Review by EVA_Unit_4A
The Autobots have been searching long and hard for the AllSpark Cube since their leader, Optimus Prime, desperately cast it into space to prevent Megatron from getting his metallic claws on it and bringing a new order of domination and suffering to the already-demolished planet of Cybertron. Before then, both Autobots and Decepticons waged a long war against each other for possession of the Cube. Ironhide quickly rose through the ranks over the millennia to become one of Prime’s best warriors; eventually rising to become one of his senior officers as weapons specialist. Honed by his experience from the loss of friends and colleagues over time, he developed a shield of caution and awareness about him that would lead to a path of distrust and caution about the smallest things on the battlefield- where sneak attacks were the norm in a civilization that constantly shifted its physical appearance. Yet Ironhide remained ever-loyally by Prime’s side when a signal was received from a distant planet by one of their scouts that a clue had been found to the location of the Cube. Hard-landing on the planet (Earth), he narrowly escaped detection from a small family of intelligent natives and quickly assumed the appearance of one of their all-terrain vehicles- a black GMC TopKick pickup truck. He would find many oddities on this new world that would test his trigger fingers- including the primitive, aggressive, & undisciplined nature of humans. But later on, he would once more prove how skilled and powerful he was against the Decepticons- this time, in the defense of humans, in the Mission City battle. Ironhide stands 26’ (8.7m) tall in his upright robot mode, and is armed with two large cannons- one covering each of his forearms. He also has a set of micro-missile launchers embedded in his knuckles. For his trip to Earth, he studied many of its languages through a planet-wide information network, and so he is fluent in English. Ironhide’s voice (as well as that of Decepticon Barricade) is performed by the well-respected & experienced voice-actor Jess Harnell. Ironhide’s vehicle mode (back) is that of a real medium-sized GMC TopKick™ C4500 4x4 pickup truck, designed by General Motors Corporation™ and manufactured by Monroe Truck Equipment™ (aka MTE). Though slightly less well-known than the Daimler-Chrysler Dodge Ram™, the TopKick is a versatile and powerful vehicle design that is able to be adapted to many different roles- some examples I’ve read state commercial-grade pickup trucks, medium cargo trucks, and tow trucks. For its appearance in “Transformers”, several small modifications were made to the prop vehicle(s) used for Ironhide’s disguised form, specifically:
- customized 20” aluminum black-painted wheels to fit new 40” tires
- removal of a pair of the back wheels (giving the truck four wheels instead of the standard six)
- new extended-height chrome smokestacks behind the cab
- horizontal stainless steel step tubes
- customized front & rear bumpers with powder-coat texture
- a powerful 16,000lbs winch on the front bumper
- Road Armor™ reinforced front and rear bumpers installed
- raised Autobot symbol on the tailgate
(What the hell did I just write-!? I have absolutely no clue what most of that means! I’m no truck expert!) In anticipation of the marketing scramble surrounding the release of the first live-action film featuring the legendary Transformers, MTE announced that they would be producing a limited-run line of GMC TopKick 4500s specifically customized to look just like Ironhide’s vehicle form from the movie! (Here- read the small article for yourself.) This Voyager-class toy of Ironhide also differs slightly from the real vehicle in several ways:
- The tall, vertical side-view mirrors on the doors were condensed down to smaller PVC square shapes; most likely because they might catch on things like hair, clothes, etc. and break off.
- The extended smokestacks directly against the back of the cab were cut down to just the height of the roof (*whew!* More on this later...)
- Instead of those... “horizontal stainless steel step tubes”(?)... that you stand on to get into the cab beneath the four doors, Ironhide’s large metallic-blue arm cannons hang there instead, looking like giant cylindrical gas tanks like you might find on a semi-truck… like Optimus Prime! However, removing them reveals the small arms hidden underneath, though they look more like they're part of the suspension system for the forward wheels or part of the transmission. From all angles, this is the largest break in the illusion for the vehicle mode. (Well… except when you flip him over, that is!)
But other than that, this is a spot-on match to the real TopKick- shortened, wide nose with molded Road Armor™-branded bumper, large 4-door cab with semi-transparent blue-tinted windows, and equally-sized truck bed with top cover! As mentioned above, if you look at the tailgate door in back (which does not open), you can see the Autobot symbol molded in between those gears! All four free-turning ABS wheels are not marked but do have appropriately-detailed tire tread & rim patterns. Also the red GMC trademark is molded on the front grille, and the “4 x 4” trademark symbol is stamped just under the smokestacks on either side. Oddly, the headlights are also that matching semi-trans. blue, but they’ve been painted over with silver. Curious... Also, the five cab lights on the roof were painted blue to match the ones on the real vehicle seen in the movie.
‘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 Ironhide, there are two Automorph functions:
- The nose/door sections are spring-loaded just under the front bumper; when separating them to expose the head, they spring open and just hang there. (I have doubts that this is an Automorph feature, but I’ll mention it anyways just in case...)
- When flipping the two halves of Ironhide’s feet out (themselves connected by gears to each other), a panel on the front of his legs (the cover of the truck bed) slides down and sideways. At the same time, triangular pieces behind the legs/under the truck bed slide downwards, which causes the spring-loaded rear wheels to shift diagonally up and back.
Ironhide’s robot mode (back) is covered in sharp corners, intricate detail, and power covered in a lot of black. 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 TopKick’s features are still visible- such as the halved nose and front doors which rest lightly in the chest/over the shoulders, the top of the cab on his back (which hides the windshield and rear window), and the rear wheels and sides of the truck bed on the back/outside of his lower legs. Having the vehicle mode’s hood/front-half featured prominently on the upper torso is a signature design dating all the way back to the G1 Autobots from 1984 who all had this; though some Autobots over the decades have broken away from this. However, all of the Autobots seen in the 2007 film are no different and share this tradition with their predecessors. Ironhide’s head looks like its lacking color- with small highlights of gold- but this is because his eyes aren’t all that bright. They used that same muted transparent-blue plastic on the back of his head so that- when light shown through- his eyes would light up. However, the color of the plastic prevents anything from showing, so they end up just blending into the surrounding black ABS. (I can’t even get a clear picture of his eyes glowing; they’re so dark!) Bummer, that. If they’d only gone with a lighter shade of blue… Some physically-distinguishing details, however- like his blended horns and wide, rounded nose- carry through; evoking the image of a bull’s head!
Any pictures taken of him make him look extremely complicated; I know- I was equally intimidated before I first changed him too! But this is the testament to the awesome work Hasbro did in designing this Voyager-class toy. His legs demonstrate this quite well. The colors used on Ironhide- specifically, well... black- help distort what moves and what doesn’t, such as separation lines between parts. Most of that is surface detail, not movable parts. Trust me. Because of the complexity of the CGI character seen in the movie, some details had to be sacrificed. Specifically, the three toes on each foot have been molded into a single piece on each, but the sculpting shows that the toes are still there. (I haven’t gotten a clear image of the back of his feet, so I can’t confirm how accurate they are from the film...) Indeed, one of the fairly major details also lost is his overall body shape- in the film, he is actually slightly shorter than fellow Autobot Ratchet- featuring a bulkier, wider upper torso & arms with an overall muscled body shape. Here, that has been cast aside with smallish arms and an average-sized torso, but it isn’t a problem in the slightest as far as function goes. Ironhide is fairly flexible with a wide range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees; with limited range of motion in the head and wrists. Snap joints are present only in the shoulders (one axis), and hips (one). His feet aren’t designed with posing in mind even though they do flex when transforming him; if you tried to move them for posing, the Automorph feature would suddenly kick into reverse. The truck nose/doors hovering over his shoulders do flex a little with the springs in them, but I’ll get to that later on...
During the film, Ironhide seems to really love those big cannons attached to his arms, deploying them at the slightest irritation with his trigger-happy attitude- even willing to wipe-out Sam’s pet Chihuahua (which Ironhide called “…a rodent infestation!”) when it marked him! But, he is also proud of his weapons- upon first meeting Sam and Mikaela Banes (the “right girl” I mentioned earlier), he whipped them out and pointed them right in their faces, “You feelin’ lucky, punk?” “Easy, Ironhide…” warned Optimus Prime. “Just kidding! I just wanted to show him my cannons.”
Talk about “arm-aments”, eh!? Eh? No? Well, howsabout "sidearms"? (*crickets chirping*) Oh, come on- that second one was funny! Ch-- whatever… In the film, there are no real hand-held weapons- most of them seem to unfold out from the forearms to replace the hands. But I think that Ironhide’s cannons unfold out from somewhere above his arms in his bulky shoulders, and then attach themselves to his forearms. According to the special-effects company Industrial Light and Magic, each of Ironhide’s cannons had more than the much-publicized 10,000 parts that the robots themselves had! (I read from one individual that they reminded him of exposed jet engines… which I completely agree with!) Alas, there are not such a dramatic number of parts in the paired cannons on Ironhide’s arms. They do not extend, they do not collapse in on themselves, they do not spin on their arm attachment joints, and they most-certainly do not glow! The right cannon is indeed differently sculpted from the left cannon, but both are simplified versions of the weapons seen on-screen. The right has four free-sliding black switches around its circumference, and four narrow barrels at its end that are not present in the film version. The left is similar in general appearance, but differs in function because it contains four long ABS missiles running the length of it. There isn’t any way to fire them... ...unless you take the left cannon off of Ironhide’s arm, and attach it to the right cannon! This doesn’t happen in the movie (one shoots energy blasts, the other one shoots big cannon rounds), but it does make for an interesting ‘safety device’ that I haven’t seen before- preventing the missiles from accidentally firing. (C’mon- we’ve all done that at some time or other, right...?) A latch on the left section holds the two together, though I find fitting them together the greater challenge. Now, when each black switch on the right weapon is slid forward, the associated missile in the front (left) section fires! These are pressure-released missile as opposed to spring-loaded, so how far they go depends on how much you push on the trigger. (This a growing trend in scaled toy weapons across the US; as it is both cheaper and safer this way as opposed to depending on ‘uncontrollable’ spring-loaded designs.) Sweetness… Though molded into his fists (and painted in pictures on the box art), the micro-missiles in his knuckles do not fire. A cool place to put them, but understandable why they did this- you’d loose them sooooooo easily...!
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 10,000 components per robot), it should be noted that these are not just straight transitions either. While Ironhide’s head, arms, and legs 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. Though extremely simplified compared to the movie versions’, the only break in the two cannons is either the four barrels in the right, and the four missiles in the left. (The far-simpler Fast Action Battlers Ironhide series’ figure features a single spring-launching missile which fires from only the left cannon.) How the cab nose mounts to his chest is also different; the two halves actually attach directly to Ironhide’s shoulders in the film. However I should point out that, so-far as I can tell, the Voyager-class Ironhide seems to be the closest to his on-screen counterpart as far as how he changes and what his robot mode looks like compared to the others in the Voyager-class- Autobot Ratchet, and Decepticons Blackout and Starscream. There is one thing about my specific toy that I should mention. There is a minor manufacturing flaw in the waist joint that prevents the upper and lower torsos from snapping together correctly. The plastic warped a bit, and the hole into which the blue tab is supposed to snap into was made incomplete. So whenever I pick Ironhide up, he flops over at the waist! (I haven’t heard anyone else experience this, so it may just be me. I’ve tried to get a replacement through an exchange, but I’ve gotten no response from Hasbro on this matter.)
What the Instructions *Don’t* Tell You
The Voyager-class Ironhide set, unfortunately, has five marks in this frustrating category:
- As part of his Automorph feature(s) in the legs, his feet are geared together internally, and move at the same time that the wheels and truck bed cover do. However, what the instructions don’t tell you is that when you’re changing him, you have to move them at the same time yourself or else the small teeth on the gears will skip, and they will become unsynchronized! Do this too much and eventually the gears will become stripped! What you need to do is pull down equally on both halves at the same time, though you can/should put a little more pressure on his foot section rather than the heel section.
- What happens to the roof, windshield, and rear window after he’s changed? The instructions give no answer to this, and you are expected to just leave them hanging off the back. Each of those three sections has arms with joints, so they must do something! I had to guess at what needed to be done, and find examples of what others have done online. And there’s no proper answer in the movie since [they] change differently! All I can suggest is: 1) slide the roof up-and-away from the windshield as much as possible 2) slip the rear window (smokestacks pointing downwards) inside against the front bumper/parallel to the windshield 3) carefully slide the roof back down over it. Nothing will lock in place, and the roof will jut out a bit diagonally away from the body. Also, if forced, the windshield is designed to pop-off. (I have e-mailed Hasbro regarding this, but received no answer even three weeks later.)
- The very first step mentioned in the instructions (and rightly so!) is to flip down that forward bumper. But beware-! If you just think it flips down unchallenged, don't force it! The bumper actually fits over two pegs in the top of the nose section... very tightly. This is a wiggle game you have to play with the bumper and nose sections- gently lift the two sections at the same time that you pull down on the bumper. (it may be of use to undo the back doors first to that the nose section can wiggle around a little more, and not break when it suddenly comes apart.)
- These truck nose/shoulder guards sections are really the most baffling and- sometimes- frustrating! In the film, on the box art, and even in the instructions, Ironhide’s shoulder guards are shown as positioned horizontally directly over his arms. Now, because (in the movie) they are mounted onto his arms, when he moves his arms they move as well. As mentioned above, this is not the case with this toy, as they are attached via small blue arms w/ springs just behind the truck grill. But this makes no sense at all for the toy! If positioned horizontally, they interfere with how you position the arms! First of all, in order to position them horizontally, keep pulling out/down on the nose section until they snap into place. You still swing the back doors around like normal for this. But, I have seen many examples online of collectors leaving the shoulder units diagonally hanging in the air without snapping them in place. (They can’t snap into place diagonally anyways; it’s impossible.) Initially I posed him with them horizontally, but after seeing the images online and remembering what I had seen in the theater, I switched to the diagonal version. The Fast Action Battlers version (mentioned above) would seem to confirm the diagonal positioning, even though it’s design is significantly simplified from the Voyager-class toy.
- ‘Anomaly #5’ (heh) is dependant on ‘#4’ above. If the shoulder guards are placed diagonally, then there isn’t really an issue. However, if the shoulders are placed horizontally as indicated on-screen and on box art, then there’s a problem. The pointed central chest guard (painted metallic blue) folds up after the torso has been twisted around, and then a black panel folds up to cover the space between the chest and head. But, if the shoulder panels are to be placed horizontally, the thin panel just hangs in mid-air like that, prone to drooping over time with gravity or if you accidentally press down on it. The chest guard itself also does not snap or lock into place. Nothing can be done about it that I can find, but it is really annoying.
But the instructions don’t tell you any of this...
After seeing the film the first time (in the theater first for a change, thank the Matrix!) and then checking online for what toys there were, Ironhide was one that I knew I just had to own if none other! When I got him (he was my first toy from the film), he did not disappoint, though the four ‘anomalies’ above were a bit of a downer. He was detailed, he was articulate, his toy design was loyal to the movie version, and his trigger-happy attitude throughout the film made an impression. All joints are fairly tight. There is little I could suggest to improve him- add a few more paint details to the robot mode, snap that chest guard into place, paint all headlights white or pale yellow, and either use a different colored plastic for the eyes or just paint them in like they traditionally have been before [I prefer the latter]. Does it bother me that his overall body shape was different from that seen on-screen? No. His arms are a bit small, but the cannons make up for this. I will say this though: I do not think that this toy should really be given to the 5 year-olds that they market them to! Dat’s crazy talk there! These toys are more complex than what has been released in the past, but less-so than the advanced Alternators line- which also had real brand-named vehicles with realistic interiors, and are targeted at older collectors. Even a month after I got him, I still have to dedicate a notable amount of brain power to transforming Ironhide- and I’m 24 years old! 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. They reminded of what an artists’ interpretation of a Transformer might look like instead. Has anyone here seen futurist Syd Mead’s work on the anime series “Mobile Suit Turn-A Gundam”? There’s a good example right there of a controversial-yet-different interpretation of a popular brand! About a year before “Transformers” came out, I got a sneak-peek at a leaked prototype image of [what would come to be known as] Ironhide before I instructed myself to avoid all future spoilers until I had seen it. (A year of hell, to be sure!) I knew then that these toys would be special. And they are, for the most part. A lot of people say that this movie was made strictly for the sake of selling toys (or in director Michael Bay’s case, promoting [or kissing-up to] the US military). That’s a hell of an expensive advertisement, don’t ‘cha think!? I never looked at it that way, nor do I look at the toys as made cater to the promotion of brands like GMC, Hummer, Xbox, or even Mountain Dew. These are things that we see in everyday life. What better place for a robot to hide than in plain sight!? That’s the whole point of Transformers- that you can’t immediately recognize them! Do you really think that futuristic [or even alien] robots who can change shape are going to expose themselves- even to their enemies- by dressing up as a light blue-and-yellow sports car?! No! Ya know what? Just go out and get the Voyager-class Autobot Ironhide- he’s great!
|Posted 18 August, 2007 - 12:48 by EVA_Unit_4A|