By Josh Hechinger
June 24, 2009 - 19:06
If Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has done its job correctly, there’s a good chance you and/or your children will come out of the theater with the urge to buy some plastic transforming robots.
Which is fine, until you realize that the robots you saw on the big screen range from roughly $12 to $40 in stores, and come in a variety of sizes and levels of complexity, from the intuitively simple to something resembling a Rubix cube of arms, legs, and plastic-rocket-firing cannons.
Collecting a full set of Transformers has always been an expensive prospect, but in this economy, it’s not always feasible to spend $80 on the respective leaders of the Autobots and Decepticons alone.
As an alternative means of scratching that Transformers itch, consider the Legends class of figures. They’re the smallest Transformers, and (for better or worse) they offer no flashing lights or firing missiles.
(Or, for that matter, finely detailed paintjobs and a full range of articulation.)
But at a reasonably priced $4.99 each, they offer the best amount of transforming robot fun for your dollar. Indeed, their paint applications and articulation, while limited, are still arguably better than the original, bricklike Transformers of the 80s. And at an average of 2 ½ inches each, you can assemble a small army of them without taking up much more than a shoebox’s worth of space.
The first wave of Revenge of the Fallen Legends contains the Autobots Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Springer, and Ratchet, as well as the Decepticons Starscream and Jetfire.
Autobot leader Optimus Prime sports a new sculpt, a radical update from the rather stunted Legends class Optimus released for the first movie. As per the movie version of the character, his vehicle mode is a long-cab truck with no trailer attached.
To transform, Optimus bisects his engine and hitch to form his legs and arms, respectively, while the cab flips around to become his trademarked windshield pectorals as the top of the cab flips back to reveal his head.
The result is a roughly three-inch-tall, powerful-looking Optimus who stands almost a head taller than most of the other Legends in proper Optimus-y fashion. In robot mode, Optimus features ball joints at the shoulders and hips, as well as hinge joints at the elbows and ankles; he’s articulated and sturdy enough to strike a Superman-like fists-on-hips pose.
Another returning character with a new and improved sculpt is kid-favorite Bumblebee, who remains a yellow Camaro, but transforms into a robot who no longer appears to have come out of being squeezed in a vice like the initial movie Legend. Instead, Bumblebee now has ball-jointed arms that don’t conflict with his wing-like back panels, as well as ball joints for his hips, and a larger, more expressive head. His paint applications are still very sparse, leaving the figure predominantly yellow, albeit with a more detailed grill.
Bumblebee’s transformation from robot to car remains largely unchanged from the first movie Legend, although the redesign of the figure makes it feel more streamlined. The back half of the car splits into the legs, with the thighs sliding out of the sheath-like boots. The sides of the car pop outwards to form the arms, and the hood and windows flip down to form the chest and reveal Bumblebee’s head.
The only minor flaw with the improved sculpt is that the new Bumblebee comes across as larger and bulkier, when the character has traditionally been one of the smaller Transformers.
Speaking of tradition, Springer has generally been depicted as one of three Autobot Triple Changers and the leader of the elite Autobot strike team The Wreckers. In his film debut, he’s a twin-engine helicopter that transforms into a grasshopper-esque robot with propeller hands. Not entirely a bad change, really.
It’s a simple transformation: the back half of the copter splits to become the legs, the wings fold down to become the arms, and the cockpit folds over twice (first the entire thing, then just the very tip) to become Spinger’s torso. Springer is primarily olive green and dark gray, with some black, blue, and orange detailing. The overall impression is a cross between a robot, a helicopter, a grasshopper, and Halo’s Master Chief.
Unfortunately, Springer has the worst articulation of the wave. His legs have ball joints at the hips, but are limited in their range by his overhanging torso. Springer’s arms only flap outwards at the shoulder and sport a simple hinge at the elbow that only allows for 45 degrees of movement.
The last Autobot of the wave, the physician (or would it be “mechanic”?) Ratchet is not a new sculpt, just a repaint of the previous Legends figure in a bland tan and maroon. It’s possibly worth picking up if you’re a Ratchet enthusiast, or if you missed out on the first two Ratchet figures (the fluorescent green or Generation One inspired white and red models), but otherwise nothing special.
On the other hand, the repainted Starscream is actually an improvement over the previous figure. The sculpt remains the same, but the Decepticon backstabber has traded his bland dull gold and silver for a skeletal light tan with white highlights and charcoal Cybertronian markings. The end result is a Starscream that looks both more movie accurate and more sinister, a hulking skeletal beast of a tiny robot figure.
In a strange bit of accidental pop-culture cross pollination, Jetfire’s vehicle mode is a Blackbird jet, perhaps better known for flying the classic X-Men teams around from fight to fight. The wings and turbines unfold and connect to become the robot’s legs, while the underside of the plane becomes ball-jointed arms on either side of the back of the plane, which features Jetfire’s face. Finally, the long body of the plane folds down, giving the figure additional support.
Jetfire easily has the most personality of the Legends figures’ sculpts. He has squat chicken legs that give him a bowlegged hunch, and lanky metal arms, one of which has a cane made out of landing gear. Jetfire’s face features squinted red eyes and a grill over the lower half that looks like either a knight’s facemask or a metal beard. The body of the plane drags behind him like coattails, further supported by his predominantly black paintjob. The overall impression is that he’s a cranky robot grandpa in black formal wear.
Additionally, for reasons doubtless to be revealed in the movie, Jetfire’s vehicle mode plugs into a hole in the back of Optimus Prime’s robot mode, essentially turning Jetfire into an impossibly large jetpack.
Remember that, when you come out of the movie theater with an ache for toys: for a mere $10, you can have a truck that turns into a robot that wears another robot as a jetpack. Overall, the Legends figures so far represent a satisfying, cost-efficient start to a Transformers collection that can only be improved as additional waves round out the movie’s cast of characters.