I can’t help thinking that the movie Blackout – a ‘new’ character to Transformers, though the name has been used before, most recently as an Energon Combaticon – wasn’t meant to be Soundwave in at least one iteration of the movie roster. The combination of his facial design, his ‘symbiont’, his shoulder mounted weapons, his own machinations for leadership (at least in the Prequel novel) and his role as an electronic warfare specialist (his reported movie role includes hacking the military databases and using EMP weapons in his Qatar base attack) all scream Soundwave to me, but with a new more aggressive and direct edge to him than he ever had before. I guess that edge comes from the traits of the Vortex/Blackout combaticon character also used in cooking him up.
It’s a nice touch that the rotors can be spun and that he can sort of hold the rotors in his hand as well in ‘weapon mode’, but the mechanism required for this precludes the tail from being much involved in the transformation, forming as it does basically a third leg. This really breaks the feeling that this is the figure of the movie character, and I’d have gladly lost the rotor mechanism (or moved the switch up closer) to get a tail that collapsed like it does in the movie transformation shown in the trailer for example, not unlike Classics Jetfire’s fuselage. There are some well designed arms and poseable legs here, although the automorph feature in the legs is hardly worth the effort. The main automorph feature, which links the chest section with the rotor mount and legs doesn’t feel very solid, and unless one moves all the sections together in one fluid motion, all you get it slipping cogs, which really messes everything up. It’s not possible to move the hips down and have everything else just fall into place.
I was disappointed most of all that in helicopter mode it doesn’t really come together as one solid piece. The various pegs and slots just don’t line up correctly and are too loose to hold the thing together even if you can get them just right. After what’s been shown to be possible with Alternators and the likes of Masterpiece Starscream, this is a real step backwards for Hasbro. Ultimately I though Blackout would be one of my favourites but the execution really lets it down.
The biggest missed opportunity here is considering the size of Blackout’s real life alt mode, and the complexity of his transformation and action features, I can’t help thinking it would have been better if he’d been much bigger. I don’t see any reason for Blackout to have not been a leader sized toy, and the leader sized brawl to be a voyager in his place. For a start, the respective toys would have matched in scale much more closely, especially between Blackout and deluxe scorponok, and there would be more space for the kind of intricate mechanisms required for the various gimmicks, without them crippling the transformation so badly. Ideally there would be no third leg! And we could have had arm mounted gatling cannons and other niceties.
Scorponok – another missed opportunity again caused by the figure’s size, is the mini Scorponok figure. Similar to the Frenzy that comes with Barricade, this figure is nothing special but a nice to have, since for a start it means one doesn’t have to buy the deluxe Scorponok to have a ‘complete’ set of movie characters, but again, if Blackout had been a little bigger, we could have had something resembling minicon levels of detail and complexity, instead of the badly moulded lump of PVC we have here. Honestly the ‘detail’ level on this mini figure makes me think it was carved by hand by a five year old using Fimo and a wooden spoon.
In summary, one of the most interesting characters in the movie line is let down by a poor fit for his size class and more significantly the quality control issues that blights the whole line, but nevertheless is probably the best transforming helicopter we’ve ever seen, which isn’t saying much.