Let’s face it, the designers of the first movie Starscream figure had an uphill battle making the movie’s highly intricate designs into toys and still have them transform let alone articulate or stand up unaided, and none more than Starscream who has to transform from insect-chicken-bot to sleek smooth state of the art fighter jet. The first figure didn’t look half bad in robot mode, but the jet mode sucked, looking more like a shipping container-cum-flugtag flying machine made from cardboard boxes. And still the robot mode could have done with a better head sculpt, better proportions and without the ridiculous arms crippled by yet another needless missile firing gimmick.
Perhaps because Seeker molds get so much reuse (and the first movie Starscream will even get repainted for the ROTF line as Ramjet and Skywarp) the design team were allowed a second stab and this time they very nearly nail it. This version of the figure definitely warrants a second serving, hopefully of the premium kind with some authentic USAF paint and decals rather than Starscream’s funky tats. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The stroke of genius here is in making the jet canopy the focal point, and folding the design around it, rather than the more traditional design using fuselage as the core of the robot body. This eliminates the need to slide the canopy up and the associated intricate mechanisms taking up lots of space. Whoever thought of this should win some kind of design prize.
In jet mode, Starscream is a sleek and correctly proportioned F-22 Raptor jet, which from most sides captures the profile of the real F-22 very accurately, including the common attribute of stealth-y jets that they tend to look more sleek from above than from the side, where they tend to look more like birds with a narrow tip and more stocky middle. There is a fold down landing gear under the nose and in the fuselage (well, the robot’s elbows) for display. On the downside, the missiles included for the obligatory pointless missile firing gimmick clip to the bottom of the wings, when any fool knows that an F-22 has an internal weapons bay that can open, launch a missile and close again in a fraction of a second in order to avoid those nasty stealth defying complex edges. The missiles can always be left off however. What can’t be removed is the robot hands, which poke out rather creepily at the back of the jet by the engines, and that’s a real shame as even the engines are accurately molded here, including use of orange plastic to suggest they are ‘glowing’ hot. Starscream’s paint scheme is not very robot-in-disguise-y as he’s acquired the aforementioned cybertronian tattoos since his escape from earth at the end of the last movie.
Transformation to robot mode is fun and relatively complex, as it should be, and not prone to too much in the way of joints popping off, although be careful with the vertical stabilizers ball joint. The plane fuselage splits in two and folds arounds the canopy – the upper fuselage becomes the legs, the lower part the arms. The wings kind of just fold up smaller.
In robot mode, Starscream is even more poseable than the original version of the figure with multiple arm and knee joints. The head sculpt is far more accurate (although bizarrely the light piped eyes are painted over), and the wings, while a little larger than they should be, mostly go where they are supposed to. Sadly there was still no way with this design to feature Starscream’s robot mode jump jets on his back. Overall proportions are accurate to the CGI model, in that he still has disconcertingly broad shoulders and chicken legs, so there’s nothing to complain about specific to the toy itself in that regard. The arms and hands however suffer, albeit not as badly as the earlier figure, from yet another useless missile firing gimmick. When will they learn? The hands, while detailed, are molded as one piece with zero articulation, and the elbows can only bend in one direction (the wrong direction), fine for weapon aiming poses but otherwise pretty limited. The vulcan cannons on the wrists are the missile launchers.
When folded and connected together correctly (sockets on the tailfins connect to sockets on the jet engine intakes), turning Starscream’s head causes gears molded in orange to rotate. This is the “Mech-Alive” feature and as gimmicks go it doesn’t do a half bad job even if it makes the tailfins a little thicker than they should be. It’s a nice nod to the ‘living machines’ look of the movie CGI animations, but it also means the head has no vertical articulation, which would have been nice since Starscream is normally shown hunched over and learing forward. The totally unnecessary missile launchers on the other hand, while nearly movie accurate, are molded onto the forearms and presumably the reason for the limited hand poseability and inability to hide them away during transformation.
Despite the complaints above, this is definitely a must buy figure, for the awesome jet mode of an awesome looking jet, and an ingenious transformation into an accurate movie Starscream robot, that’s possible to pose to match a lot CGI renders of the character. The good news about the forearms is that they are one piece that could be modified without affecting the rest of the figure – not only would we like to see a premium paint job version of the figure, but the chance is there to remold the forearms completely, removing the missile launcher gimmicks and hopefully building hands that fold away while also offering the opportunity to mold in the two different weapons Starscream uses – the vulcan cannon and the ‘crossbow’ missile launcher. If not for the Revenge of the Fallen line, then hopefully for the inevitable Tranformers 3 version of the figure, plus all the seekers. If they were to do that, we’d buy at least two more of these. Roll on the premium version with authentic F-22 paint job please.
Update: And you can read an interview with TakaraTomy’s “Mr. Starscream” and get insight into the design process in the first of 5 interview s appearing on TakaraTomy’s website, and translated into english over at TFW2005!