Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Revenge of the Fallen Nightbeat

One of my favourite Generation 1 characters was Nightbeat, the Cybertronian detective forged in the image of the traditional Film Noir gumshoe, with the exception of his ostentatious choice to 'disguise' himself as a blue and yellow Porsche 959 with red flame patterns on his doors.

The former Collectors' Club released their exclusive version - based on the Energon Hot Shot mold, which had a fairly similar vehicle mode - which just happens to be the first proper post I ever made to this blog. A few photos of the G1 version were included there, in lieu of a proper write-up of that (which I will get to... eventually... I do feel like doing some G1 stuff soon...), but Nightbeat is one of those fringe characters who has gone unrepresented in the mainstream toyline ever since...

...Until he was referenced (weirdly) in the Real Gear subline from the first movie, only to return in this (slightly) more traditional form in the extended Revenge of the Fallen toyline.

Vehicle Mode:
Well, if Nightbeat is fond of flashy, eyecatching vechile forms, this was an obvious choice. Supposedly based on the Peugeot 9009 Concept car, the proportions have been squashed in a similar style to the G1 Mini Autobots, resulting in a more compact, curvier version of the vehicle, with a couple of additional protrusions over the rear wheels which accommodate transformation hinges without harming the overall look of the vehicle.

The car shell is molded in a shade of cyan very similar to the G1 original, though lacking the yellow plastic trim. The front end features a spray of gunmetal paint which is either intended to be grime, or just a darkening of the blue over the bonnet and front bumper. This spray doesn't carry over to the two sections in the middle of the bonnet, so the overall effect - whatever it was intended to be - is lost and looks very artificial. Nightbeat's headlights are painted pale yellow, the canopy and windows are painted a glossy, warm grey, and the back end features not only painted indicator lights, but gunmetal covering the exposed engine and below the bumper. Incidental details include a tampographed numberplate, as well as silver paint for the petrol cap, all four hubcaps and the large Autobot insignia on the back end. He also features sweeping 'flame' graphics on his doors, but they're rather more stylised - almost 'tribal tattoo'-style - than G1 Nightbeat's stickers. They kind of suit the car, but not so much the colourscheme or the character.

Being a Scout class figure, Nightbeat doesn't come with any weapons - or, for that matter, the means of accommodating weapons from other, larger figures - but there's an obvious upside to this: a sleek, curvy vehicle mode, unmarred by weapon ports.

It's a nice vehicle mode, certainly... but even as an update to G1 Nightbeat's Porsche disguise it doesn't really suit the movie aesthetic. Where the Concept Camaro was eventually developed into a street car, the Peugeot 9009, as yet, has not... and probably won't be as its dome-like canopy alone seems rather impractical, if not downsight unsafe, in a vehicle that would be subjected not only to a human driver, but to other human road users as well.

Robot Mode:
If ever a G1 TransFormer's name was misapplied to a movie figure, it's Nightbeat, applied to this piece of nightmare fuel. The spindly limbs, long, vicious claws, the bizarre high-heeled 'shoes' with the front of the car attached to the ankles... and let's not forget that terrifying face. All of it adds up to something that wasn't out of place as a Decepticon in the extended toyline, but reusing it as an Autobot? And specifically Nightbeat, the Heroic Autobot detective? What were they thinking?

There's certainly something monstrous about this toy - the arms are proportionally too long, with the large, clawed hands reaching down past his knees, the legs are deceptively thin, making them look longer than they are, while the body is basically a block thanks to the bib/apron-like panel from the back of the car, folded up to partially cover the exposed engine. The two rear wings/fenders are folded out into a literally wing-like configuration, with molded detail on the insides that seems to relate more to vehicle mode than robot mode thanks to its gear-like circular design, some of which was painted on the original, while it's all left bare on Nightbeat. Certain concessions have also been made to the look of the arms, with large, round protrusions from each elbow, connected to the wrists by cables, all in service of the large pins used to connect the forearms to the car door panels. They're a little ugly and their intended purpose (on the character, as opposed to on the toy) isn't clear, but it's a reasonable way of incorporating structural necessities on such a small toy.

The molded detail throughout implies a lot of hollowness to Nightbeat, despite the spindly limbs. I actually find this a lot more believable than the beefier movie 'bots, since their bulky bodies and limbs seem to expand from very little vehicle mass, given how much space there is for human occupation inside the average car, and how that same space tends to be used for robot parts in the toys. Nightbeat has armour panels sculpted onto his shoulders and, of course, the massive car chunks on his calves, forearms, shoulders and back, but much of the rest of him appears to be purely structural, and very 'bare bones'.

Robot mode reveals no new paintwork, but pale grey and a weird, sort of mustard-coloured plastic are used on the forearms, hands and feet, as well as for structral parts on the inner ankles and the 'wings'. I'm guessing this was meant to represent the yellow on G1 Nightbeat, and may even have been intended to be gold... but either the specific choice of colour or the quality of the plastic has left it rather muddy-looking.

While he comes packaged with no weapons, the hands feature circular holes which, at first glance, look as though they could accommodate the pegs on weapons from other similar-sized or smaller figures, such as those in the TF Prime Cyberverse line, featuring 2mm pegs. Having tried, though, this seems to be more luck than judgement. On a single weapon, some pegs may fit, but others won't, and the effectiveness of the hole at accommodating any 2mm peg is reduced by a small nub of detail on the back of the hand, which intrudes into the hole.

Having come from a mold originally designed to be a Decepticon, it's no surprise that the head sculpt is hideous. It has the kind of overall 'flattened beak' look of Transmetals 2 Airazor, while the vent-like details attached to either side of the bottom jaw almost look like a reference to G1 Sunstreaker. It's quite detailed in its own way and for its size, but there's something very mask-like about it, so it never really looks like it's his actual face. Adding to the sheer terror, his mouth can open to reveal some pretty horrific jagged teeth that are a holdover from his original usage. The only paintwork is a pale cyan for his eyes, and a gold-painted skullcap. It probably would have been difficult to design a more suitable head that would actually fit in the structure of this particular figure - given that the head is set in the middle of a transformation hinge that also acts as its jaw hinge - but leaving the original head and not even painting it to better resemble Nightbeat does the character a huge disservice. Just to add insult to injury, mine has a large sprue nub right on the top of his head... Which I'll probably lop off at some point.

In theory, this figure has a very simple transformation, with the car parts on the ankles folding downward, the torso folding upward and thereby hinging both the engine block and the canopy into place, then the doors and rear wings simply folding into place from the sides... but issues with several joints make it rather more troublesome than it first appears. The right shoulder on mine gets stuck in certain positions and creaks horribly when it finally moves, neither shoulder pegs into position in robot mode, the bonnet sections on the calves like to pop off, and the two arms than hinge the canopy/engine sections between robot and vehicle mode positions almost work against each other until they actually start moving. Even so, it's a fairly intuitive transformation, albeit inefficient, given that it leaves large chunks of the vehicle hanging off the skeletal robot.

With ball joints at the shoulders, elbows and wrists, the upper body's articulation is marred only by the fact that the shoulders don't peg into the body, so they're just as likely to hinge away from it as move on the intended joints. Similarly, the chest doesn't peg into place and, due to some oddity of the final release, doesn't even hinge into its proper position, leaving an ugly gap below the 'bib'. The hips are also ball joints, with a mid-thigh swivel thanks to a peg that pops out rather too easily if pulled. The knees are hinged, offering the standard 90° bend. The ankles and feet are a little confusing as, while the heel and toe sections of the feet lock together in an ideal, stable footprint, the ankle itself is actually made up of two joints - one on the top of the foot, the other at the bottom of the lower leg - and it's not entirely clear how the two should relate to one another. Since his legs are at their thickest at the hip, he ends up looking knock-kneed in just about any stance, but is nevertheless very poseable and generally stable thanks to his two-part feet.

I have to say that I quite like this mold, but really don't like it as Nightbeat. I gather than it was originally intended to be Packrat - a character originating from BotCon 1997, under 3H, who resurfaced at BotCon 2015 - but Hasbro evidently felt he was too much of a fringe character, and so Nightbeat's name was applied as the colours were in the same ballpark. Packrat would have made much more sense, given the face, and left Nightbeat's name available for a more suitable model... Not that I can think of one that was available at the time. Age of Extinction Crosshairs would be cool, because of the 'trenchcoat' look, but the best available around the time of the RotF toyline would probably have been Jazz or Barricade, neither of which seem ideal.

In retrospect, I think I should probably have picked up the Dead End version of this mold, but I ended up buying the Deluxe class Dead End, based on the RotF Sideways mold, making the smaller one redundant. It's a fun mold, despite its structural flaws, but putting it in the movie toylines seems a little forced and, with newly molded limbs and feet, it could be repurposed into just about any TransFormers toyline.

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