Thursday, 3 September 2015

TransFormers: Prime Rumble

If the first live action movie was notable for its plethora of toys created from either otherwise unused concept art and designs from the associated videogame, it certainly wasn't unique in doing so. Granted, a lot of new 'characters' have been simple repaints of existing toys (with remolded parts in some cases, like TF Prime Hot Shot) but there have been occasions where an entirely new character has been created with no obvious explanation.

Considering how small the character roster in TF Prime actually was (fewer than ten individuals on each side!), it's both surprising and disappointing that Hasbro didn't add more toys into the mix, but one of the few wholly unique characters they did bring in was a complete re-imagining of one of G1 Soundwave's minions, Rumble

Vehicle Mode:
Straight away, it's obvious that this is more based on the G1 cartoon idea of 'Rumble' being the 'blue' one (surely it's further proof that the toy was right and the TV series was wrong that 'Rumble' was depicted as being two shades of lavender pink/purple rather than dark blue and cyan?) as this is a sporty, sky blue two-door car. It's a neat little vehicle with some nice details - I particularly like the way the weapons mount in what might otherwise appear to be the filling point for the petrol tank... were it not for the fact that he has one on each side.

While the vehicle looks pretty good from the front - nice dark gunmetal bumper, black grille and, strangely, black headlights - every other angle makes the car look desperately plain. So much of the paint budget evidently went on coating the roof and window frames with sky blue paint (actually an excellent match for a change!) that there's not even a hint of paintwork at the back - the rear windscreen, bumper and lights are all bare plastic. Sure, there's another Decepticon insignia tagged on the back, but that doesn't do much to break up the wall of blue.

Naturally the hubcaps also went unpainted, so it's very obvious that they're the crummy, clip-in variety which Hasbro/Takara Tomy have taken to using more frequently in recent years as a cost-cutting measure. On a model like Rumble, it's probably an advantage as pinned wheels, in my experience, have a tendency to get misaligned or fitted loosely. All of these at least roll fairly well.

Rumble's weapons - clear references to his G1 cartoon piledrivers - look fairly good attached to the sides of the vehicle, but the back ends are very open, with comparatively long pegs, so it does look as though there are parts missing.

Robot Mode:
Rumble cuts quite a striking figure in robot mode. The first thing that hits you is how wide he is - almost as wide as he is tall - then you'll notice he's really only that wide because the entire car roof has been split across his shoulders. It's deeply untidy and, frankly, makes him look pretty daft from most angles. Weirdly, because of the translucent red plastic used for these sections, it's not as noticeable from behind, as his actual shoulders - being unpainted sky blue plastic - attract the eye more readily.

Part of me has to wonder why this was called 'Rumble' as there's not much about him that specifically homages the G1 character (or even the Galaxy Force 'Ramble' drones). One could argue that the details of his chest are a TF Prime-esque re-interpretations of the chest markings on the G1 toy, but they're lacking the necessary paint to highlight them and, let's face it, they have just as much in common with face-chested anime mecha like those in Gurren Lagann. It's entirely possible that the 'eyes' in the chest are supposed to feature light piping but, with the 'inputs' being so small and sitting up on his shoulders, they require a fairly strong light source, directly above, to have much effect. About the only things that could be considered a direct G1 reference are the molded (and unpainted) gun details that run part way up the car panels protruding from his back.

While there's some great molded detail on the robot's back, he still looks pretty terrible from that angle due to the empty spaces in his forearms, thighs and, worst of all, his utterly hollow lower legs. The holes in his forearms and the vast chasms of his lower legs are in service of his transformation (the former clip onto pegs inside the vehicle's roof, the latter accommodate his thighs), so they're almost forgivable... and, let's face it, none of these toys are really intended to be looked at from behind.

His small stature gives him powerhouse proportions, with beefy shoulders, thick forearms and massive shins but, even given the TF Prime aesthetic, his spiky toes seem a little out of place. No surprise, then, that some folks have taken to switching the feet around, since the 'heels' look more appropriate as his toes, and the switch has absolutely no effect on his transformation.

The 'piledriver' weapons work much better in robot mode, with their hollow grip area allowing them to slip snugly into the hands to look almost like an extension of the arms. It's a shame they're solid bits of plastic rather than having any mobile parts, and the lack of paint on the black plastic does tend to disguise what little detail there is. It's not even clear whether they are piledrivers or just quadruple-barrelled guns of some kind.

Rumble's head sculpt is most definitely not a G1 homage. It's actually a very nondescript, dark gunmetal-painted mouthplated thing that doesn't even fit very well with the TF Prime style (much like Sergeant Kup). Despite beady eyes, it does have decent light piping, including a block in the centre of his forehead, though the use of translucent red plastic as the socket for his head's ball joint looks to have been a mistake - despite the head moving quite freely, mine shows signs of stress and fracturing around the rim of the socket.

Some elements of Rumble's transformation are not dissimilar to his Alternators incarnation, particularly the legs, though the arms bear a more than passing resemblance, with such huge chunks of the vehicle mode hanging off them. It's all very compact and mostly neat, but those side panels which end up sticking out of his back occasionally seem to want to occupy the same space as his arms during transformation, but making use of the opening chest - primarily to store the head - seems to give the necessary clearance. It's not the most unpleasant transformation ever, but nor is it the most fun, and those chunks of car shell on his arms just look daft.

All that said, he's very well articulated. The shoulders and hips are on ball joints, he has bicep and thigh swivels, and ball jointed ankles (the balls being on the outsides of the feet, they seem to move slightly better than the average top-of-foot ball joint). The large feet also offer excellent balance in just about any pose. There even seems to be an attempt at a waist joint, but the crotch plate on the front prevents it rotating, and what seems to be a ball joint allows it to tilt only very slightly backwards. This isn't a massive problem, and most of the Prime line did without waist joints. The only real downside to his articulation is the knees, which are connected weirdly, so that it almost looks as though his legs are falling apart when he bends them.

Rumble is one of those figures that I actually regret buying whenever I look at him, though your mileage may vary. He's certainly not a bad figure, but the small fact that he was never actually part of the TF Prime TV series means he simply feels out of place on my shelves. There's no real context for him, though Prime supposedly has some sort of ties to the War for Cyberton/Fall of Cybertron continuity. Even sprucing him up with a bit of additional paintwork (or, rather, attempted metallic Sharpie colouring) just didn't make him exciting, and he now kind of sits at the back of a shelf of mostly secondary characters and repaints.

I am fully aware that this represents a kind of double standard, and I'm not quite sure why I don't like this 'outsider' when those from the movie toylines were so cool... Perhaps it's just that TransFormers Prime deserved better..?

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