Sunday, 22 February 2015

TransFormers: Prime Starscream

One thing you can say for the ever-changin' line of toys that is TransFormers is that it's come a hell of a long way since the G1 days, where everything was fairly brick-like and chunky. Whether it's by design in terms of 'refining the look of the robots' or in just in terms of 'reducing the quantity of plastic used to save money', they've been becoming slimmer (in their use of materials, at least) and more refined over the years. The movies, with their truly alien designs, and TF Animated have also had an effect on the look of the robots, and TF Prime effectively merges the two otherwise disparate styles into something unique.

While I was originally hoping to hold out for a First Edition, Deluxe-sized Starscream, when I finally found this one on the shelves at Toys'R'Us (at least a couple of months after its wave was supposedly released in the UK), it seemed appealing enough in person to give it a chance... Bulkhead was there, too... but I was definitely holding out for his First Edition, as the main line version just didn't look as good.

As the Decepticons' prideful Air Commander, Starscream has coveted true leadership of the Decepticons since he was first introduced, and has schemed against Megatron with varying degrees of skill and subtlety, and to varying degrees of success, so how does the latest incarnation shape up.

Vehicle Mode:
Aside from his Alternity incarnation, Starscream has always been a jet of some form or another and, aside from Beast Wars/Machines, there's been a Starscream in every continuity (BW is debatable, since his ghost possessed Waspinator at one point in the TV series), so it was no surprise to find that TF Prime Starscream was a jet. Disguised as something apparently based upon the F-16, Starscream appears to be a bit of a jumble, colour-wise - a grey nose, pale greyish blue fuselage broken by a grey patch in the middle, dark blueish grey wings and fins, red details dotted around, a cyan afterburner and a translucent purple canopy. Considering the CGI was basically shades of metal, this looks like a pretty bloody-minded attempt at shoveling in unnecessary and unsuitable colour where none was required (shades of MP03, anyone?). I wouldn't expect utter uniformity, but a bit of subtlety would have improved the look of this model.

There's a tradition - if that's the word - with TransFormers aeroplanes, that they look OK from the top, but absolutely horrific from below, and Voyager class Starscream certainly fits that bill. Below the wings, his legs are essentially undisguised, just laying down the length of the fuselage. Small fins that protrude from his calves now stick out below his wings, while his feet and his ankle spikes are all too obvious below his tail fins. Elegant, this model ain't.

Just to hammer home how poorly realised his jet mode is, his 'landing gear' amounts to three rounded posts - one protruding from each of his feet, the other sticking out of the back of his crotch section, below the cockpit. Granted, most of Starscream is too slender to accommodate fold-away wheels, but these posts are kinda pathetic.

But this being one of the 'Powerisers', Starscream comes with a spring-loaded, gear-activated weapon. Based upon the 'Null Ray' alternative armament offered to Starscream by Knock Out after he lost an arm in an early skirmish, it's oversized and quite poorly realised - the construction is essentially the same as Optimus Prime's blaster. There's a pretty bright red LED in there, but none of its light makes it from the back end to the front, making it one of the least effective light gimmicks in the history of the TransFormers brand. The fact that it can be mounted just behind the cockpit or under one of the wings really doesn't help.Thankfully, he also comes equipped with two single missiles which can plug into the undersides of the wings.

The most disappointing aspect if Starscream's jet mode is the enormous gap roughly in the middle of the fuselage, through which you can see the back of Starscream's head... Or his face, if you choose to rotate his head so it's not visible from below...

Robot Mode:
Whatever the shortcomings of his alternate mode, Starscream's Voyager class robot mode is not without merit. His silhouette is almost perfect, his stance is suitably hunched, his arms and legs suitably long and slender. I'm quite keen on the way Starscream looks in TF Prime - it's as if the character finally has a body that fits his personality. If I had one gripe about his overall look, it would be over the presence of large chunks of the jet's afterburner and tail fin section on the robot's ankles. It may well hark back to Generation 1 and the recently remixed Masterpiece seeker mold, but it really harms the otherwise excellent look of the robot. The afterburner ends up on his back as far as the CGI is concerned... whereas this model also features the jet's entire nose hanging off Starscream's arse.

While jet mode looked a bit patchwork due to the variety of plastic colours, robot mode thankfully manages to appear a touch more sober. I'm still not convinced by the slight bluishness of the darker plastic, but it kind of works. Pale grey on the chest does stand out a bit too much and look a bit too plain, but then the torso below is molded in the weird powder blue with a central section of translucent purple. This section actually leads through to the cockpit on the back, the idea being that plugging the 'Poweriser' weapon into his back will cause the weapon's glow to show through to the front. All things considered, Starscream's is probably the most effective use of this system of battery-powered light piping. Like Optimus Prime, Starscream also has translucent plastic on his forearms... and it's just as pointless here as it was on Prime.

As with much of the TF Prime line, the lack of excessively intricate detail is reflected in the toy. The chest's resemblance to movie Starscream's head is somewhat disguised by the lack of paintwork and the vents in the belly have been painted cyan, which would have been more appropriate on the pipes either side... The vents, if anything, should have been painted red.

Aside from his oversized, spring-and-gear, LED-lit 'Poweriser' weapon, Starscream's only armaments are the same single missiles that plugged under his wings in jet mode. They look OK on his forearms, but seem to be mounted in the wrong place relative to his elbow, making them a bit tricky to aim. I do quite like the design of the 'Poweriser' null ray cannon but, as with Optimus Prime, I kind of wish they'd integrated it into his arm rather than making it a separate thing to accommodate the gimmick. I wonder if things could have been improved if the afterburner was the 'Poweriser' gimmick, so that it could ignite in jet mode, and then remove itself his his ankles so that it would still light up his torso in robot mode...

Starscream probably has one of the most emotive faces in TF Prime, and uses it to its fullest throughout the series. It's a shame, then, that the Voyager class toy has such a boring lack of expression - not even a hint of his trademark smirk. His 'horn', like his knee spikes, is molded in soft grey rubber and, while that's OK for the knees, the central crest of his helmet should have been red. On the upside, his eyes were painted (though this is at the expense of what would have been purple light piping) and his battle eyebrows are reasonably well realised in small plastic form. I do feel the head sculpt is a bit too small, but they couldn't have made it much larger considering where it ends up in jet mode.

The weird thing about this version of Starscream is that some elements of the transformation - specifically the chest and arms - are rather pointlessly overcomplicated. None of it is difficult, just that some parts have to move against other parts in a way that makes it fiddly to get either into their correct position. Other than that, it's just a shame the tail fins end up on Starscream's ankles, ruining an otherwise well-executed, fun figure.

For such a spindly character, he's even very well articulated, with enough range in most of his joints for all of his characteristic poses. That he's one of very few official TransFormers than can cross his legs is entirely appropriate, but his arms are, I think, a little lacking due to a single hinge in the elbow and a tiny wrist ball joint that effectively only allows rotation. Had the elbows been ball joints, Starscream's arms would have been fantastic, but I guess it was felt that a ball joint wouldn't necessarily take the additional weight of his spring-loaded weapon. While the tail fins on his ankles are unsightly, they do come in very useful in some of the more extreme poses as they can be rotated to function as an additional heel spur for his tiny, single-piece, hinged feet.

There are many aspects of this toy that I don't appreciate, but robot mode overcomes most of the poor design choices and manages to look pretty good. Scale-wise, he's far too tall opposite TF Prime Voyager class Megatron, so the First Edition is technically a better fit in isolation. Nevertheless, Voyager Starscream is better than I'd expected, and loads of fun to pose.

Also, Starscream brings the Sexy Time:

Oh yes. He's smooth...
Even more in my deviantART gallery...

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