Because I can't post about both War for Cybertron and Prime without the same ol' folks always flooding the same ol' stuff, let me quickly distract you with Amazon.com's Jetwing Prime. I really wanted him just for the safety-orange barrel tips, but not for the $100 he was originally listed at. But a few days ago Amazon did one of those "drop the price for an hour or two" specials and I got him for $25 off. Well worth it at that price. (They seem to have permanently dropped the price since then.) This guy's a monster. A monster with safety-orange barrel tips.
The packaging still uses photography of the original Japanese solid gray backpack-and-cannons version. It looks so boring compared to this.
So, you may be asking yourself, hey, webcartoonist guy, why would you buy a Reprolabels set that mostly enhances a fire truck that a) is a bitch to get the toy into and b) results in a winceworthy sea of unaligned panels when you make the attempt? Because I'm insane, that's why. And because in theory I like big accurate fire trucks that happen to transform into robots. And I really like that field of stripes that's now on the rear.
This thing had probably fifteen billion stickers, half of which were tiny millimeter-wide lights. It took me a while.
I've been realizing that in these past few months that, hey, I have toys of Soundwave in his briefly-appearing satellite form from Revenge of the Fallen, but I don't have one of him in his Earth mode in which he did stuff with other characters. The tiny Legends Class toy reached the United States, but not the two larger toys. I'd have to import them from Asia.
And so I did. I had to choose one over the other, and that took a bit of research and photo-staring. The "normal" DOTM Soundwave is likely considered the Deluxe Class toy, but it didn't come with a Laserbeak and would likely be smaller than I'd want versus most other characters. I don't want Bumblebee to tower over Soundwave, after all, and worse than that is having a Laserbeak be as big as he is. Placing Deluxe Laserbeak on Deluxe Soundwave's shoulder seems like it would be an impossibility.
On the other hand, the Human Alliance version of Soundwave, which comes with its own Laserbeak, might be too big! The biggest Megatron that came out for DOTM was the Voyager, and the Human Alliance toy would likely dwarf that toy in mass. Plus it costs more! And so I had to determine my priorities.
Eventually, I decided I prioritized Soundwave's scale versus Laserbeak and (secondarily) Bumblebee over his scale with Megatron. So Human Alliance it is! Plus, dudes, I have been seriously craving a McDreamy Dylan Gould toy. How can you say no to that. Since Transformers toys have been shrinking a little over the years, the Human Alliance version of Soundwave is actually not too badly scaled next to Deluxe Bumblebee. He's bigger than Bumblebee by a little bit, which is fine, because that's how I prefer my villains. (It probably helps that most of his mass goes to kibble behind his arms, which doesn't add to his height.) And, obviously, the Laserbeak he comes with isn't too big for him. Laserbeak clips to his forearm or can transform into a hilarious missile-launching vehicle for McDreamy to ride.
Soundwave himself is... intimidating. If you don't like complicated toys, stay far away from him. He's a bit of a mess. Just orchestrating the layers of car parts on the backs of his arms is work enough. He's seriously a chore to transform. It's not that there's any terrible parts, it's just that there's so damn much of it. Fortunately, he looks nice in both modes. And I'm amazed at how efficient his... leg transformation is? The entirety of both his legs fit into his rear bumper. They unfold out of an area the size of a Chicken McNugget. His legs are admittedly stumpy, but I recall DOTM Soundwave's robot mode was pretty gorilla-like in proportion anyhow, so.
At some point retailers were all, yeah, okay, we get it, there's lots of Transformers toys. Turns out we like them, we just don't like-like them. And so Wheeljack/Que's wave never came out in the United States. And a bunch of other stuff. But Asia got them! And so, after the fact, I got a Wheeljack/Que sent from Asia for myself and Graham, doubled up to save on shipping.
(Man, how bad is "Que" as a name? It's like Michael Bay just flat-out plagiarizes a James Bond character, but then they realize, uh, I don't think we can call him that, for real, so why don't we... spell it badly...?)
Wheeljack is your typical movie-style Transformer. He's all panels and greebles. He's not too counter-intuitive to transform, though, and the only thing that bugs me about him is how the bright blue parts on the front of his shins like to pop off at a moment's notice. Also, his legs are shades of TFPrime Vehicon, since they're formed from the entire roof. (But not the hood.) I was afraid he was gonna be a monster to get back into car mode, but he wasn't too bad.
He comes with a MechTech weapon, same as the other DOTM Deluxes. It's a saw! A saw with a bipid, and he can carry it like a Ghostbuster containment unit. Kinda sweet. He also comes with three clip-on weapons. These do not store in vehicle mode. They do clip onto him kind of awkwardly in robot mode, like he's got extra limbs on his ribcage which happen to be blowtorches. But Wheeljack's supposed to be a gadgety guy, so it makes sense. (I have to say, a spear is pretty much the least Wheeljack-esque weapon ever.)
SPOILERS: He's dead. And so it feels weird to buy a guy who's already offed. But then I catch myself, and realize, hey, that's the situation with everyone in that movie. And the new guy who lived, Mirage, doesn't get a toy, 'cuz Ferrari hates you.
If you're only paying attention to the movies, Megatron's Evil Scheme Flowchart gots lots of holes and makes little sense. But if you follow the fifty million movie-based novels and comic series, it's put together somewhat reasonably. (Mostly thanks to John Barber, who is kind of awesome.) If you want to see how Megatron's Evil Scheme Flowchart works in the "expanded universe," TFWiki.net's "Movie timeline" page puts everything into amazing detail. Chris McFeely put it together (and continues to maintain it) and it was so awesome that it was last month's Featured Article.
But, yeah, going only by the movies themselves, it's kind of a mess.
EDIT: Okay, I thought I could get away with just posting this here without a huge disclaimer that I'm not saying this "fixes" the movie, or that people should be required to know this stuff or whatever bullshit like that. I just thought it was interesting supplementary material. Additional reading, were one to be so inclined.
I think a lot of friggin' stupid things, apparently.
There will be some really minor spoilers in this review.
And watch me frontload them: Laserbeak was a surprise for me in Dark of the Moon. Not that he'd be in it, but rather that I'd enjoy him so much. I'm not super big on Laserbeak usually. I'm a Buzzsaw fanboy. But, well, when Laserbeak talked, I got like the hugest boner. Early Marvel Comics-style talking Recordicons represent! And all his dialog fleshed out Laserbeak as a character in his own right, rather than "that guy hanging out on Soundwave's arm," for maybe like the first time in ever. What an enjoyably creepy friggin' dude. Man, if only Ravage had gotten to talk.
Second minor spoiler: Laserbeak transforms into basically anything electronic and small in the movie. A laptop, a television set, a photocopier... But this is definitely not the case for his Deluxe class toy. No, just like last movie's Ravage toy, Laserbeak has a beast mode and a... well, what the hell else can we make this thing? mode. Laserbeak's toy altmode is a jet. It's not a terribly good jet. In fact, it's just a terrible jet. I'm not sure why anybody would want the toy in this mode ever. Which is just as well, since I like the bird mode a lot. It's a pretty good likeness, plus he's articulated all to hell, with multiple joints in his neck and tail, hinges and rotational places on his wings, and slightly useful joints in his somewhat oversized legs. And his mouth can open! Because, y'know, he can talk.
He comes with two MechTech cannons. If you shove one into the ass of the other, the barrel of the "catcher" swings around to become a differently-shaped barrel. Also, now the gun is twice as long, what with it being two guns. Interesting, but meh!
Man, it's been forever since I've bought a movie character and liked the toy MORE after seeing the film!
As this is still opening weekend, this is intended to be a spoiler-free toy review. If you wanna go talk the plot points of the movie, go find the movie review blog post.
(Also, we're upgrading TFWiki's software today, so that solitary link below will be up and down throughout the day.)
I woulda had this review a little sooner, but I've been waiting on my newer, larger photo studio tent to arrive via the mail so I could get a shot of both Leader Class Prime and Ironhide together. Woulda been pretty impossible inside my old one, but my new 2 foot squared space is luxurious enough to fit both. Sweetness! Once we get moved this month, it'll be even better, 'cuz I hopefully won't have my studio lights trying to shine through the legs of the table the studio currently hasta fit underneath.
I've been hoping for a larger Ironhide since the first film. The Voyager was... okayish, but though he was the same size class as my Ratchet, he was shorter than Ratchet, which just does not do. Ironhide is bigger than Ratchet! He's also smaller than Prime, so the best possible solution would be an Ironhide at Ultra Class scale. However, that's kind of a dead size class, so it's not likely to happen. So here Ironhide is at Leader Class scale, same as Prime and Megatron and Starscream. It's technically a little too big, but I prefer it to him being too small.
Make no mistake, Ironhide's Topkick 4x4 mode in real life is HUGE. It is basically the size of a semi truck. It's one of THOSE kind of vehicles, the kind no one in their right mind should need to own. And so it's no big deal that he's almost as big as Optimus while in their truck modes. In fact, it makes me feel a little happy inside. Yay! Approximate scale! In robot mode, Ironhide's about a head shorter than Optimus. Which is too tall, but you can fake Ironhide a little shorter by squatting him.
Though this gets into one of Ironhide's most glaring faults, depending on how you feel about toys. Ironhide definitely skews to the more toy-y side of the spectrum, rather than the movie-accurate-model side of the spectrum. He's full of gimmicks all over. Unfortunately, these gimmicks hinder his poseability pretty substantially. His knees, for example... one leg bends pretty well, but the other has no practical knee at all, despite having the jointing there, because of one of the pop-out weapons in his shin. His head also doesn't turn, since that would make his flip-down-mouthplate gimmick impossible.
On the other hand, if you like toys that do an insane number of things, you're in luck. Like I said, his legs are full of things. One opens to reveal a knife that he can remove and carry around in his hand. The other opens up into a missile launcher, which automatically turns and faces forward as you open the leg hatch. This missile launcher can also be removed. On each of his arms is a pop-out weapon. Just pull back the truck mode's smokestacks and these guns reveal themselves out of his arms. Again, the gimmickry of it all was given precedence over visual accuracy, and Ironhide has some very undersized forearm cannons as a result. In the film they're a third of his mass.
But wait, there's more! When you push down a lever on the back of Ironhide's shoulders, panels move out of the way of his stomach and a chaingun pops out of his tummy, spinning, flashing, and making machine gun noises. Oh hell yeah! And finally, the neck-inhibiting gimmick of popping down his faceplate. When this happens, he says "IRONHIDE IS HERE" and his eyes flash.
My, Ironhide certainly is full of things.
The transformation is complicated, but not Sentinel Prime complicated. The only real snag is forcing panels together. And that's not a lining-up issue, but an excessive force snap-together issue. Oh, and his truck hood kibble halves pop off their balljoints like crazy. They fasten securely in both modes, but it's during the journey between those modes that they're bound to detach.
In summary, Ironhide is a huge awesome truck that has pop-out guns. He transforms into a huge awesome robot that has pop-out guns, missile launchers, knives, chainguns, and has flashing lights and sounds. He's not as poseable as most modern toys, and his screen accuracy is inhibited by much of his awesomeness. Weigh your priorities before purchasing.
Hey, look, I think I figured out how to put most of my text in a blogpost behind a clicky-wall of some sort. This is strange and new technology to me! And if I didn't figure it out, then, uh, I'd better figure it out and fix it really quick before I ruin somebody's life FOREVER with details of a Michael Bay movie. (Update: The clickywall works when viewed from the frontpage, but if through a direct link you see everything. If you came here through a direct link, you are duly warned.)
But first a tiny review, for those who want my general feeling but not the whole deal. I liked it. And even better, I still liked it after watching it a second time, so it's at least better than Revenge of the Fallen in that fashion. But then, the second time was the first time I watched it sober, so.... Dark of the Moon is the movie the second movie should have been, expanding the Transformers mythos and raising the stakes in a setting that we care about and with a human story that's not tedious to try relate to. There's no robots humping, no dogs humping, no robot testicles, no dog ... testicles. And while I really liked Sam's story, it was nice that Optimus Prime had a lot of time to shine, too. I feel like this was the first movie where he was a character. Which is not TOO surprising, since, y'know, he was only introduced halfway through the first movie and he was dead throughout most of the second.
(Oh, and you should watch it in 3D if that sort of stuff doesn't bother your head. It's pretty damn spectacular.)
ON TO THE SPOILERS. My aim isn't TO spoil, but to give a better analysis of how I felt about the movie. So it's not gonna be a whole spread or anything, but I will drop plotpoints when it helps me explain things.
Why is Revenge of the Fallen the black sheep of the trilogy? This is my take: Sam needs a solid story. Sam's story always helps give a backbone to the movie. In the first movie, the whole theme is "a boy and his first car." And that really worked! Who the hell hasn't been a teenager? And, look, I like Shia LaBeouf. I think he's charismatic and I think he's funny and I like to watch him scramble his way through adversity. And the first movie was a great vehicle (so to speak) for that.
But Revenge of the Fallen, which was "written" during the writer's strike, sort of dropped the ball. You can almost see the movie's Sam story in bits and pieces, but it was really lost through the huge onslaught of random junk Bay was throwing together before he even had a script in his hand. I think it was supposed to be "Sam becomes his own man apart from his parents," which is sort of hinted at in the opening scenes where his parents lose their shit when he's off to college, and followed up just once more towards the end when he tells his parents to go and hide, he's got this. It's just a little taste of an arc, and it's really lost in the big soup of the rest of the movie.
That, and like 45 whole minutes of the movie is Sam running through the desert with a sock full of sand.
Thankfully, Dark of the Moon turns that around. The Sam story is very strong here. Sam is frustrated. He saved the world twice and yet he can't acknowledge it. He can't get a job. He feels inadequate next to his awesomely hot girlfriend who's entirely too good for his unemployed ass. He used to be important, and now he's not. He doesn't even get to live with Bumblebee anymore. Instead, he has this surrogate clunker car that's yellow with black stripes. You can feel how small he feels he's become. And that's a lot like growing up, realizing that you're not so important in the grand scheme of things. Being young and new was pretty sweet, wasn't it? Don't we love nostalgia?
It's fun and satisfying to to me to see Sam's very angry frustration. There's parts where he's at the breaking point, kicking the fuck outta his loser car that isn't Bumblebee while his hot girlfriend's equally hot boss who is super rich and hands out cars like lollipops seems to be taking her away from him. Even the government laughs at him when he reminds him he saved the friggin' world twice. "Yeah, that was nice, but you got lucky." But what sells it is that Sam never gives up. He kind of goes on a tantrum, but he never stops trying to prove himself. And so it's really hard not to root for him, goofball that he is. And when he finally gets the validation he deserves, leaping through windows onto named Decepticons to take them down like the seasoned warrior he's growing into, it's amazingly satisfying.
That's the huge reason I think Dark of the Moon works, above and beyond Revenge of the Fallen. Sam is the backbone. Without the backbone, you just have a laundry list of scenes.
Not that this movie's without its robots. I think there might be a total of like fifteen minutes of shots without robots somewhere in them, out of two and a half hours of footage. It's nice to finally get the "full" Decepticon cast of main dudes, with Shockwave finally showing up, along with Laserbeak and a grounded Soundwave. (Not that Shockwave does much. He's... kind of a red herring villain, only promoted as the main bad guy because the real bad guy's a surprise.) And it's nice to get a bunch of new Autobots, expecially ones which aren't there solely to be comic relief. Not that they're humorless, of course. Look, I'm just saying there's nobody else like the hated Twins. Mirage/Dino/whoever is a really fun character, if only because his Italian accent helps him to endear to you quickly. Que/Wheeljack gets less time spent on him, but he too got more than Sideswipe's paper-thin introduction in Movie 2.
The Autobots also feel more vulnerable. There are important casualties. (The Twins would have been among them, before they were removed almost entirely from the movie.) Revenge of the Fallen didn't really kill anybody important, not counting the basically immortal Optimus Prime who was resurrected at the end. There wasn't any real feeling of danger in ROTF, but there is in DOTM. Anybody can die. And most do. Graphically.
The robot plot is basically a love letter to the original Transformers cartoon. It combines both the "human traitor, Autobots forced to leave Earth via spaceship" plot of "Megatron's Master Plan" and the "Decepticons want to bring Cybertron to Earth" plot of "The Ultimate Doom." Oh, and at one point, Megatron removes the Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial and sits in his friggin' chair, which is a hilarious scene right out of "Atlantis, Arise!". This movie is the G1 cartooniest ever.
The movie's not without its faults, of course. It's a friggin' Michael Bay movie. And as such, right on cue, the movie feels a little bloated in the final act. Remember the Sam With Sock scene I tend to mention that feels like it goes on forever and maybe could have been snipped? Its counterpart in Dark of the Moon is the whole toppling skyscraper scene, the one featured heavily in the trailers. That part probably could have just been removed entirely without affecting much, and the pacing would have benefited greatly from it. But at least it's much more visually dynamic than the Sam Carrying The Sock scene, which was, yeah, ducking into buildings and running across the desert for what felt like an eternity. At least the toppling skyscraper takes us into more interesting visuals and dynamics, looping us in and out of windows and floors as the set rotates like a live-action Mario Galaxy level. It would have been an amazing centerpiece for any other film, but here it's just bloated surplus.
God damn is this film dark and violent. While the inappropriate sexual humor is mostly gone (a line or two from Sam's mom being the sole exception), it's still kind of not a movie for younger kids. I am serious, we see humans die in great number, their parts scattered to the pavement every which way, skulls bouncing at you in 3D. The robots don't fare any better. If there were a Mortal Kombat Fatality scorecard, Dark of the Moon would check them all off.
(You gotta wonder how durable these Transformers really are, when it's just so easy to rip a dude's head off, spine-in-tow, Sub-Zero-style. Seriously, very little effort, only determination needed. The Transformers civil war shoulda been over with in fifteen minutes four million years ago.)
And Optimus Prime, the master of the brutal take-down, feels suitably horrified at the end, tossing down his weapon in disgust. It's been a bad two-and-a-half hours for him. He'd had all he can stands and he can't stands no more. And yet, though justified in his violence, you can feel for his tiredness of all of it.
So, in summary: Good movie to see in 3D. Lots of sparklies. Strong enough story to justify the sparklies. Shares some faults with Revenge of the Fallen, but stronger where it counts. Stakes are higher, character is stronger, action is stronger, and a lot of the more "cheap" humor is gone. I feel like the movie was actually written, rather than a collection of scenes. I recommend it, so long as you know what you're getting into.
Look, I really have no idea why I picked this guy up. Of all of my Dark of the Moon streetdate purchases, this is probably the one I can least rationalize. Barricade's not in a new body. Barricade hasn't even been seen since the first film, even though they cut out his death so he could show up in the second one. And there's been no inclination he's showing up in the third, either. Plus I have a Barricade! And that Barricade comes with friggin' Frenzy! This Barricade comes with a stupid oversized gun/claw.
But... new Deluxe Class Barricade!
And so he was added to the pile. There are aspects of him that I really like. For example, I like that he's Barricade. Police cars are awesome. I like that he's got his stumpy legs and long-ass arms. I like that this one's head can turn. I like that Frenzy's absence means the innards of his chest can be dedicated to other things, even if not having Frenzy is lame. Instead of having the hood try to compress into his robot mode chest, there's just a bit of detail at the front that flips around on a barrel, Battle Armor He-Man style.
What I don't like is his friggin' feet. They're on reeeeally shallow hinges, so if you push his ankles just a millimeter the wrong direction, they pop right out. This happens constantly, and it happens even more when you're trying to figure out his leg positioning. It's kind of really stupid.
And less stupid, but still sort of annoying, is how his feet get shoved into the middle of him on the way back into car mode. It's a very very tight fit. Excessive force may be required.
And even less stupid, and mostly ignorable, is how his MechTech weapon doesn't fit very well into his hand. His hand is articulated at the palm, so it's rough to get the palm to securely hold onto the 5mm peg. Also, the MechTech weapon is kind of dumb (a claw), but that's why this is mostly ignorable.
That sounds like a lot of negatives versus the positives, but it's harder to enumerate the ways that he looks pretty cool. And he's Barricade.
I was just about to open with something about how all of Sideswipe's toys seem to be pretty awesome, but then I remembered the Human Alliance version. Clearly my intended assertion is not true. But still, a pretty good percentage of movie Sideswipe toys are pretty awesome! I really liked the Revenge of the Fallen Deluxe Class toy, I don't own Sidearm Sideswipe, but I hear he's pretty good, and I like this new Dark of the Moon version of Sideswipe as well.
One of the reasons I picked him up is that he's in a new body this go-round. Well, his robot mode might not be any different, but now he's (as I understand) the actual production version of the new Corvette Stingray, rather than just the concept. And he's a convertible! The convertibleness is probably one of the reasons why I'm so smitten with this new form. Since he's got no roof, he's got something approximating a detailed interior. He's got seats, a dashboard, a steering wheel... all really cool things that add visual interest. Not many Transformers cars are convertibles.
What Sideswipe doesn't have, though, are floorboards. You can look right through him from the top, peeking at the ground in between his seats. He's a Flintstones car! This tickles me.
Unlike the previous movie Sideswipes, this one doesn't have a silver paint job. That's kind of disappointing. Instead, he's a flat matte French gray-ish thing. Not a dealbreaker, but it's something he's lost from his older iterations.
Sideswipe is known for his giant arm-mounted blades. You know, the ones with which he cut Sideways in two! Poor Sideways. And because two arm-mounted blades that can easily bisect any Decepticon just isn't enough, his MechTech cannon also auto-converts into yet another blade that he can carry around in his hand.