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Transformers Bumblebee
by yo go re

So apparently the secret to getting me personally to buy full-sized Transformers again is pre-Earth appearances.

The fate of Cybertron is sealed as Soundwave orders the Decepticons to launch a final attack, causing the Autobots to fall back.

Yes he does, and isn't it nice that despite how dark the scene is, how hectic the scene is, the Cybertron scene in Bumblebee is still easy to follow, easy to tell who everyone is and what they're doing? It's amazing how it took until the sixth Transformers movie for anyone involved in the production of them to realize that battle scenes could have distinct characters performing understandable actions, and didn't need to just be random chunks of metal bashing together. What a concept!

A big part of that, of course, was that Bumblebee finally opted to have character designs that harkened back to G1. It's not that the '80s designs are some perfect ideal of the way things have to look forever, but they're recognizable and distinct. Compare this Soundwave to his first two movie designs, and there's only one that stands out as being "Soundwave"-y at a glance: blocky blue body, bright white limbs, a window in the chest... compare that to "generic silver robot shape #87b," and it's easy to see why so many were happy to see the Transformers depicted this way in the newest film.

There are still details to make this more "movieverse" than "cartoon," of course. Rather than being made of parallel lines, the limbs have angled, organic looks, and there are overlapping plates everywhere. Like, if you took this design and tried to draw it on an Etch-A-Sketch, you'd get the G1. The head retains the classic "I'm the Decepticon logo" shape, though there's a break down the center of his mouthplate, so it doesn't look as smooth as it should.

Soundwave moves at the head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, waist, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. He's armed with a black rifle and the shoulder-mounted missile launcher that's such an iconic part of his design (though the moveable handle on that one means you could also have him carry it as his vintage "concussion blaster"). The paint is suprisingly good, with accents picked out in red or gold even on the back of the figure - bet those bits will be visible in vehicle mode, and that's why they were painted. Details on his waist flaps look like the fast forward and rewind buttons from the ancient cassette player, and if you lift that flap, there are sculpted details calling to mind a power button, headphone jack, etc.

Converting Soundwave is a little weird, but only because we're used to things being intended to line up flat, while his ultimate design calls for more sloping connections. To change him, rotate the head and fold in the hands, flip the shoulder flaps, rotate the arms forward, up, out to the sides (making sure the flaps you opened earlier are hiding the robot's face), then twist the forearms and bend the elbows down to the sides.

Turn the feet inward, open the panels on the back of the calves, bend the knees upward, twist the feet down, then hinge them over to plug onto the tabs on the arms (this is the part that won't work right if you try to make him "flat," but only if you make him bent). Finally, open the panel on the back, twist the smaller panel on that, twist the whole thing, then fold them both down to complete the process.

The last time we got a Cybertron-mode Soundwave, he turned into some kind of van, while this one is... entirely made-up. Seriously, Soundwave never transforms in the movie, so there was no "real" design for them to work from. There's concept art of him as a "Cybertronian tank, but that was the concept art for this toy, not for the movie. Emiliano Santalucia did it. Other concepts were bandied about (some kind of helicopter, something more like a tape player), but this is the one Hasbro picked. All of them had to be designed around the opening chest bay, which limited things a bit.

Just looking at it, Soundwave's altmode isn't great. It's a lump, a brick, a "what can we make from this robot without messing things up too much" choice. But once you convert him and start playing with him, he's actually a lot of fun. Finding some way to attach his guns to the top instead of the side may have helped with the "tank" feeling, but the angled shape is pleasant to hold and fun to swoop around. Plus, that robot mode is spot-on!

-- 03/22/22

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