Friday, 27 November 2015

DotM Mechtech Shockwave

When the movie series introduced characters with familiar names, it was a fair bet that the character would either look or behave nothing like the traditional bearer of that name, which accounts for a lot of the fan anger directed toward the franchise. However, when a character as iconic as Shockwave appears, surely he'd have to be the logic-fixated cyclopic scientist we all so fondly remember... Right?

Vehicle Mode:
One of the most frustrating things about TransFormers as a brand, not just the movie series, is its habit of turning characters with iconic G1 forms into tanks, apparently because no-one could think of anything better to do. The fact that Shockwave in Dark of the Moon never actually transforms on screen theoretically should have given the toy's designer free creative reign to come up with a unique alternate mode. I know - Takara Tomy's Masterpiece line aside - we're never going to get another mainstream, large-scale Shockwave who turns into a laser gun but, considering his appearance in the game of the first movie had him transform from a gun emplacement into a helicopter, I would have thought something like that, or something original, was perfectly feasible...

But what we actually got was a sci-fi tank thing, not dissimilar to Megatron's alternate mode in Revenge of the Fallen, in that it's clearly not terrestrial in origin. Frankly, it looks like a complete mess - small treads at the back, smaller wheels and the front and a couple of ramming spikes. Thing is, some of the molded details make it look as though Shockwave basically gave up halfway toward adopting a terrestrial disguise - some of it is almost recognisable tank-like panelling, so it seems daft that they didn't put in just a bit more effort and create something based on a real-world military vehicle... Especially considering how good Takara Tomy's Cloud Shockwave looks, as just a repaint of Generations Whirl.

His cannon is attached to one side and is basically immobile. The other side features something that could be a gun or a melee weapon which can rotate because it's plugged in to a standard 5mm port. Down the sides, there are large, unsightly grey panels which are clearly the undersides of his feet almost entirely obscuring another, larger set of treads, and his arms are similarly barely disguised above the rear treads - his biceps and shoulders are easily discernible.

And then there's his colour... For whatever reason, despite the character appearing to be made of bare, unpainted, silverish metal in the film, Hasbro opted to make him something akin to his traditional G1 purple for the toy. The purple is mixed in with a couple of shades of grey, as well as lighter shades of purple plastic and metallic purple paint. Then, just for variety, his treads are painted gunmetal and their inner workings and the central parts of the front wheels are painted a sort of coppery-gold.

Naturally for this kind of toy, the treads are fixed, and he dolls along by use of a couple of embedded wheels in the rear set of tracks and the larger wheels on the spikes at the front. It's never been the most elegant way of doing things, but not every tank-former can be Combiner Wars Megatron...

While his cannon cannot turn or in any way point in any direction other than forward, it does house Shockwave's Mechtech gimmick: push the grey button on the back of the cannon and... it sprouts more guns. Because, obviously, that one honking great cannon isn't enough firepower on its own. Like the Mechtech weapons included with most Voyager toys, it can be locked in the 'guns deployed' position, though this one works far more smoothly - simply push the grey button forward till a tab at the front locks into a slot.

While Shockwave didn't come with any other weaponry, he is equipped with a few places to attached those C-clip bits and pieces that were popular in the Generations line for a short while - one on each of the grey panels on the sides of the vehicle, one on each of the ramming spikes, one cleverly disguised atop the grey weapon-thing and another one actually disguised by that weapon-thing, just in front of the 5mm port on the lefthand side rear mounting.
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Robot Mode:
Here we're almost back into familiar territory, in that Shockwave has broad shoulders, a large chest and large lower legs... but why on Earth (or Cybertron, for that matter) does he have ribs? The interpretation of Megatron in the first two movies was bad enough, but Shockwave almost seemed designed to appear organic. The colourscheme doesn't help, in that the grey ribs stand out against the purple torso despite a thin coating of pale metallic purple paint on the larger 'bones' and, with the grey upper arms and thighs, he looks like a weird, biomechanical zombie of some mythological beast rather than a true robot.

The colourscheme gains little on vehicle mode, only a couple of seemingly random parts - the hands and the ankle spikes - molded in a pale purple, and standing out in a very bad way. There are two shades of metallic purple paint in use on most of the grey plastic parts, but none of it stands out well enough to really break the tedium. It's almost as if they couldn't decide whether to make him properly G1 purple or follow the look of the movie and make him look bare metal, and the result appears jumbled, particularly with the gunmetal treads edging his torso and lower legs, and the odd patches of coppery-gold just outside his 'ribs'.

One thing that particularly impressed me about the toy of movie Shockwave is that some thought seems to have gone into how he looks from behind. In a toy range where a robot's back was invariably the roof of a car or a jumble of otherwise unused parts, Shockwave's back looks deliberate, and closely references the CGI of the movie, with the three wheely things neatly arranged, sticking out of his back. On the downside, he looks bizarrely flat from the side since the details of his lower legs barely protrude beyond the width of his treads, and the ribs don't add nearly as much depth to his torso as they should. 

Like all the Mechtech weapons, Shockwave's cannon is overly large, partially to accommodate the whole 'Mechtech gimmick' thing, which works just as well in robot mode as it did in vehicle mode... which is to say fine, unless the cable is in the way. I do find it odd that movie Shockwave's gun arm is his right, when it's traditionally been his left. It is possible to mount it on his left arm, but both the pegs on the gun and the sockets on the arms are designed for it to fit on the right, with the melee weapon attaching to the left. Trouble is, even with everything attached to the correct place, too much of Shockwave's arm protrudes from the underside of the gun, possibly to allow for the hand to be out, even though that doesn't improve the look of the combined arm/gun. The melee weapon, meanwhile, can be held in either hand rather than staying attached to the arm but, unless it's a rifle as well, it can't be held in any natural-looking way.

The head sculpt is basically the one redeeming feature of this toy - it's entirely purple and not completely accurate to the movie... but, considering Shockwave was a bit rubbish in the movie, that's no bad thing in my books. What it is, is a phenomenal reimagining of Shockwave's monocular head, with it's side crests and deeply embedded detail, as well as some truly awesome light piping. It's very rare that a Shockwave mold fails to impress with a single light-piped eye and, thankfully, this is not one of those occasions. Sadly, due to some very dodgy molding, he basically has light piping in his legs, too, due to the plastic being so thin behind some of the details...

I do think his silhouette could have been improved by bringing the rear treads closer together in his torso, thus bringing his shoulders in, and having his head attach higher up, sitting over the treads rather than in a hollow between them. His shoulders, angled upward as they are, look too high up - they are actually the highest point on the figure, higher even than his antennae! Also, had his head been on a ball joint which allowed him to look up, he could have been hunched forward to give the impression of a better balance to his torso mass.
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As mentioned above, Shockwave's weird, oversized arm cannon thing houses his Mechtech gimmick, and it seems more than a little redundant - who puts extra guns on a frickin' huge gun?. It rather reminds me of the spring-loaded feature on the original movie Megatron, which was supposed to represent his arms' transformation into a cannon during the final battle against Optimus Prime.

I'm fairly sure there was no gimmick like this in the movie, but so little was seen of Shockwave, it's difficult to be completely certain. I'm not even sure if his arm cannon was a separate thing, or if it transformed out of his arm, but I do seem to recall brief sequences of Shockwave displaying two hands...
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In spite of its weird, lazy alternate mode, Shockwave is quite fun to transform. Almost everything tabs in very securely and in several places - some pieces are actually so securely tabbed into place, it can be tricky to remove them again - giving him a very solid vehicle mode (though, let's face it, that's part of the problem with vehicle mode!) and a mostly sturdy robot mode. Due to the very tight tabbing of some parts, there are stress marks appearing all over this place, and mine has a weakness in the right shoulder-to-bicep rotation joint, which likes to pop off during transformation or posing. The main problem I have with this version of Shockwave is that the rubber 'pipe' is designed to be detachable... meaning it's difficult to be sure where it's supposed to go in either mode. There are mobile sockets on both the gun and on Shockwave's back, but it's virtually impossible to keep the pipe in both sockets during transformation, with one socket moving from the robot's back to the front of the vehicle.

Shockwave has all the joints you'd expect from a movie figure and, sadly, most of the limitations. His elbows bend inward and, while his bicep swivel can put them in a more natural position, his wrists are only pinned so his hands don't look right when the biceps are twisted to make the elbows bend forward. I also find that, with the cannon and it's rubber pipe attached, the right arm's mobility is limited by the pipe's tendency to want to keep its (mostly straight) shape. Also, the aforementioned issue with the right shoulder means I have to be very careful when trying to pose him, or that arm will pop off. The legs have very stiff thigh rotation and knees, but the hip rotation is stupidly loose on mine, and the legs behave almost as if they're joined inside the groin, giving him a tendency to loll forward or back. Naturally, the feet only move for transformation so, while he has a fairly large, stable footprint, getting both feet flush with the ground can be tricky. Probably the most disappointing thing is the lack of a ball-jointed neck, as the fact that he can only turn his head - even through a full 360° - means it's difficult to make the most of that single, menacing and dramatically-glowing red eye.

I do quite like this toy, and think it was a real shame that Shockwave was squandered so badly on the big screen. Had he been a bigger player, perhaps we might have got a more imaginative toy but, as it is, it's a deeply flawed but pleasantly weird-looking figure with a fairly poseable gun arm (unlike the RotF Leader class Megatron toy). Basically, it is recognisably Shockwave but, with bit more thought - not to mention a bit more consistency to his colourscheme - this could have been one of the all-time classic toys from the movie series rather than this adequate interpretation of the briefly-glimpsed and barely recongnisable character from the movie.

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