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Crankcase

Transformers DOTM
by yo go re

Today's lesson: research before you buy.

As an expert tracker and infiltrator, Crankcase serves Megatron from the shadows. Unseen and never recognized, he watches the Autobots and reports their movements back to his master. He rarely engages in combat, but when he does, it is swift, terrible, and final.

Crankcase is a new character to the movies, despite the fact that the name was connected to a figure in the first movie line. His altmode is a Chevy Suburban, and from the looks of things, he's following Barricade's lead in being a Decepticon who's disguised himself as law enforcement. There are two light bars on the roof - front and back - done in clear plastic with orange at the tips. Judging by the gaps between the tires and the body of the car, it's got some serious shocks and struts.

The paint is not very impressive in this mode. The body is solid black, which is fine, but the windows are solid black, as well. We're not saying they need to be translucent, but you can throw some paint apps on there to make it clear that they're actually glass and not the same opaque fiberglass as the rest of the frame. The front headlights are clear, with silver dots painted behind them to suggest the actual lights; meanwhile, the tail lights are painted solid red. It's not bad paintwork, it's just really, really boring.

Converting Crankcase is actually one of the best things about him. It's actually a quite nice process, complicated enough not to be dull or pointless, yet simple enough not to be frustrating. Going back to the altmode is a bit tougher (seriously, dreads, get the hell in your place!), but car-to-robot is a very rewarding time.

In robot mode, Crankcase is a fearsome sight! He has three clawed "toes", the car's tires end up in his feet, and there are spindly gray legs leading up to his chest, which appears to be made of thin, angular shards of metal wrapped over an internal core. The arms are of a similar style to the legs, with the car's doors hanging off as kibble, and the front wheels bunched up near the elbows. There are two large spikes or claws or something jutting up off his shoulders. They're vaguely reminiscent of the Insecticon Shrapnel, but don't seem to serve any purpose here, other than being superfluous decorative elements.

The head is monstrous. There's an underbite with sharp fangs pointing upward, four small red eyes (meant to be light-piped, but they don't work) and the whole thing is capped off with two hooked horns or antlers. Some of the Chevy's internal wiring hangs off the back of the head and falls down over the shoulders, becoming a sort of golden technological dreadlocks.

Why dreadlocks? Those, the sharp fangy underbite, the claws... it all adds up to one thing: Crankcase is a Predator homage! Even his bio - he's an unseen tracker who hunts from the shadows and never reveals himself unless he's going to kill someone - gets its inspiration from the Predator mythos. Why'd they pick the Pred for this one? Who knows. But more importantly, when will we see an Alien?

If you look at the stock photos of Crankcase, you'll notice that the middle finger on each hand is a long spike - however, on the final toy, the fingers are flat and stumpy? Why? Because the extra-long fingers were cut off at the factory. What the--?! What did this happen? The hands are molded from soft PVC, so it can't have been a safety issue, which leaves only two possibilities: either the factory thought the plastic was excess flashing and trimmed it off; or Hasbro decided they didn't want Crankcase flipping people the bird and told the factory to do it. No matter which is true, they both present some huge problems: if it was the factory's choice, then whoever's in charge of Hasbro's quality control should have caught it; if it was Hasbro's choice, then it was just effing stupid. There are ways to avoid the problem, if you're dedicated, but it never should have been done in the first place.

Articulation is merely average. Granted, "average" means a lot more than it did back in the day, so he moves darn well. There are hinged knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, hinged elbows, swivel thighs, balljointed shoulders and a swivel neck. The claws on his back pivot, as well - whatever they are. The hips are really loose, however, and coupled with the fact that the bottoms of his feet are rounded, he doesn't stand well. The legs splay out and he falls to the ground. Of course, that would be easy enough to fix with a little super glue.

Just as the first movie introduced "Automorph" technology and the second brought us "Mech Alive," the third movie line introduces its own gimmick: the "Mechtech" weapons system, which is basically big guns with parts that move and flip around when you move a lever. Crankcase's looks like a blocky machine gun, but when you hit the button, it extends into two curved blades - another Predator reference! What fun! The gun has a 5mm handle, so it can fit lots of Transformers.

I bought Crankcase because I thought the Predator homage was a neat idea, but the final product is disappointing in every way. Deadly boring in the altmode, loose joints in robot mode, bad design elements (those shoulder things are nuts!) and just generally shoddy workmanship. Even putting aside the mutilated hands, this is a bad Transformer, and we 100% recommend you do not buy it. We pushed this review forward so we could tell you sooner not to buy it. Leave it on the shelf, use your money for something else.

And now, a closing message for Hasbro: whether it was done for safety issues or because you didn't want the toys making any "rude" gestures, Hasbro, you sold me a broken toy. One that was intentionally broken at the factory. As such, it's getting returned to the store and reported as unsellable; enjoy the cost of taking it back.

-- 05/31/11


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