When, in the first episode of Transformers Animated, it was revealed that Optimus Prime wasn't the supreme commander of the Autobots, that was pretty surprising. What was even more surprising, however, was the reveal of who was the leader: Ultra Magnus.
Commander of the Cybertron Elite Guard, Ultra Magnus is the most powerful Autobot warrior in the galaxy. He has trained for hundreds of years in all forms of fighting known on Cybertron, and several other planets. No Autobot is more courageous, or more dedicated to the protection of life and freedom. He is a master tactician who has never been beaten on the battlefield, and was instrumental in driving the Decepticons from Cybertron and into deep space.
The original Ultra Magnus was just Optimus Prime painted white, and that theme has been carried over for most of his other toys. One of the rare examples was the Robots in Disguise version, but even that served only to be Prime's magic mushroom. So this is really the first time ever we've had a standalone Ultra Magnus with no connection to Optimus whatsoever.
Ultra Magnus is, appropriately, a big fella - nealy 9" tall at the tips of his antennae. His body is mostly blue, but the black and
white light gray sections add some nice contrast. Surprisingly for an Animated toy (or, let's be honest, almost any modern line), Ultra Magnus really doesn't look very much like his G1 counterpart: yes, the head is a similar shape, but his torso isn't mostly red, he doesn't have giant towers on his shoulders, there are no angled scoops under his forearms, nothing. Still, the overall package really presents a nice "Ultra Magnus" feel, so the changes aren't bad.
Press the Elite Guard symbol on his chest, and Ultra Magnus says one of three phrases:
- Ultra Magnus here.
- Don't be a hero, Optimus - it's not in your programming.
- We must return the AllSpark to Cybertron.
At the same time, lights in his eyes (green)
and the launchers on his back (yellow) flash, and he opens his mouth. Well, more accurately, he raises the entire top portion of his head, leaving the lower jaw where it was. The box touts Magnus' "changing expression," which is actually the crest on his helmet tilting to the side to slightly cover one eye. It does work as advertised, with one exception: even with the button pushed all the way in, the head doesn't raise far enough for the feature to work to its fullest, so it's barely noticeable. The voice is nice and clear, and still offers a nice impression of Unsolved Mysteries' Robert Stack (the original voice of Ultra Magnus from the movie).
Ultra Magnus' main weapon in the cartoon is his mighty hammer, which he can use to command lightning. The toy includes it as well, though the handle is about 33% too short, and the head - which can pops open when you pull up on it - is translucent blue, rather than solid grey. Still, he can hold it in either hand, allowing him to deal with anything. There's also an "attack mode," in which he sprouts a ton of new guns from his shoulders. Extra fun! Articulation is plentiful, with a swivel neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinge elbows, hinged fingers, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs and hinged knees.
More electronic sounds are activated when changing Mags from one mode to the other - the classic "transforming sound" is connected to both of his shoulders. Yay!
The overall process is pleasantly complex, but never difficult. Despite Sentinel Prime's boast that he had "scanned some typical Earth vehicles, sir, so we won't attract attention to ourselves," UM's altmode looks like a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck with missile launchers mounted on the back - if the HEMTT sounds familiar, it's because the M978 variant was the basis for Octane's tanker altmode. Ultra magnus is bigger, of course, at 9" long, 3⅝ wide and 3½" tall.
This mode looks a bit more "Magnusy," since the cab is (almost) white and the body is blue. All eight wheels roll freely, and pressing a button on the side of the vehicle activates blasting sounds and flashing yellow lights. There's an attack mode for the vehicle, as well, with even more pop-out guns than the robot had. This is a far cry from the wishy-washy reluctant leader of G1!
Ultra Magnus is fun in both modes, and has lots of play features all around. If the sounds annoy you, just take out the batteries and never worry about them again. The electrioncs don't impede his articulation at all, and the toy is sizeable enough to tower appropriately over the other Animated TFs. There have been some definite "cost vs. value" problems with the TFA Leader Class figures (and others), but Ultra Magnus is definitely one who's worth what you'll pay for him.