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Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

Bombs away!

When the Autobots need to be delivered to the front lines fast, they rely on Stratosphere. His cargo bay has enough room for an entire Autobot strike team, and his engines have enough power to get them all the way to the other side of the world in only a couple of hours. High altitude weapons allow him to deliver a punishing barrage against Decepticon targets on the ground as his comrades move in for the finish.

Yes, for those of you playing at home, this is meant to be the plane used in the movie to fly Optimus and the other Autobots all over the place. No, the plane wasn't really a Transformer in the movie. Remember, the toys exist in their own continuity, where Jazz lived and a Desert Patrol Vehicle came to life. In that version of the movie continuity, the NEST team's plane was alive.

The plane in the film was a C-17 Globemaster, but since Hasbro didn't want to pay licensing fees to McDonnell Douglas, the toy is an amalgamation that's actually closer to an the Antonov An-225 Mriya. It's a little less than 10" long, and has a 10¼" wingspan. The tallest part of the plane is the tail, logically, which will require a 2¼" vertical clearance. The front landing gear can fold away, and panels on the sides will hide the rear wheels. There are large Autobot symbols on the tail fins and on top of the wings. The identification number on the side is CGRD 6-77, which almost certainly stands for something somebody's initials and birthdate or something.

Changing Stratosphere into a robot is a decent process, though the legs are really a tight fit and getting them moving can be tough. The head rises from beneath the upper cockpit, and there's a really cool fuction where the lower cockpit and the entire nose splits and repositions itself as you spread out the arms. Like pretty much every TF who's ever had a plane altmode, the wings end up behind his shoulder, but at least this style is different.

In robot mode, Stratosphere is a pretty sizeable monster. Despending on how you position his wings, he'll measure differently, but on average we're talking 11" tall. The red arms are a weird choice, and make this look like a test-shot. Flexing the elbow joints makes translucent blue gears in the upper and lower arms spin - Straty's "Mech Alive" feature. The ultra-thin lower legs make the figure look top-heavy, but he makes up for it with huge feet that keep him remarkably stable.

Articulation is plentiful and well-designed. You can pose the figure at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, fingers, thumbs, hips, thighs, elbows, hips, thighs, knees, hocks and fetlocks. The only ratcheted joints are the hips, which are still fairly quiet and easy to use.

Original plans called for Stratosphere to come with a smaller space shuttle that would fit on top of the plane (much like Astrotrain can fit on top of Jetstorm), and would also turn into a missile launcher for the big guy to use. The accessory made it pretty far into the production process before being scrapped, the only evidence of its passing being a single hole between the wings where the shuttle would have plugged in place.

However, losing that accessory is okay, considering the one we do get: Optimus Prime! Since this is the plane that ferried the Autobots around, it only makes sense that he comes with an Autobot. At 1⅝" long, this is the smallest Optimus Prime ever made. All six wheels roll, but when it comes to color, he could use a lot more red and a lot less blue. In fact, the only red apps are on his hood, while the windshield, grill and bumper are all silver.

Amazingly, the little guy transforms. They probably could have just made a truck, and it would have been okay, but this goes above and beyond. Now, obviously the transformation scheme isn't movie-accurate; the robot mode is highly flawed, if you're looking for a duplicate of what was seen on the screen, but there's only so much you can do when you compress a 28' foot robot into a 2" toy - that's 1:168 scale! The World's Smallest Transformer Optimus Prime couldn't even completely duplicate the G1 design, a much simpler look, and that toy is 12.5% bigger than this one. Cut it some slack.

I was totally on the fence about Stratosphere. I kind of wanted the little Optimus Prime, but I wasn't crazy about the big bot's overall look. However, after finding the plane on sale, I'm glad I got him: Stratosphere is a better Transformer than I was expecting, and definitely a lot of fun to play with.

-- 08/18/09

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