Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Generations Laserbeak

Every so often, Hasbro seems to have read my mind in a particularly bizarre and sadly incomplete way. I noted when I wrote about Tokyo Toy Show 2010 Dreadwing & Smokescreen that the Mindwipe/Strafe/Dreadwing mold was basically suitable for a custom movie Soundwave, had he not been turned into a car. Since Smokescreen could then have doubled for a Cobalt Sentry Garboil analogue, when images of Hasbro's own Laserbeak repaint (released only in the Asian markets initially) surfaced, the only surprise was how good it actually looked.

Vehicle Mode:
And it looks good because it's surprisingly similar to Laserbeak's pre-Earth appearance in the very first episode of the G1 TV series. It's a very cool callback to the show, and the paint layout suits the mold admirably. The engine sections, while not chromed, are coated entirely with silver paint, and the wings are done up in silver and red, to evoke Laserbeak's animation model. It's undoubtedly a good thing they didn't aim to mimmick the slightly more complex sticker details of the G1 toy but, to be honest, the panel lining and transformation/concealed weapon seams probably could have supported the idea.

The red paint running down the sides of the fuselage may be intended to look like G1 Laserbeak's red body and the black space vacated by his head, but it doesn't quite come off... it's rather a weird, wavy line between the painted and unpainted plastic, which does detract from the precise lines elsewhere. The robot's head is painted silver and gold, so it almost looks as though he has a cockpit, or at least a reflective gold visor over the drone's cameras. Weirdly, the hemispherical bump on the front of his head is painted over with silver, to blend in, rather than being picked out in red, as it was on both Skystalker and Smokescreen.

There is, of course, an interesting feature of this mold which becomes more appropriate on Laserbeak than it seemed on either Skystalker or Smokescreen, and that's the circular, VTOL fan-like detail on the undersides of the wings. I suspect it's entirely coincidental - unless, of course, this mold was originally created with a Laserbeak/Buzzsaw repaints in mind - but it certainly looks like a reference to the tape spools on the G1 character.

This being something of an exclusive, it's a shame he wasn't given any additional weapons but, aside from the pegs or c-clips on his concealed weapons, there are no mounting points, so it would have taken quite a bit of fiddling to make it work.

Robot Mode:
I've probably brought this upon myself by comparing the Tokyo Toy Show 2010 Smokescreen with Batman, but my first thought when I got this guy out of his packaging was that he looked a lot like the interpretation of Robin who appears in the 'Batman: Arkham...' games by Rocksteady. The minimal use of red and the overall 'body armoured' look - not to mention the largely black 'cape' - are all strongly reminiscent of the more contemporary take on the 'Boy Wonder', to the extent that the mass of silver paint on the lower legs just doesn't seem to detract from that image. Furthermore, the simple paint job on the head is very reminiscent of the Arkham Knight's mask... So this guy, partnered with TTS2010 Dreadwing would make a fairly decent giant alien robot interpretation of the Dynamic Duo...

Even the weapons come across like some kind of futuristic, Cyber-Batman style claw/axe/hook thing, where a proper Laserbeak needs some kind of laser-type weapon simply to live up to his name. I suppose one could argue that the silver nubbin on the front of his head is his laser-beak, but that strikes me as clutching at straws. Now I think about it, probably among my major gripes about the movie-style robots is the overemphasis on mêlée weapons - Prime with his swords and hooks, Ratchet and his saw... Megatron and his sheer spikiness.

The distribution of colour is very different to the vehicle mode, with the upper body being largely red and black (because the drone's nose covers most of the pale grey torso section) and a weird range of colours from the waist down - pale grey groin, red hips, darker grey thighs, silver shins and dark grey feet. Given that the only other large areas of silver are on the wings, and only generally visible from the back, the silver shins seem incongruously bright and shiny, but the legs are largely grey so they work well enough. The fragments of wing on each shin add a welcome bit of colour.

With the wings on hinged ball joints, they're reasonably poseable but, while they don't have to be left dangling down his back, they never quite convince as proper wings for his robot mode, which adds to the impression of this repurposing being a curious jumble.

With some reluctance, I have to concede that this mold doesn't especially convince as Laserbeak, except perhaps in comparison to the BotCon 2006 version, which was just a red repaint of Energon/Superlink Divebomb/Shadowhawk, and thereby an equally bizarre hybrid of G1 with an unrelated continuity. The character of Laserbeak being granted a more traditional, humaniform robot mode is certainly an interesting concept, and this figure with this paint job certainly pulls it off... but, given that an avian Laserbeak - weird and vulture-like as it was - appeared in Dark of the Moon, I'm not entirely certain what the point of this figure is, other than being a weird, semi-exclusive and a means of hanging on to the name trademark.

That's not to say it's a bad figure - I like the mold, I like the colourscheme, and I like the concept. As with some other figures, I think Laserbeak falls victim to a certain over-familiarity with the mold. Like the Energon/Superlink Arcee mold, for example, I've pretty much run out of things to say about it, except that it's really good for its size class. In and of itself, this is a cool figure to own... I'm just not sure the Laserbeak homage was necessary or advisable.

One interesting thing to note is his bio, which pays homage to G1 Laserbeak's role of the Decepticons' interrogations specialist, yet completely ignores the fact that he was basically a coward. It makes him sound far more intimidating and dangerous than his G1 counterpart.

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