ADVANCE REVIEW: Hasbro Transformers Age of Extinction
Cybertronians Return To The Big Screen With Hot New Line Of Toys...
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Are you ready for the Age of Extinction? Coming late next month is the latest installment in the Transformers live action film franchise, the fourth by Michael Bay and a movie that goes in a different direction after the previous trilogy. From what we’ve seen in trailers thus far there’s the huge action we’ve come to expect, but there’s a pretty big new element... Dinobots! Once considered an impossibility for the Transformers film universe, they’re coming in a big way with Age of Extinction starting with the trailer (and poster) shots of Optimus Prime riding an enormous Grimlock in Tyrannosaurus Rex mode. To celebrate the film and give kids and collectors everywhere the chance to bring the characters home Hasbro is launching a new movie line, and we’re going to check out three of the first toys to be released today on CYBERTRON MONDAY: Deluxe Class Dinobot Slug, Voyager Class Grimlock, and Leader Class Optimus Prime!
First off, let’s talk a little bit about how you’re going to identify these new toys in your favorite aisle at the store. Each Transformers movie has had its own theme for the toy packaging, and Age of Extinction is no different. Taking a bit of a cue from the Construct-Bots, the AoE packages feature a lot of clean white space offset by bold artwork and red lettering. It’s interesting to look at how the designs vary between scales, with more and more white space the bigger the toy. The Deluxe packaging, a standard cardback and bubble, has a huge image of the character in alt mode on the card behind the toy with the movie’s logo at the top right, “Transformers” in red at the right side, and a thumbnail photo of the robot mode beneath the toy. Voyagers and Leaders come in window boxes that shift the artwork and movie title to the bottom-left corner and expand the “Transformers” sidebar all the way up the right side.
That white continues around the sides, and there’s a cool Autobot symbol with a circle around it and motion lines like it’s crashing to Earth. The back panels of all of the toys share the same design; on top of a schematic background there are photos of the toy in both modes, call outs to special features, a brief bio, and an “Also Available” section. All in all the packages are very slick and sophisticated.
As we saw earlier this year at New York Toy Fair, Hasbro is really pushing the Dinobot aspect of Age of Extinction in the toy line with characters both new and familiar to the fans. Here we have Slug, the transforming triceratops you may remember from your youth as “Slag” (Hasbro has since renamed the character since that word has become derogatory slang). Slug retains the triceratops alternate mode and much the same personality according to the brief bio on the back of his card. Translated into the Michael Bay universe of Cybertronians, this dinosaur is low and wide, covered in angular plates resembling both armor and bones. Slug is packaged in his alt mode with a black back, gray tail and foreleg shoulders, purple main body and legs, and a brightly colored head in red and purple with gray accents and bright blue in the eyes; a small red Autobot symbol decorates the creature’s left side. As with most triceratops designs in the past this one doesn’t have an extreme amount of poseability but the legs do move for some posing options, and best of all the mouth opens and closes! The horns and jutting lower jaw are made from a bendable plastic but they stay straight and firm.
As advertised on the back of his card, Slug’s transformation is completed in only 16 steps. As befitting a Deluxe class Transformer the process is pretty easy to manage, especially since the included instructions show it both ways (alt->robot, robot->alt). While there’s some traditional elements like the hind legs becoming robot legs, there are also some neat twists like the ribcage forming the arms and the triceratops head splitting down the middle to become flared shoulder pieces. Slug in robot mode looks like a tough customer, and thanks to the armor plating and visor-like head is somewhat reminiscent of a knight. His main body and upper limbs are relatively thin with much larger lower legs and forearms, plus of course the added bulk around his shoulders and elements on back like the dinosaur forelegs and tail. The same colors appear as in dino form with the majority in black, gray, and purple; and again the “eyes,” this time a visor slit, are blue and the red Autobot symbol is on Slug’s left forearm.
Articulation is good for a Transformer this size and certainly fun for kids, though adult collectors may have some trouble getting it into complicated poses due to limitations from dinosaur kibble. Slug comes with two unique swords that he can wield in robot mode, and you can even plug them into the sides of his triceratops mode. For safety reasons the swords are also made from flexible rubber.
If you’re like me, your excitement for Age of Extinction can be summed up in one name: Grimlock! The leader of the Dinobots has come a long way from his first appearances in the classic 80’s cartoon and it’ll be very interesting to see how he’s depicted in the film. Traditionally transforming into a Tyrannosaurus Rex alt mode, Grimlock appears to get some sort of upgrade in Age of Extinction with a tremendous size, and the bio on his package reveals that he’s still the Dinobot leader and has “the power to decide the fate of Earth almost singlehandedly.” Sounds pretty cool! This new version comes out of the box in robot mode, a resplendent warrior in metallic brown/bronze, silver, and black. Grimlock is tall and thin with lot of overlapping plates, spiked lower legs, heavily reinforced forearms, and another example of a split dinosaur head decorating his shoulders. Except for the bulky forearms and elements hanging off the back there’s not too much dino kibble. There are some very cool details too like the gears sculpted into the elbow joints, the fringe on his chest, and the intricate face sculpt with what looks like teeth behind armor like some versions of the character we’ve seen previously.
In addition to the main colors the robot mode also metallic green in the eyes and a small red Autobot symbol on its chest. Grimlock has above average articulation in this mode (assisted by long feet and adjustable skirts around his waist), and he can hold his included battle mace to be even more threatening.
The instruction sheets for both Optimus Prime and Grimlock are alt->robot, the opposite of what you need when you take them out of the package. And it may be that I’m getting old, but I have more and more trouble with the simple “reverse order to convert back.” That being said, Grimlock was not too hard to transform with the advertised 18 steps. Robot arms transform easily into dinobot legs, robot legs become the root of the tail, and the robot’s back and shoulders fold together and forward to become the t-rex’s head and main body. Finally, plus the robot feet into the head of the battle mace to complete the long tail. Grimlock’s t-rex mode really shows off the techno-organic look and feel of the movie dinobots as a robot dinosaur/Cybertronian interpretation. As archaeology has come a long way so have tyrannosaurus rex toys, and this one features the now accepted long version of the animal with tail outstretched behind it. Colors are the same as in robot mode, with some more prevalent black striping on the brown surfaces and black claws on the feet. The main body is long and somewhat bulky with large, powerful legs, tiny arms, and a great blunt head with an open mouth featuring quite a set of teeth! You can pose Grimlock up and down a bit via his hips, his tiny arms are mounted on ball joints, and even the little “ears” are articulated. Best of all, Hasbro included a button next to the head that chomps the jaws shut!
Last but certainly not least is the latest incarnation of the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime. In the largest standard class (Leader), this Prime keeps a lot of the design sensibilities of the previous movie versions adapted to a new sleeker Western Star truck. In robot mode the main figure is very tall and relatively narrow, especially in comparison to other versions. Optimus has long, thin limbs, pointed toes, some truck elements around his feet, and a cool layered, armored torso. On a robot this big there are lots of opportunities for added sculptural detail, and you’ll find it in technological bits and lines all over the arms, upper legs, etc. Flaring off of the hips and shoulders are panels from the truck mode; with articulation of their own they make for interesting poseable armor. Prime’s head is very well done with a complicated sculpt featuring the traditional elements including the shield over the lower part of the face.
Optimus is bright and colorful in blue, red, and gray with details in silver, metallic red and blue; there’s even a light piping element through his yellow eyes. For its size the robot has good articulation in the arms and legs, except where it’s impeded by the one weakness in this mode: the back-mounted kibble. Turn Prime around and you’ll find a large chunk of truck on his back. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but in some poses it will get in the way and be a little unsightly. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime rocks some really cool accessories, a massive translucent yellow energy Sword of Judgment he can hold thanks to articulated thumbs and a Vector Shield with built in gun that can attach via post to holes in his forearms!
As with Grimlock, Optimus Prime’s transformation instructions are truck to robot, so transforming him for the first time is a little bit of a challenge. Frankly, I gave up halfway through on the hard to decipher images and just kinda figured it out, discovering it was pretty straightforward once you got the thing going. It’s not the usual Optimus transformation scheme either; the legs form the front of the truck while the cab sort of folds up around the robot’s upright torso. Prime’s truck form is pretty rad, a great miniature version of the new Western Star vehicle in blue with red flame accents and lots of chrome. The windshield and windows are translucent yellow, and a small red Autobot symbol stands out on the left side of the cab. Optimus hits the open road with six hard rubber tires, each with an Autobot symbol hubcap; you’ll find more small details like the Autobot symbol on the front grille, “Western Star” printed on the lower steps, and the Western Star logo between the rear sets of tires on each side. As a truck Prime doesn’t have a lot of action features, though the tow assembly can mount the Vector Shield.
Transformers Age of Extinction is practically guaranteed to be one of the biggest movies this summer, and these are going to be very popular toys. Dinobot fans (old and new) will really get a kick out of the range of characters coming to the Deluxe Class, of which Slug is just the first. At about $15 they’re affordable and an easily collectible size. The next step up, the Voyager Class, is where you’ll find this version of Grimlock plus two flat-front cab trucks in the forms of Optimus Prime Evasion Mode and Galvatron. Voyagers run about $25, and while there’s also a larger version I think this is a really solid Grimlock with a great look and fun features for collectors and kids respectively. The largest standard scale, Leader at $45, so far includes only another Grimlock and this Optimus Prime making it the definitive version of the new design for the Autobot leader in the film. With its big size and presence compared to the smaller Transformers this Prime is definitely the one you’ll want in your collection. All of these and other Age of Extinction toys went on sale today, affectionately dubbed Cybertron Monday. You can get all of the details on the full lineup (including lots of kid’s toys like One Step Changers, Construct-Bots, and much more) at Hasbro’s new site www.cybertronmonday.com!
Review and Photos by Scott Rubin
Review Samples Courtesy of Hasbro