Saturday, 28 March 2015

TransFormers (Movie) Dropkick

One of the most disappointing things about TransFormers movie toylines, ever since the first, is the swiftly diminishing number of toys of characters that weren't in the movies. Back in 2007/2008, Hasbro really went to town extending the toyline beyond the small cast of the first movie with entirely new and unique molds. Where extra characters were introduced more recently, they've tended to be straight repaints of existing models.

Dropkick is another character from the heyday of live action movie toys, based on a one of the videogame's drone units... but with a small twist...

Vehicle Mode:
If there's a kind of vehicle that fairly consistently fails to work well as a TransFormer, it's the humble pickup truck. Most of the time, the bed area has to be bulked up or filled in to accommodate some part or other of the robot, so Dropkick came as something of a revelation. Initially, it may look as though he has a filled-in bed with a spoiler and a weird gimmick activated by a sliding knob, but the bed covering is removable, and what's left is a completely open - and believable - pickup truck that could actually carry stuff in its bed. What's more, the door at the back can open, and is spring-loaded to keep it in its upright position.

Most of the truck is molded in grey-pretending-to-be-silver plastic, with a fair amount of blue paint on the sides (featuring an interesting - if very slight - spray of metallic cyan) and bonnet, and well-matched blue plastic for the roof (featuring a strangely familiar pattern in silver paint) and rear bumper. Up close, the blue and silver paint don't add up to much more than a dynamic pattern... but view Dropkick from a short distance above, and he's wearing perhaps the most blatant Decepticon insignia of any toy, ever. It's very cleverly done... Similar to the 'subtle' use of the Autobot insignia on Reveal the Shield Strafe in the extended toyline for Revenge of the Fallen.

While Dropkick doesn't have a massive amount of paintwork, he does have coloured clear plastic lights at the front and back, as well as fully painted hubcaps - one of a very few Deluxe class toys to get such comparatively extravagant treatment... and he didn't even appear in the film!

The truck bed cover functions as Dropkick's weapon and it's perfectly possible to deploy it in vehicle mode: slide back the knob, and the head of a giant pair of pliers/wirecutters will pop the door open. Twist the knob and they open up in a way that's probably intended to be menacing... but just looks silly.
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Robot Mode:
In a toyline full of pretty odd-looking robots, Dropkick still manages to stand out. On the one hand, he's quite tidy and cleverly designed but, on the other hand, he has an awful lot of vehicle shell hanging off his shoulders and back, making him far wider than he really needed to be. Door wings aren't exactly unusual in the history of TransFormers, but Dropkick also has the vehicle's grille on his forearms, the whole of the front fenders sticking up out of his shoulders and the sides of the truck bed sticking out of his back. Some of it works but, considering how skinny the arms and legs are, leaving the fenders at such an awkward angle on his shoulders and the truck bed on his back seems like a huge waste of vehicle mass.

The robot carrying all these chunks of pickup truck is quite an unusual one. The chest is molded with an incredible mass of detail which looks very much like the innards of a car. He also carries the windscreen - split in half and hanging at weird angles - on his chest with fake vehicle grille on his belly, so he almost looks as though he might be 'related' to Optimus Prime. Then there's the digitigrade legs which end in what looks very much like cloven hooves. Aside from a very necessary heel piece, the feet also feature a little rod on a pinned hinge which flips back... for no obvious reason and to no obvious effect - just another example of the crazy level of detail on a character who only featured in the game, not the movie. One thing that really strikes me about the legs is that the look of the groin area plus the armour panels on the thighs makes it look as though Dropkick is wearing shorts...

Still, it's remarkably true to the videogame's CGI, even though the torso and head more closely resemble that of the Autobot Dropkick units, making this a unique drone toy as it's without the 'lens' feature which appeared as part of all the other Decepticon drones' CGI, as well as the Swindle/Payload/Dreadwing toys.

While there's a fair amount of paintwork on the vehicle mode, there's not much that's unique to the robot. A couple of touches of black on the belly, some blue on the 'shorts' to reference vehicle parts, and some surprising touches of blue on the forearms and feet, which don't stand out especially well on the dark, sea-green plastic. A bit more paint on the chest could have brought out some of the detail that becomes somewhat obscured by the windows, but the molded detail is quite deep, so it works pretty well without.

The weapon is huge and completely unwieldy in robot mode. It's very telling that it has two pegs on the underside - a reasonably-sized weapon would only need one, and it's not as if Dropkick can hold it in both hands. The gimmick looked daft in vehicle mode but in robot mode it's far too large to be of any use... Plus, it's still just a pair of ridiculously oversized pliers/wirecutters - not the most useful weapon, and oversized for use as a tool. Thankfully, he has double-barrelled blasters on each wrist, mounted in such a way that it looks as though he's holding them in his hands already.

The head sculpt is a further deviation from the CGI in that, like the torso, it more closely resembles the Autobot variety of drone, but it's very different in the visor, which features a lot more detail, some of which is picked out in the metallic cyan used so sparingly on the vehicle mode. In theory, it also has light piping, using the same translucent grey plastic as the windows, but it's painted over with a red that's a little bit too opaque to let light through.
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Dropkick's transformation is fairly ingenious and very tidy for the most part, but the end result is an awful lot of panels folded up against his back and shoulders. They're arranged in such a way that they're not clashing with anything, but it's still a lot of vehicle bulk left hanging off an otherwise pretty small robot. The distribution of mass is heavily in favour of the upper body, with the waist being little more than a hinge and everything below being comparatively thin. One of the biggest issues I have with this mold is that the shoulders don't peg into place especially securely in robot mode - the left in particular just tends to drift out when you're not looking - so moving has arms invariably ends up dislodging the shoulder entirely.

Given that he has ball-jointed hips, two knee joints in each leg and a good range of tilt in his ankle, you might expect him to be extremely poseable... Sadly, the way the leg joints are put together, they don't get much useful range - most of it is for folding the legs back in underneath the truck bed. The upper knee bends further out that in, and the lower knee is just awkwardly positioned. The feet are pretty stable, however, thanks to a fold-out heel piece, but Dropkick is so top-heavy, he will tend to fall backwards in a lot of poses. The arms are surprisingly mobile, given the way they connect to the body, and aren't greatly hindered by the mass of car shell around them.

I'm a huge fan of the more unusual molds, and Dropkick certainly fits that bill. There were some strange design choices made in his creation, but the end result is true enough to the CGI that it works out well. It's a shame that the two re-uses of this mold - as Autobots Salvage and Blowpipe - didn't come with new heads or, particularly, new weapons, as the truck bed pliers are the only especially poor aspect of this toy.

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