Let's face it -- kids love dinosaurs. They also tend to love robots. So what could be better than a robot dinosaur?
This was probably the line of reasoning that led to the creation of the DINOBOTS as part of the original Transformers line, not long after it first came on the scene in 1984. There were five different Dinobots -- Sludge, Swoop, Snarl, Slag, and of course -- Grimlock.
Grimlock is one of those characters that just seems to take on a life of his own and becomes something of a pop culture legend within his own concept. I'm not sure this sort of thing is ever really planned. I mean, sure, you expect the leaders within any given concept to do well. But who could've figured early on in, say, G.I. Joe, that Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow were going to fare so well? In Star Trek Deep Space Nine, did anyone guess at the outset that Quark would become so popular? I don't think George Lucas had in mind to create a legend when he came up with Boba Fett. He even tried to finish the guy in Return of the Jedi, but he wouldn't stay gone for long.
And then you have Grimlock, commander of the Dinobots. The origin of these robotic transforming dinosaurs is a tricky one, depending on which origin you're inclined to believe. Early on in the animated series, they were built by the Autobots. Later origin stories tend to indicate that they existed in less dinosaur-like forms, as a special heavy assault team or some such, on Cybertron, under the altered spelling Dynobots. The early issues of the Marvel comic, which seemed to cross over with the Marvel Universe every so often, had them rising out of the Savage Land, a strange jungle region hidden in Antarctica, populated by dinosaurs, where they took on Shockwave.
The Dinobots per se haven't really turned up in recent Transformers concepts. In the Beast Wars line, the molds that were used to make Dinobot were recolored, and named Grimlock, and it was reported that this character did house the Spark of the original Grimlock. But since that time, most Transformers concepts have made extensive use of both vehicular and animal-based robots, including no shortage of dinosaurs, so the distinctiveness of the original Dinobots doesn't really come into play. Grimlock did put in an appearance in the Alternators line, but here, he was a vehicle, a Ford Mustang GT. The dinosaur mode didn't exist here.
But now that we have the Classics line, with its modern take on original Generation One Transformers, Grimlock is back, and in his dinosaur mode! One of the marks of the Classics line is to try to make even more detailed -- and certainly more articulated -- versions of these classic characters. And certainly Hasbro and Takara have succeeded with Grimlock! This is also proving to be an enormously popular character within the Classics line.
Grimlock is a tyrannosaurus rex, or at least a robotic representation of one. In short, reputed to be one of the most savage, deadliest dinosaurs on the face of the planet. Just ask anybody in Jurassic Park. A T.Rex was known for massive size (although there were larger dinosaurs), an incredibly powerful jaw, huge hind legs (in contrast to relatively useless tiny arms), and no shortage of attitude.
The new Grimlock actually manages to look more dangerous and certainly more detailed than his Generation One ancestor, as well as more robotic. The color scheme is the same, a sort of medium grey with gold trim. But the head is a little leaner looking, the brow more pronounced, and the eyes are larger. This actually makes Grimlock look more intelligent somehow, and here we come to an important distinction about the character. Grimlock was generally shown to be something of a dunce in the cartoon series. His vocal patterns weren't particularly advanced. He'd start most of his sentences with a rumbling "Me, Grimlock" and proceed from there, generally with words with as few syllables as possible, dropping out adjectives and even verbs. Indeed, one episode actually showcased an incident where Grimlock was given heightened intelligence, which led him to create the combiner team known as the Compubots. Grimlock was big, strong, powerful, and able to take on just about any Decepticon he came across. But he wasn't exactly a candidate for MENSA.
But these days his unusual voice pattern is regarded as a programming glitch as much as anything, which belies a good intellect. It's probably been reasoned that no robot could be QUITE as dumb as Grimlock came across as being for a while there, and in the more modern comics, when Grimlock has appeared, he has shown himself to be decently intelligent, if not possessed of a distinctly above average intelligence, with just a peculiar vocal pattern, that he probably hasn't bothered to have corrected because it either can't be corrected for some reason, or he just likes it. There's something about the larger eyes and the more prominent brow of Grimlock in his dinosaur mode that make him look a bit more intelligent than the original version. He has a transparent area on the top of his head which allows his eyes to appear as if they're glowing red when the light catches it properly. Grimlock's head moves, and of course so does his massive jaw. His small front arms are articulated at the shoulder with a fairly extensive ball and socket construction. His legs are extensively articulated, at the hip, upper leg swivel, essentially two knee joints, and the ankle. Grimlock's tail actually has four distinct articulation points to it. This is a level of articulation that is not particularly common for a toy.
Although I tend to prefer to leave my Dinobots in their dinosaur modes, I did feel I should transform Grimlock into his robot mode at least for the sake of the review. And he's surprisingly complex. He's got one of those transformations -- especially getting the arms to swing around properly, that just doesn't translate all that well into the 2-dimensional illustrations on the instruction sheet. It's not until you realize that you have to rotate the chestplate around 180 degrees -- and take one of the arms with it, that it'll work. Essentially, his dinosaur legs become his robot arms, his dinosaur head becomes his robot legs, and his tail becomes one of his main weapons. And if you think that sounds strange, wait'll you try to do it.
In robot mode, he looks as much like an updated version of the robot Grimlock as the dinosaur did of its version. It's certainly recognizable as Grimlock, but a little fancier. The robot head has the same transparent light-catching, light-up-the-eyes feature as the dinosaur head. The robot is articulated at the head, arms, elbows, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. As is the case with most Classics Transformers (the only exception of which I am aware is the Optimus/Megatron two-pack), Grimlock doesn't actually display an apparent Autobot logo. Instead, he has one of those temperature-sensitive color-changing stickers that were used back in Generation 1, that shows the Autobot insignia when it is touched for a few seconds.
The character profile on Grimlock's card reads as follows:
About the only gripe I would have with this Grimlock toy is the fact that somebody figured it would be good idea to wipe a bit of dirtying black paint on his torso. I really hate this practice. Although on Grimlock, it almost fits. In both robot and dinosaur mode, this new Classics Grimlock is a superb modern incarnation of this classic character. Both versions are highly respectful to the original Grimlock, while taking advantage of modern design and construction capabilities. I can see why he's already proven to be so popular. Transformers Classics GRIMLOCK definitely gets my highest recommendation!
Now let's consider another Autobot from the Classics line -- RODIMUS. I'll admit, I've never been that big a fan of Rodimus Prime. Along with a name that sounded like a cheap rip-off of Optimus Prime, the character, as introduced in the animated Transformers movie, and then running through the third season of the animated series, seemed too-often like a poor substitute for the presumably late Optimus Prime. Ultimately, even Rodimus Prime seemed to realize this, and so did the show's creators, since Optimus Prime was eventually brought back.
Whereas Optimus Prime seemed like a self-assured, confident, experienced, and caring leader, Rodimus Prime came across more like a hot shot, a little too quick to action and a little too disinclined to think through a situation before acting. He almost lucked into the role of leadership, with the Autobot Matrix choosing him as the next leader of the Autobots for some unfathomable reason, transforming him from the more likeable (and less comparable toPrime) Hot Rod into Rodimus Prime, in order to take on Galvatron, who was essentially Megatron as rebuilt from Unicron.
Frankly, I never found Galvatron as interesting as Megatron, either. So I was initially a little reluctant to pick up the RODIMUS toy from the Transformers Classics series. But it occurred to me. He's just called Rodimus -- not Rodimus Prime. He's clearly closer in car form to the original Hot Rod, who was a fancy car, than to Rodimus Prime, who looked more like a futuristic sporty truck. Perhaps I was being a little unfair to the character. And given how limited the Classics line was, I decided to give Rodimus a chance.
In car form, Rodimus is about 5-1/2" in length, and definitely has a strong resemblance to his ancestor. He is a futuristic sports car, done in dark red with gold flames on his hood, with a huge orange spoiler in the rear. Even before one transforms him into robot form, he has an "Attack Mode" that he can use, whereby the spoiler and part of the back of the car flip up and over onto the roof of the car, and a spring-loaded missile-launcher can be attached here.
Transforming Rodimus isn't especially difficult. Either that, or I've gotten used to the difficulty level of Alternators. In robot form, Rodimus stands a little over 5 inches in height. This is pretty much a standard height for most of the Transformers in the Classics line, at least in the same size and price range as Rodimus, which includes most of them. Honestly, I appreciate the consistent size. Somehow it makes the robots seem more compatible and plausible.
Rodimus looks a little back-heavy, but he stands well, and his robot
mode is certainly in keeping with the character's Classic appearance.
If anything, it's a vast improvement over the robot forms of either
Hot Rod or Rodimus
One of the things I especially appreciate about this Classics line, which in my opinion makes them immensely superior to their Generation One ancestors, is articulation. In robot form, most of the original Transformers couldn't do much. They just sort of stood, and could maybe move their arms and heads. This wasn't the case with all of them, but it was certainly the case with a lot of them. Hasbro, and Tomy/Takara, have come to realize that if you're going to make an action figure that has any sort of humanoid form, even if it's a robot that also turns into a vehicle or animal or whatever, it had better be decently poseable in that humanoid robotic form. And the Classics, including Rodimus, certainly live up to this. Once in robot form, Rodimus is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, legs, knees, and ankles, with a good range of motion all around.
Rodimus has some interesting additional features. Of course he can hold his weapon in his hands when he is in robot form. There is a little device that pops out of his left wrist in robot form that is described as a "data com communicator", whatever this is supposed to be. And his head has been designed with a transparent blue panel in the back which reflects light to the front, so if the light catches Rodimus properly, it looks like his eyes are glowing blue.
The character profile on the back of the package reads as follows: "Action is my middle name." Young and bold, Rodimus races headlong into danger, throwing caution - and his orders - to the wind. He dreams of heroic deeds and hopes one day to gain the recognition his actions deserve. Despite his inexperience, he is a talented fighter. In battle, he can often be seen racing at speeds up to 180 miles per hour, dodging explosions and laser blasts in an attempt to close on his objective.
My reservations regarding the character aside, this IS a very cool Transformers Classics item. It nicely captures the essence of the original Hot Rod, who on his own was and is a decent character, when he's not geeing in over his head by trying to play Prime, regardless of whether the Matrix chose him or not.
Like me, you might have had some past reservations about this one-time leader of the Autobots who by his own admission was no Optimus, but this Rodimus has no pretensions of being Prime, and he's a decently impressive Autobot in his own right, and the toy captures the essence of the original very nicely. Transformers Classics RODIMUS definitely has my recommendation!
Finally, let's have a look at one very unusual Autobot in the Classics line -- MIRAGE. One of the more interesting characters in the Transformers concept, even if he's tended to be a bit overlooked over the years, has been Mirage. A reluctant fighter at best, Mirage, who was shown to have the ability to turn invisible, prefers operating behind the scenes, even if that means behind enemy lines, committing acts of sabotage, rather than being involved in a straight-on fight.
This tendency coupled with the fact that Mirage has always been uncertain of his place among the Autobots, his dedication to their cause, and his commitment to the war in general, has resulted in some suspicion being cast his way from time to time, but he's never let his friends down. He values his friendships with the other Autobots, and that keeps him fighting even when his principles regarding the war are uncertain.
In the Generation One series, Mirage took the form of a race car, and that format has been carried over to the Classics line most admirably. The Classics Mirage looks very much like an Indy-style race car, a quite different format from any of the other items available in the Classics line. The car design is very cool looking, and surprisingly intricate, as well. The level of detail especially around the front wheels is especially impressive. So are some of the markings. Mirage carries over his traditional blue and white color scheme, but there's more to him than that. There are two marked areas on his surface that read "Plasma Injection Energy".
Even better, his spoiler reads "Witwicky Sparkplugs". Any longtime Transformers fan is going to get THAT one. When the Transformers arrived on Earth in the Generation One storyline, they were befriended by the Witwicky family. The father had the nickname of "Sparkplug". Nice acknowledgement of the original series right there.
As detailed, impressive, and generally cool as Mirage's automotive form is, his robot form is -- well -- weird. I have to think that in Mirage's case, the car was designed first, and the robot came later. Although Mirage is not a terribly difficult transformation, he's not that easy. He's sort of one of those where the illustrated instructions are only going to do you so much good, and you're almost better off at some point in looking at the photograph of the figure on the back of the package to try to figure some of it out and see if you've gotten reasonably close.
And the end result is -- well, in my opinion, a rather strange robot. The head is definitely a good version of Mirage's classic appearance, and certainly the overall color scheme works. And Mirage's automotive form is appropriate, but the robot looks like he's been hitting the Cybertron equivalent of "Slim-Fast" a little too much. In the most basic terms possible, the transformation goes like this. The rear of the car becomes the legs of the robot, the spoiler becomes the feet, the arms pop out of the side, and the front of the car, without the front wheels, becomes the torso of the robot. This gives us the result of an Autobot with an extremely narrow torso that is very strange looking, to the point where one wonders if there's enough space in Mirage's midsection to even keep him together.
Now, granted, this could be valuable in Mirage's line of work. If he were ever caught snooping around Decepticon headquarters, he'd be a darn hard target to hit. This is one very slender robot, except for the lower legs. I'm not going to say that I don't like him. I'm glad to have him. But he is a bit on the peculiar side.
One thing I especially appreciate about these Classics is the level of articulation they've been given. Although decent articulation has been a standard part of Transformers for quite a few years now, it wasn't really part of Generation One. Once in robot form, the toys couldn't really move all that much. That was remedied years ago, and these Classics, intended to be reminiscent of the original Transformers, to some degree correct the deficiency of their ancestors.
Mirage, despite his peculiar appearance in robot form, is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, knees, and feet, and he has a good range of motion at all points. Additionally, the back of his head is molded in transparent blue plastic, so that when light catches him from behind, it makes it look as though his eyes are glowing blue.
Mirage's weapon is the front spoiler of the car form. Not quite a gun, it is described as an "Electro Disruptor Weapon" on the package, and it has a little in-joke on it, too. Stamped on either side of it are the words "Lithonian Drivetrain". This is more obscure than the Witwicky reference, but for those who know, Lithone was the planet of mechanized beings devoured by Unicron in the opening moments of the animated Transformers movie. And, I would suspect that something called an "Electro Disruptor Weapon" would not be something a robot would want to be on the wrong end of.
In race car form, Mirage is about 5-1/2" in length. As a robot, Mirage stands a little over 5" in height to the top of his head, which is in keeping with the height of most of the robots in this size and price range for the Classics line. However, the front wheels add a fair bit to Mirage's total height, for a total of a little over 6".
Mirage's character profile on the package reads as follows: "You can't catch what you can't see." Together with Bumblebee, Mirage completes the Autobot spy team. Where Bumblebee focuses on information however, Mirage prefers sabotage. Smart and fast, he's always ready with a joke, even when the situation doesn't call for one. Though he is not totally dedicated to the cause, he cares deeply for his friends, and will do anything he can to protect them. His specialized electro-disruptor weapon can create complex illusions, and even allows him to turn invisible.
That's pretty much in keeping with the original Mirage, although I'm
trying to recall how much of a sense of humor the original really had.
And Mirage certainly has enough history with the Transformers to be
a worthy addition to the Classics line. He's kind of a strange-looking
robot, but that doesn't mean I don't like him. MIRAGE definitely has
my enthusiastic recommendation. Any fan of the Transformers Classics
line will like him, as well as GRIMLOCK and RODIMUS! Here's hoping we
haven't seen the last of the Classics line!