little long in the face from the 'nose' down.

Again, I've not gone to town on photos with the gun packaged with the model because it doesn't really work with Optimus Prime. He holds it by a post on the bottom of the ammo clip... I mean, OK, G1 Prime held his gun by a post in the middle rather than by the molded grip at the back, but taking the homage that far just seems silly.

This version of Optimus Prime probably has the most involved transformation of any of the Voyager class molds, and most of that is for the upper body. The legs barely change, in fact... you just kind of roll the feet up over his shins. With all the clashing panels making up the cab, there are some frustrating parts to the process but, as is usual with these things, once you figure out the most sensible order of movements, it becomes fairly simple and very rewarding.

By sheer coincidence, this happens to be one of the most poseable versions of Prime the entire movie line has seen thusfar... adding weight to my feeling that a TransFormer whose only real gimmick is that it transforms into a reasonably convincing vehicle is the most successful kind of TransFormer. To put that in perspective, he may not, technically, be any more poseable than, for example, RotF Leader class Prime... but the reduced weight of the model means he can hold poses without falling over, and because he doesn't need to have wires trailing through the inside of the model or bulky battery compartments, his movement is somewhat less restricted. Both his feet are on a pair of hinges, yet they are easier to position than some of those which have been on ball joints. He also has a waist joint which is entirely unnecessary for transformation, and his front wheels are on hinged sections to allow for greater range in the hips (although those joints can be useful in transformation.

Like AoE Deluxes High Octane Bumblebee and Crosshairs, Prime has some sockets that look as though they're intended for some form of display stand. One is on his backside, just above a screw, the other is between his legs.

While I haven't gone out of my way to photograph Prime with the gun he came packaged with, I am very grateful to Hasbro for bothering to include it... and, more specifically, for molding it in such a way that DotM Voyager Megatron can hold it. It's a decent weapon, certainly, and the spring-loaded missile is fairly amusing (if you like that sort of thing)... but it's about three years late and got packaged with the wrong toy.

I have some reservations about the slavishness of the G1 homage, the relevance of the homage, and the decision to fill shelves with this mold in this colourscheme at all before any more movie-accurate versions come along... but I believe that this is one of the best movie models thusfar produced in any size class, and I honestly hope Hasbro (and/or Takara Tomy) repaint this thing to death. Seriously, give it the same treatment Bumblebee has had in every movie so far. Hell, I'd probably even accept an enlargement of this mold as a 'Leader class' figure, because it's leagues better than any of the 'upgraded' Optimus Prime molds that are coming for the Age of Extinction toyline.

I do find it strange that this model even exists, in some ways, because I suspect we'll only see Optimus Prime in his 'rustbucket' form for a few short minutes (possibly only seconds in robot mode) before he upgrades to his Western Star 5700 form. Still, this is one of those rare occasions that we TransFormers fans get something unexpectedly great - something approaching a Masterpiece at the Voyager price point.

Dramatic Running Prime is Dramatic
(and, yes, balances perfectly on one foot)

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