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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

When the dust cleared in Transformers: The Movie, we were left with a pile of robotic corpses and a whole slew of new characters. New, unpopular characters. Seriously, we lost Wheeljack and gained Wheelie? That's trading down. But the most resistance was met by the Transformers' own Poochie, Hot Rod. Er, Rodimus Prime. No, wait, Rodimus Major. Hot Rodimus? The frakking red guy! You know who we mean.

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.

Hot Rod is one of the many character names Hasbro has lost the rights to over the years, and so far it doesn't seem like they're trying very hard to reclaim them. He's been some variation of "Rodimus" over and over, to the point where it almost seems normal to see such a goofball word on the front of the package. The kayfabe reason for the name? He took it reflect his increased maturity. Yeah.

In the Breakdown GTS review, we jokingly asked why a character who never had an Earth form would need a Cybertronian design. The truth is, the characters introduced in the movie did have Earth forms: the movie was set 20 years in the future, so the vehicles were based on the designers' guesses about what cars would look like in 2005.

Yeah, they didn't do so hot.

Hot Rod was based on a 1978 Nissan concept car, the Dome Zero. It looked kind of like a Lamborghini Countach, with its harsh, angular design, but came to more of a point in the front. Unlike many of the Classics figures, which have gotten complete overhauls, Rodimus is still based on the Dome Zero - albeit with a closer interpretation this time.

The car retains the classic Hot Rod looks, with the exhaust pipes running back along the body, and the huge spoiler on the back. Though it rides low to the ground, it's designed well enough that the bottom of the car doesn't scrape anything when you roll it.

Transformation is only vaguely similar to any previous Rodimii. Yes, the arms are in the front and the legs are in the back, but it's much more complex. There are a lot more small steps between the car and the robot. The instructions are unclear on a few of the steps - they fail to mention that some pieces need to be foled halfway back to their original position before things attached to them can move. But the hardest part is getting the rear wheels to slide out to the side - those are going to cause a few broken nails, that's for sure.

The point of the Classics line (beyond just filling space) was to give us G1-inspired toys that looked more like their cartoon counterparts than the original toys did. However, with Rodimus that was really unneccessary. While the early TFs were all culled from existing toy lines and then adapted for the tv show, Hot Rod was one of the few characters designed for the animation first, then adapted for the toyline. As such, the G1 figure was already pretty show-accurate - in fact, it may be more accurate than this new version!

Which is not to say Classic Rodimus is a bad figure - far from it. He just draws from a wider range of inluences than the G1 verison. For instance, the yellow "wings" on his head, and the fact that the gold flames are directly on the red of his chest, rather than on a separate orange block? Those were both features that debuted on Energon Rodimus. The engine-block ascot? That one's all new. There is one small detail that's straight from the source, though: what the package calls a "flip out data-com communicator" is actually a buzzsaw, as seen in one brief scene in the movie. Obscure!

One thing's for sure: the articulation is a huge step up. His head turns, his shoulders are balljoints, his elbows are hinged, the knees are balljointed, and the hips are this strange hinge/hinge/swivel combo thing that still manages a decent range of motion. The lack of a waist is odd, but not crippling. The chest plugs in place when you fold it over, but is disinclined to stay, especially when you raise the arms. Rodimus can still brandish his gun in a threatening manner - it's formed from the car's rocket booster exhaust, and can fire a translucent purple missile. Or you can plug it into his back, and pretend it's a jetpack so he and Bumblebee can fly aerial recon together.

Rodimus (or whatever you want to call him) is definitely a better toy than the G1 version, but as far as the Classics go, he's not too hot. Mix a decent vehicle, a wonky transformation and a robot that's good but not great, and there you have it. He's not the must-have that Mirage is, but not a lot of figures are. This is a perfectly servicable Transformer, and probably should have a place in your collection - but don't pay more than retail, or you might feel let down.

-- 08/21/07

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