Project Uranos SR-71 Blackbird & X-47 Phantom Ray
Review by Prometheum5
TFC Toys made a name for itself in the third party Transformers scene by releasing one of the largest and most ambitious not-Transformers to date, the gestalt Hercules. Herc was a modern update of the venerable Constructicon combiner, Devastator, and wowed collectors with its size and ambition. Now TFC is back with their next great undertaking, Project Uranos!
For details on the transformation, combination, and my misery, check out my HD video review!
SR-71 Blackbird is TFC Toys' update to the stalwart G1 Autobot Aerialbot, Silverbolt. Blackbird comes packaged with X-47 Phantom Ray, a helper robot that now forms the chest plate of the combined Uranos.
The box has the usual extremely flattering photos of the toys. Notice how Blackbird's jet mode was shot from the top, and you cannot see the back of BB's robot mode or torso mode. We'll get to those in a bit.
All the appropriate paperwork is included. I do like the inclusion of the mini posters, since the character art for the Uranos guys is quite good.
The toys come packaged in robot mode, but I'll start with jet mode. From the side, it is immediately apparent that there is something amiss with Blackbird's jet mode. There are landing gear, but getting Blackbird to sit on his nose gear requires angling the rear wheels just right because BB is back-heavy.
From the top, the Whitebird looks decent. There are a couple gaps between panels that are a bit annoying, but in general the jet is clean. All the tail fins and wings and such are nice and secure.
The cockpit is tough to get open, but the interior is nicely painted. Nothing too exciting, but a nice touch.
The bottom, however, is a disaster. There's just a whole robot figure doing a yoga pose on the bottom of the jet. The legs are trying their darndest to be the engines, but they are clearly legs attached to Blackbird's waist. The head is not covered and the arms are just stretched above the head.
Blackbird follows in the hallowed tradition of having a terrible jet mode started by the original G1 Silverbolt, but I was really hoping we had evolved since that original flawed toy. I understand that concessions are needed to get the combined mode right and fit everything onto the jet frame, but as we'll see in a bit, they didn't even get the combined mode right.
Still, in the air Blackbird looks decent, at least viewed from high angles.
Transformation is straightforward, which it should be considering the whole robot mode transforms separately of any airplane parts. Blackbird stands about ten inches tall in robot mode and is chunky and hefty. I think the way the white head gets lost among the white back panels looks terrible.
Unfortunately, Blackbird is not solid in robot mode. The jet shell all folds up on the back, but nothing locks in well or hinges tight enough, so this whole back area flops around and comes undone when handling the toy. Make sure to watch the video review to see just how much it all fights back while trying to play with the toy.
In theory, the back boosters are a fun addition. The engines are on posable arms with soft ratchets, allowing for some nice angled thrust poses.
With the engines deployed Blackbird has something of a Gundam Wing thing going on, which I actually love. Right here, like this, Blackbird is almost great. He's chunky, but oddly graceful, and captures the spirit of the original design well.
Most of the time, though, Blackbird is just fat and gawky. The torso is thick and the legs never look quite right with those too-small toes.
The chest fins get in the way of the shoulder articulation unless they are folded forwards.
I was really impressed by the QC and fit and finish of Phantom and Eagle, but Blackbird has some stray red paint marring one arm. Easily removed, but a further sign of sloppiness.
The entire forward fuselage of the jet mode becomes BB's gun. It's another copout on the transformation, but it does make a decent weapon. One thing to watch out for is that the tip of the nose is very sharp and thin, and could easily break if you smush it into BB's body or armpit by accident while posing him with his gun.
The gun helps balance out the backpack junk, allowing BB to stand in some nice striding poses.
Blackbird wants so desperately to be a cool toy. The sculpt is an ambitious and faithful update to Silverbolt's original design, but the execution is horribly flawed. We'll leave him for a bit and talk about the second figure in the box, Phantom Ray!
The X-47B is an actual demonstration Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle developed by Northrop Grumman, and is clearly the inspiration for TFC's figure. The Phantom Ray is a UCAV demonstration model developed by Boeing that has a rounded appearance, nothing like the TFC toy. The two are not the same thing, so I'm not sure why TFC's figure is the 'X-47 Phantom Ray', other than because it sounds cool.
Phatom Ray is a nice little figure, just a bit larger and more complex than a Minicon. I thought Minicons were rad, so that's not a bad comparison.
Ray's adorable in flight.
Ray stands about four inches tall and features all the major points of articulation. The wings transform nicely into arms, but the fit of some of the flaps is not the best. Ray's got similar fit issues to Blackbird, with gaps in jet mode and annoying bits that don't stay in place in robot mode.
Phantom Ray features nice articulation, and almost passes the Iron Man Poster Pose test. He's got ball joints for the hips and knees that are pretty small, and I'm worried they might wear out over time.
The flat arms feature decent detail but still look a bit squirrely in most poses.
Before we go on to the combination, I wanted to take a moment to look at how Blackbird and Phantom Ray fit in with the previous Project Uranos releases. Going from Phantom to Eagle, and then on to Blackbird shows a pretty noticeable downward trend in jet mode quality. Phantom is impeccable from the top and sides, with very compact 'bot detail well hidden on the underside. Eagle has some underside kibble, and then Blackbird is a mess. It seems like Phantom was the first release for a reason.
The set so far does make a cohesive group of jetplane-themed robot guys. Phantom and Eagle still need real guns, but they are all chunky and sharply detailed figures.
With everybody transformed into combiner mode, we can get to the real point of this set. Make sure to watch my video review above for details on the transformation.
The combiner parts feature hefty ratcheting joints that take a good deal of force to insert. The joints do not feel fragile at all, but it can be tough to find a good way to hold the figures to mash the joints together with all the fins and loose bits sticking off.
Uranos Ris- no, wait. Something is not right.
As soon as I assembled Uranos he came tumbling down. Turns out one of the hip ratchets was assembled backwards, so it did not click. Wonderful. Fortunately, it was an easy fix to take the hip apart and reinstall the parts correctly.
OK, now Uranos stands. As advertised, he is huge. I will wait to measure his official height until he has two legs and I can see how he'll actually stand. He's one of the largest figures I own, though, larger than any official combiner toy, except maybe Victory Saber. I'll have to compare him to some other big figures when he's done.
Rather than being kind of lousy like the rest of the toy, TFC's solution for the combiner mode gun is aggressively bad. Put simply, Uranos cannot hold his gun because the gun handle adaptor piece for the big gestalt hand does not fit correctly. I think the handle is too wide and butts up against the thumb area, so the gun does not peg into the palm securely. The gun cannot be held tightly, so it flops around with nary a touch. It's terrible and TFC needs to issue a revised handle adaptor with a later figure or this simply is not going to work.
If you can get the gun to balance just so, Uranos is not a bad looking figure. There is a lot of detail throughout the toy, but it is surprisingly coherent. The big problem is that there are just a ton of parts here, and many of them do not secure well enough. Grabbing Uranos pretty much anywhere to pose him results in some fin or robot bit coming loose and needing to be re-seated. Phantom Ray is a mess that does not lock in to chest plate mode at all, and the wings stick out far enough that they get in the way of the shoulder articulation. Some intrepid fans have come up with ways to use Blackbird's chest plate for a mode G1-inspired look, and that is something I may look into, because Ray sucks as a chest plate.
I hate to be so down on this guy, because he does look pretty good. Uranos captures the idea of the original Superion while smartly updating the detail and styling to allow for a dynamic and well-intentioned behemoth of a figure.
Fortunately, the combiner joints are nice and tight, so Uranos might actually stand well when completed. The only joint I am worried about is the mid-leg swivel on Blackbird's yellow thighs, which do not have any sort of detent.
The face sculpt is a bit doofy, but nowhere near as bad as the string of bad Devestator faces we have been subjected to. I do wish the extendable antenna were silver rather than clear yellow.
Uranos stands a full head taller than my other third party combiner, Maketoy's Giant. I picked up Giant over Hercules because I like the styling better, he's cheaper, and I like that he stands shorter than Uranos. It makes sense to me for the guy made up of airplanes to be larger than the guy made up of dump trucks. If you're looking for a cool third party combiner, go buy Giant. He's excellent. I'll wait to further condemn Uranos until the set is complete, but so far I am not impressed. There's something of an unspoken understanding when buying into a combiner set piece by piece, and Blackbird just does not hold up his end of the bargain. I am not sure if it's something that can be fixed, or what, but I'm pretty bummed with how Uranos is shaping up. I've handled Hercules, and even though I don't like the look of him, the combined mode is rock solid. If you liked the first two Uranos figures, they do make very nice jetformer figures. If you're interested in the combining aspect, I would wait until all five figures are out and we can see how the complete Uranos pans out. It does not seem like it's going to be great.
|Posted 8 April, 2013 - 06:04 by Prometheum5