Cliffbee.com: Masterpiece Ultra Magnus Toy Review

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Individual Review




Name: Ultra Magnus
Allegiance: Autobot
Series: Masterpiece
Function: City Commander
Alternate Mode: Semi Trailer Cab



TRUCK MODE
Height: 11cm Length: 23cm Width: 9.5cm

   A scaled up version of the original Ultra Magnus cab, an all white short nose cab with a silver stripe around the cab. His hubcaps, smokestacks, grill, bumper and fuel tanks are all chrome silver, in keeping with the original. There are rivets moulded onto the cabin section here and there, and there are four silver rooflight mounts with clear colourless lightbulbs. The windows are clear plastic with a very slight blue tinge, the tyres rubber with the words "FORMULA" and "DESERT HOG" on them - again faithful to the original G1 tyres. This toy is a repaint of Masterpiece Convoy (very similar to 20th Anniversary Prime), and compared to the original this toy is pretty much stripped of colour. Still, the white works and fits Ultra Magnus well.

   The top half of the cabin - well, the front of that half - is die cast metal, as is the bulk of the hitch section. This probably only represents about 20% of the volume of the toy, but it makes a difference to the weight - he's very heavy, over a kilo easily. The paint doesn't appear to be easily chipped, it's quite thick and glossy. On the left side, behind the side windows, is a big red Autobot symbol, this is really the only colour in truck mode and the only Autobot symbol on the toy. It's about 2cm tall, clearly visible and well painted - the red paint on the raised parts certainly stands out against the white of the cabin.

   The front windows have raised and silver painted frames, and on the bottom are moulded windshield wipers, which are also painted silver. There are door seams and handles moulded into the sides. There are air vents on the roof which are painted gunmetal grey, as well as a tab that doesn't appear to do anything (it's for a robot mode gimmick, which doesn't work in this mode).

   The front of the cabin opens up, like Optimus Prime's Matrix compartments from the movie, revealing a seat, which would fit a Diaclone driver, but is too small for a Lego figure. It even has armrests, which are the robot mode antennae - a nice touch. All six wheels have suspension, the two rear pairs bounce a little further than the front pair. The reason for this is there are wheels have actual suspension cylinders (visible inside the wheelbays), while the front wheels rely on spring-mounted blocks. The front wheels have to fold away inside the robot mode torso, so there's not really room for proper suspension - the blocks are a good effort in limited space.

   Along with practically every other road vehicle Transformer vehicle ever made, Magnus can roll along on his wheels. But you'd be wrong if you thought he'll roll better than the rest. Firstly, he doesn't have a pullback motor, so he's never going to beat the Throttlebots. Second, with all that die cast metal weighing him down, there's a lot of drag, so he doesn't roll very far. He does roll true, though, so if you push him he'll move in a straight line. He has a hole on the middle of the hitch section, which is the connection itself. The toy actually comes with a cardboard carrier trailer, which can sit on this hitch, although it has no tyres tends to get left behind if you try to roll Magnus along. The trailer itself is complex to put together, and the process is quite fiddly. While it adds no play value, the effort put into designing it is admirable and the detail printed is great.

   Unlike the Binaltech/Alternator toys, Ultra Magnus isn't designed around a specific truck mode - he's built around a show accurate robot mode, with a good truck mode. So this isn't a perfect truck, and I suspect it combines features of various real-life truck models. It has a sloped front windshield, which hangs over the headlights. The headlights are twin-light affairs, each consists of two blue domes alongside one another - which is a departure from the single light (well, hole) look of the original Ultra Magnus, that suggests they did have a specific truck model as a starting point for this mode.

   The fact that this mode is secondary to the robot mode suggests it has flaws. I'll cover them now. Firstly, there are gaps between the headlight panels and the bottom of the windshield. These headlight panels tend not to clip onto the sockets behind them, which are the robot wrists. The side windows are set further in than they should be, because they're the robot shoulder struts. This is pretty minor, mind you - sure, they're visible, but a good attempt has been made to make use of this almost-kibble.

   Much has been made of Hasbro's truncated smokestacks. I actually think that these Takara versions are slightly taller than they should be, although in truck mode taller looks better than too short. It has been claimed that the reason for the shortened stacks is safety - but this is clearly a fallacy. Firstly, Takara installed springs so that if you stab yourself, the smokestacks collapse forward - and Hasbro retained the springs, even though they're no longer protruding much. Secondly, the robot mode antennae are sharper and protrude further than these smokestacks do. While I don't believe Hasbro plan to issue Ultra Magnus, I'm glad my Ultra Magnus has taller stacks.

   The robot pelvis is visible immediately behind the cabin. This piece is silver with jade recesses, same as the pelvis illustrated in the Dreamwave comics. The jade is pretty subtle, and doesn't stand out at all. Lastly, the rear section is taller than it should be, since it's the hefty robot boots - hefty because they have to support the die cast torso.

   On the whole, it's a very good truck mode. Thankfully it lacks that stupid battle scarring of the Hasbro version, which would look really bad on white. The semblance to G1 Ultra Magnus is great, the play value is pretty good and this is as realistic as Ultra Magnus is ever likely to get. The trailer isn't much more than a nice afterthought, but it displays okay. In short, considering that the robot mode received priority, this is a damn good job.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   There's no way I'm describing every step - I wouldn't expect anyone to read it all, anyway. It's fundamentally the same concept as on the original - the cab is the torso, with a fold out head. The sides unfold to become the arms, the rear splits and extends to become the legs. The trailer plays no part in the robot mode.

   Instead of the hands being pop-on, they actually slide out of the wrists, which is how the animators usually portrayed Optimus Prime in the cartoon. The waist rotates and the hitch hole folds away onto what becomes the inside of the right shin, and the feet rotate around rather cleverly.

   By far the most dramatic change is the way the lower torso forms. On the original, it doesn't really do anything, but to maintain show-accuracy the entire lower torso morphs on this toy. The wheels fold away inside the chest, the seat folds away and there's a Matrix compartment (yes, and a Matrix, which I'll come to later) that moves into what was the driver's cavity. The waist narrows and the groin is now a proper groin rather than just the truck's bumper. There's even a false grille, which sits underneath the truck mode - the real grille stows inside the chest, as part of the Matrix compartment, in robot mode.

   Yes, this is a very involved transformation, but it's not difficult once you get the hang of it. The way this thing has been engineered to have both a show accurate robot mode and a boxy shaped cabin is actually quite spectacular.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 30.5cm Width: 17cm

   A foot tall, partially die cast, clearly a repaint of a show accurate Optimus Prime. The chest, boots, head and arms are white while the thighs and groin grey. There's an obvious resemblance to the smaller G1 Magnus robot - all the mould's features are there - the face with mouthplate and blue eyes, the smokestacks on his shoulders, the fuel tanks on his knees, truck grille in the centre of his torso and the silver stripe across his elbows and just above the waist. The mouthplate and crest are painted mid blue while the eyes are chrome red on a grey face, I really like the fact that Takara retained (and tweaked) the facial colours of the original toy. The jade elements on his waist are new additions, substituting for the yellow of Masterpiece Convoy (a feature copied from the animated Optimus Prime).

   As mentioned previously, the lower torso is not just the truck front - the waist and lower chest is actually the fenders rotated around and the grille is a false grill, and the reason for this is to give him carton proportions. The groin is no longer the truck bumper, allowing it to have yellow panels as in the cartoon, as well as the blue block underneath. The real grille and bumper are now inside his chest, meaning the seat is now gone.

   The head is fairly close to the original's, although the antennae are longer, and more show accurate. The silver face underneath the mouthplate is new, but looks really good. There's a button on the back of his head, if you push it his mouthplate will slide down, to simulate Ultra Magnus talking. If you push the mouthplate down as far as it can go, you can just see that there's a moulded mouth underneath!

   The Autobot symbol is now on his left shoulder, he has small arrowheads on his forearms and the taillights are on his toes. I'm very happy to report that there is no battle damage. A lot has been made of that battle damage - I'm not a fan personally. It wasn't well executed on Optimus Prime and would have looked even worse on a white toy. The smokestacks on his shoulders are a tad longer than they should be, but this doesn't bother me as much on Ultra Magnus as it did on Masterpiece Convoy since shoulderstacks _suit_ the character here.

   As you'd expect of such a complex toy, there's heaps of play value here - most of it designed with collectors in mind, and designed around the principle of making a cool display piece (as opposed to tacky sound gimmicks). Ultra Magnus comes with wrist panel communicators, three weapons, a Matrix and a boatload of articulation.

   On the outside of Magnus's left forearm is a panel, that when flipped out, displays a radar display (or similar), and on the right wrist is a picture of Optimus Prime. This comlink feature is really cool, and Magnus can be posed so that he's talking to his comlinks.

   There are three weapons that Ultra Magnus can wield, although with only two hands he can't wield them all at once. The first is Optimus Prime's traditional rifle, in all black. I don't expect a new gun for this toy (although I would have loved to see it), but I really wish Magnus came with a white gun instead of black. Still, at least he can hold it, which is an improvement on Prime's original gun.

   The other two weapons are clear cartoon homages, which relate to Prime rather than Magnus. The first is Prime's iconic Energon axe, done in transparent blue (instead of Convoy's orange), on a rotating base. If you retract one of the hands you can attach the axe. The third weapon is another weapon that Prime wielded in the cartoon - more than once in fact - Megatron in gun mode. In keeping with this repaint, the Megatron gun is now black with a brown handle, representing a different version of the Walther P38 from the Microchange line. This is a nice touch, and a very thoughtful one. A Megatron gun doesn't quite fit, but this way the gun is an oblique tribute and I appreciate that. The P38 gun is just the right scale for Magnus, and features detachable stock, sight (the fusion cannon) and silencer. This gun lacks the Decepticon symbols of the Megatron gun, which is consistent with the Microchange tribute. There's a sliding joint on the handle with allows the toy to fit into his hand - since the handle itself is too short to fit into that hand. Extending the slide looks weird on it's own, but once in Magnus's hand it looks fine. For some reason, the stock is made of a flexible plastic, even if the much sharper barrel and silencer are hard plastics and are both more likely to snap and take an eye out. It also has a rivet based hinge for some reason, so it can point down while the gun is in hand.

   The metal chest panels, the windows of the truck, open out to the sides, revealing a grey panel. Flip this up and the accumulated wisdom of the ages is staring you in the face. Magnus comes with his own Matrix, which is a slight repaint of Prime's. Remember that button on the roof - now just behind his head on the left shoulder? Well, if you press it now you'll activate a high powered white LED behind the Matrix, which glows with a blue tinge. If you remove the Matrix and press the button, you'll find the LED itself is really bright - this thing has to be at least 1,000 MCD, so luckily it's a 3mm transparent affair, not some huge bright disc that'll send you blind.

   The Matrix itself opens, the two sides of the casing slide out to reveal the blue internal crystal, and it's possible to position Magnus so he's pulling the Matrix open - not that he managed this while it was in his possession. The Matrix itself is about 3.5cm wide, extending to 4.5cm. The handles are chromed silver while the casing itself is chromed bronze, rather than gold as Prime's. The blue core is a lot bluer than the very pale core of Prime's Matrix.

   Wow, six paragraphs of play value without really talking about articulation. That says something about how much effort Takara put into this mould. I'm trying to be fairly concise. Anyway, the Microchange gun is very cool, the Matrix and it's bright LED rock and the rifle and axe are useful accessories. Now onto the poseability.

   Pretty much everything you'd hope can move does on this toy, since the robot mode is the main focus. As mentioned, his mouthplate moves, and his neck is a ball joint. The shoulders rotate and have ratcheting joints allowing the arms to lift out to the sides. The elbows hinge, and above them are rotating joints allowing the arms to point out to the sides. The wrists are ball joints, the thumbs are also on ball joints and each finger has it's own hinge at the base. The fingers are permanently curled while the thumbs are permanently straight - since he has to be able to form fists, and the digits have to stow away. His grip is pretty variable, as you can imagine.

   The waist rotates 360 - which is part of the transformation, and the hips have full motion. Concealed inside the hips pelvic section are swivel joints, and on the front and back the panels lift up to allow Magnus's hips to swing. There are also hinges allowing his legs to swing out to the sides, although you'll have to lift out the side panels first. The knees bend, thanks to rather loud ratcheting joints inside the thighs - basically they work like pistons, with extensions coming out of the thighs when you bend the knees.

   His ankles are ball joints, and if you push Ultra Magnus down he has springs inside his shins, almost like suspension, absorbing the force. At the same time, air vents on his shins will open, as if to release the air trapped inside, which is a very cool effect - and goes above and beyond what you'd expect of poseability.

   There are cosmetic pistons on some of the joints, with dark grey housing cylinders and chromed shafts. There are single pistons inside the elbows and three sets behind the elbows, which oppose each other - if the front one is extended the rear ones won't be. There are double pistons on either side of each knee, although you only really see these when his knees are bent to 90 or more. If you bend the knees further - they'll go to around 140, you'll see doubled all grey pistons buried inside his thighs. On the back of the ankles are more double pistons rounding out Prime's rather cool mechanical theme. Incidentally, the workings of Magnus's knees are the same dark grey as the piston housings.

   My Ultra Magnus seems to have avoided the only engineering flaw on my 20th Anniversary Prime - the feet have yet to pop off their ball joints. The chest panels are about 1mm out of alignment, but that's the only flaw on this specimen.

   On the whole, this is a ridiculously poseable toy. The metal chest is very heavy, but the big boots - which have die cast thighs - anchor the weight fairly well. With a little foot posing, most realistic stances are possible, since he has solid heels that are specifically included (they transform). He can even sit on the edge of a desk.

   In summary, it's a great robot mode, with great accessories, articulation that's unlikely to ever be surpassed since it's pretty much as it would be in real life, and the toy is very cartoon accurate. The weaponry doesn't work as well as it did the first time, since the tributes are a little misplaced, but other than the handgun, I don't mind the weapons. I'm _very_ glad there's no battle damage, and the slightly tall smokestacks work better this time around. The colours are very well done, which is I suppose the most relevant aspect on this repaint.

VARIATIONS

   None as such. As mentioned this toy is a repaint of Masterpiece Convoy. There was no Hasbro version this time around, although Ultra Magnus was sold by Target Australia, while MPC wasn't sold outside of Asia as far as I'm aware.

OVERALL

   While this a very expensive repaint, it's far more inspired than some pricey recent repaints - such as the gaudy Energon Unicron. The truck mode is slightly disjointed, mainly because the focus was clearly on the robot mode, but that robot mode is exceptional. The weaponry suffers slightly since it's more suitable for Prime than Magnus, but this is a minor issue. As a repaint Ultra Magnus _is_ a luxury, and I'd only really recommend him if you skipped MPC & 20th Anniversary Prime, or if you're a fan of the character. If you have the money to burn and postage isn't going to be a killer (I wouldn't have picked Magnus up if Target didn't stock him), this is a rewarding toy in it's own right. Ignoring price for a moment, I'm giving Magnus 9.5/10 - the half is for the weapon issues.

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