Transformers Movie Preview Figures: Protoform Starscream and Optimus Prime


"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jin Saotome is back tonight with a review of two of the Transformers from the upcoming film - what's the scoop, Jin?

“Transformers… more than meets the eye.” You’ve probably heard that at some point in time and it’s been the catchphrase over the last 20 or so years that every fan knows. Except this summer it’s “Their war, our world”. Why? Because of the Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay that’s coming out. As with most movies adapted from a cartoon or comic, the designs of the characters change. Reactions to the ‘new Bionicle look’ of the Transformers have been a mixed bag. Some people hate them, some love them, some people were just looking for something different. If you’re one of the old school, die-hard Transformers fans that think Optimus Prime should only look like the 20th Anniversary Masterpiece toy that mimicked the cartoon, then this review (and the movie) may not be to your tastes. But there are a lot of Transformer fans, myself included, who are psyched at these new designs.

Today’s reviews covers the first two officially released Transformers Movie ‘Preview figures’, Protoform Starscream and Optimus Prime. I say officially released because the actual movie line with the different characters aren’t suppose to be on the shelf until June I’m told. Yet Toys R Us and other places have them hidden away in the back and some people have managed to snag a few for other reviews. From what I’ve seen they look quite amazing! Well let’s see how amazing these preview figures are, shall we?

Packaging - ***1/2
It’s not a clamshell package but still looks really cool with excellent graphics, inner die-cut panels, character bio, and striking colors. Normally I don’t give Transformers packaging much thought and it has little to do with the actual review, but I just really like how these are done with the odd indentions in the bubble and techno-graphics underneath. The actual bubble has those flaps that wrap around to the back and are taped on, so there’s little worry of dinging the cardboard as its protected. Of course you still have to destroy the package to open it.

Sculpting - Optimus Prime ****; Starscream ***1/2
Wooo… neat. There’s detail everywhere, all sorts of segmented tech-looking panel lines, ridges, fine, even a cool texturing to certain parts of the figures that remind me of sharkskin. Optimus is a bit more detailed in this department than Starscream and features more industrial bumpy-groove stuff. His face is really well done and both figures have the light-pipe eyes we’ve come to know and love. You can still tell it’s supposed to be Optimus Prime without it looking exactly like him. If you tip the shoulder flaps straight up they can pass as smokestacks, hah!

Starscream has more sleek, solid sculpting and that’s probably because he has to be more aerodynamic because of his flight properties. The jet intakes, panels, wingtips, and everything else on Starscream are sharply done with excellent detail to his face. Even the tiny Autobot and Decepticon logos are sculpted on instead of just painted! I thought I had picked up some high-end import figures here, like those Revoltech figures instead of a Transformer. I particularly enjoyed the detail in Starscream’s jet intakes and feet.

Paint - Optimus Prime ***1/2; Starscream ***
Optimus is primarily molded in metallic blue and black plastic with silver-wipe detailing, blue ‘windshields’ on his chest and the occasional red section. What’s there is done really crisp and I’m surprised at how well the paint wipes came out. Usually this would be called a wash except here the part has apparently been masked and sprayed over, then the top of the surface ‘wiped’ to allow only the indentions to hold the color. This makes for sharper definition than just a regular wash and you still get the two-tones of color there. Even the tiny sculpted Autobot symbol on the hood is painted red. 

Starscream lacks a little in the paint department here but again, what’s there is super crisp and looks great. He’s basically molded in all metallic copper/bronze with some sections of silver, black, and pinkish-red painted in. There’s some of the neat paint wipe on his legs but that’s it. The Decepticon symbol on the cockpit is painted over all silver while Optimus’ was given the stand-out treatment. Maybe purple would of clashed? Starscream’s paint may not be as visually diverse as Optimus but at least it all matches nice.

Articulation - Optimus Prime ****; Starscream ***1/2
A four star score in articulation for a Transformer??? That’s unheard of! Usually a Transformer has some sort of hindrance due to the transforming feature but these guys come out shining examples of what Hasbro is capable of now. These are truly action figures, with the emphasis on the figure part. Starting with Optimus Prime, he can be posed in just about any position you can think of! He has a swivel head (tho you can get him to look up by tipping it back on the base) universal-joint shoulders with bicep swivels, pin elbows, swivel wrist, ball waist, ball hips, pin knees, and ball ankles. I especially like how the flaps on his shoulders and legs can be positioned in different ways, not just being used for transformation!

Starscream clocks in with the same number of articulation spots except he has ball shoulders and no ball ankles, with different ‘toe’ articulation I guess you could call it. He gets a lower score because the range of his knees, they only bend about 45 degrees. Also his shoulder articulation, while being a ball joint, is located underneath a shoulder plate. This means he can never truly raise his whole arm straight up like Prime can, though I got it quite close in one of the photos. Still, his articulation is pretty amazing and he even has a sort of swing-out hips that give him a better stance.

Accessories - Optimus Prime **; Starscream ***
Each figure comes with a weapon and a ‘flame blast’ that can be attached to the weapon or to the back of the Protoform to simulate a jet blast or the re-entry streak when they come hurtling down through the atmosphere in the movie. Optimus Prime’s gun folds up and fits, eh, in his rear when he’s in Protoform mode. It doesn’t shoot anything but the barrel and stock flip out and you can attach the blast to the front and it looks like a little flamethrower. Cute!

Starscream fares better in this department because his gun shoots something! It, um, fits in his rear when in Protoform mode and doesn’t have any folding parts, but there’s a missile that you can fire out of it that goes a pretty decent distance. You can also attach the flame to the end of the missile for yes… a fiery missile! It’s even set up to fire out the back with the trigger exposed through an opening when Starscream’s in spe… um, Protoform mode.

Transformation - Optimus Prime/Starscream **1/2
Ok… you might of heard these figures referred to as ‘Robo-sperm’ when transformed… and honestly that’s not far from the truth. The Protoform mode is what you get before Optimus or Starscream scan an earthly vehicle to take on a disguise (according to the card back bios for them) and end up looking like a tadpole vehicle of some sort. There’s enough homage paid to each of their respective designs though, like the windshields of Prime’s form and the large, black intakes on his legs resembling tires. Starscream has twin get intakes and little partial wing flaps sticking out that give you the idea he might be turning into a jet of some sort. Their designs are defiantly a stretch from what we’re use to seeing but work for the figures I suppose.

Transforming them is somewhat of a hassle, not because of the complexity, but because everything needs to fit in a particular place and stay there for it to work. Basically you spin the waist around and fold the head, arms, legs, and feet back. But there are all these little flaps, panels, and pegs that have to align or layer on top of each other in the right order. Any pressure applied to the sides after Transforming will cause something to come loose from a peg and an arm or leg to fall out of place. Once transformed they look… like large robotic tadpoles. Yeah, that’s about all I can say here.

Action Feature - Optimus Prime n/a; Starscream ***?
I don’t count the transforming feature of a Transformer as an action-feature because that of course is the basis for the figure’s design. But sometimes Hasbro adds in stuff like they did with the Energon or Cybertron series where something is activated by a key or lever. Well the new movie figures are suppose to have an ‘Automorph’ feature where a part of the figure automatically transforms when something is done. Now it doesn’t say on the package that either of these figures have it, nor does Optimus Prime have one, but Starscream does! When you move either of his arms out from his Protoform mode, his head automatically lifts up via some lever or device inside. It looks pretty cool and works great, snapping into place when you fully transform the shoulders and arms. However I don’t know if this is by accident or design so I’m not sure how to rate it.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
I got a kick outta these guys and who wouldn’t? Kids love robots, they love making them fight and transforming stuff, and who doesn’t want to see large, robotic.. eh… tadpoles. They’re the right scale to fit in with most of the 5”-6” figures out now and have a great combination of intelligent design and the coolness factor of Transformers. 

Value - ****
Each figure is $9.99 and that’s the basic price you’ll pay for a Deluxe class Transformer figure. I can’t complain, being a robot fan and articulation junkie however! These guys are rather cool and that’s the basic price you’ll be paying for any 6” figure these days… or more.

Things to Watch Out For - 
I didn’t notice anything that could break on these guys. All the main joints can be popped back into place if they’re forced off and everything is sturdy. I’d say check your paint jobs but there’s not a lot of paint to get screwed up here. In fact right now the only place you can get them is online at the I don’t think they’re an online exclusive because the site doesn’t state that but you never know these days.

Overall - Optimus Prime ****; Starscream ***1/2
Your take on this review will vary depending on what type of a Transformers fan you are. For me, I love the movie designs and these figures are just the beginning of what looks like the best Transformers series ever in my opinion. I thought the classics wave was great but these figures play to my ‘technogeek’ side with all the moving parts and unique take on old, well-loved characters. I tend to appreciate well thought out designs even if they’re radically different than what I’m use to. These figures are worth it just to see the beforehand look of Optimus Prime and Starscream or just to have two nifty transforming robots to add to your collection.

This is Jin Saotome saying thanks for checking out the review and look forward to more! 

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Optimus Prime ****; Starscream ***1/2
Paint - Optimus Prime ***1/2; Starscream ***
Articulation - Optimus Prime ****; Starscream ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Transformation - Optimus Prime/Starscream **1/2
Action Feature - Optimus Prime n/a; Starscream ***?
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ****
Overall - Optimus Prime ****; Starscream ***1/2

Figure from the collection of Jin Saotome.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour