Warcry's Review: Masterpiece Grimlock (Hasbro 2014 Version)
Most fans reckon that the Masterpiece line didn't really hit its stride until the second Optimus Prime mold was released. However, in my opinion it all started with Grimlock, the first figure that was explicitly based on the 1980s character designs that have come to dominate the line in recent years. Grimlock himself was very well received at the time, and was quite hard to find in some places. The subsequent reissues have sold quite well, too, and the secondary market prices for any of the versions of the figure have skyrocketed. It's a five year old toy at the time I'm writing this, though, so whether or not he lives up to the hype is an open question.
I've always loved the G1-style Grimlock design, but this is the first time I've ever owned a toy based on it. As a child I owned the Pretender, and as an adult I've owned Energon Grimlock (which is a very rounded, almost chibified take on the character) and Classics Grimlock, whose design calls back not to the original but the Pretender. But in spite of that, when I think Grimlock I think of the original design, with the kibble-wings in robot mode and the terribly inaccurate upright T-rex beast mode. When I think extra hard about it he's got battle damage and is missing one of his dino-arms, so I think it's safe to say this is Andy Wildman's fault.
But regardless, I've always wanted a modernized version of the original Grimlock, and I was hyped like crazy when Hasbro first released this figure. I then proceeded to completely fail to find him, since my local Toys'R'Us stores basically never stocked him. This time around I didn't take that chance, and bought him as soon as I was able to directly from the TRU website. I was still eager to get him but not quite as super-excited as I would have been with the first release -- my enthusiasm for Masterpiece figures had been tempered by the seriously flawed Rodimus, and the fact that the toy was now $30 or so more than the first release didn't help either.
Was he worth it?
Grimlock's robot mode is very striking. Unlike the other MPs I own, whose colour schemes are based on their animation or comic models, Grimlock incorporates a lot of his toy as well. And that means tonnes of gold chrome! His entire torso just gleams with it, as do the dinosaur toes on his arms. His sword and optic visor are also chromed, in their case with red. His dino fingers, visible on his wings, are chromed in silver. All of that verges on too much, but the rest of Grimlock is actually very plain. Aside from a few splashes of colour on his shins and a red crotch, every part of Grimlock that isn't shiny is made from pain, mostly-unadorned black or grey plastic. The end result is a perfect mix of attention-grabbing and industrial, and Grimlock winds up looking like a million bucks.
His sculpt is quite a bit busier than Rodimus or Soundwave, with a lot of detail sourced from the original toy instead of the animation model. Because of that, and because the figure is bulkier and shorter than Cartoon Grimlock should be, he's not a perfect fit with some of the cartoonier Masterpiece figures. He's not far off at all from Grimlock's Marvel Comics appearances though, especially the dynamic, powerful-looking Grimlock that Wildman often gave us. He wouldn't be out of place at all tearing through Hydrus Four or beating the stuffing out of Fangry, and it's very easy to see why Takara redecoed the figure as "King Grimlock" (replacing the toy-accurate black with the dark blue that 80s comics used to represent black). And even though he's no taller than Soundwave or Rodimus, his broad shoulders and wings still make him look far more imposing than either of them.
Articulation is quite good, with a full range of motion everywhere you'd expect it. His double-jointed elbows are an especially nice touch, and make the figure a touch more dynamic that I'd expected. His knees are a little stiff, though, while his hips were so loose out of the box he could barely stand upright until I clear-coated them. The latter, it seems, is a common issue with the 2014 Hasbro version of the toy. In spite of being very top-heavy Grimlock has exceptionally good balance, making for a figure that looks great on a shelf in lots of different poses.
Grimlock comes with three accessories: his crown, which comic fans know and love (even though it represents his nadir as a character), his energo-sword and his twin laser. He's notably missing the original toy's rocket launcher, but I don't know if he's ever been depicted with it in any media. He doesn't appear to have any weapon storage features, anyway, so he'd always have one extra weapon if he came with a second gun.
After pegging either weapon into Grimlock's right hand, an LED inside it will make the weapon light up with the push of a button. This is an odd feature for an MP toy, and one that has generated some controversy with the fans because it means that one of Grimlock's hands is basically an unarticulated block. I'm not a huge fan of articulated hands so I don't mind at all, but the LED itself is quite anemic and the weapons only look like they're glowing if you turn the lights out.
Grimlock's other notable feature in robot mode are his eyes. With the flick of a switch at the back of his head they switch from red chrome to blue chrome, a feature designed to make fans happy regardless of whether they prefer a cartoon or comic/toy head on their figure.
All in all, Grimlock's robot mode is very impressive. I'm honestly hard-pressed to name a single thing wrong with it that rises above "minor niggle".
While Grimlock's robot mode brings to mind his badass comic persona, one look at the beast mode will have you thinking of the goofy-but-dangerous cartoon version of the character. Though the colours are basically the same as robot mode (with the addition of a bit more silver chrome courtesy of his tail), the sculpt was definitely designed to capture the look of the animated character. The head in particular is spot-on.
Unlike the robot mode, though, looking good is really all this mode does. In dino mode Grimlock's poseability is hamstrung by his anachronistic T-rex design. In making him look like a slow, lumbering beast (and as a result of maintaining the original transformation) they also rather understandably hampered his articulation. His tail barely moves, on account of being made up of folded robot legs, and his torso has zero poseability since it's basically a jacket wrapped around his robot body. He can waggle his robot arms and turn his head some, but you won't get too many dynamic poses out of Grimlock in beast mode. It's a tad disappointing but not a deal-breaker in my book, simply because he never did much of that in any media representations.
Like the robot mode, Grimlock's beast mode has several gimmicks. The first one runs the whole length of his body, and is meant to wag the tip of his tail when his head is moved or vice versa. It doesn't really work very well, though, on my Grimlock. That seems to be a fairly pervasive issue with all
the versions of MP Grimlock, but nobody cares because it's an annoying gimmick anyway.
Dino-mode Grimlock also features changeable eye colour, as he did in robot mode. It's a small touch but I really like it, because it allows me to make one mode look more like comic/toy Grimlock and the other look like the animation model.
The beast mode is a bit of a let-down after the stellar robot, but even then the tyrannosaur still has a lot going for it.
I'll be honest. Every time I transform Grimlock, I feel like his torso going to fall apart in my hands. He never does, and all his parts seem to be securely attached, but it's still a very disconcerting feeling to get from such an expensive figure. I suspect it's because a lot of his internal joints are simply too loose. The actual transformation isn't too involved, though. If anything, it's just a scaled up, smoothed out version of the original toy. 7/10
Grimlock seems pretty tough, but with all that chrome it's only a matter of time before the chipping starts. And in the case of my Grimlock, that time was before he even got out of the packaging -- he had some small chips and scratches on his sword as soon as I opened him. I also worry about Grimlock's shoulders, which are a set of titanic ball-joints holding up a very heavy set of arms. They may well grow weak as time goes on. That plus the scary torso transformation makes me a little bit cautious, but in truth he's pretty solidly built. 7/10
Most of my big Transformers are relegated to display-only pretty quickly, but Grimlock has a certain je ne sais quoi
that keeps me coming back. The fact that he's an equally-recognizable display figure in either mode certainly helps. 9/10
Never before have I seen a Transformer that so perfectly represents two different versions of the same character in different modes. Whether that was intentional or just really lucky I can't say, but this toy manages to be a beautiful Marvel Grimlock in robot mode, and a spot-on Sunbow Grimlock on beast mode. Good show. 10/10
The robot mode is really impressive. The alternate mode less so, but it's hard to fault him too much for that -- I wouldn't take points away from Sideswipe because his car mode isn't poseable, would I? 8/10
The original $70 price tag for this figure was just about right, in my opinion. The $100 that the current version sells for, on the other hand, is pushing it. This is a big figure, but the engineering is pedestrian and the accessories are minimal. And don't get me started on the $300+ that Grimlocks sell for on the secondary market... 4/10
"Masterpiece" might be overselling things just a bit, but Grimlock is a remarkable figure. He's not a shoe-in as one of my top-ten favourite toys the way Soundwave was, but how many toys can you say that
about? What he is, though, is worth owning. 8/10