Review by EVA_Unit_4A
A boy’s first car should be a special event in his life. Finding the right girl is also important, and to do that, he needs a special car. But for Sam Witwicky, he is completely unaware of how special his car really is… until it drives away from his house all by itself… and changes into a giant robot! Sam soon finds himself as the key to ending an intergalactic battle between two factions of a race of alien robots which can change shape at will- the peaceful Autobots and dangerous Decepticons- as they fight to find and retake the powerful AllSpark Cube that created their race. But enemies lie in wait on Earth as well. While the Decepticons are already on our planet looking for their long-lost leader Megatron, the United States secret government organization Sector 7 already knows about the alien robots, and will do anything to keep them hidden. It is not until the great & noble Optimus Prime and several other Autobots crash-land on Earth in their search for the god-like Cube that the 10,000 year-old stalemated war begins anew- with the fate of both races in the hands of these intelligent, powerful alien robots in disguise… and a boy and his car.
Brawl lives for one thing: battle, and the chaos that ensues. Blazing inside his heavy body is the fire of a rage that sometimes can’t be controlled by even his fellow Decepticons. This can lead to an impairment of his judgment and logic controls, but during the war on Cybertron for the AllSpark Cube, Megatron found that it was more of an amusement to just point Brawl in the general direction of the Autobots and let him have at. Brawl liked this arrangement, even if he didn’t understand the real reasoning behind it. So when his leader disappeared, Brawl decided to join with sub-commander Starscream to search for Megatron. Eager for battle when they arrived on a planet suspected to be the location of both Megatron and the AllSpark, Brawl quickly assumed the disguise of an M1 Abrams tank, the heaviest piece of mobile weaponry he could find near his landing site in the Untied States, thinking that battle would quickly follow. It did not, much to the frustration of Brawl, who now had over 10,000 years of “can time” and was spoiling for a fight, something, any kind of release! When the call came from Starscream that he was looking for support to secure and take the AllSpark, Brawl was overjoyed and let vent everything he had been holding in for thousands of stellar cycles during the Mission City battle. In vehicle mode, Brawl has use of a standardized M256 120mm smoothbore gun, 16 smoke-discharge grenades in the large primary turret, and a mine plow mounted in front. The independent secondary turret features dual 37mm cannons, a paired free-mount .50cal machine gun, and two four-pack missile launchers. In robot mode, the 120mm cannon can swing under his right arm, and the missile launchers hang over his shoulders; the paired cannon turret, however, remains pointed upwards, so he has to bend over to use the smaller cannons. New weapons include a small chaingun mounted between two long fold-out claws on his left forearm, and four machine cannons together on his right arm. In addition to this, the repositioned mine plow rests on his chest, and can hinder or damage opponents who get too close. Brawl’s lack of energy-based weapons shows that he likes the brutality of something getting torn to shreds when it explodes, though if he’s not careful he’ll use it all up before it can replenish itself, and all that he’ll have to depend on at the end is the claws on his left arm & feet, and his strength, mass, and armor. Unlike most of the other Decepticons on Earth, Brawl does not use human speech, and communicates [only] in his native robotic Cybertronian language.
“Hey, wait a minute, [EVA]… There was no ‘Brawl’ in the movie! What happened to Devastator?”
I don’t know the full background on him, but "Brawl" was the name of one of five individual military-inspired Combaticons created by the ever-power-hungry Starscream, and they could combine into Bruticus. Brawl’s vehicle mode in the Generation-1 series was that of a generic-looking green tank. The name “Devastator”, on the other hand, belonged to the combined form of the six Constructicons (again from G1).
Director Michael Bay was unaware of this when he made the film, but he liked it, and so used the name Devastator (which, BTW, was also one of the many unused names for what would become Decepticon Blackout). However, Hasbro, who owned the trademark, renamed [all] toy versions of the character “Brawl” to match him closer to his G1 origins. Ironically, the only evidence in the movie of the tank-robot’s name is when he replies to Starscream’s call to mobilize, and the original Cybertronian language is replaced with an English translation:
So before it’s released onto DVD- or [no doubt], in a later Special-Edition release- the subtitle could be changed to “Brawl” if Bay so-wished, and the unawares viewer would be none-the-wiser.
Brawl’s vehicle mode (back) is that of a real M1 Abrams main battle tank, originally designed by Chrysler Defense (now part of General Dynamics Land Systems), and manufactured by General Dynamics Corporation for both the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps. However, Brawl’s Abrams disguise is not a straight transition from the real tank.
The design of the tank used in the film (and thus all of the toys as well) is a modified redress of a real Abrams. The redressed tank seen in “Transformers” is the same one used for the film “xXx: State of the Union” (2005) as an advanced “stealth tank”. The largest modifications [that I can find] are the addition of the secondary turret & the armament on it, and the side paneling hanging over the tractor treads. The mine plow in front, however, can be used on the real Abrams. A single .50cal machine gun is also standard-issue on the Abrams, but it is free-mounted right in front of the [regular] turret hatch where the tank commander’s seat is; on Brawl, there is an additional hatch on the secondary turret which the alternately-paired machine guns are mounted in front. Another common (though not necessarily consistent) feature is the large paired black fuel tanks hanging off the back of the gas-hungry Abrams. (Ironically, Brawl is perhaps more green-friendly as far as propulsion methods that the real tanks!)
The vehicle mode is quite large, being a Leader-class toy- 11” from the end of the mine plow to the back of the fuel tanks. The main 120mm cannon on the front of the primary turret tilts up and down only a few degrees. For safety’s sake, the barrel pops off if too much pressure is applied to it. A subtle dark gray Decepticon symbol is painted on either side of the barrel, easily missed by blending in with the dark green camo... The primary turret has a wide twisting range, snapping at every 30-degrees- 180-degrees counterclockwise (to the left), but only 105-degrees clockwise (right). This is limited because of the wiring inside linking the batteries and internal electronic parts in the turret to the Automorph feature in the body. The secondary turret also features the two 37mm cannon barrels that also pop off, though the black PVC paired machine gun mount does not. The smaller cannons cannot pitch up or down. The quad-paired missile launchers are transparent ABS. Due to how they transform, they can be twisted outwards just beyond 90-degrees if you so wish. The secondary turret twists a full 180-degrees either direction, and snaps at every 45-degrees. The tractor treads on both sides are molded into three separate parts, and cannot rotate; four small black ABS wheels (two per side) beneath them provide mobility. To make certain that it doesn’t get scratched too easily since it projects downward the most, a fifth wheel sits in between the two tread sections on the undercarriage towards the front. (This wheel is later covered up by the chest in robot mode.) Even though a real mine plow is designed to shift up and down to follow the contour of the land ahead of it, the one on Brawl is fixed in a raised position, and does not move, save for the skids in the middle, but this is for transformation purposes only.
Since this is a Leader-class toy, which incorporates more advanced features that either Voyager- or Deluxe-class figures, there is a light-&-sound function. When the front of the main cannon is pressed back, it triggers the sound of a cannon firing, and a red LED lights up inside the barrel! (An old idea, but it works well!) On either side of the machine gun mount on the secondary turret are two buttons painted dark green as part of the camouflage. Pressing the right one activates a sound of [the missiles] firing five times, and at the same time, green LEDs in the missile launchers blink on and off! Pressing the left button has the same LED effect, but the sound is of a machine gun firing. Both F/X last about 4 seconds, but the LEDs do not blink in concert with the sounds. (Those green LEDs are bright for what they’re used for- they project clear circles over a distance of two feet from the end of the mine plow onto a white wall! The main cannon’s red LED, by contrast, projects a far shorter distance- under six inches.) When the secondary turret twists that first 45-degrees to either left or right, the associated weapon sound from the buttons activates automatically. While you can keep pressing the buttons to keep the F/X going as long as you like, keeping the turret pointed at 45-degrees keeps the sound going without you pressing anything. Once you twist beyond that 45-degree mark, however, the F/X ends. (Thus when changing him, it is impossible to avoid triggering one of either F/X when you turn the secondary turret around because it’s an automated feature.) The larger cannon has no automated feature when the main turret twists.
‘Automorph Technology’ is a new special feature that is fairly exclusive to the 2007 movie figures. What Automorph does is when one specific section moves, there is an internal system of gears and levers which moves another part in the same region. (Although, I’m sure a similar function has presented itself in the other lines from the various anime-inspired series. I do know for certain that the huge “Transformers Galaxy Force” Primus figure had such function(s) in his back armor, leg weapon units, and chest/head.)
The Leader-class toys- Brawl, Optimus Prime, and Megatron [and any following repaints]- feature “Advanced Automorph Technology”, which adds a light-and-sound function into the integrated movement, mostly involving changing the chest and/to exposing the head. Therefore, Brawl has four Automorph features:
- When first changing him from tank mode to robot mode, the green covers above the front third of his tractor treads spring backwards on white ABS arms to flatten themselves again the mid-panels when the headlights on the nose are separately depressed.
- On his left arm, there is a weapons pod with a ‘small’ black ABS gattling cannon that needs to be rotated into position. When the assembly that it is fixed to is shifted backwards, two white ABS claws swing forwards automatically, though they are not spring-powered. The same happens in reverse when transforming him back.
- On his right arm, there is a weapons pod with a small black switch on top. Sliding it forwards slides four cannon barrels forwards along with their associated green cowling(s). At the same time, a targeting sensor springs up from behind. To reverse the process, the sensor has to be held back by hand before/while the switch is slid back in order to lock it down again.
- His Advanced Automorph feature occurs towards the end of his transformation. Pressing the white projection at the front of his now-chest slides a green panel forward to make room for his head to spring up, the two pointed scoops on the mine plow shift downward, and the skid in the center of the plow angles upward and then you have to finish rotating it onto the top of his chest. At the same time, all three sound/LED effects go off one-by-one- cannon, machine guns, and missile; this time, however, both the red and green LEDs flash together at the same time, and is the only time they do so. Reversing/resetting the spring-loaded Advanced Automorph feature triggers the combined F/X again. (The F/X here, again, are an automated function and cannot be avoided.)
I’d like to mention something else that is involved in transforming Brawl, but is not direct related to the changes, that I liked. On the main turret as the cannon barrel swings around, two spring-loaded panels are required to slide out of the way. A third panel that you don’t even touch slides all by itself depending on what position the larger of the two is in. The arms with the missile launcher on them that swing around also have spring-loaded panels that slide automatically. I just think that is so cool…
(I was hesitant to add the light-and-sound F/X to the Automorph list since they don’t change anything physically, but they are involved in it.)
Brawl’s robot mode (back) is most intimidating. Strong, powerful, thick armor, heavily armed, and a bad-ass attitude to go with, reflected in all the jagged edges of his body. Perfect. Unlike most Transformers released from the movie line, most of the features of Brawl’s tank mode don’t survive in his robot mode. It’s almost like Brawl wears them as a cloak to hide most of the mass of his robot body; then they are easily collapsed down and folded out of the way. The most easily recognizable parts are the paired turrets on his back (both now vertical, though pointing opposite directions), the front covers and two-thirds of the tractor treads folded up accordion-fashion on the back of his lower legs, and the mine plow & front-third tractor treads on/above his chest. The two halves of the mine plow’s scoops point forward at an angle. They can be adjusted to fold backwards, but my preference is just to leave them as they are when the Advanced Automorph change is done. His head is half green with painted highlights, and half transparent so that when light shown through it, his red eyes would glow. (Unlike most of the toys from the 2007 movie line with this feature, it actually works on Brawl!) His left arm and right arm are identical except for the weapons pods on them, and they are full of detail. Like his arms, his legs, too, are chocked full of detail, especially on his upper legs, and the front of his lower legs. The fuel tanks unfold in four different directions like a bear trap to become his jagged feet, then two long, thin white blades fold down from his lower legs to become part of his feet. These blades are a feature not seen on either the Deluxe-class or Fast Action Battlers figures; whether they are on the movie character or not is debatable.
As expected, Brawl has a wide range of motion. Snap-rotation joints are in his shoulders (both axis), elbows (one), hips (two), and knees (one), while free-rotate joints are in his neck (two axis), elbows (one), knees (one), and ankles (one). Well, there are actually two separate shoulder joints- one between the shoulder and elbow- which is used when transforming him, that can be used for posing if you wish. Also, the shoulders tilt slightly backwards, so the arms never point straight downwards no mater what you do; but it’s no big deal. Though I’m not complaining at all, I was surprised that Brawl’s head was not on a ball-and-socket joint, but I suppose that it’s for the better. However, the range of motion is intentionally limited side-to-side in his neck because those two tractor assemblies sit on his shoulder. Up-and-down, too, is limited, though I am disappointed about that- he can’t look forward when crouched down. (Not that he can balance at all bent-over by himself, mind you…) As with the Leader-class Prime and Megs (as they’re also affectionately known as in the Transformers communities), all of Brawl’s fingers (three per hand) are individually articulated. Additionally, because of how he transforms, there is a wrist joint with a part that looks like a piston, much like the muscles on a human arm; so when his wrist pitches either direction, the piston moves accordingly! How awesome is that! The two scoops of the mine plow get in the way of his arms and legs sometimes, but even folding them back doesn’t solve anything. (This is really the only part of Brawl’s style & design that I scratch my head about; why not reposition the scoops so that they don’t stick out awkwardly like that?) Articulation in the legs is good, though it’s hard to pose sometimes since those folded-up panels on the back of the legs hinder some positions. Also, the free-rotate joints in his knees point at an oh-so-slight angle, but enough so that it does weird things when you try to hold him steady; it’s hard to describe the effects. And finally, the feet. Though his feet are not big enough to be believable for a robot this massive (you see the twisted metal ones on the character in the movie?), they can support him. (The Deluxe-class figure, by contrast, had sufficiently-large feet.) The ankles can tilt side-to-side, but it is a very limited range, and does not compensate enough for when he is standing tall and straight; he never stands flat on his feet, always on the edges. Altering the feet parts before full production began could easily have solved this problem. Though they are part of the footprint, the white blades are attached/fit inside his upper legs, thus they are independent of the motion of the ankles. These are very easy to flip up and down, but do not snap into any position.
Like the Voyager-class figures, the Leader-class Brawl has a special weapon feature. Even though I don’t have it (and don’t intend to get it), part of the transformation of the smaller Deluxe-class Brawl figure was that the main cannon was positioned on his right arm, and could shoot a spring-loaded missile. While this Leader-class figure, ironically, has no spring-loaded weapons (that’s odd because Prime and Megs did…), the main cannon- usually stored hanging out of the way in back- repositions itself to hang under his right arm next to his waist, but remain attached to the turret via an internal rotating arm structure. The F/X for the main cannon remains functional in robot mode regardless of its positioning.
Several of Brawl’s weapons (well, “Devastator” if you wanna be picky) are hacked apart during the opening minutes of the Mission City battle. (This includes his left missile launcher by Jazz, and his entire lower left arm by Ratchet!) Because his transformation is drastically different from the movie version despite being the same character (more on that later), it is difficult to tell what happens to the main cannon when he transforms, so I don’t know how accurate this cannon-under-the-arm feature is. I can tell you that in the official video game, Brawl’s main cannon retracts back into the main turret. (Whether it is used or not I can’t say since I haven’t played the game myself.)
While Hasbro can certainly be credited with the enormous task of transforming the immensely-complex CGI characters used in the 2007 movie (which- on average- contained 10,000 components per robot!), it should be noted that these are not just straight transitions either. Unfortunately, because of the filming style used by Michael Bay in the movie- and the fact that the focus of the camera shot was on Jazz grappling on top of Devastator as he transformed (which was a pretty gutsy and cool F/X shot to make, if you ask me)- we do not get a clear, unhindered view of how Devastator changes except from the front half of the vehicle mode to just above his chest. Beyond that, one would have to eventually contact the special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic and have them send [you] new material. Also because of the style of shooting that Bay used, no clear, standing images are available of Devastator on-film, which- to me- is critical in comparing Brawl here to his on-screen counterpart. (For the sake of time and space, I won’t get into the film-making process of this movie here.) However, even in those few seconds of film and the limited view we are offered, it is clear that even the advanced Leader-class Brawl figure does not perfectly resemble his complex on-screen CGI counterpart, or how he transforms.
What the Instructions *Don’t* Tell You
The Leader-class Brawl toy did well in this category, with nothing left out. (That’s a first for me thus far in the 2007 movie line…) There are, however, two nitpicks:
- The two white blades that make up part of his feet are not mentioned on either the box art or in the instructions. The two smaller toys of Brawl do not have them at all, and have no molded feature that looks like them. This could mean that they have been added to the Leader-class figure as an exclusive bonus weapon feature. And since the toy itself is still more different from his CGI counterpart, this leaves their use up to interpretation as to whether it is a required step in his transformation, or a pop-up surprise weapon. (Personally, to give him just a bit more of the movie’s flare, I keep them out all the time, and think they are a regular part of his feet rather than a special feature. I have photographed him as such.)
- The main turret assembly is connected to the body via a long black and green ABS support structure underneath. This is not normally visible in either robot or tank mode. However, I find that it is useful in moving things around initially when transforming him into robot mode by lifting up the paired turrets. This also has the added effect of exposing an additional layer of detail on both the support arm itself and beneath the main turret. Molded details on both include pipes & wiring, exhaust vents, and magazine stores for the shells used in his cannons. I find it best to fold the turret(s) back down before rotating them around to fit on his back after flipping the upper torso down, that way they don’t bump into either his arms or the tractor treads now on his shoulders.
But the instructions don’t tell you any of this…
When I first got Brawl, I was expecting just a larger version of the Voyager-class toys- better detail molds, and perhaps an Automorph feature or two, nothing special or unique- but I was pleasantly surprised at how advanced he was. The level of detail is excellent even compared against my favored Voyager-class Ironhide, there are more Automorph features, with one of them tied directly into a light-and-sound function, there is a light-and-sound feature, [from what I’m told] it solves certain problems that the Deluxe-class figure had, and it is more consistent in what he looks like on the big screen even if that transition is not perfect. Anything negative? Well, aside from my personal nitpicks regarding the position of the mine plow in robot mode, how those white blades on the upper legs are dealt with, and the head not having a slightly larger range of motion, I’ve heard- and experienced- a problem with the main cannon and how it moves around. Many people are complaining that the connection between the trigger inside the base of the cannon on the outside of that black arm is loose. For the first few days after I got Brawl, all was well; but then the red LED started acting intermittently, then not at all, and then a few days ago the feature failed to activate either the light or the sound when pressed. Now the only time I heard the cannon fire is when the Advanced Automorph in the chest activates it automatically, but the LED still doesn’t light up. Unfortunately, there are no visible screws, so I can’t get to the trigger feature to try to fix it myself. Bummer… that was a cool effect. Another big issue with just about all the Leader-class figures is in the tank mode. The side panels and tank treads just don’t line up the way they’re supposed to, so you always have some kind of gap between the main body and the covers over the treads. This is because the panels and treads press up right against the arms inside there. Very annoying, and it cannot be avoided either! Were I more into customizing toys, I guess that I would probably have to cut something off of the inside of the lower arm- possibly that wrist piston feature that I so much love- in order to get a tight fit. The only good news is that when the forward covers are locked in place under the headlight buttons, it holds together even if there are small gaps exposed. And I would really have liked a more flexible, possibly two-axis, joint in the ankles; that, too, is really annoying despite looking cool.
(This is one of the final pre-production paintings of Devastator from before the CGI character was made by ILM, though it may not be what the final CGI character looks like. It frustrates me to no end that I cannot find a clear, full-sized image of the final rendered CGI character. If you know where to obtain one online, do please let me know!)
All in all, I still think that this is a great toy. The biggest reason I got him was because he was to-scale with all of the other figures (approximately1/24) as opposed to the Deluxe-class version of him. (Many are hoping that Decepticons Blackout and Starscream will get a similar Leader-class upgrade, since both of those are bigger- like Megatron- in real life than Optimus Prime himself!) I also liked that the eyes in the head actually glow when light shines through them, and I think that all of the other figures with this feature should have been built along the same lines; both Leader-class Megatron and Optimus Prime, however, have electronic lights built into their eyes. I also thought that the LEDs in the missile launchers was a really nice idea, though… why are they green? (T’were it me, I would’ve chosen yellow or orange.) I’ve already mentioned that I like the hands and that wrist piston, but I also like the weapons attached to them. Brawl is armed to the teeth, and you do not want to mess with him if you can avoid it. Highly recommended!
[DISCLAIMER: This last section is not supported, advertised, or endorsed by either Hasbro or Paramount Pictures. It is a fan-supported effort completely independent from all companies affiliates with the 2007 film "Transformers".]
Just before “Transformers” was released into theaters in July, 2007, Warner Brothers’ music label released a single CD containing songs performed by various popular bands that were appearing in the film. (Four of these songs did not make it into the film but were included on the CD anyways, including a remake of the classic G1 Transformers theme by Mute Math!) It was unknown at the time how well the film would do, and so none of the original score composed by Steve Jablonsky was included. Even though the film did quite well internationally in theaters despite criticism from even hardcore Transformers fans, the original score also received praise. After seeing the film, many went to stores to buy “Transformers: The Album”, hoping to be able to listen to some of the original soundtrack (OST). Unfortunately, Warner Brothers had not anticipated this in the pre-release months, and a letter was sent out shortly thereafter that they would not be releasing any of the OST.
(For you anime fans out there, Jablonsky composed the complete score for Katsuhiro Otomo’s 2004 film “Steamboy”. He had also previously collaborated with “Transformers” director Michael Bay to score 2005’s less-successful “The Island”.)
This was criticized by many. The webmaster of The Knight Shift created an online petition mere days after “Transformers” was released in theaters; asking Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, and Warner Brothers to release an OST containing only music composed by Mr. Jablonsky. While sales for “…The Album” dropped rapidly inside of a two week period (from #29 to #76 on the Billboard music charts, and no more than 91,000 units sold), by the end of July, 2,000 signatures had been recorded by the petition, and by mid-August five weeks later, that number had quickly doubled to 4,000.
(Yours truly can be found as entry #1112!)
On August 26th, Warner Brothers announced that- by popular demand- they would be releasing a single CD containing most of the OST from the film! By then, the petition had surpassed 5,000 signatures. The release date would be October 9th, 2007. The movie “Transformers” itself would be released on DVD a few days later on October 16th. Depending how well “Transformers: The Score” does, Warner Brothers mentioned the possibility that a 2-disc OST containing the complete 90 minutes of the score would be released later on. (Please, oh please, oh please, oh please, oh please…)
(Whether intentional or not, October 9th is written out as 09-09, or 9-9. The release date for “Transformers” in the United States was July 4th, 2007- written out as 07-04-07, or 7-4-7 on promotional materials; an obvious & eye-catching though unrelated reference to the famed Boeing 747 wide-body commercial jumbo jet. Playing with numbers, are we…?)
On September 2nd, Steve Jablonsky e-mailed The Knight Shift, thanking them, and everyone who had signed the petition, for supporting him and the music. He also mentioned that an OST had always been in the works, but would have been released later on.
Yay-! I wanted to hear the OST as well, and was quite mad when there wasn’t going to be one released. They neglected to release an OST of Randy Newman’s score when the Star Trek-parody “Galaxy Quest” (1999) came out, and it made me mad! Same with David Arnold’s score for the remake of “Godzilla” (1998).
(I absolutely loved the scene where the Autobots descent from space, and then gather in the alleyway. That inspirational piece of music, alone, convinced me that I wanted this OST!)
If you read these notices at the end of these reviews on CDX, and you too signed the petition, I thank you as well! And if you read it, but did nothing… Heh-, well... I hope a protoform Autobot hard-lands right on your a--!
|Posted 12 September, 2007 - 20:18 by EVA_Unit_4A|