Sunday, 8 June 2014

TransFormers Animated Megatron

Over the years, Megatron has been a fairly unimaginative parade of tanks, dinosaurs and dragons, with a few oddities that tended to be a bit crap. The first - Voyager class - iteration of TF Animated Megatron took the road less travelled (at that point) and turned him into an awkward Cybertronian flying machine, taking his look from the TV series and crafting a vehicle mode which, as far as I can recall, never appeared in the show. When it came to the Leader class figure, Hasbro had something a bit more concrete to work with, since Megatron actually adopts a terrestrial disguise when he finally arrives on Earth...

...Not that it's really much of a disguise...

Vehicle Mode:
There's not a great deal to say about this... It's a kind of science fiction helicopter heavy gunship with twin rotor blades and no tail rotor... The central section of it - from nose to tail - looks pretty good... but the bits sticking out of the sides are so obviously folded up robot arms that it's embarrassing to call this a TransFormer.

There's a fair bit of molded detail, considering this is a TFAnimated toy, but the paint job is fairly limited - dark gunmetal to pick out the frames of all the translucent red cockpit windows, then there's a sort of metallic red for lots of other details... and that's about it. The rotor blades themselves are painted with a nice silver but the rest of the helicopter is essentially bare.

Aside from the obvious robot parts, my only gripes about this mode are that, while Megatron has retractable landing gear, the wheels at the back don't retract especially well, and the wheel on the nose is only accessible when you remove his cannon... but removing the cannon leaves a gaping chasm underneath the cockpit, revealing Megatron's head. Thankfully, the cannon has a pair of wheels on the back, so it acts as alternate landing gear if you prefer your TransFormers helicopters to look vaguely complete.

On the upside, the rotor blades feature a fairly cool geared feature that makes both sets rotate when you manually turn either one. It's not an especially smooth movement, but it works. Secondly, he has battery operated sound/light effects... though the lighting half is a bit random. Pushing the Decepticon insignia on his underside activates an engine start, flying and engine shutdown sound - the length of the flying sound being determined by how long the button is held - while a red light flashes, pointlessly, in the cockpit.

The main cannon will rotate, but not entirely freely... It has a strange kind of ratchet joint that locks in three positions (possibly four, but the gun won't face straight backwards as the shell of the chopper gets in the way) but allows fairly free movement for about 60degrees or so before the next ratchet kicks in and pulls it to the next right angle.
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Robot Mode:
From the front, this looks pretty much like the cartoon representation of Megatron after he chose a terrestrial disguise. He's very large, bulky and powerful-looking... but he has incredibly spindly thighs in comparison to the rest of his body. That's the TFAnimated style, though, so I guess it's OK. From every other angle, however, he has about half the vehicle mode just sitting on his back, which just looks crappy.

Making matters worse, that massive chunk of the front of the helicopter where the weapon is mounted has to plug in to a set of three grooves - on either arm - to give Megatron his Fusion Cannon... it's almost like a combined shield and gun, only arranged in the most impractical fashion imaginable. It's almost conceivable that it's meant to appear to be an extension of his arm, but it extends too far back beyond the elbow to convince.

Rather more convincing are the swords that his rotor blades transform into. Even this model cannot fail to impress when displayed dual-wielding his swords. They're a decent length - both as rotor blades and as swords - and they look pretty mean. Removing his swords from their rotor blade position leaves TFAnimated Megatron looking rather a lot like the first Live-Action Movie Megatron, with stumpy wings and the nose of his vehicle mode just hanging off his back. Not the best design decision, I feel...

The colour scheme in robot mode offers no variation on that of the helicopter, but some more translucent red plastic turns up in the lines on his chest as well as the large sculpted Decepticon insignia.In a way, it's vaguely reminiscent of Megatron's look from the G1 cartoon, particularly at the waist, and I think that's what they were going for.

Like the other Leader class figures, Megatron has some decent voice clips in robot mode. Pushing the Decepticon insignia on his chest yields a rotation of three clips: "Crush the Autobots!", "Where is the AllSpark?" and a short burst of maniacal laughter. Each one is accompanied by a slight tilt of the plate over his forehead and a burst of flashing red LEDs in his head and chest. What's rather disappointing is that, like Leader class Bulkhead and Ultra Magnus, he as the slots necessary to attach the HeadMaster accessory but, like Ultra Magnus, there's no HeadMaster-specific voice clip.

Megatron's own head sculpt is a bit odd. It's the typically elongated TFAnimated look, but his helmet always makes me think of a judge's wig. My girlfriend pointed out it also looks vaguely Egyptian. It's not a bad helmet, by a long stretch... I just wish it wasn't stretched so long. If it finished closer to his chin (or, perhaps, if his face finished closer to the base of the helmet) it'd look far better. The face isn't exactly expressive, but it does have to accommodate the 'opening mouth' gimmick that comes with the tilty forehead and voice clips.
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Megatron is very much a model of two halves. The tail end of helicopter, which becomes his legs, is very clever. It may not be entirely convincing as the tail of a helicopter, but it looks like an aircraft tail rather than a pair of legs jammed together. The front of the chopper, meanwhile, features very basic engineering... partly because of the gimmicks (both battery-powered and geared) and partly because that's just how TFAnimated Megatron is. One of the biggest flaws, in my opinion, is that the whole underside of the helicopter cockpit detaches to become the mounting for his main weapon, while the remainder just hangs off his back without pegging in anywhere. Having the rotor wings sticking out there is bad enough, the cockpit makes it even more unsightly.

In theory, Megatron is fairly well articulated... that is to say, all the necessary joints are there... they just don't work very well. The main part of the problem is that, just like Leader Class Ultra Magnus, the ratchets on this hips seem to be either positioned incorrectly or just too large. While standing, he'll be either knock-kneed or have his legs splayed out too far to be stable, and the moment you angle his legs forward or back, you find his feet have only sideways tilt, so he doesn't like to stand at all. The top half is surprisingly unimpeded by the large wings hanging off his back, so the range of motion offered by the arms is pretty good... it's just a shame that his weapon mounts on the underside of his forearm, requiring a fair bit of cheating to get a good firing pose out of him. Interestingly, he has a small amount of waist articulation which is entirely unnecessary for transformation... but the molding of his torso and groin are such that the movement is very much limited.

This is yet another very disappointing large-scale Megatron... One might have hoped that the debacle of the first Live-Action Movie Megatron toy had a positive effect on subsequent toys but this one, while not a failure on the same scale, just isn't as good as it should have been. The voice clips are cool (not sure if they're recordings of Corey Burton, but they sound pretty good, even through the crummy tweeter in Megatron's belly), but the light effects - one red LED in the cockpit, one behind his eyes, three in his chest - just seem unimaginative and redundant. The weapon, meanwhile, is very poorly handled and, if I remember correctly, has something of a hair-trigger... I can't be sure as I can't find the damned missile... and I rarely lose spring-loaded missles.


  1. Heya Gord!
    I really like the Animated figures, and Megatron I think is decent enough, despite his flaws. The voice chips were the cartoon actors' voices in all the toys, which is the one and only reason I bought the bumper battlers. Lance Henrikson sounds evil even in a chibi Lockdown! I think that would definitely be a first in TF toys.

    In the first episode Megatron uses his space jet to fly to the Autobot's ship, but it is silhouetted and fairly vaguely shaped. Neither the battle deluxe space Megs nor the voyager look like it effectively.

    Nice review. I like the look of this guy so much in robot mode, I even bought the Shadow Blade Megatron. Sigh...

    1. Hey Tets!
      I've only just realised how negative my review seems... I don't actively dislike TFA Megatron, I just find him disappointing. He's on a par with Ultra Magnus, it's just his transformation isn't as interesting (apart from the legs, which are clever, if flawed). When the Shadow Blade repaint turned up, I did wish I'd been a bit more patient because that one looked far less drab overall.

      But what is this Chibi Lockdown featuring the amazing voice of Lance Henriksen of which you speak? The Bumper Battler? Dang, wish I'd paid them a bit more attention now...

      And I'll have to watch Animated again sometime... and hope that, one day, they complete the DVD release...