Battle for Autobot City - Ultra Magnus review
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
The distant planet of Cybertron was the home to a race of intelligent, feeling alien robots who could change shape at will- the Transformers. For reasons no longer remembered by anyone living, a war broke out between the two factions of robots- the Autobots and the Decepticons- which eventually drained Cybertron of all its power sources, including all-important Energon. In the quest to get more Energon to sustain their fight, the Autobots created the Ark and some of them left Cybertron. But the power-hungry Decepticons were waiting for them in their great flagship, the Nemesis, and boarded the Ark to stop them. A battle between the two ships eventually brought them both crashing down onto Earth. With their leaders and greatest warriors lost, the war on Cybertron continued on to a stalemate. For over four million years, the Ark rested hidden inside a volcano located in what would eventually become Oregon, its occupants unconscious and helpless in stasis lock. Then in 1984, the volcano harboring the Ark erupted, reawakening the on-board computer system Teletraan-1. The computer, realizing that the ship and its crew were in danger, awoke the Transformers aboard the Ark, and reformatted them to change into disguises matching those of modern day Earth vehicles so that the giant robots could move among the population in secret. The surviving Decepticons, having lost their great ship millions of years earlier, also gained new disguise forms and hid themselves on Earth until they could rebuild their forces and gather enough Energon to destroy the Autobots, subvert the intrusive and annoying humans, and renew the war on Cybertron in their quest for total galactic domination.
After the Transformers had been on Earth for many years, and finally managed to push the Decepticons off of the planet, one of the Autobots’ greatest warriors, Ultra Magnus, was chosen to be the commander of Autobot City- a new permanent settlement in the wilderness of Alaska for the Autobots to replace the destroyed Ark. Though not entirely comfortable in leadership roles as his dear friend and brother-in-arms Optimus Prime is, he is nonetheless a competent and skilled fighter, working very well side-by-side with other Autobots in their unceasing fight against the Decepticons. But he was truly put to the test in the future year of 2005 when the Decepticons made a hard drive into Autobot City- injuring and even killing many of the Autobots. Though Prime led the charge of reinforcements into the city, in a final stand against the maniacal Megatron and his followers, both leaders caused mortal wounds to the other. This suddenly elevated Ultra Magnus to the top as Autobot Commander as he received the Autobot Matrix of Leadership from Prime’s shut-down chassis. Later, though, a new leader chosen by fate rose through the ranks of Autobots to become the new Commander, much to Ultra Magnus’ silent relief, though he continued on as an adviser to the new Rodimus Prime while still helping in the field to keep peace on Earth.
Ultra Magnus’s vehicle mode (back) is that of a cab-over semi-trailer truck (also called a “flat-nose” semi-trailer truck) equipped with a wind vane and sleeper compartment. Cab-over trucks- called such because their control cabins are located directly over the engine- are designed to operate in tighter quarters than equally-common conventional cabs (aka “long-nose”), but can haul slightly larger kinds of trailers because of their dimensions and the regulations in many countries. In Europe and Japan where roads and corners in the city are shorter and sharper, the smaller cab-over is the more common choice to go with. Because of the style used for the design of this toy, this may be instead a more-modern “‘streamlined’ cab-over”, which reduces drag by guiding air around it the faster it goes as opposed to just plowing through it like a ‘regular’ cab-over or a conventional semi-. The disadvantages are more due to creature comforts: noise from the engine directly beneath the cab is louder, the ride is not cushioned as well as in a conventional semi-, and in order to access the engine, the entire top half of the truck must be tilted forward- which can easily spill loose items inside onto the windshield! For extended distances and trips, a sleeping cabin (or just “sleeper”) is added to the truck model during original construction, which features a mounted cot, wash basin & toilet (sometimes even a small shower), and storage space for food and an accompanying mini-kitchen (with all-electric appliances for safety).
While Ultra Magnus has no interior space in vehicle mode, save two molded seats and a steering wheel just inside the windshield, many other features are quite similar to today’s cab-over trucks seen on the highways: large intake grille on the front flanked by painted headlights and unpainted parking lights to either side and a wide silver bumper beneath, the obvious flattened nose of the side profile, streamlined wind vane on top of the cab to help direct air away from the [non-existent] semi-trailer, tall smokestacks behind the cab, fuel tanks between the front and back wheels covered by the streamlined exterior shell, and the back wheels (though typically cab-overs have ten wheels- two in front, eight in back- instead of the toy’s six). To make things interesting, Ultra Magnus (and thus, also Classics Optimus Prime) have a small tab stick up from between their back-most wheels, indicating a mounting point for a trailer even if one was never designed for them. Unlike a real cab-over, Ultra Magnus’s cab cannot pitch over to reveal the ‘engine’. Perhaps the only giveaway (besides flipping him over) as to his alternate form would be his feet sticking out the back where you’d ordinarily find brake and turning lights. Oh, well…
As an additional tribute to the G1 series, each Classics figure has a heat sensitive decal placed on it. When the heat from your finger warms the black patch, the bots’ associated allegiance- Autobot or Decepticon- is revealed. The decal on Ultra Magnus is located on the right side of the vehicle mode just above the front right wheel. In robot mode, the decal is located on the shield/panel on his right forearm. (Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the decal on my Ultra Magnus refuses to glow, so I cannot show it. Sorry.)
Ultra Magnus’s robot mode (back) is both solid and powerful looking. He is still mostly dressed in white ABS plastic from the knees up; a slightly-pale blue for his lower legs and feet; black plastic for the knee joints, all wheels, the lower leg panels, and fists; and then transparent blue plastic for his chest and the shields on his arms (which are painted white). One thing that must be made clear for those of you who may not know: Ultra Magnus’s cab-over vehicle mode never changed into robot mode alone in the G1 series like the Classics figure does- he was always accompanied by the large red and blue car carrier trailer, and when he transformed he immediately merged with the trailer to become a larger robot. This is because G1 Ultra Magnus, as I stated earlier, was a repaint of Optimus Prime (aka “OP” online). And following Prime’s death in “The Transformers: The Movie”- which was specifically written to eliminate many of the toys from the first two season of the series (hence the high casualty rate of Cybertronians in the movie)- the molds used for him were used for the new Ultra Magnus character, but then the trailer section was brand new and designed to link up just with him. And so as a repaint of Classics OP, this version of Ultra Magnus also shares many of the characteristics of his G1 counterpart:
- The headlights and back sides of the cab become the arms
- The windshields become the chest
- The front grille on the nose becomes the waist; though on the Classics version, the grille seen in robot mode is a separate and smaller section which is hidden inside the vehicle mode until the transformation. The vehicle mode’s grille is moved onto his back along with the front bumper & wheels.
- The Classics head sculpt shares traits, but put them in a new style; it also has transparent blue eyes that can have light shown through them as opposed to the original’s painted red eyes.
- All colors are the same, and the majority of the body is white; however, the Classics version uses all pale dark blue for the lower legs & feet, whereas the G1 ver was completely white with minor blue paint on the head and in most of the decals.
- The back four wheels move to the back/sides of the lower legs; though the Classics version has a panel which folds over to cover them from a side view. Interestingly, in a cab-over, the fuel tanks occupy the same region where this panel originates from; the G1 ver. had visible fuel tanks on the sides of the knees above the wheels in the legs.
- A ribbed vent structure beneath both knees.
- The back-most section of the truck becomes the feet, both folding out in the same fashion; though the Classics version lacks the brake & turning lights of the G1 version.
- Red Autobot symbols on the front of both upper arms
At this point, the comparisons become more about aesthetics, and also show the difference in toy design & manufacturing over 18 years (which I do not have enough confidence to describe in detail here). Needless to say, this is an excellent and flawless transition & homage to the G1 character. I am sure that any long-time TF fan will be able to look at the Classics design, and immediate recognize him as the Autobot Ultra Magnus even if he lacks the dedicated trailer upgrade.
I’m actually finding it rather difficult to find the right words to make Ultra Magnus sound like a unique creation like all of the others in the Classics line [thus far] without unintentionally describing OP (which someone has already done for CDX). Both are strong, powerful, and honorable characters in leadership positions despite the fact that [most] of their toys are identical. I suppose that while I am writing about Ultra Magnus (and later on here, Skywarp), I will also be commenting also on the original figures which I have not had the opportunity to do beforehand. So, with that little disclaimer out of the way now…
One thing I’ve noticed about this repaint that I have seemed to have overlooked when I got my own Classics OP is the fine level of molded surface detail- particularly on the head, shoulders, back, and upper legs- which shows cables, raised panels, and pistons in a somewhat blocky way without making them seem like something to be glanced at once and forgotten about. His torso is certainly in better proportions than the hollow G1 version; clearly some TLC went into the Classics version. But on the other hand, his arms and legs are almost like rectangular blocks of plastic that have had tiny yet crafty details added to them in perhaps the opposite way that the torso is. But all together, everything works to create a fine tribute to Autobot leaders from across the many lines. (Although, I must say that the paint apps seem a bit bland on Classics Ultra Magnus and not as well thought out compared to Classics OP, as others have also noted.)
Poseability is also excellent for a figure this size- not using any ball-and-socket joints, and only ratcheting snap-joints in the elbows (one axis) and hips (one axis). Perhaps the only possible complaint I can make in this figure would be how the sides of the cab become these small shields along the outside of the lower arms. This is also something that a lot of people have quietly complained about online since the figure(s) came out which is not present in their G1 counterparts. The shields are mounted on swiveling joints and turn quite easily; so unless you keep track of them when you’re first orienting yourself with the toy after first changing it, you almost feel like you’ve forgotten a step. But, on the other hand where else could they have been put and not make the figure overly heavy, out of proportion, or making yet another large and awkward backpack for a Transformers figure?
G1 Ultra Magnus always carried around a white energy rifle that was an alternate version of the one used by G1 Optimus Prime. He gets it back in the form of a large shotgun-style ion cannon for his Classics update which is made from his wind vane in vehicle mode! Also, he gets the use of a smaller all-black double-barrel laser sub-machinegun, made from the smokestacks! As a bonus, the wind vane can be stored on his back, the smokestacks attached to that, and then the whole thing flipped over to either side of his head to make a pair of shoulder-riding cannons. A really nice touch that, and a good way to keep all the loose parts included! (Even if it is a bit awkward-looking.)
|Posted 8 January, 2008 - 03:53 by EVA_Unit_4A|