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Ultra Magnus

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

This past February at Toy Fair, Hasbro announced they would be making a Leader Class Ultra Magnus in the Generations line, and Transfans everywhere immediately began trying to unload their City Commander sets. The question is, was that the right choice?

You already know Ultra Magnus: he's the stick-in-the-mud subcommander who usually hangs around on Cybertron while Optimus Prime is off having adventures. The IDW version is a little different, existing back when Prime was still just Orion Pax, and these days is the duly appointed enforcer of the Tyrest Accord. During times of peace, he tends to put too much emphasis on minor rules as a way of maintaining order. And so everybody hates him!

As a Generations figure, Ultra Magnus is designed to be an updating and improving of the G1 character, and in that regard, he's very successful. Just look at his head: it's a big blue helmet with a silver face and tall silver antennae/pipes over the ears. His eyes are light blue, and, suiting the character, he appears to be frowning.

Below the neck, he's still got the look you'd expect: there's big blue armor covering his red chest, more blue on the shoulders, forearms and legs, and of course giant white pylons sticking up off his shoulders. Now, if you really want to get nitpicky, his upper legs should be red, not white, but if that really bothers you a lot, you can buy the Takara version. There are some nice throwbacks in the shapes sculpted on the figure, like the round bit on his belt, or the way the armor on his forearms angles down and sticks out below his hands. The armor on his shoulders has a new design on the front, but the back still has the traditional blocky shape.

Magnus has some giant feet, which will come in handy with all his articulation. The G1 figures a brick, but this one has double-hinged ankles, hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, hinged fingers, swivel wrists, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a swivel neck. There are even hinged panels on the outside of the shoulder armor, so it doesn't get in the way of the arms. The hands are a bit annoying, since the hinges are the only thing that allows him to hold his accessories - that wasn't a good solution for Marvel Legends, and it isn't a good solution for Transformers. If you move his arms at all, the guns will drop.

"Accessories," you say? Why yes! Maggy has a pair of big (non-functional) missile launchers that mount on his shoulders, like many Mags before him. He's also got two large black guns, neither of which is shaped like his old one - way to buck the trend, designers! He does have some trouble holding the guns, as we told you. Carrying on the trend started by Animated Ultra Magnus and continued by Prime Ultra Magnus, he's also got a big scary hammer: the two guns plug together, and the missile launchers attach to form the head! He actually does a better job of holding the hammer than the guns, thanks to notches on the shaft that fit into matching bits on his arms.

This Ultra Magnus is based on the IDW comics, which means he has a secret. And since that secret is revealed right on the back of the box, that's the reason we haven't included that text yet: had to wait for the right moment. The moment is now!

The legend of Ultra Magnus is exceeded only by the legend of Optimus Prime. When Ultra Magnus was lost, the forces of justice would not let a warrior of his caliber fall. Minimus Ambus, using the power of his rare loadbearer spark, enables Ultra Magnus to fight on.

That's right, Ultra Magnus isn't Ultra Magnus: the real one died years ago, so "he's" just a big suit of armor worn by a succession of various characters over the years, like James Bond or the Dread Pirate Roberts. To that end, the chest opens, and there's a little cockpit with the robot sitting in it.

Well, "sitting" in it, because if you put his hands on the two little handles that are in there (joystick for the right hand, throttle for the left), then hit butt hovers above the seat. And it's meant to be that way, because if you ignore the controls and put his butt in the seat, then his head doesn't poke up into the Magnus head the way it's supposed to. The interior of the cockpit is based on designs by Andrew Griffith, and is covered in tiny, tiny technological details that you'll never even see unless you get in there and really look at them. Some you'll never get to see at all, because the two front panels have elements that match up when you close them. This isn't quite how the Magnus Armor works in the comics, but it's still a clear inspiration.

Minimus Ambus is, as we showed you at Toy Fair, a very tiny little guy. He's closer to Mini-Con size than Legends Class, and only has six points of articulation: balljointed shoulders and hips, and hinged knees. There are plenty of sculpted details on his eensy body and he even has a little mustache and beard! It makes him look more... regal? Like he's someone you should respect, even though he's miniscule. His hands are open, so he can hold the controls in Magnus' cockpit.

Ambus has his own altmode, a sleek white car. A hovercar, judging by the lack of wheels. It has black windows and green vents on the hood. A large red Autobot symbol on the roof gives away his allegiences. This is something made up for the toy, but there's nothing saying he can't turn into a car like this, so it's still good.

Ultra Magnus, of course, turns into a car carrier. Through a clever bit of engineering, the white cab doesn't even have to be removed from the rest of the carrier - no more partsforming! Of course, the only thing keeping the cab attached is a single screw, so you could separate them if you wanted to, but it's designed so you don't have to.

The shape of the carrier owes a lot to the original toy - the angles of the vertical sections, the distribution of colors, the way the upper deck is just two separate white beams, etc. Again there's a color choice that breaks G1 tradition: the vertical panels near the front of the truck are blue at the top, but turn red halfway down; on the original they were totally blue, but the hinges are mounted higher this time. Paint would have taken care of it, but might have sent the figure over budget.

The panels in the back fold down to form a ramp for the cars to drive up, and the "beams" on top pivot down as well, so vehicles can get up there. Both those features were on the 1986 toy, and whle they don't work as smoothly here, it's nice that they're included. The carrier area is sized to accommodate Legends Class figures, like Swerve or Tailgate (though you could probably squeeze some bigger ones up on the roof).

Speaking of "big," Ultra Magnus is huge. Yes, he's a Leader Class toy, so the vehicle mode measures 10¾" long, 3½" wide and 4¼" tall, but we're talking about in-universe scale. Look at the tiny details of the sculpt, like the ladders and doors that are theoretically scled for humans - the hubcaps in the center of the wheels are bigger than the doors! If those are normal-sized doors, then Ultra Magnus is made in 1:213 scale, and would therefore top out at 75 feet tall in real life! That's almost eight stories high, and as wide as a five-lane highway!

The missile launchers and guns can plug into the 5mm holes on the sides of the carrier, prepping this giant murder-truck for war. And while that's nice, there's still a problem with the figure: they forgot to include a way for Minimus Ambus to interact with the toy in this mode. His robot won't fit in the cab any more, and his car is too small for the carrier. About all you can do is put him under the rear wheels of the cab, which only hides him, doesn't actually deal with him.

But really, that's not much of a complaint, is it? Ultra Magnus is a lot of fun, and nicely designed. Plus, the IDW-inspired inclusion of Minimus Ambus is a great bonus for fans. But still, he's not so much better than City Commander that it's worth selling that one if you have it. Most stores are still trying to unload the Leader Class Megatrons, so you'll have a hard time finding Ultra Magnus right now, but he'll be good once you get him.

-- 08/18/15

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