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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Numbat's Review: Starscream

Name: Starscream
Allegiance: Decepticon
Subgroup: Hunt for the Decepticons Leader Class

Optimus Prime may think him a coward, but Starscream never flees a fight out of fear alone. Every retreat is calculated to keep him alive long enough to return and destroy his opponents with overwhelming power. As long as the Autobots seek him in force, he will remain hidden. As soon as Optimus Prime ventures out alone, however, Starscream will strike.

Starscream is surely a character that needs no introduction...

But I’ll give him one anyway.

Starscream is one of the original Decepticons, with the character dating back to the first series of G1. He has since appeared in most subsequent lines in some form or another.

G1 Starscream was the first Decepticon I ever owned as a child. As such, his character has always held a special place for me, up there with Bumblebee (my first Autobot). Despite this, I have never owned any of the Movieverse Starscreams larger than the Legends Class. The reason for this is not distaste for the Bayformer Starscream design. I actually really like it! The trouble is, HasTak had not produced a decent figure based on this design: Movie 2007 Voyager Starscream was atrocious (and massively bulky!), while Revenge of the Fallen (ROTF) Voyager Starscream seemed rather spindly and flattened (ironically).

However, when the first images of the Leader Class Starscream prototype surfaced way back in 2009, I instantly knew that I would own that figure – this was the Starscream for me. Even if it were the last Transformer I ever bought (which, given my domestics was more than likely), I would own it. ‘It will be mine’ – Wayne’s World styllee...

Roll on 2010, and while walking back from a meeting in Glasgow, killing time, I walked into Forbidden Planet, and there Starscream was – and, remarkably, he was a reasonable price (terribly unusual for FP stores...).

There really was no decision. No consideration required. The figure looked as good in real life as it did in the photos.

How does he measure up out of the box? Read on!

Alternate Mode:

Starscream was originally an F-15 Eagle fighter jet, and the upgrade to the contemporary F-22 Raptor as seen in the live-action movies seems very appropriate – to me at least. Certainly, it is one of the less radical alternate mode revamps of any character in the series.

Starscream measures 11 ½” (29cm) from nose to tail, and has an 8 ½” (21.5cm) wingspan. This puts Starscream’s raptor mode in at around 1/65 or 1/62 scale depending on which measurement you use, indicating that the mode does have slightly warped proportions. However, this is hardly surprising at such a small scale (smaller than, say, a Deluxe Autobot car for instance, which tend to be twice as big, in scale terms). In fact, this scale allows him to be displayed well alongside Legends Class Autobot cars or Movie 2007 Deluxe Brawl - jets are big!

The mould is highly detailed, with high-tech panels abound. Each wing also holds a single wrought-iron missile.

All in all, Starscream’s Raptor mode would make a superb disguise... were it not for the intricate Cybertronian tattoos decorating the fighter mode, as seen in the ROTF design. When I first saw the revamped Starscream design for ROTF, I thought it was either a hoax, or a very bad idea. After all, why on Earth would a Transformer retain a human machine alternate mode, but give up any possibility of its use as a disguise? But, it dawned upon me that a pompous megalomaniac full of self-love and a full and unadulterated belief in their ultimate superiority would gain great pleasure in flaunting this before his enemies. Who fits this description better than Starscream? In fact – what description fits Starscream better? Thankfully, this is bolstered by the superb characterization of Starscream in the film itself. Of course, Starscream’s ego is matched only by his supreme cowardice (or instinct for self preservation) – but nobody will defeat Starscream, because he is the fastest Transformer out there, and will be gone before any Autobot (or Decepticon) ever gets a chance to cause serious damage.

So, I am a convert to Starscream’s ROTF self-styled ‘Leader of the Decepticon Earth army’ design, and am now amongst its strongest proponents.

This design is carried through very well on this Leader Class figure, with the tattoos picked out mainly in black, with the odd white streak, on a gunmetal grey background. The tattoos all match between the many different panels which shift during the transformation, and there is no paint splatter on my figure at all.

There is a Decepticon symbol on one wing (again in black), with a Cybertronian glyph occupying the same position on the opposite wing. There is a smaller Decepticon symbol, this time in the traditional purple, just behind the left-hand side of the cockpit.

A tiny, and almost insignificant oversight to the upper-side of the Raptor mode is the hinge in the centre moulded in jet-black plastic, rather than gunmetal grey. But this is really very minor – I’m just being a perfectionist.

The cockpit itself is moulded in transparent orange plastic, adding a flash of colour, and harking back to G1 (more-so in robot mode). This plastic is also used for the intakes, under the cockpit. All of these transparent parts light up red when the electronics are activated.

Bronze/gold picks out some panels around the afterburners, while the underside reveal more of a hodgepodge of metallic colours, with some black panels as well. The underside is less well disguised as the top of the jet, as is generally the case with any Transformer toy with a plane alternate mode. However, Leader Starscream does a better job than any other fighter jet transformer I have ever seen. If you have Starscream displayed, the sides of the Raptor maintain the streamlined design fairly well, particularly at the front, and are unlikely to cause any raised eyebrows from visitors peering in at your display (although the tattoos will result in questions – Starscream will not pass off as a model plane!). If you turn the plane upside down, though, you see most of the legs, his arm cannon stored inbetween, and his crotch at the end of the plane (by far the most obvious – it’s basically a random block!).

However, the designers really have done their best – the live action Movie version of Starscream is a remarkably difficult design to bring to life as a toy. A high-tech streamlined fighter that transforms into a huge, hulking robot warrior – no mean feat! Hats off to them for managing something so nearly perfect, which looks fantastic on display (provided you don’t hang it from your ceiling).

Of course, the description wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that Starscream has retractable landing gear, all with rolling wheels.

Finally, by pressing the purple Deception insignia, you activate the electronics. This entails red lights, as described above, as well as sounds, which alternate between engine roar and ‘No-one can defeat Starscream’. I really can’t get enough of the latter!

So, all in all I’d say this is the best plane mode any Transformer has ever had. Which is a very good start...


Robot Mode:

As I personally love figuring out a Transformer’s transformations myself, I won’t spoil Starscream for those who share my eccentricity. I love a good puzzle, but abhor needlessly complex transformations. Starscream delivers a totally unique transformation, that is fairly intuitive and utterly perfect. It’s so much fun, and reminds me of a simple but effective origami model. The only issue I have had with the transformation, is that the top panel on the plane that hides Starscream’s head is extremely stiff, and has no latch to help prise it open. Therefore, I have had to use the blunt end of the missiles to push that open when transforming to robot (it does not interfere with the robot to plane transformation). This may just be a problem limited to just a few figures, or it may be more widespread. However, it’s a quality control issue, and not a design flaw.

In robot mode, Starscream totally looks the part – this toy is the perfect representation of the Movie character. He’s big, bulky and very imposing, standing 10” (25.5cm) tall. The redistribution of panels is fantastic, and really does carry through the impression of origami. Moulded detail is phenomenal – I am continually noticing new intricacies.

Gunmetal grey is still the dominant colour of the robot mode, but a number of additional metallic colours come into play more. There is a darker grey (mostly on the chest/shoulders), bronze (upper arms, neck and lower legs) and a wrought-iron colour on the lower arms, upper legs and feet. Flashes of red denote three of the feature tabs (one on chest, and the others on the lower arms).

Cybertonian tattoos are distributed around the body, picked out in black, and look really cool. These designs make Starscream one of the most interesting movieverse Decepticons, setting him apart from the army of grey robots. It is a huge improvement over his more mundane design from the first film. The tattoos on the tail fins of the jet, which rise above his Starscream’s shoulders (in a similar way as the wings did on G1 Starscream) are clearly an homage to G1 Starscream’s wing pattern – something I had not noticed before, and is totally awesome!

The cockpit is transparent orange – again, a welcome homage to G1 Starscream.

The head is extremely detailed – going beyond any other ROTF figure I own (bar Battle Ops Bumblebee, which is considerably larger). The head is mostly gunmetal grey, with areas around the nose and chin picked out in gold. The black tattoos continue on the face, above the traditional red Decepticon eyes.

Black plastic armour plates with silver tattoos hide Starscream’s arm weapons, which are deployed by pulling the red tabs on the undersides of his forearms. The left arm holds two rockets, while the right reveals a gatling gun. I can’t express how much I love these features – it’s so much fun flipping out these weapons!

Of course, you can fold Starscream’s hands away, and attach his more massive missile launcher. This looks fantastic as well – reproducing the movie design well. While , Starscream’s arm actually transforms into this weapon in the film, that is well beyond the possibilities of any toy – the CGI model is far more complex than can be represented in a figure, and the transformation does take liberties that a solid object can’t. The missile launcher and missiles can be stored out of sight on Starscream’s back – a very welcome feature.

By pulling the red tab on Starscream’s chest, you can activate his Mech-Alive features (moving chest plates and mouth), and electronics. His eyes and chest light up red, while he says one of two phrases – ‘No-one can defeat Starscream,’ or ‘Decepticons will crush the Autobots.’ Far superior to any other Leader Class figure I have, as Megatron and Optimus Prime just seem to repeat their own names! I have to say, I love the phrases – they are so Starscream! They put a smile on my face, and thus Leader Starscream is the only figure with electronic sounds where I have left the batteries in.

As a bonus, by pressing the button on Starscream’s right shoulder (marked with a Decepticon symbol), you are treated to the G1 transformation sound, while pressing the button behind his left shoulder (also marked with a Decepticon symbol) activates either jet sounds or that most excellent sound-bite – ‘No-one can defeat Starscream!’

Starscream is highly poseable, with fully 21 meaningful points of articulation! In addition, his hands are poseable (including three points if finger articulation, as well as wrist hinge), as are his toes! There are many more less important points of articulation to help get that pose just right. Unfortunately, his transformation does mean he lacks waist articulation – but it’s not really any hindrance to awesome poses!

I seriously can’t get over the amazing job the designers have done on Starscream’s arms. They are so complex and perfectly designed, it’s unreal. There are so many additional movable parts that are linked to movements of the main points of articulation, and they look, well, phenomenal!

There are only two minor negatives to the robot mode. The first is that the waist does not lock, leaving a degree of give. The second is that the leg joints are a little loose (again, this may be a quality control issue for just a few figures, or may be more widespread). Both issues can effect poseability for display, but neither interferes significantly. I am concerned, however, that in time the joints may become loose enough to cause more problems more consistently.

While there seems to be much controversy over the release of this mould as part of Takara’s Masterpiece series, with suggestions that it degrades the line, I personally have no difficulty in understanding this decision. This figure goes beyond any other mainstream Leader Class mould, and easily merits a release in this high quality line. The designers pulled out all the stops with the mould, and a high quality production would be perfectly at home in the Masterpiece series. However, the choice to release Starscream in his 2007 Movie colours ultimately led to me choosing the Hasbro HFTD version, rather than the high end Masterpiece release. I far prefer Starscream’s ROTF tattooed design, but others will disagree, in which case the Takara release may be the option for you.

Overall, Leader Class Starscream is a thing of beauty. He has surpassed my expectations, and become my favourite Transformer.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 10 – Transforming Starscream is like creating an interesting and intuitive origami model. It’s not overly complex, but it is unique.
Durability: 7 – While Starscream seems solid, the issues surrounding the transformation from plane to robot give me cause for concern…
Fun: 10 – More fun than monkeys! Seriously! I really can’t see myself getting bored of this figure ever!
Aesthetics: 10 – My eyes are bleeding. This figure is perfect. In either mode, I can’t get enough of him. This is the perfect representation of Movieverse Starscream, and that means there is plenty detail to enjoy looking at!
Articulation: 8 – This figure does have fantastic articulation, with fantastic small parts that can be moved to give the desired pose. However, the lack of waist articulation and rotating wrists is a little limiting. In addition the robot mode is quite top-heavy, balance is skewed a little more than necessary, which is exacerbated as the nose of the jet is not secured. However, these are minor issues in a figure with a huge amount of articulation, which displays very very very well!
Value/Price: 9 – While £39.99 is a high price, it is a decent one for this figure. It’s pretty much a bargain. This is a masterpiece, at mainstream price. You’d be daft not to grab it!
Overall: 9 – Leader Class Starscream is an awesome figure. For me, it’s easily the ultimate Starscream, and has become my favourite Transformer (although there is some close competition). The achievement of the designers is mindblowing. All the stops have been pulled for this one. If you don’t like the Movie designs, this won’t be for you. However, if you are in to the Movie designs, you’ll regret not picking this figure up in one of it’s incarnations. And you have the choice – if you prefer the drab 2007 Movie version, Takara are producing it. On the other hand, if egotistical Starscream is more your thing, this Hasbro version is just the ticket!
 
 
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