Saturday, 6 February 2016

AD16 Movie Advanced Autobot Dino

The more I think of the more recent TransFormers movies, the more I think they were basically designed to make it next to impossible for Hasbro/Takara Tomy to successfully make toys out of the robot characters. Hasbro - these days styling itself as "an intellectual properties company" - didn't even seem to mind that one of its biggest toy brands was being misused so grievously, even seeming to quickly lose interest in trying to make plastic versions of anyone who wasn't Bumblebee. Then again, it's not as if other characters got much screen time or character development anyway... Hell, a good number of them didn't even get proper names, or got lumbered with a different name in the movie versus the toyline (Brawl/Devastator in the first movie, just for example).

So while my happiness at Hasbro's announcement that they were making a toy of Dino/Mirage, quickly turned to disappointment when they backtracked and cancelled the entire tail end of the line, I didn't exactly feel that I was missing much. While he seemed pretty cool in the (approximately) one minute of screen time he got in Dark of the Moon - particularly in the motorway battle with the Dreads - the cancellation of the figure might even have been a good thing given how poor some of the DotM toys turned out to be.

Then came Takara Tomy with their Movie Advanced line, loosely associated with the fourth movie, Age of Extinction, and releasing several figures that never made it to shelves in the US/Europe (or did so in very limited quantities) along with some fairly cool repaints of older figures... But even these were not quite what we might have expected.

Vehicle Mode:
Disappointingly, it is immediately apparent that Takara Tomy's take on Dino is not a Ferrari 458, but the not-Audi R8 design used for RotF Sideways. This is apparently down to the fact that Mattel has the exclusive license for Ferrari toys. It may seem weird, but this choice of alternate mold actually played quite a big role in my decision to seek out Movie Advanced Dino - had he been repurposed from one of the other cars, I may not have bothered, but I ended up really liking Sideways. He's basically a shellformer from the windscreen back, yet has comparatively few seams, and the overall look of the vehicle is good. One thing I hadn't noticed on Sideways was the upturned nose of the vehicle - somehow it seems more apparent in Dino's red than in the original's silver.

Cast mostly in a rich, vibrant red plastic - with the windows in translucent purple and the lights in colourless clear plastic - Dino looks fantastic. The red paint used on the roof isn't a perfect match to the plastic, but it's close enough. The only problem is that it has been so precisely under-applied that the seams on the roof are far more obvious than they needed to be. The same is actually true of Sideways, and I'm not sure who got the worst deal. Dino features no striping, but he does have black paint below his headlights and blocks of red on his tail lights. His only other decoration is a large Autobot insignia on the rear end. That's the second disappointment with this figure - the lack of paintwork. It seems particularly bad because this is a Takara Tomy release, and they tend to go all-out on the paintwork. Certainly their interpretation of Soundwave was vastly more bling'd up than Hasbro's drab, largely unpainted and slightly miscoloured original. Yet here we have a back end which is almost entirely devoid of paint. It can't simply be the expense of painting all that red onto the translucent purple, because Sideways did all that - and more - with silver. This is all particularly lax for Takara Tomy.

While previous iterations of this mold had no weapons - largely because of the built-in rotary saw on one of the robot's wrists - Dino comes packaged with approximations of the blades that deployed - TF Prime Arcee-style - from his forearms. These have been cleverly designed to make use of existing features of the mold, slipping onto the posts on the lower legs that the rear fenders plug into in robot mode, for convenient vehicle mode storage.

Robot Mode:
With his vehicle mode looking nothing like the movie CGI, some deviations from the original robot mode are to be expected. Even taking that into account, this robot mode is still disappointingly inaccurate. Some elements of the Sideways mold are close enough to Dino to be passable from the front, but viewing him from any other angle rather spoils the impression. The biggest problem is in the legs, which are spaced too far apart and, for Dino, rather too high up as well. Had they included an amendment to the hip structure that allowed the joints to swing down and closer together, he'd immediately look more like Dino, even though his weird, apparently digitigrade legs will never quite match the more humanoid look of the CGI.

The feet were a sore point on the original, being too small and awkward to be truly effective. On this figure, that problem is exacerbated by the fact that they actually look next to nothing like Dino's feet. Also, his arms are too bulky, overburdened with car doors sticking out of the shoulders, and those asymmetrical mountings on the backs of his hands not only fail to suit the character, but they're entirely superfluous thanks to the new weapons included with this figure. For the most part, while Sideways featured a surfeit of unnecessary red plastic, Dino's colour balance is pretty much spot on, with the lower torso and upper arms being largely black to break up the red, but with a bit of red paint just below the chest to bring out some of the molded detail.

As with Sideways, the backpack is a bit of a disaster area - it folds up neatly, it just doesn't fold up enough, leaving his rear aspect looking rather too much like a mechanical rabbit. It's a shame it couldn't have been made to fold in a little closer to the body, and perhaps lower down, but I have to admit that the chunk of car rear stuck on his back almost appears to follow on smoothly from the lines of the bonnet/chest.
The weapons are nicely sculpted and feature a lovely two-tone paint job - silver for the most part, but with a darker gunmetal on the outer edge of the blades and running through to the back a little before the halfway mark. The blades plug on to posts that already existed on the undersides of his wrists (to plug them into the central column of the vehicle once transformed), and they connect easily enough, despite the protrusions from the hands, but its rather a precarious connection, and they do fall off rather easily during posing. Plus, the pegs were painted over, like the rest of his forearms, and attaching the weapons has worn that paint away.

The head sculpt is truly fantastic, with Dino's look incorporating design cues from Bumblebee and Optimus Prime's battlemasks, as well as some of the more insectoid Decepticons, such as Rampage and Bonecrusher, almost giving the impression that, like G1 Mirage, Dino might well have become (or been) a Decepticon were it not for some accident of fate leading him to join up with Optimus Prime. There's a surprising amount of detail paintwork on the head, bringing out the intricate - not to mention accurate - sculpt and adding to the impression of multiple layers of mechanical parts and armouring. The only glitch on mine is the somewhat haphazard painting of the eyes but, given how tiny they are, that doesn't really surprise me.

Naturally, there are no differences between the transformation of this and Sideways (or the Dead End version, with another remolded head) save for the inclusion of his weapons, but one of the reasons I really like this mold is that the door/wings are so poseable, I don't have to use the same configuration on all three. My Sideways now has his doors folded down behind the arms, Dead End has them pointing back from the shoulders in the quasi-traditional Diaclone Autobot stylee, while Dino - as shown in the photos above - has them sticking straight up from the shoulder when at rest, and they only move as required by whatever pose I put him into

Articulation is, again, basically the same as previous versions, though the head gets far more use out of its ball joint than Sideways or Dead End, despite minor improvements in range of movement for the latter. On the downside, this improved mobility does leave his head more prone to popping off its ball joint. He has exactly the same balance issues as a result of his weird leg arrangement and his barely-adequate feet but, like the other usages of this mold, it is nevertheless quite possible - and enjoyable - to get him into some interesting and dynamic poses.

In many ways, this model only fails by its association with the movie. Movie Advanced Dino is a great figure, and works surprisingly well as Dino... but it's just not Dark of the Moon Dino, and I think many fans were really looking forward to an official Hasbro/Takara transforming Ferrari 458 (or an unlicensed approximation thereof). Weirdly, I think the only way Dino could have been done better is if he had been a reshelling of, for example, the Battle Blade Bumblebee mold, made to look as close as possible to the Ferrari within the framework of what that version of the Camaro mold had to do for transformation.

Ultimately, this figure may not be everyone's cup of tea - it comes at a premium (being import-only), Dino could hardly be described as a prominent or important character in Dark of the Moon (really, he's little more than an excuse for a bit more CGI), and he doesn't even transform into the correct vehicle. For me, though, it was the perfect combination of a character/concept I enjoyed, made by recycling an existing mold I enjoyed, and with an excellent new head sculpt and weapons. There are a couple of other Movie Advanced figures I'm vaguely interested it, but I'm particularly glad to have Dino in my collection.

Ps. Replacement feet for Dino - designed to more closely resemble the movie CGI - are available on Shapeways, and I'm hoping at some point to get a pair, as they seem far more stable than the stock feet of the RotF Sideways mold.

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