Signal Flare (Scout-class)
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.
This Autobot Signal Flare figure is a Target-exclusive release for the live-action film “Transformers” (2007). It is a repaint of the original Autobot Signal Flare from the “Transformers: Energon” (2005) line. Unlike regular Autobots and Decepticons, Signal Flare was one of many neutral-party Omnicons who could wield powerful raw Energon weapons. All molds, details, transformation, and special features are the same between the two toys; only plastic colors and paint applications have been changed. This is the first repaint for this toy since its debut in the “…Energon” series.
Signal Flare’s vehicle mode (back) is a combination mobile radar station and heavy energy cannon, depending on how the Energon accessories are attached to him. For movement, he has a combination of four front wheels beneath the forward control section, and two large tractor treads in back (with two smaller hidden wheels inside them). Perhaps the only odd part of the vehicle mode is having the brown left arm sticking out the back; it kinda implies that Signal Flare acts as a tractor for another component or ‘bot, but I have found no evidence to support this. However, this extended section is a great place for the black-on-silver Sector 7 logo to hang out. I have found that he never rests completely even on all [six] wheels at the same time, no matter how much you fidget with it; most likely this is a quality control problem, but I’m not certain. As opposed to the original’s neon blue, dark blue, mustard yellow, black, and transparent red, the repaint of Signal Flare for the movie’s release is molded in olive green, black, gray, and brown, with silver, brown, and a little green, yellow & red paint added. The same plain gray plastic is used for the Spark Crystal and Energon weapons (more on this later) This was done to make Signal Flare fit more comfortably into the movie’s regular line of character, giving it a slight more ‘real-life’ appearance and style since modern heavy military vehicles have a similar light forest camouflage.
The large cannon above is almost as long as the vehicle itself, and is quite poseable- it can point both up and down, and can twist all the way around through 360-degrees! But here’s the really cool part: when the turret twists to the side or up & down, the forward light gray half of the cannon itself twists automatically via a hidden internal mechanism!
Signal Flare’s transformation is very easy to learn and execute. Unlike most of the original designs for the movie, he does not have a more-recent Automorph feature anywhere in or on him. (Back to basics- I like that! Automorph is a nice gimmick to have around, but if they make 'em too often, it loses its novelty.)
The one aspect of his transformation which I really worry about is that long black bar that his upper torso telescopes down. At one end is a ball-and-socket joint (which, in my opinion, was unnecessary for how it is used), and at the other is his head. The only thing (as far as I can tell) that prevents the gray torso from popping off completely while extending it back for vehicle mode is the very tiny, barely-there horns on the top of his head. And since you really have to wiggle that torso part around to extend or retract it, I’m concerned that it will eventually wear at them and finally break them off. Unfortunately, you have to deal with this problem every time since everything doesn’t line up correctly if you don’t extend it all the way in vehicle mode.
Ironically, even though the bar that Signal Flare’s head is on twists side-to-side during the transformation, the head itself cannot twist in robot mode.
Signal Flare’s smaller robot mode (back) is more familiar to Transformers fans- blocky with rounded edges, simple to execute, clear details- than the designs in the movie, which had complex molds & details, highly complicated designs, and featured more steps for the transformations than average. In some ways, it’s a relief from the seemingly chaotic robots seen on the big screen! Unlike just about all of the movie designs, Signal Flare’s head does not feature a transparent backing for light to shine through, so his visor-like monoeye is painted red. His Spark Crystal- which was originally located above and behind the un-painted cockpit, just in front of the mounting point for the cannon- now rests in the center of his chest. His right arm remains a giant cannon with no grappling device (and or claw) present. The brown ABS left arm is a bit more traditional looking, and still carries the S7 logo. The legs are formed by the sides of the vehicle mode- the back half swinging around to form the lower legs & feet. To swing around the legs while transforming him, the front side bumpers end up behind his hips.
Poseability in Signal Flare is some of the most reasonable I’ve seen in these repainted Scout-class figures that I’ve reviewed so far. The cannon arm on the right side retains it’s tilting and twisting, while the cannon barrel continues to twist when you move it. (Awesome, that.) The left arm has a single ball-and-socket joint in the shoulder, and a simpler single joint in the elbow. (That elbow can also bend backwards too. Ewwwww…) The hips turn on two axis (one of them due to how he transforms), though you can’t bend them backwards at all because those vehicle mode bumpers prevent them from doing so. Surprisingly on this figure, there are knee joints which bend 90-degrees. The only odd part about this knee is that it’s a bit too low on the leg, so it bends in a kinda-strange place. But, hey- at least they can bend!
One of the regular features/gimmicks of the “…Energon” line was that they all had a Spark Crystal [inspired by the first ones on the Transmetal-2 figures from “Beast Wars: Transformers” (1997-1999)]. These are tiny transparent domes no more than ½” in diameter located somewhere in both vehicle and robot modes, which showed their true allegiance- Autobot or Decepticon. Then a separate color-coded transparent ABS plastic Energon part could be affixed over the crystal to indicate that they were, em… ‘powered-up’ with Energon. (I don’t know how this was portrayed in the series, so I can’t comment on that.) Signal Flare’s Energon part is just a plain gray ABS as opposed to being a transparent coloring.
(In case you are unaware, a spark is the soul or life-force of a Transformer which makes them more than just machines- extending them into truly living machines. All Cybertronians- big, small, young or old, powerful or not- have one. Optimus Prime touched on this briefly- almost exposing his own- in the 2007 movie when the Autobots are conversing outside of the Griffith Observatory.)
. . .
While all Cybertronians in the “…Energon” series had a Spark Crystal and overlapping Energon piece, most of them were also able to wield extra color-coded transparent Energon pieces which could be spring-loaded cannons, or separate parts merging later into larger combined blade weapons like axes or swords. The larger combined Energon weapon(s) could be utilized by all of the toys, though they were usually only meant to be used by larger/more-powerful Deluxe-, Voyager-, and Leader-class figures. The separating weapons could usually be used also in vehicle mode as enhancements/add-on features. The holes in the hands have become standardized since the “…Energon” line ended, so all succeeding lines- at this point "Transformers: Cybertron” and Transformers: Classics (2006)- can use the weapons. (However, most of the figures from the 2007 movie’s line don’t have hands that can grip the Energon weapons.)
Signal Flare’s combined Energon weapon comes in three parts. The first is a quartered radar dish that is composed of two separately-rotating parts. This can attach to the end of the cannon for both vehicle and robot modes. So, regardless of if the cannon’s barrel is rotating or not, the dish can be independently turned by hand as well. (Signal Flare is boxed with the dish already attached.) The other two parts are like thick sensor vanes, and in vehicle mode, attach to the pivoting point at the back of the cannon on either side. (The vanes are not seen attached to the cannon in robot mode, but this remains an option if you wish.) In robot mode, the vanes connect at their bases to form a narrow shield that Signal Flare can only hold flat in his left hand. The combined Energon weapon takes these three parts and merges them into a mish-mashed buzzsaw ax, which can be wielded by Signal Flare only in robot mode. (Only the left hand, again, can hold the buzzsaw ax.) The Spark Crystal cover mentioned earlier does not interact with the weapon (s), but they can be used at the same time on him without interfering with each other.
I remember when “Transformers: Energon” was on the shelves years ago, I saw the original Signal Flare. Most likely, I turned my nose up at him then just because of the coloring. I was a fool for doing so! While I was researching for this review, I was reminded of how much I actually wanted the original, but missed my chance to get it! So why did I get a repaint when I do that so rarely? Well, that explains the appeal of some repaints- they just work better than the originals. It’s a great toy with no real problems to it (using the very tiny horns on the head to hold the torso in place still makes me nervous, and how he holds the shield is kinda weird), the mold details are great, and he moves well for a toy his size. Often times, the colors chosen for the toy can overshadow how great it can be. And other times, the opposite is true, great choice of coloring, but poor design, sculpts, or functions. And sometimes I see a repaint that is interesting, but I am satisfied with the original that I already have. So, because I missed it the first time around, it is a repaint that I agree with, and less because it is a repaint issued during the run of the movie’s lineup which did not appear on-screen, I strongly recommend getting Signal Flare.
|Posted 19 February, 2008 - 03:22 by EVA_Unit_4A|