Review by EVA_Unit_4A
Blackout is the largest Decepticon on Earth, so trying to hide his roughly 23 ton mass and yet allow himself to move about freely is not an easy thing to do. But when he loyally descended from space to help in the search for Megatron, he was fortunate to come across a US special operations Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low III helicopter on assignment in Afghanistan- which he promptly shot down and used as his vehicle disguise. This would allow him to initially sneak into SOCCENT FWD Operations Base in Qatar, and gain access to the computer and communications networks to accomplish his mission. But failing to retrieve any useful information, he went on a rampage and destroyed the base, dispatching fellow Decepticon Scorponok to eliminate the survivors. Later, when Megatron had been located in the United States, sub-commander Starscream ordered all of the other Earth-bound Decepticons to gather at his location to free their entrapped leader, and take back the AllSpark Cube. Blackout stands over 50ft (16.6m) tall in his upright robot form, and is armed with a pair of missile launchers on his shoulders & left forearm, and a rapid-fire autocannon on his right forearm. It was witnessed by the few survivors of the initial attack that the gray, black, & silver Cybertronian was able to lift and throw objects as heavy as tanks hundreds of feet through the air with his three-fingered hands. He also mounts a powerful fold-out energy-pulse cannon in his chest. And true to his name, Blackout has an advanced built-in electronic-countermeasures (ECM) suite to block out radar and other sensors- it is powerfully enough that it can fry any electrical circuit within range, bringing perfect darkness to any vehicle, building, or even city... and fear the occupants therein. Unlike most of the other Decepticons on Earth, Blackout does not use human speech, and communicates [only] in his native robotic Cybertronian language.
Blackout’s vehicle mode (back) is that of a real US special-operations MH-53 Pave Low III heavy-lift helicopter, manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. (The earlier version was known as the HH-53 “Super Jolly Green Giant”, all of which were later upgraded into the Pave Low.) It is well represented here, with many of the identifiable features migrating over to the toy- radar dome & retracted mid-air refueling boom on the nose just below the nine-window cockpit; large, long jet engines with filters set outside the fuselage just below the main six-blade rotor; paired 650-gallon jettisonable fuel pods attached to either support pylon aside the fuselage; and a large swing-down door in the aft fuselage bellow the tail rotor support structure, though that has been modified for a different purpose here since the toy cannot recreate the hollow interior to hold the 38 soldiers and five crew that it’s real-life counterpart has. Also noticeable are six small square windows painted black along the fuselage. The three small landing gear struts- each with its own small gray ABS wheels- sit beneath the nose and wing pylons, though only the node gear can be rotated up/down. Actually, truth be told, the toy’s vehicle mode is slightly tail-heavy, and so that it doesn’t tilt upwards noticeably when on a flat surface, a small peg beneath the loading ramp compensates for this. Ordinarily for combat, three 7.62mm or 12.5mm machine guns for close-range support can be attached, but the toy does not have any of these since they are mounted internally until needed.
While the tail rotor can spin freely, there is a special feature just behind it- a short black shaft not seen on the real helicopter. When the spring-loaded shaft is pressed inwards, the main rotor spins! Unfortunately, because of how it was designed, after releasing the shaft, the rotor very quickly comes to a stop due to the drag of the internal mechanism; so in order to keep it going, the shaft has to be constantly pressed-and-released. Bummer, that...
‘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.) In the Voyager-class Blackout, there are two Automorph functions:
- When rotating Blackout’s head into position, an internal frame subtly rearranges the position of both the waist section and base of the rotor assembly.
- On the front of both lower legs, pulling out slightly on the black ABS panels in the center of his legs will extend knee protection armor, though these have very little range of motion.
While the internal frame behind his cockpit may be needed to make things a little more correctly proportioned (why is his head between his shoulders instead of above them anyways...?), I didn’t think that the knee thing was needed since it doesn’t really recreate what was seen on-screen, and it doesn’t stay extended very well since it doesn’t snap into place.
Blackout’s robot mode (back) looks like a jumble of parts and plates and pistons cobbled together in a random-yet-symmetrical form. This is a drastic and significant change in style and function from the usually solid, blocky appearance of the Transformers since their debut in 1986. And yet, some of the Pave Low’s features are still visible- such as the retracted main rotor and tail on his back (looking like sparsely-feathered wings), jet engines & fuel tanks on/above his large shoulders, and the nose/cockpit split into thirds on his chest. His legs are covered largely in panels, and end in three-clawed feet. because of their lack of friction, sometimes it's tricky for him to hold himself up in some poses. Blackout’s head on this Voyager-class toy is actually rather small compared to the others in his similar-sized class- Autobots Ironhide & Ratchet, and Decepticon Starscream. It also lacks paint detail, and looks more like a dirty skull than an advanced robot head! In keeping with a recent trend that has developed in Transformers design in general over the last few years, the back of Blackout’s head is a transparent red plastic that leads into his eyes; and when light shines through the back of his head, his eyes glow. Unfortunately, this feature is useless since the rotor assembly on his back blocks off any possible direct lighting from reaching his head to begin with! So his eyes always remain dark. (Besides, it’s not like the eyes are all that bright anyways…)
Blackout is fairly flexible with a wide range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees; with limited range of motion in the head, wrists, and waist. Snap joints are present in the shoulders (both axis), hips (one), and knees (one). The three ‘toes’ on each foot can also be bent up and down a little, but this is mostly for transforming him, and are rather limited in this capacity. Since he is rather back heavy, the tail section acts as an immobile third leg at all times unless it is removed… (The hips on mine are a bit loose, and don’t hold all that tight, so when I pose him on a hard flat surface, he tends to do the splits a lot because his feet offer no real friction/resistance. Grr...)
As Megatron and Optimus Prime are fighting each other in the climactic battle in Mission City at the end of the film, Blackout manages to sneak up behind them, and deploys his smaller tail rotor assembly as a hand-held spinning-blade weapon. (Unfortunately for Blackout, he didn’t get his chance as he was caught unawares by human soldiers lying in wait nearby.) Whereas in the movie Blackout just reached behind his head to pull out the weapon, you actually disconnect the entire rotor & tail assembly. This makes him significantly lighter and uncovers his back, but that is only temporary until you reattach the assembly onto either shoulder. (He’s only seen holding it in his right hand that one time.) The weapon fits onto a peg on the vehicle mode’s support pylon (seen as a large navigational light on the real Pave Low helicopter) just above his arm, and then his hand lightly fits over a peg just below the main rotor. The rotor itself flips downwards 90-degrees so that it faces forward. Unfortunately, because of how the toy figure portrays the weapon, it can only sit on the shoulder, facing forwards. However, the internal spinning feature is still fully functional as well.
Now, the thing you have to keep in mind here is that Blackout’s main rotor does not disconnect from him in the movie- he uses his tail rotor as this weapon. So the toy is inaccurate in this regard, but a spinning weapon was nonetheless provided. And I am glad to see it as opposed to just making something up from scratch.
Blackout’s partner-in-crime, Scorponok, is deployed during the assault on the SOCCENT FWD air base to search for survivors and eliminate them because, at that time, the existence of Cybertronians was not known yet [except to Sector 7]. A miniaturized Scorponok figure is provided with Blackout. He is pearl white ABS with black paint accents, and only features a spring-back tail- mostly for collapsing him down. He is stored in an ABS ‘cage’ under the tail section where the embarkation ramp exists at the back of the helicopter. The ramp was removed, and the swing-down door added. While Scorponok, is visible inside the cage (some call it his “basket”), he cannot be deployed when Blackout’s vehicle mode is resting on the ground. Pressing a small button just beneath the tail rotor kicks the door open, and Scorponok literally springs out with the use of his tail. (If you hold Blackout just right in vehicle mode, Scorponok lands properly on his belly when he falls out!) In the movie, Blackout releases Scorponok while he’s in robot mode, and the same can be done here. Also, Scorponok was stored above the fuselage and just behind the main rotor, as opposed to in the location of the loading ramp as on the toy; this was obviously done to provide the mini-Scorponok with more room to fit, and to preserve the majority of the Pave Low’s appearance. It is a little more difficult (though not impossible) to jettison Scorponok when Blackout is in robot mode. Alternatively, the larger and more-detailed Deluxe-class Scorponok can be attached beneath the Voyager-class Blackout. And when the main rotor is spun up (see above), there is a tube that extends down through the tail boom, and then it spins Scorponok’s ‘body turbine’ and claws! (I have no intention of getting the Deluxe-class figure, so I cannot show or comment on this feature.) 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 an overwhelming, much-publicized 10,000 components per robot!), it should be noted that these are not just straight transitions either. While Blackout’s legs, arms, and chest all hide in roughly the same places in the toy, the process by which he transforms is different, resulting in a slightly different look from his CGI counterpart. Also, most of his weapons are missing from the toy- the flip-out EMP chest cannon and the autocannon & micro-missile launcher on his arms- though why this is I have not been able to discover. (The far-simpler Fast Action Battlers Blackout series’ figure features a spring-launching missile which plugs into his chest to simulate the pulse cannon; in addition to the spinning rotor weapon.) If Blackout had been released as a Leader-class toy (like fellow movie Decepticon Brawl), I’m sure most of these weapons would have been seen. While visible on the toy, the paired missiles on his shoulders are not quite as obvious on the CGI character model because of the differences between how it and the toy change. However, the spinning blade weapon he attempts to use on Optimus Prime is kept, even if bulkier in toy form. It must be pointed out that while Blackout is the same size as a medium-sized/functioning Voyager-class toy, he is not portrayed to-scale with any of the other characters released- which are all [roughly] at 1/24th-scale. If truly represented as a toy to-scale against even the Leader-class Optimus Prime , Megatron, & Brawl characters, then Blackout would be, by far, the largest- just over 2’ long from node to tail! Consider that the Deluxe-class Scorponok is to-scale with all the other characters, but is too big to fit inside this Voyager-class Blackout correctly. So, try to imagine a correctly-scaled Blackout that would fit Scorponok inside him just the way the small white accessorized Scorponok does in this set... (As Dinobot from “Beast Wars Transformers” once put it, “Well… a bot can hope, can’t he?”)
And now it is time for a little segment that I hope does not become a regular feature in these “Transformers” movie figures reviews, which I am going to call-
What the Instructions *Don’t* Tell You
Thank you. Thank you. The Voyager-class Blackout set, fortunately, has only one entry into this frustrating category:
- As part of Blackout’s Automorph feature, there is a black ABS framework behind the nose that swings downward as the head & chest are rotated into position. As this happens, the framework is connected to a panel which both the rotor assembly and waist are attached to. All that the instructions show is that Blackout’s head rotates up after the nose landing gear is retracted back. Now, if the inside frame is rotated too soon, you won’t be able to swing the hips & lower section down past the plastic gap in the nose/chest. But if turned too late, the legs will jam against the rotor assembly, and the plastic could be bent. Best thing I’ve found is to start rotating Blackout’s head up, but don’t complete it until after the legs & waist are almost vertical. Then finish swinging around his chest section, and then snap & twist the waist into position. To reverse the process, if the lever that leads to the rotor assembly isn’t positioned just so, then the legs will refuse to line-up with the fuselage, and a gap will appear there; forcing the legs up in this case, starts the nose to turn around again as if transforming him. (And, if you’re really unlucky, like me, minor manufacturing/molding flaws will turn this into a constant battle.) I’ve found that, although it adds an extra step to the process, removing the rotor section makes it easier to line things up when switching him back to vehicle mode; though this is not necessarily needed all the time.
...but the instructions don’t tell you any of this.
You get a good deal here for $20. With [most] Transformers helicopters, you usually get big wheels on the landing gear, a funny shape, maybe a spring-loaded missile launcher, and you gotta spin that main rotor all by yourself. Here, you get a mechanized main rotor, but the downside is it doesn’t spin for very long and you can’t really spin it by hand either. The six blades of the main rotor are on ball joints and pop-off under pressure; that was good (and I’ve ended up needing that a few times myself). Launching Scorponok was a good idea. Only complaint there is the cage door latch is a bit finicky. In robot mode, he looks fantastic. He has a good range of motion, and he isn’t hampered too much by how he changes or by how parts from his vehicle mode stick out. Some of the torso changes are a little tricky to execute because of how tight things get in there, and I would have added an extra joint to deal with that. If it had been me, I would have incorporated those forearm cannon & missile launcher weapons as accessories on the Pave Low vehicle as side armaments on the support pylons, and then they could have been detached and moved to the arms in robot mode. It wouldn’t have matched the Pave Low’s armament/appearance, but it would certainly have boosted Blackout’s armament to more closely match that seen on-screen.
I was one of the people who liked this new style for the Cybertronians’; it was something different and unique from the ‘simplified’ blocky armor of the past, and gave them a very organic, non-human-designed feel. For Blackout, it works to his advantage when he suddenly springs up and surprises humans expecting help, making him even more monstrous. The spinning blade weapon was a good idea as well, and definitely shows how his character likes to fight his own kind- up close, and he’s not afraid to use brutal force. Despite his quirks, the Voyager-class Decepticon Blackout is an excellent toy. Highly recommended. He's just a bad-ass, and you know you like him that way...
(Your opinion counts-! This is my first Transformers-related review. What did you think of it??? Do please leave a comment for all to see, or e-mail me!)
|Posted 17 August, 2007 - 02:08 by EVA_Unit_4A|