Monday, 31 August 2015

TransFormers: Prime First Edition Starscream

When I decide I like a mold - particularly if it's made to create some contemporary variation on one of the G1 Seekers, and especially if it makes all three - I tend to make it a mission in life to get as many iterations of the mold as possible. Since the Voyager class version of TF Prime Starscream hasn't - as yet - been reused for anything, I've only got the one instance of that mold. However, the Collectors' Club created a TF Prime-style Timelines Slipstream based on the First Edition mold, and that was pretty spiffy.

Thus hooked, I'm now fairly well on my way to getting all variants of this mold, but the first one I had to get was the original, rather hard to find, Deluxe-sized Starscream... 

Vehicle Mode:
One of my gripes about the Voyager class figure was the excessive variation in colour around the model. The First Edition version is a vast improvement, but still isn't perfect. It's a more neutral grey for the most part, but the wings have been painted a very dark bluish green. He has seemingly random applications of red, and patches of silver. Perhaps the oddest aspect of the paintjob is that the cockpit isn't entirely painted - just the main, central portion, with the side parts left bare.

Just like the Voyager, this version of Starscream is a jet with robot legs hanging off the bottom. It is perhaps less egregious than on the Voyager, even though no attempt has been made to blend them in, and certainly far less so than the likes of movie Jetfire, and anything homaging G1 Silverbolt, because it's just legs rather than the entire robot. Also like the Voyager, the 'landing gear' are rounded posts protruding from the underside, but that kind of thing is forgivable on a Deluxe. Amazingly, given its size, it's still possible to turn this version of Starscream into a passably functional GERWALK, albeit with arms that come under the wings from behind.

Where the Voyager is packaged with a single missile for each wing/arm (and the awful, overly bulky 'Powerizer' Null Ray gun), the First Edition comes with a less CGI-accurate rack of three for each, though they're molded in softer, rubbery plastic which inevitably end up horribly warped. They fit well under the wings, though, and look pretty good despite being bent out of true and lacking any paintwork.

Probably the best aspect of this version of Starscream is that he doesn't suffer from a strange gap right through the fuselage like the Voyager.

Robot Mode:
And here's the really weird thing: despite being smaller, this version cuts a better figure as Starscream simply by being more economical. The chest is simplified and so more accurate; the legs don't have any extraneous parts hanging off them. His afterburner backpack is - broadly speaking - more CGI accurate than the cockpit and folded up nosecone of the Voyager, however he does have a downward-pointing nosecone hanging off his backside. From most angles, it's a lower profile protrusion than that of the Voyager, but it's still rather disappointing considering the neatness of the rest of the model. The only part of the overall look that's very definitely 'wrong' is his shoulder armour, and that was badly fudged on the Voyager as well.

What really impresses me is the way the protrusions from his lower legs are handled. Sure, the knee spikes folded away on the larger version, but that left the calf 'wings' and spiky heels sticking out in jet mode. On this smaller version, even they fold away, making jet mode comparatively sleeker while improving the CGI accuracy.

The colourscheme retains jet mode's more neutral palette, introducing very little new colour, but the lack of paint on the sides of the cockpit and the dashes of red nearby are explained by the cockpit's dual purpose as part of Starscream's svelte waist

While the sets of three missiles aren't - strictly speaking - accurate to the TV show, the way they mount on the arms is a huge improvement on the Voyager, and the jointing of the arms makes them far easier to 'aim'. It's a shame there wasn't a Null Ray gun accessory on this version - one came with the Voyager, two with the Cyberverse version - but they're not a terrible loss since he barely - if ever - used them in the TV show.

Starscream's head sculpt is not quite so dramatic as that of the Voyager, particularly in that his 'combat eyebrows' aren't as prominent. Overall, the shape and details of the sculpt look better, though, and his expression is a malicious smirk rather than dull and neutral, instantly making him more Starscream-like. Naturally, though, with the central crest molded in the same rubber as the missiles and knee spikes, it's the wrong colour.

Being a smaller size class, one would expect this version of Starscream to have a simplified transformation and, for the upper half of his body, that's certainly true. The arms compress slightly on sliding joints rather than folding over themselves, and the chest simply tilts forward a little to create TF Prime Starscream's trademark stoop. The bottom half is a different matter, as it mostly detaches from the nosecone in one configuration, rotates around, then plugs back in for the other configuration, thus fixing the legs in position for either mode. It may leave an undercarriage proportionally more bulky than that of the Voyager, but the transformation itself is neater and more satisfying. Also, the feet fold together and his calf wings fold away, so there are ultimately fewer robot parts sticking out of jet mode. I'm particularly keen on the way the afterburner concertinas into the back - it may be boxy, but it's very cleverly designed. The dual use of the jet's stabiliser wings as the robot mode's weapon mountings is also noteworthy.

I'm inclined to feel that the Deluxe mold's articulation is better as well. For the most part, it's probably functionally identical, though the possibly unintentional double-hinge on the elbows gives the arms better range. The hips feel like they have better range, but they're ball joints with a mushroom peg in the thigh, rather than hinges with mushroom pegs either side. The knees are basically the same, but the ankles - serving separate heel and toe pieces - offer better stability in the more extreme poses. He also has a waist joint but, since it's primarily for transformation, it's off-centre and looks pretty weird when turned. Another possibly unintentional improvement is that the wings are on multiple joints for transformation, and the spikes on his back are halves of the jet's tailfin, meaning the Deluxe can use its wings somewhat expressively, better representing Starscream from the TV show.

Considering how small and spindly TF Prime Starscream is, this is a more-than-decent attempt at rendering him in transforming plastic - much better, in many ways, than the Voyager. Robot mode is suitably svelte and hunched, and is without the awkward chunks of jet tail on his ankles. Jet mode looks just as good, if not better, from most angles, and the colourscheme is generally better and more consistent. He also scales better with Megatron and Soundwave, if not with the Autobots and the likes of Knockout... but the TF Prime toyrange wasn't exactly consistent, scale-wise.

I mentioned at the start that I have several iterations of this mold. Not including Slipstream, I have the Dark Energon and 'Ultimate Opponents' versions of Starscream, as well as Arms Micron Thundercracker. I'm still debating whether or not I 'need' Arms Micron Skywarp, since Dark Energon Starscream - in his translucent black and purple - is effectively Skywarp anyway. I may pick him up if I can find him at a decent price and/or when I have a bit more disposeable income, as this is one of those molds I'd happily keep buying if they keep churning them out.

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