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Transformers

Studio Series – Scrapmetal

So, for the most part, the Michael Bay Transformers movies are pretty trash. Mostly for the shitty plots, but Revenge of the Fallen is particularly bad. One thing it did have that was pretty cool though was Devastator. In general, I do like the Bayverse/Movieveerse designs, and the take on Devastator was pretty interesting. Though the Revenge of the Fallen toy line was full of some of the most complex Transformers ever produced, the only full on Devastator is produced was Legends scaled. There were individual figures of most of the components that had robots and vehicles, and there was a large combined figure that only had parts that turned into vehicles, no robots.

Hasbro has decided to remedy that with Studio Series, by putting out a new Devastator, across eight figures, that all have robot modes and vehicle modes. There were 6 components to the previous version with vehicles only and Seven in the Legends sized one, which added a vehicle to create the pelvis and back. This new iteration is taking things a bit farther, following the pattern from the Legends sized version, but splitting one of the arms into two separate toys.

Scrapmetal is one of those two arm characters. He’s technically the only “new” character of the set, since Hightower (the crane) has almost made up the arm on the previous toys. This figure more or less forms the hand.

Scapmetal turns into a small excavator. The primary driver in Studio Series is robot mode scale so the excavator is pretty small, but there are some small er versions of this particular vehicle out there. The vehicle is a little small compared to old style Deluxes but looks alright next to other Studio Series. The transformation doesn’t allow the top to rotate independently of the treads unfortunately.

Transformation is pretty straight forward but has a few neat little tricks. There’s some fun asymmetry to the way the arms fold in together to form the top part of the vehicle mode. The legs pretty much just collapse and fold up underneath. He has a little removable shield thing that mostly exists to cover a few gaps in the vehicle mode, which is a little cheaty.

The robot is pretty normal as well, at least for Movie Constructicon standards. The other initial release is Rampage who stands on a single Pogo Leg, but other highlights of the Constructicons include Hightower, who turns into a sort of Velociraptor, and Demolishor who is a pair of arms on giant wheels.

One neat little bit if you want to fancy him up a bit, his legs have the option of working as “normal knees” or can knock back and become Digigrade legs. Probably the main disappointment is that there isn’t really anything fun his crane arm can do in robot mode. You can swing it up between his legs like a huge phallus but that’s not super useful really. He also has a lot of neat little extra detail. The biggest stand out is the treading detail inside his back, that doesn’t serve any purpose in either mode. I imagine in the combined form it will be more visible for some added detailing.

Scrapmetal really has me excited for the test of this team. He looks like he’ll probably be comparably sized to the old Revenge of the Fallen Devastator, but with a lot more detail and more functional articulation. I also kind of like that these are being released over time, since it gives me a chance to spread out what is essentially a $200 purchase over a couple of years.

Transformers – Studio Series – Bumblebee (VW)

The latest Transformers Movie, Bumblebee, takes things back more to the original roots of Transformers.  It features G1 versions of a lot of the characters and the main character, Bumblebee, takes the form of a Volkswagen Beetle like he had in the original 80s cartoon.  The movie isn’t getting it’s own toyline but is instead being looped in with the Studio Series line.  The first figure from the new films is Bumblebee himself though in many cases, Dropkick from the followup wave is also showing up with him.

The new Bee reminds me a lot of Studio Series Jazz in that he is really tiny in both modes.  This feels a lot more appropriate given it’s Bumblebee, who was one of the smallest Autobots in the original G1 series.  It does make the $20 price point for deluxe Transformers a little hard to swallow but he has a few little parts that help make it feel more worthwhile.  The robot is pretty nice, though he has a huge backpack that feels like it should collapse on itself a bit more, but doesn’t really seem to without pushing the plastic beyond what feels comfortable.  The legs also are a little funny in that they feel like they should peg together better but don’t seem to. 

The design itself is very reminiscent of the old Camero Bumblebee design from the last few Michael Bay Transformers movies.  The way the layered chest lays and the panels fall on his legs and the door wings sit on his back, these elements are all very Movie Bumblebee.  The Door wings aren’t very accurate to the film though, where the doors seem to do some mass shifting and point downward instead of becoming wings. 

I mentioned he comes with some extras to help offset his cost.  Specifically, he has an alternative face plate for his “Battle Mask” look and a swap-able arm piece for his arm cannon.  There’s also a blade weapon which can attach to the side of any of the three forearm pieces.  These sort of swap out parts aren’t a real common things for Transformers.  Having them, it’s kind of clear why.  The canon arm falls off a lot more easily than the standard hand arm and the Mask face falls off if you look at it funny.  These are definitely parts which will become lost over time by some.

The transformation is pretty straightforward in it’s execution, though fairly complex.  Its a pain to get everything to massage together properly, partially I think because it’s such a small figure.  The legs and back piece are particularly problematic and I can’t see anything obviously out of place like the hidden peg on the underside of Jazz’s roof that just made everything sit right in place once engaged.

The VW Beetle looks alright aside from things not quite sitting together properly.  The vehicle does feel a little funny because the G1 Bumblebee, was very much a stylized chibified VW.  This Bee feels too long, though I’m sure he’s not for a real Beetle.

Cutting to the chase here, I think that Studio Series Bumblebee is alright, but I kind of wonder what the wider audience is for him.  He’s too complex and finicky for kids, and there are plenty of simpler options out there.  He doesn’t really mesh well for collectors.  I don’t have it but I suspect the pricier Masterpiece Movie Bee does everything slightly better and he probably looks better.  I suppose if you’re in the middle like me and don’t really need a super classy Bee but don’t want something overly simplified this version does the job, but if you want a perfect VW Movie Bee, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.


Review – Transformers – The Last Knight – Cogman

I’m not going to lie, I barely remember anything about The Last Knight.  I had some vague hope it was going to be better going into it, but it wasn’t.  I don’t really know how but somehow the Michael Bay Transformers movies just got worse and worse with each release.  I vaguely remember something with knights in the beginning and then they go to the ruins of Chicago or something then there was something with Anthony Hopkins and Hot Rod in England.  Beyond that, the whole thing exists as some sort of weird repressed memory or something.

Still, I like Transformers Movieverse Toys.  This guy Cogman was the tail end of the line and got a really random release pretty much straight to discount stores.  I believe Cogman was Anthony Hopkins’ butler robot int he film, I don’t remember him turning into any car or anything, but it may have happened at some point.  This guy gets a semi proper representation through his Headmaster.  This movie came out alongside the Titans Return line, which was all Headmasters, and while the movie line didn’t share that gimmick, this guy does.

Cogman’s headmaster is cross compatible with the Titanmasters and Prime Masters, and like the Titans Return figures, Cogman has a driver’s seat for his head robot.  In fact, he has two seats, so a buddy can even ride along, a neat little added gimmick.  The vehicle itself is an Aston Martin, a vehicle appropriate for the butler/servant of the eccentric Sir Anthony Hopkins.   There was one other pseudo Headmaster in the line if you want to keep things pure, Nitro Zeus has a removable head that’s compatible with the Titan/Headmasters, though his own head doesn’t transform. 

The robot fits pretty well in with the Knight theme of the movie and a lot of the toys in the line.  He’s all gray with a dark wash in some places.  He has a sword which he can wield with one or two hands.  His design has sort of an armored look to it as well.  The transformation is pretty neat overall, his hood has a neat rotational gimmick instead of just folding over.  He holds together fairly well, which is sometimes an issue with characters with cockpits like Cogman has.

Overall, Cogman is a pretty neat figure.  It’s kind of a shame that he got shoved tot he back half of the line, because he’s become a bit of a scares toy to find.  He’s one of the few actually new molds and characters of The Last Knight toyline, and he has a lot of interesting and unique aspects to him with the double driver interior and Movie themed Headmaster.  I believe he’s getting a re-release in the Studio Series line however with a different paint job, so there’s still a chance to find him, though probably not at the discount store price.


Review – Transformers – Masterpiece Sunstreaker (MP-39)

I don’t really collect Masterpiece Transformers, not on any sort of large scale.  I have a few, the original MP-01 and MP-05 Optimus and Megatron.  Though both of those are in the old larger scale of Transformers.  I use MP-08 Grimlock as my “Classics Grimlock”, because it’s a nice looking toy and his bulk makes him nice and imposing next to mainline sized toys.  Sunstreaker is more of a personal indulgence.  When he was announced, he looked really nice, and when a reissue of his brother Sideswipe was announced to go with him, I definitely wanted the pair.

So, I just want to cut to the chase a bit on this guy, this is a really damn nice Transformer.  He looked fantastic in the promotional photos and he lives up to that in every way.  The robot mode is very slick, very poseable, and very solid.  The whole transformation does an excellent job of collapsing everything together and removing any dangling vehicle kibble.  The result is a very nice representation of Sunstreaker as he appears on the show.

The Transformation may actually be the downside of this figure, if you aren’t really into complex transformations, it’s definitely a plus if you are,  There are a ridiculous number of little flippy and sliding parts that all come apart and come together to make this robot.  Everything about his backpack has to collapse together just right to make it all conform into the proper shape.  The front windshield of the car is supposed to fold up into the backpack but it pops off easily and honestly, I prefer to just pull it off and put it aside because I worry that its going to break while putting the backpack together.

There is so much more about this figure that makes it exceptional though, even by Masterpiece Transformer levels.  There are extra joints in his shoulders, that allow him to hold his gun with two hands.  The vehicle itself has some nice surprises as well.  Despite already being a complex puzzle of joints and panels to build the robot, the vehicle goes even farther and is able to convert between a standard stock Lamborghini Countach, and the tricked out super car that Sideswipe was on the show.  This is more than just a panel flip on the back, it’s a panel flip, and some roll over parts and even a second set of taillights that flip up over the stock tail lights.

He’s also loaded with fun accessories.  Aside from a pair of guns, he also includes a small Chip Chase figure in his wheelchair, several alternative face plates, and an alien mask from Hoist Goes to Hollywood.  I don’t know if it’s a widespread issue, but I did have a problem with his smaller gun.  The clip holding it together pretty much broke immediately.  It still holds itself together as a gun, but it doesn’t transform anymore.

Overall, Masterpiece Sunstreaker is just a really fantastic transformer.  He’s not even a particularly big name character in G1, so it’s not real clear why he deserved such a great treatment.

Review – Transformers – Studio Series Jazz

Studio Series is a line that I wish I were more excited about.  I just really don’t have a need or interest in updated versions of most of the Movie Transformers.  I had heard a lot of good things about Jazz, and the only other version of Jazz was the one from the first movie, which wasn’t a bad toy but not super great.  After finding him on sale, I decided to go ahead and pick him up, though I was a little worried about his size.

The size of this figure is definitely the most noticeable thing.  Jazz is one tiny toy.  Part of this stems from the push for robot mode scale that I mentioned in the Studio Series Blackout review.  He sort of feels like a not so great value next to other figures, especially with the price bump.  He includes a pretty large weapon, but it doesn’t really make up for the lack of plastic.  Granted, there’s more to a transformer than how much material it’s made of.  Jazz makes up for his lack of size a bit with his very nice looking shinny paint job.  He also has a pretty neat transformation.

His robot mode is small, his car mode feels absolutely tiny.  It helps a bit that the Pontiac Solstice he is based on is a fairly small car, but it is barely larger than a basic scaled Transform.  Even as a small car, it looks out of place next to other deluxe sized Transformers, including previous Movie based characters.  It looks really nice at least.  On a related note as well, getting things to all mesh together can be a little tricky, there is a peg on the underside of the roof that needs to be pegged in first before almost any other step.  Going back to robot mode has a few little quirks, the head is a pain to pull up out of it’s little hole.  I do really like how the chest transforms however, the way the whole thing rolls over and clips upside down is really neat and not something that has been done in Transformers that I recall.  The front of the car also pops out to flip over which works to really make the chest look similar but different than the front of the car.  It’s a nice little touch.

There is also this really need trick with his gun.  It’s not as original of an idea as the chest, but the gun can be held by a standard 5mm peg fist, or the fist can be folded in and the gun attached to the end of his arm.  It replicates the way the guns in the movies would sort of transform out of the robot arm.  The clip isn’t super strong though, so it tends to fall off if bumped the wrong direction.  It’s also nice to have a movie Jazz with real arms, and not the weird hollow arms the original had.

Overall, despite the size problem, Studio Series Jazz is a pretty nice figure.  He’s visually interesting in both modes, partly from his nice coat of paint.  The transformation does some neat tricks.  The robot is pretty nicely pose able, he has some really good ankle tilt joints that aren’t even part of the transformation.  He’s definitely a good update for the old Jazz and pretty nice on his own.

Review – Transformers – Titans Return Overlord

Overlord may be slightly less familiar to a lot of people because he wasn’t a part of any major show continuity in the US. He was the big dog Decepticon in the Japanese series Super God Masterforce, and showed up a bit in some of the other Japanese only G1 shows. His other major role was as the protagonist in the popular IDW comic arc, The Last Stand of the Wreckers. In the original continuity he was a double Power Master. He had two Power Master figures who could slot into his chest behind the panels on his chest. In the Masterforce cartoon, these were Giga and Mega, a husband and Wife combo recruited by Devil Z to combat the Autobots. In the IDW books he was just a big tough guy. In this new iteration, he is a headmaster, like all of the Titans Return figures. He also only has one head, though the Japanese version includes two head options, representing Giga and Mega.

He does have his chest slot gimmick still however. Sort of.  The chest flaps open and have slots where you can stick Titan Masters.  Except the holes aren’t deep enough to allow the doors to close with the Titan Masters inside.  This is actually a real shame given the whole gimmick of the follow up line and it’s Prime Masters.  Having Overlord be able to “power up” with the Power of the Primes would have been a neat little play pattern to tie the two lines together.

The Titan Masters kind of look funny anyway, with their obvious faces and all.  Disappointing chest face gimmick aside, Overlord still has a few tricks up his sleeve.  Unlike a lot of Transformers, he eschews the standard one bot, one vehicle gimmick and splits into two vehicles, a Jet and a Tank.  Neither vehicle has an independent robot mode and both are somewhere between a deluxe and voyager in size individually.  The tank is pretty nice, but even without the need to hide a bunch of extra bulk that most jet Transformers suffer with, the jet is still kind of chunky and weird.

For a Leader class Transformers with two vehicles, the overall transformation is pretty simplistic.  He definitely falls into the category of “G1 with more articulation” in his design in that respect.  Considering Overlord isn’t one of those staple characters who gets a new look every few years, that’s probably for the best.  He fills the role of “Classics Overlord” pretty well.  Certainly better than the TFCC version we got a few years ago.  As much as I like the Bludgeon mold and that figure, he doesn’t work nearly as well as Overlord as the Titans Return figure.

In addition to his two vehicles, Overlord also turns into a pretty nice little base for Titan Masters.  This fulfills the line gimmick of the Leader toys becoming bases and homages back to G1 Overlord, who also became a base.  It’s works really well in this line too given the emphasis on the little Titan Master figures.

Overall, Overlord is just a nice solid toy.  His vehicles and base work well with the Titan Masters.  The robot itself is all around solid and nicely poseable.  He isn’t the most well known character, but he does look the part of being a big menacing bad guy, which is pretty much what he is trying to do.  I’d definitely recommend Overlord.

 

Review – Transformers – Studio Series Black Out

As sort of a last hurrah for the Michal Bay Transformers series, which is effectively done, Hasbro has been doing a sort of “greatest hits” line themed around the movies called Studio Series.  It’s not a bunch of re-releases though, it’s new molds of most of the figures, with an emphasis on Robot Mode Scale.  It’s also a way for Hasbro to give us better versions of a lot of characters who aren’t named Bumblebee or Optimus Prime.  Often in the case of movie toys, for the sake of spoilers, toy companies end up working from pre production art and general descriptions or stills.  They need to have the toys out when the movie releases, so they are working on the toys before the final movie vision is in place.  So in the end, things don’t always end up being a perfect representation.  Studio Series goes back to fix some of these issues.

The original Black Out toy from the first movie way back in 2007, isn’t really a bad toy, or a bad iteration of the character.  His main offense is that he’s kind of too small.  Black Out is one of the largest characters across all of the movies, and his Voyager toy isn’t awful, but it doesn’t really give off the proper huge vibes he deserves.  For Studio Series, Blackout gets a Leader sized toy.  The only other Leader Class figure so far is Grimlock from Age of Extinction.

He is definitely a nice size for Studio series at this scale, though he is actually quite a bit smaller than Leader figures from the Generations lines (Currently Power of the Primes) and even previous movie figures.  Leader Class Blackout is noticeably smaller than Leader Class Starscream from the previous movie lines, for example.  If you’re a real stickler for scale, Blackout is still going to be too small to go with a lot of the previous movie Transformers.

Blackout is still a pretty nice looking Transformer though.  He is full of the little greebley bits that really made the live action style what it was during the Bay era.  There are a surprising amount of little tab places on the fold over parts as well, particularly in his arms and shoulders.  The whole robot doesn’t really look solid, but it is.  I have had a little bit of trouble with one leg popping off the mushroom peg joint when turning it, it goes back on, but it’s kind of an issue.  All of the little bits hanging off everywhere also tend to hinder articulation a lot.  He has plenty of joints, but he can’t really use all of them.  He also is pretty back heavy due to his backpack, which doesn’t help when trying to balance any poses.  Probably the last major gripe about his little claw hands, which have no way or rotating them to do anything besides look like little flippers hanging off his arms.  He has thumbs and everything, but the greebles and lack of wrists just makes them useless.

One final note of worry on the robot mode, the flat part of the feet are made up of two panels that later make up the sides of the helicopter tail.  I seriously worry that these panels will end up scraped up and nasty looking after being used as feet, over time.

Transformation leans back into the complexity of the early movie lines as well, which will be a turn off for some people, and probably most kids.  There is a lot of “do this in this order” and “position this just right” going on with panels and whatnot that need to properly mush together.  It’s not a real hard transformation, it just can be tricky in getting everything massaged into place.  Also, I found the joint holding the pelvis and back together on mine to be extremely tight.  I knew it needed to separate and flip up, but it required enough force to free it that it made me uncomfortable pulling on it and I was worried it might break.

The helicopter itself is very nice, it’s appropriately large as well, almost 12 inches long.  Like his 2007 version, Blackout includes a small Scorponok figure and like the 2007 figure, the Scorponok can be inserted into the tail area of Blackout’s vehicle.  There isn’t really much else to the helicopter, there isn’t any spring loaded helicopter gimmick or missile launchers, it’s just a nice looking military chopper.

Ultimately, I feel like Blackout is a pretty cool sort of display piece, maybe not a super great toy.  He looks really good in both modes, but the joint issues and complex transformation make his playability kind of weak.  Also, the price tag of Leader class figures at $50 USD frankly.  This is more of a personal complaint with the latest trends of Transformers pricing though.

Review – Transformers – Titans Return – Topspin and Twintwist

Where Combiner Wars did it’s duty by giving us remakes of all of the original Combiner Transformers, it also used that opportunity to repaint all of those molds into different versions of the original G1 Autobots.  Titans Return has been moving into a lot more interesting territory.  There’s a lot more updates of Targetmasters, Movie bots and in this case, Jumpstarters.  Topspin and Twintwist were a pair of very similar G1 bots that had one specific gimmick.  Pull them back, and a motor would speed the vehicle along and eventually it would pop up and land on it’s robot feet.  The entire transformation was literally “fold in half at the waist”.

Topspin got sort of an update with the movie line, he appeared in Dark of the Moon as one of the Wreckers, as a blue Lowes NASCAR.  His toy even got a gray colored repaint that kind of worked as his buddy Twintwist.  This iteration had pretty much nothing in common with his namesake aside from a vaguely Blue and White color theme.  The original jumpstarters are more of a turquoise than a blue.

Titans Return has given us a proper update to this pair.  Topspin came first but Twintwist is a straight remold of the Topspin mold.   The new mold isn’t an exact replica of the original space ship/tank thingy, but it’s close enough, and the originals were kind of misshapen anyway to help accommodate the auto transform gimmick.  The transformation is also an actual transformation now, and naturally a lot more complicated.    It’s still reminiscent of the original.  The bulky back end becomes the legs with the sides becoming the arms and the end result looks pretty close to the original robot with better proportions as well.

Like a lot of Transformers lines, the later figures tend to be get better all around, and Topspin is no exception.  He’s definitely one of if not the best mold in the line.  The closest rival is Triggerhappy.  A lot is helped by the way his transformation does a good job of hiding a lot of the hollow bits that have been prevalent lately.  He also does a lot of interesting twists and flips that help him feel like he actually has a complex transformation.  Something else lacking in a lot of figures lately.  Particularly of note is his arms, which do this neat open up and collapse in on the shoulder and hand, often it’s a trick done on one end or the other, not both.

Both vehicles do a great job of lending itself to the Titan Master gimmick.  The space ship design is perfect for a cockpit for the small robot to sit in and pilot.  The little drill tank of Twintwist is a great vehicle for these little guys as well.  Neither was originally a Headmaster but the gimmick fits well.

Topspin and Twintwist are definitely a top notch toys for the Titans Return line.  Twintwist is slightly weaker than his mold originator Topspin.  The guns don’t work as well in the tank mold and the tank dreads kind of just hang off and look ugly in robot mode vs Topspin’s wings.  There’s been a lot of hits in this line but this mold one of the best.  It’s a solid update of a unique and interesting G1 design with a modern appeal layered on top.