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

Name: Megatron
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function: Decepticon Leader
Sub-Group: Leader Class

Frozen in the Antarctic ice for hundreds of years, Megatron is finally free, and his might will make the Earth quake, and the stars fall from the sky. As one of the most dangerous Transformers ever to stalk the galaxy, he has no known weaknesses and only one purpose – to capture the AllSpark and rule the Universe. Nothing, neither the humans’ armies or his ancient enemy Optimus Prime can stand in his way!

Although many of the Movie characters are a big departure from previous incarnations, none are more so than Megatron. However, Megatron has been more variable than most other characters anyway. I, for one, loved the designs as they came out, and thoroughly enjoyed his screen presence (although Frank Welker’s voice would have gone down a little better with me…).

He is represented as totally Cybertronian, and has not yet taken an Earth form. This makes total sense in the loose popcorn plot, and works well. He is a total one-man army, and very impressive on-screen, and in toy. Certainly, he has been blessed with his best incarnation since Energon (although that was far more flattering to G1 Galvatron…), and in many ways he does capture his G1 essence. The idea is also rather fun – Megatron has little screentime in the film, and is far more a plot point. To introduce him in a Cybertronian form is interesting, and allows for him to take an Earth mode in an upcoming sequel (where he will hopefully have more screentime and be able to demonstrate his character).

Unlike nearly every other Transformer lacking an Earth alternate form, this time it has not been used as an excuse to use a simple transformation. The film version is incredibly complicated – and a real challenge to represent as a toy at any scale. Trade-offs were necessarily made at every scale available (smallest – largest: Legends [LOC], Fast Action Battler [FAB), Voyager and Leader). Interestingly, it is the largest and smallest that achieve the best film likenesses.

This review is, of course, for the largest.


Alternate Mode:

Although Megatron comes packaged in robot mode, I will start with the alternate form, as is more common. Plus, I like the transition from the alternate to robot as the main event in a toy (and do prefer them boxed in alternate mode for the first transformation!).

Although all of the other Transformers featured in the 2007 Movie gained Earth alternate modes, Megatron remained totally Cybertronian. This did work for the story, given he had been frozen in Arctic ice for hundreds of years (not Antarctic as the box would profess…). Still, it does give Megatron a ‘one of those’ alternate forms that do not tend to go down as well as, say, a tank.

Megatron finds himself represented as an alien gunship-come-jet for the second time in his career (Energon being the other). He is rather huge, measuring 12 ½” (32.5cm) across the wings, and 13 ¾” (35cm) nose to tail (if you transform him correctly – not as depicted on the packaging – you have to extend the nose).

The mode is fairly film accurate. The trouble with this figure was, undoubtedly, that the Movie design is incredibly complicated and involved almost the entire ‘X’ wing assembly being hidden away within the body in robot mode – a clear impossibility with any toy. So, the alternate mode is lacking the smaller under wings seen in the film. Instead, the legs are folded away (albeit rather collapsed) under the large main wings, giving a slight gap which at least hints at the original design. These legs do provide an advantage that the Legends Class figure lacks, though – you can display Megatron in this mode resting on any shelf, with the wings correctly aligned. The deeper fuselage of the Leader Class figure is not only film accurate, but allows those vertical wing tips to point downwards without interfering with display in any way.

Sculpted detail is absolutely brilliant, with loads of interesting curves, plates and mechanical details, alongside sweeping smooth panels. The overall effect is highly biomechanical, matching all of the Transformer robot modes in the film, which makes a lot of sense given this mode is no disguise. In some ways, the design harks back to the earlier Beast Machines line.

I do particularly like the trident design at the front of the machine. Very nifty. Not so sure of the tail, which looks rather insectile – it just seems a little too raised above the rest of the jet, and a little awkward, along with the splayed legs (reminiscent of the far superior, although even more complex Cybertron / Galaxy Force Soundwave mold).

Other than the awkward rear of the jet and the collapsed legs on the underside, other obvious robot kibble is surprisingly limited. Of course, there is the head, staring right at you. And, since a late redesign of the Movie Megatron head, the new sculpt does not actually blend so well as the design pictured on the box, thanks to the bigger face area. The more shielded ‘Battle Mode’ would have worked better, but not been nearly as fun for the robot mode, given how much screen time it got (I did actually expect the Leader Class figures to have simple transforming heads to represent both modes, but, nae luck mate). And you do want your robot recognizable! However, there should be no complaint as to the positioning of the head regarding Movie accuracy – that is exactly where it goes in the film, if you can make it out at high speed! I was concerned about the hands, when I saw the figure – and certainly neither the Legends nor Voyager Class figures presented a solution. However, these actually look totally inconspicuous folded alongside the side protrusions, blending well and matching structures on the film design (which may be the hands – shall have to wait for the DVD release to find out for sure). The underside is not at all film accurate (the Movie version clearly shows the chest of robot mode as the major part of the central fuselage), and is totally flat – great for display, and arguably one up on the film design as well!

The colours are not far from the film design in this mode. The dull grey works very well, and the black and gold detailing matches the Movie. However, metallic blue has been sprayed on the wings, head and the innermost sections of the two side nose protrusions – a colour totally absent from the film design. Whether this is to symbolise melted ice, or merely to improve attractiveness of an otherwise bland and bizarre high price-mark toy to younger children is unclear. Of course, red can also be seen on the head (light piping for robot mode), and under wings, but this has no real impact.

A button can be pressed to make crazy jet noises – but I’d personally recommend against it!

In all, the alternate mode is quite film accurate – the main issues being the legs and proportions. The wings are a little short, and the overall look is chunkier than shown in the film. However, no other version comes nearly so close to film accuracy in this mode. Still, that does leave a rather strange alternate mode, that does look rather like a jumbled up robot with wings stuck on – just as he is in the film. However, at least the effect is less than other versions, and far less than many earlier non-Earth mode Transformers.


Robot Mode:

The transformation is not as complex as it may first appear. Seriously though, the only useful thing that could be printed on the instructions included is ‘do not follow’. Throw them away, seriously. In many ways the process is a simplified version of Cybertron / Galaxyforce Soundwave (without the fiddly rearrangement of arms!). Although the transformation to robot is simple enough and quite fun, it must be said that the opposite can be a bit frustrating. In particular, the repositioning of the legs is rather awkward (and may result in wear to the groinal plastic if you’re not careful – i.e. follow the instructions)! Megatron features three Automorph components. The wings arrange themselves on his back (and extend when transforming to Cybertronian Jet mode), but clash with the manually adjusted jet nose. The lower legs and feet extend by simply twisting the legs into place (below the knee), although this leads to huge problems due to flimsy feet. And, finally, there’s the obvious one (bizarrely, as it is the most inconsequential!) – the chest. Flip the button, and panels move into place, lights flash, strange frilling things rise, and a terribly treble noise sounds! Unfortunately, even with this incredibly pointless Automorph, the middle two panels have to be depressed afterwards, so as to fit flush with the chest. (Also, if you don’t want the frilly red bits – use the Automorph before you fix the two torso pieces together.) To be honest, this toy (like most others) would be far better without the needlessly complex and irritating Automorph gimmicks. But, lets get on with the important stuff – robot mode!

In robot mode, Megatron stands an impressive 9 ¾” (24.5cm) – certainly tall enough to dominate any Movie Autobot!

And Megatron is domineering. His proportions give hugely wide shoulders, and a massive chest. Otherwise, he does not fit with traditional ‘big’ dimensions. Many sections are quite narrow, appearing delicate – true to the Movie design.

However, after the initial awe of conflicting, yet synergistic design elements, you are struck by the sheer amount of kibble. Worst off are the arms – the two side protrusions of the jet now just sit there on either side of the arm. This seriously affects poseability. Although, if you were inclined, the left one can be removed. Next is probably the tail of the jet – now hanging there like the abdomen of some strange insect (that’s right – even stranger than an insectile jet…). It is nicely detailed, and true enough, Movie Megatron did have some small protrusions down there, but they were more like a small bird’s tail – three feathers – as is actually more accurately depicted in the Legends Class figure. Finally, and least bizarre, are the wings on Megatron’s back. These were present in some earlier Movie designs, although never to this extent. However, the transformation featured in the film is impossible to convey as a toy, and the system adopted for the Leader Class figure does give, on balance, more accurate alternate and robot modes – even if neither quite achieve perfection. (Of course, Megatron looks ridiculous from behind… Only the Legends Class comes close to representing an accurate back!)

Still, if you squint at him – like a magic eye picture – you can remove the kibble and see that the robot form is otherwise superbly film accurate. Honest.

Unfortunately, there is a giant hinge at his waist, but never mind.

Kibble aside, the sculpted detail is phenomenal. Megatron features a huge amount of random detailing in the film, giving an armoured, yet skeletal biomechanical feel. This is reproduced here, no doubt painstakingly (for the sculptors…). All the strange curves and angles are there (at least to the degree possible for a toy at this scale), and picked out in black and gold. The overall scheme remains dull grey – which harks nicely back to the G1 design, even if very little else (other than some facial details) does. Alas, that pesky metallic blue makes an even larger impact in this mode, but no doubt livens it up on the shelves for wee-uns. Although I find it unlikely that this design is overly popular with children.


Amazingly, a lot of the spikes are present, although a bit more rounded and with only two at the hips rubberized (I hade almost expected a totally rubber toy!) – whether this is good or bad depends on your take on the film design. I am also very pleased with the hands – which are still strange and spindly. Three fingers are articulated individually, while an additional inner ones are molded onto the central digit and 'thumb'. There have been suggestions that the hands have been misassembled – with thumbs swapped to the front. However, it is rather difficult to tell, given how utterly surreal they are to begin with.

The head sculpt is very film accurate, and highly detailed. Even the eyes have the bar running across them (picked out in black). Although rather monstrous, and a fair departure from previous designs, there are throwbacks to the G1 character. The head does give a helmet impression, and the eyebrows are sculpted, and very similar to the original. The red light piping works very well, in combination with the black bars. Unfortunately, a lot of the detail is lost to the black paint. Silver, gold, or even nothing at all would have worked a lot better. And then there’s the blue…

Articulation leaves a little to be desired. There are only 14 meaningful points (ignoring fingers), which is a little disappointing. The worst, of course, is that the head has to remain fixed, unless you want it to float over the shoulders (which only works for a few dynamic poses). It is clearly not intended to move. Another problem arises at the feet – due to Automorph (as mentioned earlier), there are no ankle joints and the feet assembly is rather flimsy. Therefore, balancing in even some rather boring poses can become a challenge. However, that same flimsy foot problem can be a boon when trying out dynamic running or lunging poses. But I would still have preferred no Automorph and a solid ankle joint (or two).

Megatron does come with two gimmicks in this mode – both direct from film to toy. Just as in the film, Megatron has no separate weapons, but is instead a self contained war machine. Other than bruit force and any built in small arms, he can use his right arm as a rocket-propelled flail or morning star. Unfortunately, though, there is no spring in the launching mechanism. Still, it is quite fun, and a neat little homage to his G1 fight over the dam, using an energy ball-and-chain. Also, unmentioned by the instructions, there is a black button that whips the weapon around.

The second weapon is a rather more altered homage to the G1 design. Megatron still possesses his signature fusion cannon! However, it merely shares the name. Although, arguably, it truly is a fusion cannon of a different sort. Now, the arms must combine to form the cannon. At least for film accuracy anyway. The instructions really do not detail this at all, and many people are frustrated trying to work this out, I gather. There is a tab on the left wrist. With both hands folded back, arms extended forwards, you can connect this tab to the right wrist, fusing the arms. Keep the right arm kibble folded back, and extend the left kibble. Then you slide this into a central position (there is a runner – also allowing the kibble to be totally removed – it can be reattached easily). Then pull the white tab, and the complex and totally alien cannon unfolds. As soon as you release that tab, though, it quickly collapses again! I actually find this whole affair rather nifty, myself – once you work it out.

All in all, there is an awful lot packed into this toy. However, it is totally unsuitable for children (despite the child friendly addition of the colour blue and red frilly bits). For a collector, the design is rather fun (with the disclaimer: if you like the Movie design in the first place), and Hasbro have done well to come so close to representing a very complicated and totally other-wordly Transformer design. As with the entire line, it could do without Automorph features, and, as ever, it is best to remove the batteries (if you value your sanity).


Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation: 9 – The transformation is rather tricky on its own. If you look at the instructions first (you woose!) you will have no chance!
Durability: 8 – Megatron is surprisingly solid, despite the delicate appearance of some parts. Only trouble is the fact that you may damage the toy trying to figure out how to transform him.
Fun:9 – I find this toy to be excellent fun. The morning star and fusion cannon weapons gimmicks work well (again, if you can work them out!), and he is very interesting to look at on display. The limited articulation is no big problem, although his feet do limit poseability.
Price: 9–3 – Leader Class figures are a total rip-off in the UK, priced at £40 - £50 (around $80 - $100). That’s why I have none of the recent releases. I could not have afforded, or justified one at this price, let alone Prime and Megatron. However, at $40 (~£20) or less in the States, they are actually a fair bargain. Luckily, my family brought me back both from the US this year, costing less than £40 for both.
Overall: 8 – This is the best version of the Movie character available. If you like the design, I’d pick him up if you can afford it. If not, there are smaller versions (although I’d avoid the Fast Action battler – the alternate mode looks nothing like the film version). In particular, the Legends Class figure is surprisingly film accurate, and costs around 10% the price of the Leader Class version. Although it is a lot smaller…

 
 
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