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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

Have you ever wondered how long it would take something to find its way from the bottom of your insanely long Netflix queue to the top, if you never bumped it up, but rather let it rise on its own? For me, the answer is "six years." I know this because it was at the same party where Homeless Masturbating Treebeard was dreamt up that a friend finally talked me into watching Beast Wars, and it was only this summer that the discs finally arrived. Granted, that's not a statistically significant sample group, but it's rare that you both A) remember exactly when you added something, and 2) never push it up or down your list at all.

Within the chassis of Dinobot beats the spark of a warrior. Victory won with honor is the highest aim to which he has ever aspired. It is an aim that seems more and more remote, the longer he spends under the command of Megatron. Duplicity is not the warrior's way. As the battle on this strange, primitive world rages, it seems to Dinobot that true honor may come only through the Maximal way.

The Beast Wars animation style was pretty hard to look at, but man, the writing was excellent! In the first episode, it seemed like Dinobot was going to be the Starscream, the villain constantly undermining Megatron's rule and trying to wrest command: but after geting his tail kicked, he bucked tradition by quitting the ranks and going to join the good guys. Well, first he tried to wrest command from Optimus Primal, and that went just about as well as the Megatron fight did, but the Maximals are more forgiving than the Predacons.

Dinobot's altmode is a velociraptor, because Beast Wars came out after Jurassic Park. For our younger readers, before that book, the only people who had ever heard of raptors were paleontologists: so in that case, why bother resurrecting the things? It's not like they would have been a draw for tourists, and you can't even keep them somewhere they can be seen - there's no money in bringing them back to life. Basically, they were put in the park just so there'd be a threat that wasn't too big to get inside a building.

JP's raptors were actually based on the Deinonychus (because, at the time Crichton was writing the novel, scientists were debating whether or not to classify them as two members of the same species), and this toy follows suit: i.e., he's fairly large and has no feathers. There's definitely some robot kibble hiding in the beast's chest, but then, the same was true for the original - it's not a "flaw," it's an "homage!" Yeah, that's the ticket.

The vicious velociraptor is 9" from end to end, and stands about 5" tall. Since it's an animal, not a vehicle, there's articulation to be had in this mode, as well: balljointed ankles and hips, hinged knees, swivel shoulders and a working jaw. The skin is a slightly brown-tinted grey, with bright peach stripes - at least, the US version is. The Japanese release is much more show-accurate, with brown skin and tan stripes. It also replaces the mustard color on the feet with a more appropriate bronze. The skin has a very detailed texture, as well, looking realistically leathery - they even sculpted a tongue on the lower jaw.

Having never had the original Dinobot, we can't tell you how closely the new conversion scheme matches that one, but considering how similar the two robots end up looking, we're assuming it's at least somewhat the same. The biggest obvious difference is that the dino's legs become the robot's legs, whereas they used to become the arms. That suggests a certain fundamental difference, at least. The instructions are easy to follow, and for once, nothing seems to have been left out.

The Universe 2.0 release of this figure is just badly painted; there's no other way to put it. Whoever designed his colors did a poor job, apparently not even trying to mimic the cartoon's appearance. It's mildly annoying on the dinosaur, but on the robot, it just becomes awful. The grey is matched with a dirty yellow and a purple that would look more at home on a Lakers uniform than a Transformer. It really brings down the quality of the figure, to an extent that we would entirely recommend not buying it, based solely on the paint. It's that bad. However, the Japanese "Henkei! Henkei!" version corrects all that. Like we mentioned above, it's brown, rather than grey, and the choice to use gold and blue rather than yellow and purple really saves the design. So know that for the rest of the review, any details about the sculpt apply to both versions, but anything about colors refers just to the Japanese release.

In robot mode, Dinobot stands 5½" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, hips, knees and ankles. He may or may not have wrist articulation: when changing him, you have the option of useful fists, or show-accurate pinchy-hands. The claws have two hinges, but the fists don't move at all (other than the swivel used to switch between the two), so that articulation is, if you'll forgive the pun, in your hands. The robot's proportions are very nice - a definite improvement over the old mold. In fact, he looks much more like the cartoon, and we can't really fault that. There's a really cool feature on the legs as you convert the figure, where the spiny bits wrap around them to create a rigid grill structure, just like the cartoon always showed. It's really fun, and the coolest thing this side of Cyclonus' legs.

One of the changes is the figure's head. This is a new sculpt, based quite clearly on the show's animation model: he has a golden crest/helmet that wraps around his his cheeks, a dark blue face with a distinct nose, red eyes and a pointy chin. By contrast, the 1996 toy's head (when it wasn't covered by the stupid "mutant mask" all the BW toys had) was basically a black Optimus Prime head with a blue faceplate and yellow eyes.

So that there are no visible faction symbols on the beast mode, there's a panel on the dino's head (which of course ends up embedded in the robot's chest) that flips around to display his symbol. To re-create his shifting allegiences, it turns two ways: flip it up, he's a Predacon; flip it down, he's a Maximal. Clever!

Dinobot has a few weapons, as he should. The tail can be removed and split apart to form not the "rotate blade" that the original had, but a missile launcher. The missile can be stored while the tail is closed, which is handy. Think of it as part of the dino's spine. When the projectile is absent, the flat end of the launcher looks like a Gatling gun. Why bother with that? Because a lot of fans will be displaying it that way. See, the "missile" takes the place of Dinobot's sword, in both placement and design, and can be held in the figure's hand to complete the illusion. The Japanese releases always have vac-metalized parts, but thankfully on Dinobot it's limited to just the sword. The tail can also be stored on the figure's back.

This year, Hasbro started a Transformers Hall of Fame, announcing that Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream and Bumblebee would be the first inductees. They also gave fans the chance to vote for the fifth inductee, and amazingly, Dinobot came out ahead of such major names as Soundwave and Grimlock. That's huge! Having seen Beast Wars now, I can understand it, though. Dinobot is a remarkably complex character, and deserves the recognition. Hell, according to the Season 2 episode "Code of Hero," he's directly responsible for the survival of the human race! If you want to buy the toy, though, bite the bullet and track down the import version. Yes, you'll end up paying at least twice as much as you would for the US release, but the difference in quality makes Henkei Dinobot worth it.

-- 08/10/10

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