Saturday, 9 September 2017

DotM Mechtech Jolt

Given that Jolt's presence in Revenge of the Fallen appeared to be more an editing error than the intention of the film-makers, and that he didn't appear at all, even briefly, in the background, in Dark of the Moon, it seems like a complete waste of plastic to release him in the DotM toyline... and even more so to find he was given an entirely new mold.

The original toy wasn't remotely accurate to the on-screen CGI, yet managed to be a decent toy all the same. Surely a second attempt will be a significant improvement..?

Vehicle Mode:
Well... it's certainly different. Only it's not, because he's still disguising himself as a Chevrolet Volt, only now in a different colour, and with a carbon-fibre roof and bonnet, so you know this economical family hybrid means business. Cast largely in duck egg blue plastic, the paintwork on this model isn't wasted on quite so much translucent plastic due to the complete redesign of his transformation. This has lead to a comparatively extravagant amount of paintwork on the rear end, painting of the window frames and... some bizarre, 'Allspark Blue' designs on the windscreen and side windows.

...And here's where my first objections to this figure come in: both the 'Allspark Blue' applications and the carbon fibre bonnet and roof are entirely unnecessary. They add nothing of any value to the appearance of the vehicle mode, and take paint away from the front grille and other more important details. The Chevrolet logo on the front has been painted, but the one on the rear hasn't, the hubcaps are unpainted and, while the headlights don't need paint because they're translucent plastic, the rear end could have had other details painted in. It doesn't even feature the 'VOLT' branding that the original version of Jolt had.

Couple all that with the dull, insipid plastic colour and you have a distinctly underwhelming vehicle mode... Not that the Chevy Volt in any colourscheme would be particularly inspiring, but why not at least stick to the same rich blue of the original? Takara Tomy did just that with their 'Movie Advanced' version, and it looks far better.

Jolt's Mechtech weapon is a strange choice, too. Given that his briefly-seen CGI counterpart used electrical whips that shot out of his hands/wrists, you might expect this toy to come with one of the many mêlée weapons that have turned up with this range of movie toys... but you'd be wrong. Jolt comes with a small, brick-like gun that transforms, at the pull of the pale blue protrusion on the top, into a longer, no less brick-like cannon with a huge barrel. It plugs into one of two sockets in the roof, each featuring the strange, spring-loaded covering that Hasbro suddenly deemed important, after several years of making movie toys with open 5mm ports all over them. I could almost see the point if they had been painted to match the rest of the roof, but they've been left unpainted, and so stand out significantly more than a 5mm hole would have done.

Vehicle mode being a large step backward from the 2009 version, let's hope robot mode is better, eh?

Robot Mode:
Erm. Right.

For the Revenge of the Fallen version of Jolt, the toy's designers had the disadvantage of not having seen much of the CGI, then having the toy put on hold, then having to finish it at short notice. This one, in theory, should be significantly better, but...

OK, the arms are far more accurate to the CGI, and the legs may be as well... but the feet are diabolical - and hark back to G1 Bumblebee and Cliffjumper - being basically the entire front of the car with minimal transformation. They look less like feet than... a car crash, to be honest. No matter what you do, they never look as though they're transformed correctly. There's an element of movie Sideswipe to the legs, too, in that they seems to be intended to be digitigrade, but the huge, clumpy feet detract from this impression, and he seems to have too many knees, either active or sculpted. Where RotF Jolt had several massive car panels hanging off his back, this version has large strips of the vehicle mode's sides that extend back from under his armpits, and then the roof and side windows fold together and then just hang down from his backside at an angle... and where the previous Jolt had a massive protrusion behind his head, preventing most of its movement, this one has a weird nozzle sticking out of his back for no obvious reason. The chest, much like the feet, ends up looking like the crumpled results of a collision rather than something genuinely robotic, with virtually none of it clearly representing anything that might be Jolt's 'anatomy' apart from the finely detailed belly/groin section that, along with Jolt's collar, serves to cover over much the central part of the vehicle's otherwise untransformed back end.

The bland colouring of vehicle mode is now supplemented by actual grey plastic for the head, collar, arms, belly/groin and legs, though at least some of this is touched with the accursed 'Allspark Blue' paint. He ends up looking like a jumbled mass of grey parts, broken up by oddly-placed touches of black and cyan, and with pinpoints of utterly incongruous red.

All that said, there's plenty of detail there... The arms - or the forearms, at least - feature all kinds of tech detailing which may or may not be accurate to the CGI, but certainly looks good. They also have fold-out sections with bars for attaching C-clip accessories from his Generations contemporaries... though I wonder if the original idea was to give him whips that would attach to them. The legs are similarly detailed from the knee down, though it almost looks as though most of the detail has ended up on the backs of his legs. Really, what this model needed to make it shine, was a better colourscheme...

Most of the Mechtech weapons packaged with Deluxes were completely unwieldy on anything smaller than a Voyager, and Jolt's is no exception. Given his three 'fingered' claws, he has 5mm ports in his wrists to allow his gun to connect, and it looks completely ridiculous in its standard mode, let alone in its elongated cannon mode.

Probably the biggest let down on this figure is the head. Not that the sculpt is bad - it's actually very good, and entirely re-worked from the previous toy. The trouble is that it's molded in detail-swallowing grey plastic and has only the bare minimum of paint on the face and eyes. It's also sculpted at an odd angle, so he's either looking up, or the body is intended to lean forward quite a way, making him look hunchbacked (though, given the protrusion behind the original's head and the nozzle on this version's back, that's not inconceivable). The face itself is actually pretty ugly - really not that far off the much-maligned RotF Twins, in a lot of ways - and the angled forehead crest gives him a perpetually angry appearance, while the the central, vertical crest is seemingly partly borrowed from Megatron's design in the first live action movie.

Most of the Mechtech weapons were actually pretty dull, either changing from a gun into a mêlée weapon, or vice versa. This one should probably win an award for dullness because it changes from a gun into a bigger gun. As usual, the lack of any locking mechanism basically makes the whole 'transforming weapon' gimmick a bit redundant, and the fact that it's too large for Jolt - in either robot or vehicle mode - to be particularly effective as a weapon suggest that this wasn't really intended for Jolt in the first place.

I have to admit that the transformation of this version of Jolt is one of my least favourite of all the movie toylines, not least because one of his feet (or, more specifically, the hinge for the car bonnet) actually broke the very first time I transformed him. I'm not sure if I was doing something wrong or if the joint was just too stiff (it certainly seems so!), but one of the bonnet sections did not want to move into its robot mode position. It's not so broken that it completely detached, but I'm reluctant to transform him again in case it does snap off. The chest is kind of awkward, in that it has a couple of panels that form part of the car's back end, but don't seem to peg in anywhere, and have no set positions for robot mode. Their shape implies that they're meant to line up with his belly piece, per my photographs, but they have a completely different configuration in just about every photo I've seen online. The head on this version sits on a flap that doesn't tab in anywhere and, likewise, the arms are on the insides of small flaps of vehicle shell that hinge out and round to cover over the vehicle's wheels without actually connecting firmly to anything. Getting him back into vehicle mode is no less frustrating, with lots of panels to line up and fasten together, with the arms and the roof being the most aggravating part, as the former don't peg in anywhere under the vehicle, so finding their ideal position is basically guesswork, while the latter not only need to peg together, but have to fit in between the robot's thighs (as the vehicle's windscreen) and its backside (as the rear windscreen). Some aspects of transformation are clever, but it's way too fiddly for a Deluxe.

On the upside, Jolt is reasonably well articulated, though largely not better than the Revenge of the Fallen version in most respects. Not least significantly, he loses the waist articulation and the super-adaptable feet, but gains much better - albeit strangely jointed - arms. The elbows in particular look very weird because, rather than the traditional hinge, they are rotation joints set at about 75-80° from the standard bicep rotation joint. Not only is that far more accurate to the look of Jolt's CGI from RotF, but it actually gives him greater freedom of movement than the usual, more humanoid joint style, even if it doesn't necessarily allow him to adopt the sort of pose one might want to put him in. The head is on a simple rotation joint, which is a great shame considering it's molded at an angle and seems to be squashed down into his shoulders.

In retrospect, I really don't understand why I bought DotM Jolt, other than perhaps the hope that he was physically more accurate to the CGI, even if not in terms of his paint job. It's definitely not a terrible figure, despite the aggravating transformation and brittle parts (or is it excessively tight transformation joints - who knows?), but it's very much in the 'could be better' category and, while it corrects some of the flaws of the original, it introduces new problems meaning that, on balance, the first version is still the better one.

That said, and even with my fear of the foot transformation, I'm more than a little tempted to pick up Takara Tomy's Movie Advanced version of DotM Jolt, due to its vastly improved paint job and the inclusion of two peg-in whip parts (even if they are a little short). The only thing holding me back is that, despite his unusual design, Jolt had almost literally no impact in Revenge of the Fallen. They easily could have found another way to graft Jetfire's parts onto Optimus Prime so, in practice, he functioned onto to advertise another new Chevrolet vehicle... and those are just two aspects of the live action movie franchise I'd rather not encourage.

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