Masterpiece Movie Series Starscream
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
The saying “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” could apply to both Megatron and his second-in-command, Starscream. While Megatron is the general in command of all Decepticon forces for his master, The Fallen, it is Starscream who oversees that his lord’s orders are followed. Megatron knows, however, that Starscream yearns to one day take both his command and his spark from him. Being a shrewd tactician in his own right, Starscream fully believes he could lead the Decepticons to victory far more effectively. He also knows that trying to overthrow Lord Megatron would not be an easy task. Fortunately, when Lord Megatron went off alone to find the AllSpark Cube- and promptly disappeared thousands of stellar cycles ago- this gave Starscream his moment, and he took it. For the good and preservation of his race, Starscream deftly avoided all chances to find his former lord, but when the Cube was suddenly discovered, and subsequently lost, on Earth, he was more than a little disappointed to find Megatron elevated above him once more. Though convinced of his superiority amongst all Decepticons (some such as Blackout and Brawl have questioned this to his face), Starscream is wise enough to not challenge Megatron directly, but remains adamant that he will one day lead his army to victory over the Autobots and become a hero on the gutted hulk of Cybertron. Starscream’s disguised form is that of the next-generation American stealth fighter Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor. Built upon the lessons of its now-retired second-generation predecessor, the F-117A Nighthawk, the Raptor is more versatile in acting in an air-superiority role than strictly a ground attack one. Advanced technology and engineering design also allow the Raptor to attain speeds and maneuvering capability, including new vectored-thrust techniques previously prohibited by the awkward angular shape of stealth vehicles, able to increase to a sustainable speed of Mach 2.25. Removable external hardpoints (previously not used because they interrupt and negate the stealth effect) also allow for extended flight range and ordinance flexibility. Though still relatively early in its very successful career (first prototype YF-22 flight in 1990, first production F-22A flight in 1997), due to a mounting financial crisis in the United States in 2005, and development of the smaller-but-more-flexible F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the government contract for new F-22s was canceled in 2008 and production ended in 2011, with only 187 aircraft produced. Lockheed-Martin is planning a series of upgrades after production ends to raise the Raptor’s capabilities to something closer to the Lightning II’s.
For safety reasons, the nosecone is made of light gray rubber. That is the only non-ABS piece seen in this form. Nothing moves in this mode except for the three ABS wheels on the retractable landing gear. Above the left air intake is a square button that activates the light-and-sound effects. (See below.) In the middle of the fuselage on top is the battery compartment, which requires two AAA batteries to operate. The toy’s three removable accessories, two ABS missile projectiles and a single-barrel missile launcher, can be stored on the toy in Vehicle Mode, leaving nothing behind! Both missiles can be pegged to the underside of the wings. The missile launcher can be pegged to the exposed undercarriage; but it can be flipped forward so that the missiles can be inserted into it and fired.
Like the toys from the official “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” toy line, Starscream’s transformation does not involve any Automorph Technology. The outer half of both main wings fold up and inwards via springs. The same goes for a pair of small non-functional bars that hang behind the shoulders, which fold down when you adjust the shoulders to their proper place; they also have springs so they remain tight against the fuselage in Vehicle Mode. In both of these cases, I would not call them Automorph because they are not advertised as such, and not as involved or automated as previous examples in other toy lines, even if activated by springs as you manipulate them.
Articulation is a standard affair, with a few notable exceptions. The wrists and fingers of each hand are individually articulated, and there are two sets of joints for the double-knee in each leg. Though officially not listed as part of the “…Revenge of the Fallen” toy line, but appearing immediately after it, Starscream does have several Mech Alive features. The first- and more subtle- are a pair of thin, tan-colored central columns which spin inside his lower-most legs when they are turned side-to-side at the ankle. The other Mech Alive feature is in his wide torso. A pair of joints has been carefully hidden between the cockpit at the center of his chest and his shoulders. With these two joints (one on each side of his torso), either or both shoulders can be rotated forward almost 90-degrees, which vastly increases the range of posability! In each forearm are Starscream’s pop-out weapons, an auto-cannon in the right (probably the same single 2.25mm close-range Vulcan cannon that the real Raptors use), and a pair of missiles in the left. Neither of these is removable or functional on its own, but they are revealed when a small tab on the inner side of each forearm is pushed backwards by you, popping out from behind spring-sealed panels! The larger missile launcher can be attached via peg to either hand, though the hand must be retracted to mount it on the back of the hand. The launcher can only carry and fire one missile at a time. When not in use, the missile launcher can be stored in the center of his back, and the two missile projectiles pegged into either side behind his shoulders (in the same holes found under his wings in Vehicle Mode).
As a Leader-class figure (he likes you when you call him that, by the way), Starscream is large enough to incorporate a light-and-sound gimmick. In Vehicle Mode, there is a square behind the cockpit canopy on the left side. When pressed, the transparent amber cockpit and engine air intakes pulse on-and-off with three red LEDs, and you will hear:
- A jet aircraft flying overhead
- A voice saying “No one can defeat Starscream!” (which is clearly not Charlie Adler, who voices him in both movies)
When switching between modes, you will hear the classic “transforming sound-effect” play when changing him in either direction. The trigger for this is an obvious and easy-to-reach button located directly behind his head on the right side. (Which means you can activate that sound-effect whenever you like when he’s in Robot Mode.) The second option is tied into the Mech Alive gimmick as well, though it only functions in Robot Mode. The back of the cockpit canopy is exposed on top, and when pulled forward about an inch, the chest panels immediately to either side will flip open slightly, and the top of Starscream’s head will lift upwards, implying that he is talking. When this Mech Alive feature is activated, you will hear Starscream say:
- “No one can defeat Starscream!” (Repeated from his Vehicle Mode)
- “Decepticons will crush the Autobots!”
In addition to his cockpit lighting up again, the lights inside his chest (i.e. the same lights from the air intakes) and a new single LED inside his head will light up. Unlike Vehicle Mode, however, the LEDs will not pulse on-and-off when Starscream speaks in Robot Mode. Finally, though you’re obviously supposed to ignore it, the button for his Vehicle Mode’s effects can be easily accessed behind his left shoulder.
Included in the Masterpiece Movie Series box are some Japan-exclusive bonus materials not found in the toy’s release in English-speaking countries. A decal sheet is provided with a selection of transparent-backed US Air Force-specific markings, which identify the plane (which Starscream scanned when he came to Earth) as belonging to the 71st Fighter Squadron (“The Ironmen”), 1st Fighter Wing out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. An alternative pair of decals suggests the 192nd Fighter Wing, also part of the same Fighter Wing as the 71st. Others have noted that since the 71st still flies the F-15 Eagle, the inaccurate labeling may instead be an intentional nod to Starscream’s original vehicle mode from the TV series “The Transformers” (1984-86), which was indeed an F-15. As is standard practice in Japan for all of their Transformers releases, a character bio card is provided, showing Starscream’s technical statistics and the toy in both modes on the back, and a movie-version of the CGI character posed on the front signifying that the card came specifically from this set. Finally, a small two-part comic book is provided, called “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen- Unite for the Universe”, written by well-known Transformers comic author Simon Furman, and art by Guido Guidi. Unfortunately, because I cannot read Japanese, I cannot tell you what it is about. It is clear that Starscream is in charge of the operation(s), it takes place after the second film, and it features several non-movie characters- Bludgeon, Dirge, Mindwipe, Brawn, and Skystalker. Under Megatron’s instructions, Starscream orders an assault on an arctic-like N.E.S.T. facility but the team is intercepted and thwarted by Ratchet, Brawn, and Power-Up Optimus Prime. In the next part, the Decepticons- including [a resurrected] Ravage- break into a N.E.S.T. desert facility (where the rusting hulks of several ‘Cons from the movies are seen in the background- Demolishor, Brawl, Sideways, Blackout, and Bonecrusher), but are again intercepted, this time by Bumblebee and Ironhide. The inside covers show promotions for the 2009 upgraded Ultimate Bumblebee set and hint at the original multi-platform video game “Transformers: War for Cybertron” (2010).
I have a small confession to make: I like Starscream. Mostly because his meager plans to destroy or betray Megatron, or strike out on his own, often blow up in his face. Also his alt mode can fly. Simple reasons, but satisfying nonetheless. Unfortunately I only have three examples of him in my collection, including the one above. I have the Supreme-class one from “…Cybertron” (2006) and Voyager-class from “…Animated” (2008-09). The problem is, even though I like the character, most of his toy I carnations are less than thrilling for a variety of reasons and I end up intentionally turning them all down (including the repaints). So when I choose to get a Starscream figure, in my mind it really has to stand out in some way… or at least not suck. The 2007 movie version had huge blasters which were a laugh, but the rest wasn’t that great. Hasbro learned their lesson and made a new 2009 version, and I gave that one serious consideration until I determined that his legs looked too scrawny and the paint apps on his head were atrocious. I waited too long on the latter, and was just about to give in and get the Nebulon repaint, when I heard that this Leader-class figure was coming out. So I held my breath a few more months… and when I saw just the un-painted prototype, I threw up my hands and said ‘That is a diamond!’ I would finally get to own a movie-version of Screamer… Unlike Leader-class Autobot Jetfire (which I already hated before I got him and quickly returned to the box after I reviewed him), I like how the undercarriage in Vehicle Mode has been dealt with here. While resembling nothing whatsoever of the real air fighter it is trying to imitate from the bottom (it looks like a pregnant F-22… or a penguin), it is clear that more effort was put into trying to streamline some of that robot kibble down a bit. The camouflage is very awesome and seems to be modeled directly from the real plane’s design, which is just fine with me. While nice to have lights in jet form, it’s rather annoying that you hear him speak. I mean, why not give us a missile-firing sound or another jet overhead sound, or… anything except him speaking! Dude, save the voice for when he’s in Robot Mode. I do like how not only can the projectiles and launcher all be stored on the toy so there’s nothing left behind, but how the launcher can flip forward in a very Bayformers-like style for shooting said projectiles; well played there. (Oh, by the way, I had one HELL of a time taking the screw out of that battery compartment. I don’t think I’ll be able to open it again, I’ve stripped the head so badly, and it wasn’t even my fault that the metal was so dammed weak!) Also, unlike Leader-class Jetfire and Optimus Prime, while the transformation is certainly still complex, it is not nearly as frustrating or time-consuming, although it does still required a bit of brainpower to complete. (I do still have one heck of a time removing that panel from directly behind the cockpit each time in Vehicle Mode- not even enough space for fingernails!), but it’s not over-simplified like it was on the 2009 Leader-class Megatron (who I specifically did not get for that very reason). I’d call this set good for kids 7-9yrs in regards to the transformation. With the change in color between the US and Japanese versions, this toy is amazing in Robot Mode; much more accurate to his onscreen appearance! While the double-knee design for this character is limited due to the fact that it is a toy, it can make posing a little tricky. The swiveling ankle is appreciated because it helps compensate, but I kind of wish there had been a third- yes, I said “third”- axis of motion in the hips. It’s also a shame they couldn’t have gotten a waist joint in there, but considering how thin those waist transformation panels are, I can’t say I entirely blame them for not doing it. For the Mech Alive, I am totally satisfied. I mean, having that extra torso articulation was both brilliant and greatly appreciated! It just allows for his extra wide torso to have some life to it and sort out a share of the haters who dislike this version of their beloved G1 character. The nice part is nothing was sacrificed to give us said torso articulation, so props to TakaraTomy and Hasbro there! I will say though that even though the chest moving Mech Alive is shared by all of the Leader-class figures from the “…Revenge of the Fallen” toy line, it seems kind of underwhelming here because those panels immediately to either side of the cockpit should have been spread away a little to make them blend better with their CGI counterpart, but I suppose that’s just me being petty. Another thing that bogs me down is that, not only did they NOT get the guy from the movie to do his voice, but the Vehicle Mode’s effects can be easily accessed and so can the transformation sound (why wasn’t it a hidden tab???). I suppose I should be thankful he didn’t have an accent in the movie that they could also foul-up in the toy. (Seriously- how much trouble can that be to get the same guy in to put into the toy; it’s only two friggin’ lines!! That’s one more than in the other three Leader-class toys… and he actually says one of them in BOTH modes! What the hell.) One key ingredient that is missing from Robot Mode which is used a number of times in the movies are his jet engines. For the toy, the vectored-thrust nozzles end up on the top of his upper arms, but in the movie(s), they are clearly seen on his back. While a bunch of wing parts (the joints for those diagonal tails worry me) end up in back on the toy, many, including myself, have expressed regret at this loss. Those pop-out weapons on his forearms are just what the doctor ordered, and perfectly match what is seen on-screen, though his missile launcher has lost some of its movement when it is deployed. Still, awesome features to have! I suppose I’ve put this off as long as I possibly can, even though it is the primary justification for getting this toy over its English-speaking counterpart. (Speaking of which, why does a Japanese toy marketed to Japanese kids speak only English phrases??? Of all the changes they made visually, that is just lazy…) Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is seen in Vehicle Mode. While the US release has the Cybertronian tattoos that he sports in “…Revenge of the Fallen”, this version retains the clean camouflage of the real F-22 Raptor, and also has decals for the tail and left wing. The tattoos carry over into Robot Mode both on-screen and on the US release. Aside from simply not having them, the biggest change here is the extra amounts of paint detail and changes in plastic coloring they used, which brings out the alien machinery just that much more, and more closely resembles his onscreen counterpart. (They even put a smidgen of violet under his eyes!) On the other hand, you really only get brown and light gray on the US release, whereas there are no less than five different colors of plastic here before paint applications were added! Oh, and the vinyl strips that represent cords along both sides of each elbow are painted dark red just like in the movie(s). While the toy is detailed and fun enough either way, the coloring differences between the US release and the Movie Masterpiece Starscream set are as different as night and day. Highly recommended!
|Posted 26 December, 2010 - 15:58 by EVA_Unit_4A|