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Human Alliance Soundwave and Laserbeak

Transformers DOTM
by yo go re

I get made fun of/picked on a bit for my aversion to spoilers. People think it's dumb, because what does it matter if you know a few things ahead of time? Well, it would be like someone telling you the punchline of a joke before starting it: it changes the entire experience.

A rogue band of crooked human scientists discovered Soundwave and his loyal servant Laserbeak floating high above the Earth. These scientists soon learned how to control the Decepticons by transmitting an advanced set of encrypted radio signals directly to the collector dish of Soundwave! Autobots and humans beware: these fanatics now wield the awesome destructive power of two Decepticons!

Going into Dark of the Moon, I didn't know that Soundwave was going to be a Mercedes. I didn't know he had a car altmode at all. So the moment he revealed himself was a massive surprise, exactly the kind of shock the writers were going for - but for the fans who had been hungrily seeking out every spoilery bit of news they could get, it was old hat, exactly what they'd been expecting. You ask me, that's dumb.

The Human Alliance line was expanded for DotM, becoming a full set of Basic-sized vehicles. They were not great. Fortunately, there were still a few full-sized cars out there, keeping the actual intent of the line alive.

The movie continuity is all about real designs licensed from real manufacturers, re-creating specific vehicles in the utmost detail. Soundwave is a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, which is a luxury touring car and our third silver Human Alliance toy. It's detailed accurately, from the badge in the grill to the license plate on the back that reads "SUPERIOR."

The SLS AMG retains its trademark gullwing doors on this toy, though the connectors are made from the same trans blue plastic as the windows, and the one on the passenger door cracked, making it hard to pull out. The interior of the car isn't as detailed as the Alternators' were, but it does have the appropriate steering wheel, dials, glove box, vents and digital display screen. There are no "seats" in the seats, but the headrests are spot-on.

Converting Soundwave is not an easy process, but none of the Human Alliance toys were. It's a complex yet inventive design, and makes for a very bulky robot - well, except for the hollow, spindly feet. The design directive for the HA toys said they only needed to match the robot modes in broad strokes, but Soundwave looks really good (and bucks the trend by only having a little bit of back-kibble). He may not have much in common with RotF Soundwave, but being covered in bright speakers really sells the "sound" part of his character.

Soundwave has the same sort of mouth gimmick as Barricade: only the top half of his head is hinged, so when you move it, it looks like his mouth is opening. Other than that, he's got movement at the neck, shoulders, elbows, fingers, hips, and knees. There's some wiggle room in the ankles, but it's all side-to-side, so it isn't really of any use as articulation. The speaker panel on his left forearm hinge up for no clear reason - maybe he's aiming them like a weapon?

Of course, you can't have a Soundwave without a little buddy - and this one comes with Laserbeak. Now, we already had a movie Laserbeak, but that one wasn't in scale with Soundwave; this one is. He has a 5⅜" wingspan. The wings and hips are balljointed, but the hips are on the wings, so you can't move one without moving the other. He can totally perch on Soundwave's arm, though.

In the movie, Laserbeak turned into everything. For this toy, he turns into a cannon. A big gun flips out of his body, then the wings fold down and the feet plug together. It's as simple as that! The whole thing can plug into Soundwave's shoulder, and it also serves as the only place the "human" half of this Human Alliance set can actually ally with the robot half - the are no spots on Soundwave for humans to hang out. [no, there's a peg in the palm of his right hand, if he needs to grab someone and shake them --ed.]

And yes, unlike our only other Human Alliance Decepticon (Barricade), Soundwave does come with a human. The human in question is Dylan Gould, the CEO of Hotchkiss Gould Investments and the boss of Sam Witwicky's girlfriend.

And as an aside, it really shows how little anyone involved in the Transformers films think about women that when Megan Fox declined to return for the third film, they basically just reskinned Mikaela and called her Carly. Think about it: what makes more sense? That a girl who liked cars and was a mechanic gets a job curating a rich guy's car collection, or a random clerical worker from the British embassy gets that same job? Stay classy, Michael Bay.

Anyway, Dylan Gould was played by Patrick Dempsey, who your mom best knows as Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy. The toy does bear a passing remeblence to him, despite not even being 2⅜" tall. He moves at the neck, shoulders, wrists, hips and knees, which is enough to get him into the seat of any Human Alliance car (that and the small hole in his back).

The Human Alliance toys are sold in angular boxes similar to the Screen Battles sets from the first film, complete with the cardboard backdrop showing an appropriate bit of scenery. Just like when Bumblee was fighting in Scranton, this depicts a real-world scene: specifically, Michigan Ave. Bridge in Chicago. It's heavily Photoshopped, obviously, but it appears to be based on a picture taken from the southern edge of Pioneer Court Plaza - you can see 333 Michigan Ave., the Smurfit-Stone Building (aka the Diamond or Vagina Building), the Carbide and Carbon Building, the old Crain Communications Building, Mather Tower, the Leo Burnett Building, the RR Donnelly Building, a hint of the Wrigley Building, and even 35 East Wacker, where the Space Bridge pillars were set up. Fittingly, this is exactly where Sam was hiding while Soundwave was executing prisoners (see for yourself at 2:06:21 in the film).

The Revenge of the Fallen toyline was huge. Huge. The movie came out in 2009, and movie toys were still coming out as late as 2011. It was so big that the release of movie toys continued into a whole different line, and the only thing that stopped them from coming out was the pending release of Dark of the Moon toys. Unfortunately, the DotM line did not do as well: it was a small line, and yet a significant number of toys never made it to shelves; there are main characters in the film that missed getting a toy because the line was cut off. Human Alliance Soundwave was one of those axed figures, so the only way to get him was to order from Japan. I'm glad I did (even if it meant he was much more expensive than he should have been), because the toy itself is so cool. But it would have been even nicer if he'd been released in North America the way he should have been.

-- 11/12/13

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