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Screen Battles: Final Stand

Transformers
by yo go re

The Transformers movie toys were significantly under-ordered by most stores, leading to extensive "droughts" of figures leading up to Christmas. When the product finally began filling shelves again in the new year, some of the first new items were the long-awaited "Screen Battles" multi-packs, the first TF assortment to consistently pair human figurines with the Robots in Disguise.

His legs badly damaged by the Decepticon onslaught, Bumblebee continues to fight. and thus was a new figure born Luckily, Longarm is there, and ready to lend a hand. Even though he just came to life a few minutes ago, as the AllSpark passed from hand to hand near where he was parked, Longarm knows a good guy when he sees one, and Bumblebee is it. Hitching his tow arm up to the disabled Autobot, he hauls Bumblebee down the street at top speed, see? Final Stand with Mikaela driving, while the Autobot warrior blasts away at the charging Decepticons.

Since the movie only featured five Autobots and eight Decepticons, Hasbro needed to come up with some other characters to take up space in the line. Videogames, comicbooks, abandoned concepts... everything was fodder for the toys. Longarm is one of those "space filler" characters, based somewhat on the tie-in videogame and somewhat on the movie.

In the film, as mentioned above, Bumblebee was injured and needed she's got the hook-up to be dragged to safety. They latch him onto a tow truck, Mikaela hops in the front and drives away. Longarm was designed to look (somewhat) like the movie truck - of course, that was a tall GMC model, while the toy is a wide, flat F-350 with just enough changes to keep them from having to pay Ford. The vehicle mode is 5¾" long and more than 2½" wide, with rolling plastic wheels and a moveable crane.

There are several differences between this "Screen Battles" release and the original, but they're mostly in regard to the paint apps, paint apps and mostly to bring the toy closer to the movie counterpart. The name of the towing company was originally "Orson's Towing," a roundabout reference to TF head designer Aaron Archer, but now it's Mike's Towing, just as in the film. Mike's phone number is painted on the doors, and there are more paint apps on the side panels, including a sign proclaiming that Mike's Towing is available 24 hours a day, and an Autobot symbol in a circle that suggests the AAA logo. The original toy's crane was slightly mis-assembled, and that's also been corrected for this version.

For a made-up robot, Longarm has a surprisingly good transformation. Longarm Flip the hook over the crane's main arm, raise the doors, split the rear bumper, and move the rear side panels forward. Fold the orange lightbar in half (Longarm's supposed "automorph" feature), rotate the missisle launcher out from under the truck, and rotate the top section of the crane back to rest on top of the gun's barrel. Rotate the silver strips of diamond plating to the sides, and finish folding the side panels forward. Pull out the front of the truck, open the hood and rotate out the heel spurs. Move the arms down and out to the sides, the raise the head and fold down the armor over the shoulders.

Longarm has a pretty nice robot mode. He's not as "pointy" as the real movie TFs (for want of a better word), but he's still closer to that asthetic than, not Wolverine say, Cybertron. The figure doesn't really resemble the drones seen in the videogame, but that's a good thing. He's big and bulky, but still quite thin: the legs, chest and shoulders are huge, but the waist and arms are almost dainty. The blue spikes on the hood can still be seen in robot mode, and make a great visual element for his feet. His knees look like tail lights, and he has diamond plate panels on his chest. His head definitely doesn't look like ether videogame model, but is an original design that shares some vague similarities with G1 Hoist's - it's a really nice look for a TF.

Poseability is very good, with more than 20 points of articulation - including a balljointed chest - but the figure does have some design flaws, and they both involve his gun. that's just ridiculous Sorry, his "quagma cannon." I don't know what a quagma cannon is [it fires quagmires, duh --ed.], but it is a gigantic weapon that measures about 5½" long - almost as tall as Longarm himself! No surprise that "longarm" is a general term for a firearm with a longer barrel: like a rifle compared to a handgun; you get the idea. The quagma cannon definitely qualifies.

So what's the problem? When Longarm is in vehicle mode, there's a notch in the front bumper that allows the missile to fire from the undercarriage; the trigger is underneath the crane arm. Of course, actually getting the missile to launch is problematic, because the robot's shins/knees are usually in the way. In robot mode, the gun is permanently attached to his righthand with a screw, so you can never have him unarmed. Yes, you can remove the screw on your own, but then there's nothing to hold the gun in place. It would have made much more sense to have a hole in each palm and a peg on both sides of the gun - as it is, there's only a hole and a peg on the left side.

Though most of the Screen Battles sets include one Deluxe class TF and three human figurines, "Final Stand" is different. In fact, it doesn't have any human figures at all! one of these is plastic What we do get, however, is a non-removeable Mikaela Banes in the driver's seat, plugged into one of the screw holes - a phrase that Sam Witwicky was probably hoping to use in relation to her some day. The sculpt doesn't try particularly hard to capture Megan Fox's well-documented hottieness, but it's fairly cute and the paint has her in the right shirt, so that's all that really matters. Yeah, a separate figure would have been preferable, but it wouldn't have been the same.

To make up for the total lack of humans, the Final Stand set includes a second Transformer. Well, "half" a second Transformer: it's Bumblebee, after he was injured by Starscream. Sadly, it's not a real, transforming Transformer. It's more like one of the Robot Replicas, the movie-styled action figures. Yeah, we usually have no patience for TF toys that don't TF, but this is a special case. "Crippled Bumblebee" falls somewhere between an actual figure and an accessory, so we're going to cut him some slack. You ain't got no legs, Lieutenant Dan. Besides, a transformer who's missing his legs wouldn't really be able to change into a proper vehicle, anyway - just look at "Final Battle Jazz."

Anyway, Crippled Bumblebee moves at the Big Five: hips, shoulders and neck. Four of the joints are simple pegs, but the right shoulder is a balljoint. Since his right "hand" is molded in its gun form, the extra range of motion in that shoulder lets him aim in more than one direction. Seated, the figure is 2½" tall, but if you put him on his hands and knees, he gets about an inch taller. The sculpt is impressive all around, though he could use just a few more yellow paint apps on his hands. He really should have had his battle mask down, too. A big notch in the figure's back allows Longarm's hook to grab Bumblebee and tow him around.

The Screen Battles sets are sold in angular boxes with a large bubble to show off the dynamically posed figures inside. The back of the tray features a full-panel diorama specific to the set: that's Brawl on the righthand panel in this case, it's downtown Mission City, where the big battle with the Decepticons took place. Specifically, the corner of Wyoming Ave. and Spruce St. Brawl is in the background, blowing stuff up, as a pair of Endor Rebel Soldiers sneak around the rubble. Okay, so they're actually US soldiers, but the helmets make this look like an unoffical Star Wars crossover.

Despite the fact that "Mission City" seems to be in either Nevada or Arizona (being explicity located 22 miles from Hoover Dam [the same distance as Las Vegas, btw --ed.]), see the green Lotto posters on the corner? there's a Lotto sign in the window of the convenience store on the corner, which is a bit problematic. First of all, Nevada doesn't have a state lottery, and Arizona's lotto logo doesn't look anything like this. That's a Pennsylvania State Lotto logo; for our non-US readers (and anyone who went to school in Kansas), Pennsylvania is more than 22 miles from Hoover Dam. You know where you can find Wyoming Ave. intersecting the 300 block of Spruce St.? Scranton, Pennsylvania. You know what's on that corner, at 141 Wyoming? Speedy Shop, where you can play the lotto. Boo-ya! The backdrop is a Photoshopped version, but that's where it is; the battle for the All Spark took place in Scranton. Wonder if one of the designers is from there or something?

Though it doesn't give us three humans, the "Final Stand" Screen Battle set is still a good one: Longarm is a surprisingly good Transformer (with improved paint apps) and the Bumblebee figure is one we're unlikely to get otherwise. Still, it's hard to recommend this set. Longarm by himself costs $10, so is it worth paying twice that for some paint changes, a non-removable human and a non-transforming robot? Especially when both Mikaela and Bumblebee are only half-figures? I'm not sorry I bought this set, but I'm definitely going to wait for a sale before I buy any others. Your mileage may vary, but that's why we've laid out all the facts for you. Make your own decision... but let us know what you decide.


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