June 30, 2009

Dinobot (06-30-09)

Filed under: 04 beast wars, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:30 am

Transformer of the Day for June 30, 2009


-Faction: Maximal
Beast Wars (1996-1998)
Front-Line Combat
For Glory, For Honour, For Victory”
-Notable: 10th Anniversary Deluxe (Hasbro, 2006)

Notes: A glory-seeking warrior who nonetheless finds himself on the wrong side of conflict, Dinobot is possibly the most interesting character of the series. Given this, you can imagine the disappointment in the garish colour choices in Hasbro’s Universe release. Ugh! But despite a better paint application on the Henkei version, our toy choice here is actually the Hasbro 10th anniversary reissue, which has (a) a great rendition of the classic toy, (b) superb colouring in beast mode, (c) a piece of the build-a-figure, Transmutate, and (d) a DVD episode of the Season Two episode, Code of Hero that is one of the most poignant episodes in all Transformerdom.

June 29, 2009

Dinoking (06-29-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:29 am

Transformer of the Day for June 29, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon (Pretender)
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Dinosaur Gestalt Warrior
-Motto: “There is No Peace, Only Terror”
-Notable Toy: Gift Set (Takara, 1989)

Notes: The release of Dinoking in Japan (and Monstructor in North America) really shows the differences between the North American and Japanese markets (or at least their respective companies). Unlike the rubbery pretender monsters shells that came with Icepick et. al., the Dinoforce figures came with rubbery shells in the form of dinosaurs. The colours of the robots were more sombre and less garish than their North American cousins. And only Dinoking could be caught all at once.

(Apologies and thanks to botchthecrab.com and tfarchives.com for the image.)

June 28, 2009

FansProject and Fan-Based Projects

Filed under: custom — fairplaythings @ 10:28 am

Given the use of their accessory-pack in today’s TF entry on Cliffjumper, it seems a good time to talk a little bit about my very mixed feelings on FansProject.

As the Transformers community grows and matures, it is not surprising that it is able to bring all kinds of new skills to play. From conventions to cosplay, from repaints to scratch-builds, from videos to wikis and websites, I am continually amazed by the devotion and the level of detail available for a twenty-five year old toy line. But nowhere is this more evident in the proliferation and quality of fan-based efforts.

Not intending to slight anyone here, I think the first and best illustration of these efforts are those of unicron.com, an unsung group of fans who remain insufficiently recognized for their contributions to the community. Focussed primarily on accessory packs starting with Beast Machines’ Cheetor’s blade and the Key to Vector sigma, they’ve progressed to minted Golden Disks, an actual Vector Sigma and an impressive set of Transformers: Animated accessories. Since then, more complicated designs have emerged including the World’s Smallest Dinorobots, Impossible Toys’ the Quints, and the Gears of War acecssory pack, all serving to filled gaps in our collections.

Which brings us to FansProject. Certainly there is no doubt that their skill and quality is amazing. That said, it seems that almost from the start they have been pushing the limits of fans and Hasbro’s tolerance.

From the Hasbro side, their initial work seemed to be around the edges of the fandom. However, their announcements at TFCon 2009 (and notably NOT at Botcon 2009) of moving into actual Transformers, as opposed to accessories and the like, has got to be pushing the limits of what Hasbro’s legal department will tolerate. A trailer for Hot Rod? Fine. A brand new Broadside or Springer figure? No matter how cool they may be or how unlikely it is that Takara-Tomy or Hasbro will do something similar, there are already rumours that they are tripping up against issues of copyright and licensing. It will be interesting to see how things continue there.

From the collector side, it’s a mixed bag. Certainly the pinnacle of their work thus far has been the Universe Ultra Magnus armour. But a lot of fan, myself included, were swindled by the third-parties delivers with which FansProject partnered for the Cliffjumper accessory pack. And certainly there remain hard feelings for those fans (to say nothing of TFCon organizers) who spent great effort to get Powered Commander at TFCon this year, only to learn in less than a month that a wider release was forthcoming. Despite their comments to the contrary, it’s a decision that is baffling considering the absence of any indication of their intentions up to and at TFCon itself, and in the face of continued interest in the oh-so-limited Cliffjumper set and the popular Ultra Magnus armour which did not have such a self-imposed limitation.

Here’s hoping that in the next 12 to 18 months, these guys can get their acts sorted out.

Cliffjumper (06-28-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:28 am

Transformer of the Day for June 28, 2009


-Faction: Autobot
Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Warrior
-Motto:Strike First, Strike Fast, Strike Hard
-Notable Toy: Classics Deluxe (Hasbro, 2007) + Accessories (FansProject, 2008)

Notes: Cliffjumper is best when portrayed as having a chip on his shoulder. He was fortunate to punch above his weight in terms of screen time. That said, it was disappointing that Hasbro’s repaint of Classics Bumblebee was somewhat disappointing due to the absence of a new head sculpt. Takara-Tomy’s Henkei line opted for the Legends mold for his portrayal, so fans everywhere are left to rely on FansProject’s accessory set to do old CJ justice.

June 27, 2009

Revenge of the Fallen (or the Trouble with Sequels and Saving the Third Movie)

Filed under: Transformers — fairplaythings @ 2:51 pm

Three is just a bad idea

The typical pattern for franchise based films drawn from science fiction and the world of comics is as follows. The first one is generally good but, because the backstory needs to be established and the actors are getting use to the material, it always feels like it could be more. Lose of the origin story, the second one hits the ground running, knocking over all expectations and really tearing up the screen. The third film tends to suffer under the weight of expectations and time, as a director may leave or the studio puts on pressure or the freshness of ideas just aren’t there anymore. At best it fails to live up to expectations; at worse, it collapses under its own weight and kills the series.

And if the franchise survives to the fourth film, then all bets are off.

Examples are out there. The Star Wars trilogy, the four Star Trek: Next Generation films, Superman, Batman, Blade, X-Men, Spider-Man… The list goes on and on. Yes, in some cases (Jedi, Insurrection, X3), the film remains watchable, even enjoyable, but it never hits the peak established by their predecessor (in these cases, Empire, First Contact, X2). Add in the other cases (Superman III, Batman Forever, Blade Trinity, Spider-Man III, to say nothing of Superman IV: Quest for Peace or Batman and Robin) and it’s clear that they are nowhere near where their predecessors had been.

The Fallen digs in

A common problem (but by no means the only problem) in this last set of four films is the introduction of too many characters, which take screen time away from the central protagonist(s), while requiring new backstories of their own. I often wonder what would have been if the stories had attempted to jettison some of these characters, if the film would have turned out better. Take Spider-Man for instance. I’m not a fan of the series but there was something good about Spider-Man II, which featured a well-acted villain while not relying on as much of the sentimental garbage that took up too much time in the first film. But we went from Peter, MJ, Harry, Aunt May and Doctor Octopus, to Peter, MJ, Gwen Stacey, Aunt May, Harry/New Goblin, Sandman and Venom - too many villains and not enough focus on the key parts of the story.

Which brings us to the Fallen.

Revenge of the Fallen breaks the mold established above by simply jumping the excellent second movie and crashing ahead into the abyss of the third. And directoral queue, story editing and other glitches aside, one of the most substantive issues is simply the realization that it had too many characters whose individual narratives and stories were too small to have any impact and yet too numerous to allow the story to continue.

The forgotten

The forgotten

The first movie already had characters in droves. The introduction of Sam, Mikaela, Lennox, Epps, Madsen, Whitmann, Keller, and Simmons, as well as Sam’s parents, meant competing storylines that, at times, drew attention away from the focus of the story. Add in the Transformers, spotlighting on Bumblebee and Optimus and Megatron, with the others as supporting role, and you have a big cast to wield. But at least the storylines intermingled well, so that, at the end, our heroes were all together.

Barely keeping up

Who's the star here anyway?

Revenge of the Fallen loses Madsen, Whitmann and Keller, and gains Spitz, Alice and Morshadow, while picking up Mudflap, Skids, Wheelie, Jetfire, Starscream, Soundwave, Devastator, Ravage and the Fallen to add to the cast (to say nothing of the expanded armies on each side). So what happened? The Fallen relegated Megatron to second banana, while the twins ate into the time alloted to Bumblebee (already played for comic effect). I was actually left wondering why either Megatron or Bumblebee needed to be in the film in the first place, with Megatron’s fight scene aided by other Decepticons (thereby diminishing the character) and Bumblebee getting limited face time. And then Jetfire basically became a cranky Optimus Prime, in the hour and a half when he was out of the fight.

It’s no wonder that the movie never felt like it got going. The movie had to keep intersecting from one location to another to ensure a bit of time for this character and a little effort for that plot point. Sometimes there is something to be said for streamlined scripts.

So where do we go from here? Well, my prediction at this point is a massive opening week for Revenge of the Fallen, followed by a fall off of ticket sales rivalling Watchman and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. My gut feeling tells me this film doesn’t have the drawing power for repeating viewings by fans, and the combination of new movies and bad reviews will kill off all but the most curious. All this doesn’t limit the possibility of a third installment but it may well handcuff the length and the budget.

Ditching the hangers on

To come out with a third film, without rebooting altogether, we need to streamline this cast. Jettison all but a few key robots (Optimus, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream, one or two others) and rely on the numbers for big epic battles. Focus on Mikaela and Sam’s story and use Lennox, Epps and Simmons with care and respect. And find one main storyline with maybe one or two sublines. Nothing elaborate. Perhaps a beacon from space calls the Autobots home to find their world further devastated by Decepticons, leaving our human friends and Bumblebee on Earth to find the key to final victory. Perhaps a sub-plot could be Sam deciding between duty and family with a pregnant Mikaela, with Bumblebee torn between his human alliances and the needs of his brothers-at-arms.

Anyway, something without so many stories. And perhaps with some more care given to backstory terminology like Energon, space bridges, matrixes and the like. That would be nice too.

Walking Out / Waking Up - A Tale of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 1:11 am

Two weeks ago, I took the time to discuss my fears and apprehensions around the second Michael Bay directed Transformers film, entitled Revenge of the Fallen. In that piece, I attempted to articulate my feelings on the first film and my fears on the second.

Before I provide more comments to what was to be a summer blockbuster, allow me a moment to go back and talk again about the first film. Or rather, my earlier apprehension. You see, I was concerned about how the source material would be treated and the characterization of the robots, as well as smaller points like their faces and acting. But I actually enjoyed the first film. Yes it was different. And yet it was believable, while hitting enough nostalgia for me to get caught up in the good and very good and allowing me to mostly overlook the bad.

Very much like Generation One.

Generation One, the original cartoon, was never a perfect cartoon. It had glitches, both animation and dialogue wise. Some of the stories were simply terrible, and there were plot holes throughout. But there was an overarching story of good versus evil, of guardians who came in the hope of defending our planet against those who would destroy, just as their planet had been consumed by the fire of war. It was a story of heroism and the entire cartoon run tried hard to remain true to those themes and ideals.

One can regard the 2007 movie in a similar fashion. Yes, it had hiccups. Urinating robots played for comedy, for example. But it has this real quality to it that made the robots seem believable. The honour of Optimus Prime. The terror of a Scorponok attack. The defiance of Jazz. The loyalty of Bumblebee. The all-consuming hatred of Megatron. And that is to say nothing of the dedication of Captain Lennox, the growth of Sam, and the strength of Mikaela. The seeds of good characters were there and I’d hoped that, given more time, more money and a greater interest by the director and the writers, we’d see what could be great.

What we got was Transformers Energon.

I honestly cannot begin to tell you how close I came to walking out on this film. Over and over again, I kept asking myself, “why am I sitting here torturing myself?” For me the sign of a good film is the number of times I check my watch and I was checking my watch within 30 minutes of the film coming on the air.

The good in this film was few and far between. The design of the Fallen was cool. The battle scene in the forest with Optimus Prime defending Spike was reasonably well done. The first 15 minutes of the film, where they explained the creation of N.E.S.T. was actually quite watchable. And honestly, though I hated him in the first movie, John Turturro was fun in this film and he seemed to actually have a character, which was a nice touch.

As for the rest? Well, let’s start with the plot. I think the idea was that the Decepticons, under orders from new character, the Fallen, seek to find the ancient technology left behind to build energon to create new warriors for conquest. Learning that Sam has the map to bring about their goals, the Decepticons mobilize to find this information and bring their goals to fruition. Only the Prime and his Autobots stands in their way.

But even this plot cannot hold up when interrupted by dog humping, bad dialogue and too many changes of scenes and tone to allow the viewer to really become invested in the story. Why did Spike need to go to college for a day? Why did the Fallen spend such effort to revitalize Megatron who is simply another toadie to him anyway? How did the Fallen forget where he put the sun cannon? Why did Sam and Mikaela decide to reach Lennox’s team on foot, when they access to the twins and Bumblebee? Why did the group go in search of Decepticon seekers only to be surprised when they found a Decepticon seeker? What was the point of Devastator? What was the point of having Simmons try and convince the Navy to use a railgun against Devastator, succeed, and then not have any follow-through?

And then there are the other flaws. The twin who make you question the seriousness of the Autobot operation. The space bridge landing that surely would have killed all four humans. The unlikelihood of keeping the Autobot and Decepticon war a secret.  The difficulty in telling a number of the robots apart.  The idea that an all-spark fragment can remain inert for two years and yet suddenly bring to life a half dozen appliances that all come out evil. The awkward pacing.

For me, the movie was doomed when Optimus Prime shot an injured Decepticon in the face at point blank range, and destroyed when Megatron was sidelined completely by the forgettable Fallen. It was like seeing Greedo shooting first, and learning that the FBI were only chasing you with flashlights and not guns. Oh there were some pretty pictures, but I couldn’t stay immersed and look forward to leaving.

What am I left with? Well, I sat through a bad movie that made me, to paraphrase my earlier comments, truly for the first time “feel like an idiot for continuing to invest time and energy into this hobby.” To quote Jetfire, “I am too old for this crap.” I went in with the bar low and still came away disappointed.

The first movie I saw seven times in the theatre and I own five copies on DVD. I doubt I can be bothered to even try and see this in IMAX to see the different scenes, and I’m embarrassed to think of this film on my shelf. And I’ll be ashamed to respond to queries about my thoughts on the movie with the venom that this piece of trash so richly deserves.

Megatron (06-27-09)

Filed under: 13 movie, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:27 am

Transformer of the Day for June 27, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon
-Era: Movie (2007, 2009)
-Function: Leader

-Motto: I Am Megatron”
-Notable Toy:Best-Buy Voyager Exclusive (Hasbro, 2007)

Notes: How can I not do a Bayformer for the release of Revenge of the Fallen? So here is that which is not your father’s Megatron. First, despite the hue and cry to the contrary, it’s Hugo Weaving and not the great Frank Welker voicing the villainous leader. Then there is the back story, of a severed alliance between Megatron and Optimus that led to the Great War. And, you know, there is no P-38 Walther revolver in sight. Instead, we have your choice of alien spaceship or alien tank-thing. But for my dollar, I’m going with the first screen-accurate paint application available that was exclusive to Best Buy of all places.

June 26, 2009

Grapple (06-26-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:26 pm

Transformer of the Day for June 26, 2009


-Faction: Autobot
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Architect
-Motto: “Beauty is in Everything Except War”
-Notable Toy: Attacktix (Hasbro, Unreleased)

Notes: Grapple is an interesting Autobot. Originating with the Diaclone line, his is a slight variation of the Inferno mold. Like Inferno’s pairing with Red Alert, Grapple is frequently tied to Hoist for adventures. Strangely, an artistic rendering of his vehicle form shows up in the first episode as “Hauler“, which subsequently led to an eHobby reissue. And yet for all of this, a natural repaint of Universe 2.0 Inferno has yet to arrive, even by Takara, leaving the best plastic rendition still the unreleased Attacktix version. Oh Hasbro, why do you taunt us so?

(Apologies and thanks to jediinsider.com for the toy pic.)

June 25, 2009

Treadshot (06-25-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:25 am

Transformer of the Day for June 25, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon (Action Master)
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Gunslinger
-Motto: “A Gun is Only as Good as the One Who Holds It”
-Notable Toy: Action Master (Hasbro, 1990)

Notes: One of the biggest challenges for Transformers has always been the prominent use of gun transformations. Forget the logistics of someone else having to drive Megatron, it’s really hard to be faithful to your primary villain who transforms into a toy that is no longer legal to sell. So don’t expect a proper transforming Treadshot anytime soon. For his fans, it’s looks like we’ll have to hold on to his Action Master form and dream.

June 24, 2009

Twincast (06-24-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:24 am

Transformer of the Day for June 24, 2009


-Faction: Autobot
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Communications
-Motto: “Takes a Lickin’ and Keeps on Tickin’”
-Notable Toy: Ehobby Exclusive (Takara, 2006)

Notes: Destroyed in an epic battle with Soundwave in the Japanese cartoon continuity, Twincast was literally recasted from the ashes of Blaster. With colours heralding back to one of his original Microchange, he’s an incredible addition to any collection, one that is much more readily attainable thanks to the relatively recent eHobby reissue. In fact, that reissue is the toy in the spotlight here because it brings with it a new character, Flip Sides, an Autobot cassette warrior who is literally a sleeper agent for the Decepticons.

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