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

Name: Blackout
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function:
Sub-Group: Voyager Class

Roaring in low over the landscape, Blackout pours fire down upon any target that comes within range of his sensors. The only creature for which he displays something other than open contempt is his companion Scorponok. The frenzied smaller robot serves its huge master more as a pet than a friend, hounding any enemies that attempt to flee and driving them towards the larger robot’s blazing cannons. Together, they are a relentless forces of destruction, bent on bathing the landscape in superheated plasma charges until the desert itself is a fused, broken plain of lifeless glass. [From Decepticon Desert Attack Boxset.]

Without doubt, Blackout is one of the most striking Transformers from the 2007 live action Movie, and has every chance of becoming iconic. However, the name itself has humbler origins than any other used in the film.

Blackout’s first foray into the world of Transformers, was way back in 1990 as a G1 Micromaster. Commanding one of the Decepticon bases, he combined with Spaceshot to form a B1 jet. After this, the name was not reused again, until Armada as Demolisher’s Mini-Con partner (2002) – another small figure, this time a mini tank / mobile radar unit. I imagine that it was the third incarnation, as a Decepticon combiner from the Energon line (2005). This version has a dark colourscheme, is a component of Bruticus Maximus, and most importantly, turns into a helicopter.

I find it rather fun that one of the smallest of all G1 characters has now found himself as the largest ‘bot in the long-dreamed-of live action Transformers Movie.

The latest incarnation of Blackout was the first Movie toy to find a place in my whittled down ‘on a budget’ must-have list from this line. The design is refreshing, regardless of the awe-inspiring Movie sequences, and the figure measures up… just.


Alternate Mode:

Blackout’s alternate mode is a massive, beautifully detailed Sikorsky Pave Low helicopter. Measuring 10 ½” (27cm) from nose to tail, he’s a respectable size, and clocks in around 1/110 scale (thanks goes to Clay for the calculations!).

The detailing in this mode is jaw-dropping. That’s the first thing most buyers will notice when they see Blackout in the store – certainly adding to his popularity, and the cold-shoulder Ratchet (sharing the 1st wave of Voyagers) has suffered. The various seems required for the transformation have all been carefully designed to be inconspicuous amongst panel details (excepting the underside), with the only nod to fantasy being the cage for the miniature Scorponok figure at the rear of the ‘copter. The finishing touch would have been military decals, including the ID number – but these are sadly missing.

A closer look reveals the odd additional giveaway – a gave between the cockpit and fuselage, and similar gaps along each side of the rotor housing – but these are rather inconsequential. There is no denying it, Hasbro have done a praiseworthy job on a very difficult figure. Bringing the Movie character design to life in a Voyager size toy is an incredible feat!

Alas, there are slight problems, though. The vehicle mode does not seem to hold together very well, with the legs tending to drop. The problem seems to be caused by the Automorph gimmick, involving a spring that rotates the central section of the cockpit to reveal the robot mode head. Certainly with my figure, this spring seems to be too tight, making it difficult for the ‘copter parts to hold together without the centre of the nose popping up. Whether this is a rare defect or a common quality problem I do not know. What I do know, though, is that my Blackout came packaged with hidden strain marks on the plastic side panels which hold the arms – which take the brunt of the force generated by the Automorph spring. Basically, the toy would have been better without this pointless gimmick, and this problem frustrates me no end – seriously detracting from what could (and should) have been one of my all time favourite Transformer figures.


Robot Mode:

All of the Movie Transformers (bar Scorponok) have fairly radical and complex robot modes. The fact that there are toys even vaguely resembling their Movie counterparts is amazing. Yet, many of them have achieved both highly realistic alternate modes and a robot mode close to the film. Blackout is one of these figures – made all the more impressive as a Voyager Class.

The transformation is not as complicated as it may appear (although the instructions are poor – not that you’ll be trying them anyway, of course!), but is fairly original and fun. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the reverse process – it can be rather awkward and fiddly returning Blackout to Pave Low mode (certainly not helped by the Automorph gimmick, which rotates the centre of the cockpit). In addition to the obvious cockpit / head Automorph gimmick, there is an inconsequential and rather ineffective one in each leg that moves the knee and a lower panel.

Standing just under 8” (20cm) tall, I am blown away by the level of detail and Movie accuracy packed into what is a small version of the largest Transformer in the film.

The sculpt tries to be as accurate to this mode as it is for the alternate. Very tall order indeed! But, Hasbro have almost pulled it off. There are loads of panels sculpted, giving the odd contours the Movie designs have introduced to the Transformers universe. And the head is phenomenal (and rather Soundwave-esque) – although seems out of place next to some other Movie figures. The reason for this is the huge amount of detail, but this is due to the massive downsize Blackout has received scale-wise in comparison to the other characters in the film! And the dull red light piping works rather well. Grossly, the only let down in shape are the shoulders, which almost shield Blackout from either side, and just backwards. It would have been nice if an alternative transformation procedure could have been found, but I understand that this probably would have been impossible. However, it would have been good to be able to swivel the side fins of the ‘copter downwards, so as they ran parallel to the tail on Blackout’s back – a little more film accurate. But, these are really rather minor – the design is incredible given the scale. What is rather more difficult to overlook is the continuing design flaws found in the shoulder panels. These do not lock into place with ease in this mode, and it is not possible to lay the blame on Automorph this time. The tabs do not quite line up, and, certainly in my figure, this has resulted in strain to the plastic before I ever got him out of the box. A bit of a pity really.

The colours are excellent, with panels being picked out in the gunmetal of the ‘copter, and black largely. Although rather plain, it looks really cool and gives Blackout a highly menacing countenance. The chest is silver, with the Decepticon insignia emblazoned in silver upon a black centre piece. Then there are the pale grey rockets on the shoulders, just like in the Movie. The only elements that seem out of place are the Mickey Mouse Hands (or is that Bugs Bunny?), and the dark head. However, in defense of the head, the dark wash does help pick out details – it’s just applied a little heavily. The hands, though, have no excuse. They ought to be the same gunmetal as the ‘copter, given they are formed by side panels in the Movie design.

Given the scale, Blackout displays very nicely alongside the Legends figures – certainly Barricade – but is a bit out of place with Deluxe and Leader Class characters (available at this point, anyway – he ought to compare a bit more favourably to Voyager Prime and Megatron later down the road).

There are plenty of points of articulation throughout the robot mode – 16 in all, with many moving in two or more planes. Unfortunately, the ungainly and totally rigid feet limit poseability. (Although you can get good walking poses, thanks to the articulated front toes – and, let’s face it, Blackout had a rather awkward stride in the film!) Certainly, in comparison with some other Movie figures, Blackout has done well in this department – amazing given the great ‘copter and robot modes.

Of course, as you would expect, Blackout has a not-so-hidden weapon – his rotor blades! That’s right – Blackout is totally prepared to blow Autobot’s away – using wind power! Very eco-friendly!

As a nifty hidden bonus, Blackout’s shoulders have Mini-con ports! They are inconspicuous, as the Pave Low genuinely does have protrusions on the fins, but can add extra fun for those fans of the tiny guys!

All in all, Blackout is a real achievement, packing in so much detail in both modes, a decent degree of poseability, and all at a minute scale (comparable to his film incarnation and other character’s treatments). However, I think, with the Automorph gimmick the toy just tries to do too much. Without this gimmick, Blackout would be one of the best Transformers ever. At the end of the day, Blackout needs to be made at Leader Class – or larger!

There is no denying it though, Hasbro have done a praiseworthy job on a very difficult figure. Bringing the Movie character design to life in a Voyager size toy is an incredible feat!


Scorponok:

Blackout comes complete with a mini version of Scorponok - to scale with his larger master! Measuring just 2" (5cm), he matches Blackout in detail. Alas, he is totally pale grey plastic, with only blackwash - and that just on the tail and applied lightly down the centre of the body. A real shame - it would not have taken much colour to make Scorponok look more like the Movie character, and less like a prototype. Still, good fun!


In Combination with Deluxe Scorponok:

As yet another bonus, Blackout can be combined with Deluxe Scorponok. With Scorpy attached to Blackout’s underside (in Pave Low mode), the button used to activate the ‘copters rotors now also moves Scorponok’s claws! Great fun, if a rather odd sight!


Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation: 9 – Although not as complicated as it may appear, the Automorph gimmick makes it rather fiddly to turn Blackout from robot to Pave Low helicopter.
Durability: 4 – I know Blackout will break – whether it’s the Automorph gimmick or the arm panels. It’s just a matter of time. A little more thought, and a lot less spring would have avoided this completely.
Fun:7 – Blackout is great fun, but would have been better if the transformation were not so irritating (thanks to Automorph), and I was not constantly afraid of breaking him!
Price: 4-10 – This totally depends on where and how you buy him. In the UK, at £19.99, I feel he is overpriced (As are all Voyager Class). However, at $20 (~£10) he is a bargain – and even more so at $25 (~£12.50) with Deluxe Scorponok in the TRU Decepticon Desert Attack set (which I was lucky enough to get)!
Overall: : 7 – Despite his failings, Blackout is an impressive figure and, to date, the only way you can really own a Movie accurate version of the character. However, he could have been almost straight 10s were it not for that horrendous Automorph gimmick.

 
 
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