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Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

Is Hasbro trying to confuse us? The first push of toys for the new Transformers movie is our real introduction to these characters, and they put out both an Autobot and a Decepticon who not only turn into silver sports cars, but have nearly identical names, as well? It's some kind of evil plot!

Sideswipe was built to fight. He is sleek, fast, and single-minded in battle, focusing on his enemy with absolute attention. His blades are a shining blur in the air as he leaps through the air, twisting to avoid enemy fire. Converting from vehicle to robot at blinding speed, he uses every trick in the book to get close to his opponent, and put his powerful swords to work.

Obviously the movie version is quite a bit like his G1 namesake, eh? Incredibly fast, loves to fight, loves to fight dirty, will do anything at all to win, and puts it all on the line for the Autobot cause. Sure, he's got a bit of Sunstreaker's vanity, as well, but that just puts both brothers in one body. At least he doesn't have to suffer from the big, exposed, rear-mounted engine.

The return of Transformers to movie theaters means the return of licensed vehicles to Transformers. Like Bumblebee, Sideswipe is a concept car - in this case, a Corvette StingRay (yes, that's how the package parses it). But not only is it a concept car, apparently it's a concept car let out of development specifically for Transformers: when it was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, it was introduced as "the Transformer Corvette." Ah, cross-marketing!

While most modern cars end up looking like round little jelly beans, the StingRay has a hard "crease" between top and bottom that gives it a sense of squareness. The wheel wells are fully circular, as opposed to the flat-topped wells on the '60s version. The roofline duplicates the original car closely, right down to the weird split rear window, but it sits so low to the body that it looks like it's sinking into the fenders. The concept StingRay has four exhaust pipes: a nod to the four round tail lights on the '63.

The car is 5½" by 2½", and barely 1½" tall. All four wheels roll, but don't expect anything in the way of opening doors or anything - there's none of that. The windows and the headlights embedded in the front fender are translucent blue, providing a good contrast with the silver body, and the cute little StingRay logo is duplicated on the back end.

Converting Sideswipe is a nicely challenging process, though the instructions do leave out one small step - it's just a minor thing, folding over a bit on his heels, and you won't have any problems if you miss it. The new robot designs for Revenge of the Fallen all seem to share a particular similarity: wheels instead of feet. Wheelie, Arcee, Chromia, Demolishor... they all balance on one or more wheels at the bottom of their legs. It's like one concept artist had a neat idea, and everybody else cribbed off that design. Sideswipe is part of this bunch, too, though the toy redesigns him slightly, so he just has tires in his feet, rather than lacking feet entirely. You'll thank Hasbro when you can stand him up.

Sideswipe's robot mode is really nice. He has that "car hood chest" look that was so prevalent in G1, and doors sticking off his arms. Quite a bit of kibble sticks up off his back, but it's so broken up and symmetrical that it doesn't look too bad. His head does its part to make him look speedy, and the use of clear plastic creates the illusion that his legs are only connected to his torso by a series of floating pistons - pretty neat!

The Automorph gimmick has been dropped for the second film, replaced by "Mech Alive," which is supposed to simulate the way you can always see gears and whatnot moving inside the movie bots. Basically, it means when you move some parts of the robot, other parts shift or reposition themselves. In Sideswipe's case, when you bend his knees, blue panels slide down out of his upper leg to cover the joint. It's not the greatest thing ever, but it works. There's one other feature that probably would have been fallen under the "Automorph" header if he'd been released with the first toys: you can split the car's side panels and swing them around on his arm, forming the blades mentioned in the bio. Now that's a fun feature!

Given their simultaneous release (and the fact that they're matched up in one of the Robot Heroes sets), it seems Sideswipe and Sideways are going to have something of a rivalry in the film. In the toy aisle, though? It's no contest: Sideswipe is a real winner.

-- 06/23/09

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