Knightdramon's Review: Masterpiece MP-28 Hot Rod
I guess it's fair to say that Hot Rod has a knack of dividing the fandom. He was first introduced in the 1986 animated movie as the main Autobot hero, the Luke Skywalker archetype of the film. He had all the traits of an '80s hero type; brash, reckless, fearless, a young hero awaiting to match the destiny of great things and heroism. Plus, he was an '80s-inspired angular futuristic sports car with flames.
Unfortunately, in trying to reach that magical point, he inadvertently had a part in Optimus Prime's untimely demise. Hot Rod is the very first Autobot we -see- become a Prime [in a way that has not since been replicated] at the end of the movie. However, the fandom was never ready for such a change of leadership/status quo and Rodimus Prime was plagued with self-doubt issues, and a behind the scenes push meant that Optimus had to return and be the leader once more.
To this day the argument still goes on over if you're a fan of Hot Rod or not, and this schism has transferred over to his Masterpiece Toys. His first toy [MP09] has been very vocally criticized about design and quality control issues, as well as the Rodimus Prime vehicle mode being nothing more than a half-form of parts wedged in a shell of a Winnebago.
Hot Rodimus' second outing in the MP line came roughly 6 years after his first release [as Rodimus Prime], and still divided the fandom. The toy seemed too... toy-ish; the robot mode proportions were way off and the colours were too light. Once in hand, however, opinions quickly changed as he was rightfully deemed a fun figure to change. He is highly poseable, very expressive, and in scale with Magnus and the rest of the MP cohorts in both modes. Today we'll be having a look at the toy and discuss all the issues and perceived issues, and see if he's worth a space in your display case.
True to his '80s roots, Hot Rodimus [from here on referred to as Hot Rod] makes another entrance in the MP line as an '80s speedster/futuristic concept car. The '80s vision of futuristic 2005 cars has varied wildly with what we actually got in 2005, but this doesn't make this car mode any less spectacular.
The majority of the car mode chassis appears to be painted in a glossy dark maroon tone. The colours are darker than his animated appearance, lighter than his comic book appearances and just different from his toy version, trying to strike a perfect harmony between all those releases. Beyond the maroon glossy paint, there's also orange on his car hood [gloss paint over maroon plastic], the middle of his spoiler and his taillights. Yellow adorns his angular spoiler/V fin and the tampographed flame logo on his car hood. His engine block and exhaust pipes on the side of the car are coated in chrome [which, by various reports, is prone to flaking!]. His wheels are cast in black plastic with painted gunmetal gray rims. The same gunmetal gray is also present on his taillight detailing and the base of his chromed engine block is dark gray. His massive cockpit windscreen is cast in very light blue/borderline teal clear plastic. The front lights are what appears to be silver pieces with a tinted clear orange cover over them. There is a large yellow tampograph of his traditional flame pattern on his orange hood, with an Autobot symbol in the center. The flame is framed by magenta lines. This is impressive, as it is a clean tampograph over a gloss painted plastic. Such light colours are difficult to come out so clearly, especially one painted on top of the other. Lastly, there are a few bits of unpainted maroon plastic; one block behind his front wheels and hints of a skeletal frame that go through his windscreen which also support his back area in car mode.
Hot Rod is a bit light on molded detailing, instead using his curvy, blocky frame and colours and chrome that make him stand out on the shelf. The majority of his car is comprised of smooth lines, with some sculpted lines present towards the rear part of the car in the form of additional vents. The exposed engine block has molded vents and turbines which might have shown off a bit better if it was not thickly coated with chrome. His hubcaps have some nice detailing, and his front lights [aforementioned silver pieces topped off by orange clear plastic] are sharp and very retro-looking. As mentioned earlier, do not be put off by his relative lack of molded detail, as the car mode relies on its sharp, futuristic yet retro-stylized lines. The enormous spoiler is angled upwards and just adds more to his already gorgeous frame.
Hot Rod is just over 16 cm in length, 7.5 cm in width at his wider point [spoiler] and barely 4 cm tall at the top of his spoiler [which already rests further up from the rest of his chassis]. These dimensions put him pretty much on the same size class as the other Autobot cars in the MP line. He can fit in Magnus's trailer but cannot be inserted in via the rear loading ramps as he is a bit wider than that enclosure.
Unlike the glamorous, triple-changing Tracks or the more functional Soundwave, Hot Rod does not have many gimmicks in car mode. There are two spring-loaded panels just behind his cockpit windscreen that his guns can clip in, and his engine block can open up to reveal a slot that can accommodate either gun. Both guns have a revolving handle, swinging between robot mode grip and thicker block of plastic in order to be compatible with both modes. The MP09 target master is not compatible with these peg holes. His car hood can open sideways to reveal a fully-functional matrix chamber; Hot Rod is compatible with the matrix that was included with MP10 Convoy. The die-cast matrix fits snugly in that cavity in both modes and gives the figure some added heft.
Overall I'd rate Hot Rod's vehicle mode very highly. The only complaints would be the lighter blue used on the clear plastic windscreen - much like his colour tone, it's darker than the cartoon but lighter than the toy. There's also the very, very low ground clearance. There's a very specific point in which the figure must be transformed in order to roll without dragging, and getting to that point can be frustrating. Beyond these points, he's as good as the other cars, with spring-loaded bits to arm him with his guns, a specific size-class and overall smooth proportions and a simplistic style that closely mirrors the '80s movie aesthetic. His more obvious drawbacks come once we're in robot mode...
Hot Rod's robot mode has always been distinctive; car hood chest, large spoiler in the back, exhaust pipes at hands...and roughly 75% of the car just gone. The animation sheets for the movie featured great looking robot modes, usually depicted kibble-free. This had created some issues as both MP09 Rodimus and MP28 had to come up with creative ways of maintaining the distinct robot silhouette but at the same time do something with the leftover car parts.
MP28 features an almost RID Vehicon-esque maneuver, folding two thirds of the car mode and compressing it [as much as possible] into a backpack/robot torso. He also borrows a design element from Combiner Wars Aerialbots; namely, the way his legs are formed by unwrapping from his thighs and wrapping around what will be a knee joint. There are neat tricks on how the arms rotate around multiple axes to hide his car mode wheels and how the car hood wraps around a torso frame, with everything on the top part of the body locking and tabbing together in sequence.
Hot Rod is slightly taller than your average MP car, being roughly 19 cm to the tip of his spoiler. He stretches out a lot in comparison to other MP cars thanks to his telescoping-style legs.
There's a few new colours introduced to his palette; gunmetal gray is back with a vengeance, coating his boots and feet. There's more orange and yellow painted on his forearms. His face and shoulder "headlight" detail is painted in a coat of glossy light gray, with his face and neck on a slightly yellower shade. His hands are light gray [no paint]. His upper legs are orange [no paint, but more or less matches the other orange bits on him]. Strangely enough his lower legs are painted inside and out! There's a light gray piece that serves as a frame/lever for his lower legs that's the same shade as his hands [and completely hidden from sight unless you are transforming him]. His orange collar is unpainted but his inner magenta collar is. As with the car mode, he's darker than the cartoon colouring, lighter than his comic colours, and just different from the toy colours. I suspect an inevitable Hasbro release will feature red boots and a darker palette to mimic the toy.
Sculpted detail is a bit more prevalent in this mode. The very nice car hood chest is framed perfectly, with his arms gaining a bit more detail thanks to the molding and paint on his orange/yellow forearm cuffs. His fake shoulder headlights are nicely refined but the paint coat is a bit too thick to bring out the sculpt. His waist piece is molded to resemble a squished up windshield as per his original cartoon animation scheme. His upper legs are lean and muscular in the sculpt, with some raised edges and a square shape just above the knee. His boots have raised edges in the sculpt and minor detailing. His feet are interesting and have got ridges on the front part [on the underside of the toe] and even molded turbines on his heel part [again, underside only].
The upper torso has a lot of molded circuitry detailing on the back of his arms, exposed shoulder joints and on some raised/visible bits of his backpack, and even on the sides of his shoulders where they swivel around the car wheels. As a neat touch, two submerged and flat sections of his car mode rear end spring up in this mode, exposing gunmetal gray vent detail. This is a very neat touch, first personally seen on Yamato's VF17S toy back in 2011 [as with Magnus and Ironhide, this release takes several cues from other, non-TF transformable toys of the past decade].
The inner chest has very nice molded detail [all visible once you open up the matrix chamber flap]. The matrix sits comfortably on his abdomen and can provide some nice heft to this figure. His head sculpt is detailed enough, with raised edges and a crest on his helmet, which are picked on different, darker shades of maroon compared to the rest of his head. His face is pleasantly detailed and very accurate to the animation model, although the thick glossy paint washes away some of the finer detailing.
There's virtually no kibble on his legs or arms, but he is wearing a substantial backpack in the form of a folded up car roof and sides. What Hot Rod excels
at is articulation. His rather clean form allows multiple joints on each limb and on the main body. His ankles can swivel back and forth uninterrupted due to the molding of his boots, and he has a generous ankle tilt accessed by a pinned joint. He features double-jointed knees, 360 degrees of swivel at the top of his orange upper thigh and unrestricted swivels back, forward, and to the sides due to all his skirt joints swiveling out as part of their design. His waist rotates freely 360 degrees and he features a very generous and dynamic abdominal crunch joint. His head swivels freely around and can also swivel up, but this will reveal an unpainted maroon block of plastic at the top of his neck. His shoulders have quite some movement of freedom outwardly, full rotation 360 back to front, and due to his transformation the entire arm from the shoulder downward can rotate outwardly on a vertical axis for some dynamic side to front profile shots. The elbows have two joints, allowing for a deep bend, and can also swivel 360 degrees just above the elbow joint. Lastly, his hands have got the standard hinge for all four fingers to form a fist or splay out. The mushroom peg they are on can do a full 360 motion and you can tilt the hands in a little bit due to his transformation joint.
So what could make this figure such a subject of arguments? Well, his proportions take some getting used to. The sleek and sharp lines that defined his car mode pretty much dominate his upper torso, with his chest extending a bit too far out and being too square at doing so. His arms are extended just a touch too much out on the sides, and in comparison his waist and legs are very slender. All these add up to a form that is more of an homage to Animated Rodimus rather than G1 Rodimus. You can mitigate most of these "drawbacks", so to speak, thanks to his multitude of joints; swivel the waist, use the abdominal crunch, spread the legs and pose the arms dynamically. The fluidity of his motion draws from the lanky proportions prevalent on a standing pose.
When it comes to accessories and gimmicks, Hot Rod trumps the average MP car; he has got the two lovingly detailed handguns/photon rifles which fit on his hands via the usual groove and tab of the MP hands. Both guns are cast in a beautiful pearly gray and are very detailed. MP09's guns were a bit too flat; on the other hand, these are a bit too vertical and over-detailed.
Hot Rod also comes with an oversized fishing rod, cast entirely in gray with only the sculpted line in the middle being picked out in black. Getting him to hold it with both hands involves unclipping one or both shoulders from their tabs in order to mimic his first appearance in the 1986 movie. His last accessory his the circular saw he briefly used against the giant mechanical squid in the movie. You need to swing one hand back into the forearm, and the saw plugs onto the peg stump that took the hand's place. The saw disc is coated in a very nice gloss silver paint. The entire saw disc is about 30% bigger than needed, which makes for a stylized anime-esque display option. Finally, the top part of Hot Rod hinges up to reveal a flip down clear blue visor for his eyes. The connection of mine is far too stiff, and you have to grab the edges of the visor to somehow flip it around, so I am not using it much in fear of snapping a part of.
MP 28 Hot Rod is very good at some things, a bit so-so in others, and downright awkward in a few. He is a cheaper alternative to MP09 and far less prone to breakage. He fits in much nicer with the other MP cars in both car and robot modes. He is arguably better articulated than the bigger version. He has a lot of display options, owing that to his accessories and superior articulation. He has a nicer car mode.
Yet at the same time, he has very awkward proportions if not in an action pose. His transformation is not very pleasant when going back to car mode due to many panels and hinges clashing on the front of the car, and it is very easy to chip the thick gloss paint from his face in doing so. His level of detail is not consistent; outer parts are very plain whereas inner parts or just the back of parts are very busy. His visor gimmick is very difficult to pull off in my copy, and there are various reports of his chrome starting to flake off; this has not yet happened on mine.
At the end of the day I would advise that MP line fans and even casual fans try to get this; it's his articulation, display options and sublime car mode that make this a keeper for me, and he works very nicely with MP Ultra Magnus as a display piece in either mode. His transformation philosophy is a bit more in line with Generations; things flip around, rotate, lock. Nothing terribly fussy, but it works for what it is. At the moment of writing this review he is still in stock at pretty much all UK, US, and Japanese stores at regular retail.
7. Would have been higher if the transformation to car mode was more fluid, especially on the front end which requires a lot of fiddling and massaging to get right. The multiple locking points on his backpack/torso/arms are very satisfying, and his legs recreate CW limbs at a bigger scale.
7. Various bits and hinges that fold in on his backpack are thin and I can stress them out of shape by just applying pressure. Most of his joints are pinned, the chest door hinge is very thin and there are reports of his chrome flaking, with the glossy paint being easy to chip. I wouldn't use the visor gimmick on mine.
8. Despite all the above, he's fun to handle, displays very well with other MP bots and his transformation is nifty going from car to bot.
7. He can't pull a proper "relaxed" pose from many angles. He looks like he's wearing a lopsided table as a chest. Despite that, he rocks the animated movie aesthetic and the car mode is great.
9. As mentioned above, he is very articulated and can pull many, many poses convincingly and dynamically. A ratchet joint on his thigh/torso connection or knees would be slightly better.
9. He's bigger than other MP cars, he has a few accessories, and he's almost fully painted. His retail price is well deserved.
8. Much like Ironhide, there are a few flaws, but the overall result is not bad. Slightly better proportions would up the score, but he's the best Hot Rod at this scale, and the figure is un-apologetically toyetic in how fun it is to pose and fiddle with.