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Human Alliance Bumblebee

Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

When the first Transformers movie was coming out, Hasbro put an end to the Alternators line because they didn't want to have two "competing" lines of real-world designs on shelves at the same time. A logical decision, I suppose, but it still meant the end of big, detailed TFs. For a while, at least.

Bumblebee and Sam were best friends almost from the moment they first met face to face. As they learned more about one another, that connection grew deeper and deeper. Now, whether Sam is behind the wheel, or standing side by side with his friend, they work together as a team. Against Bumblebee and his human friend, no Decepticon stands a chance.

They became best friends as soon as they met? I'll say! Remember how Sam had that friend who liked to climb trees? Bumblebee shows up and that kid is never seen again. Was he killed by a hobo walking home after Sam ditched him at the park? Maybe the jocks jumped him and threw his body down a shaft. Sam gets an outer space robot and suddenly he's too cool for all his old buddies. Man, what a tool.

Anyway, for Transformers 2, Hasbro has introduced a new subline, Human Alliance. Pairing one robot with a small human figure, the Human Alliance sets maintain the fully-licensed vehicle designs, but are still all-new figures, not just repaints of the existing movie toys - no Premium Series-style shenanigans here. I don't care how many Bumblebees you bought from the first movie (or the second, honestly), you don't have this one yet.

As you know, the movie continuity is all about real designs licensed from real manufacturers, re-creating specific vehicles in the utmost detail. As such, Bumblebee is now a 2010 Camaro. It's rare for concept cars to actually enter production, but that's because usually no one sees them outside of the Chicago Auto Show - when Transformers hit it big, the concept Camaro entered the public consciousness, and the demand was there. Thus, it's actually a real car now. There are a few differences between the movie car and the production SS model - the rims, the headlights, stuff like that - but this toy is true to the film.

The interior of the car isn't detailed as accurately as the Alternators' are, but the designers tried their best - there's a lot of kibble in there. The steering wheel may turn, for instance, but it doesn't have the Autobot insignia in the center, and although the seats are designed accurately, there's no real dashboard or center console. Both the driver and passenger doors open, but not the hood or trunk.

Converting 'bee is an appropriately complex difficult process: he's listed as Level 3, or "Advanced," and that seems accurate. It's tough to get the arms to come out the right way, and the lower legs are stubborn. The head bumps against the hood when you try to raise it, and a small bump on his waist doesn't actually seem to plug into anything. The most infuriating part, though, are the pieces of the front grill: they pull out and twist down to duplicate the "broken" appearance of BB's chest, but they're spring-loaded and pop back into place way too easily; and when you have to brace against the chest to perform some of the moves, it gets really old, really fast.

Once you get Bumblebee turned into a robot, he's got an impressive array of articulation. Neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, left wrist, fingers and thumb (the right hand is converted into a cannon), waist, hips, thighs, double knees and nice tight ankles all add up to a 'bot that looks good and plays well. Plus, he's got something no Bumblebee has ever had before: a flip-down battle mask! Woo! Yes, we've been waiting for it ever since the first movie, but not even the stupid-expensive Ultimate Bumblebee had one. This is a first, and it's very welcome!

The cannon on the right arm can fire missiles (which store on his arms when not in use, and there are a few other flip-out weapons, as well, but when you're talking accessories, the only one that counts is Samuel James Witwicky. The "human" half of the "Human Alliance" equation, ladiesman217 stands almost 2½" tall. The sculpt is only so-so, but what do you want: he's miniature! Waist-high to a GI Joe! There's a hole in Sam's back that matches up with pegs on the car's seats, so he'll stay in place securely.

While we've had a Sam figure before, this one has the distinct advantage of articulation: head, shoulders, torso, hips and knees. That's already pretty impressive, but it gets even better when you realize the neck and torso are balljoints, and the rest are all swivel-hinge combos. That adds up to 14 individual points of articulation, a truly mighty number on something this size. They're not the prettiest joints, but they serve their purpose.

So that Sam doesn't have to run around on the ground all the time, there are three ways to have Bumblebee carry him: flip either arm over and the car's seat is there - the left arm even has a pair of fold-out cannons (or maybe a safety harness). Additionally, Sam can ride behind Bumblebee's right shoulder, where you can also unfold a missile launcher, and aim a pair of cannons.

The Human Alliance toys are rather expensive - Hasbro's site lists a $30 retail, but TRU is selling them for $34.99 - but ultimately, I think 'bee's worth it. The toy is done in the same scale as the Alternators, more or less: the robot's head ends up about 7½" tall, and the car is 7" long. Sam's a good figure, for a glorified accessory, and this set is good enough to convince me to buy the others. If this is how good Transformers toys can be, I think I'm done with the normal releases. Hell, it even makes me mad that I bought Sideswipe (even though I love the figure) because now I'm going to have to buy him again when the HA version comes out with Sgt. Epps. So, Human Alliance Bumblebee? Skip all the normal movie toys and get him instead.

-- 06/30/09

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