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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Starscream

Name: Starscream

This military fighter jet is Megatron's right-hand man. Starscream would rather sneak up on his victims than face them head-on, which makes him extra-dangerous. He's an expert planner, and that's one reason Megatron keeps him around. Starscream always shows respect to his general, but he's really just waiting for a chance to take command of the Decepticons himself.

One of the most popular and recognizable characters in the franchise, Starscream has become one of a handful of characters that you know you'll see in any new incarnation of the franchise, and to be honest his usual shtick is wearing a little thin. The cowardice, the betrayal, the inevitable failure and the grovelling for forgiveness from Megatron...the whole thing has gotten boring by now, so I really wasn't expecting much from the latest incarnation of the character. That's why I was so surprised to absolutely fall in love with Transformers: Prime's version of the character. Prime Starscream is just as craven and power-hungry as any Starscream, but unlike most of them that's not the extent of his character. He's a strong leader in his own right, one with a vision that goes far beyond merely becoming leader. In fact, he got a chance to lead early on in the series and proved to be quite good at it...except that no one bothered to listen to him and his entire crew conspired behind his back to revive Megatron. And since the Prime version of Megatron is a frighteningly self-absorbed madman Starscream actually comes off as a sympathetic character whose motivations are easily understood -- if I worked for Megatron I'd be trying to kill him too!

The character's appearance was reinvented every bit as much as his persona. Where previous Starscreams have been big, powerful-looking and usually boxy, Prime Starscream is elegant, if not actually delicate. His slender limbs and flowing lines make him look lean and hungry, while his perpetual slouch and constant smug grin make him look shifty and self-satisfied. Even if you'd never heard the name Starscream, one look at this guy would make it perfectly clear that he wasn't someone you'd want to turn your back on. The new design had an incredible amount of personality, but I didn't think there was any way they could make a toy that could even come close to pulling it off.

Alternate Mode: Starscream's alternate mode is a lightweight fighter jet that looks a bit like an F-16 Fighting Falcon. He sports a reasonable approximation of a military colour scheme, with different shades of grey and silver covering most of his body. Just enough red and blue are used to add a bit of visual interest to the aircraft without making it look like it's painted up for an air show. A small purple Decepticon symbol right behind the cockpit finishes the deco, although that part of the fuselage is already so busy with paint apps that it's easy to miss. There's a surprising amount of paint on the figure, actually, considering how Hasbro has scrimped in that department in recent years and how simple and grey he looks at first glance.

The complex paint apps are a step forward, but unfortunately there are a few steps back here as well. The jet's sleek appearance is marred a bit by the obvious robot legs hanging from its underside, and even more so by numerous join lines and transformation joints that stand out like a sore thumb. The complexity of the figure and the sheer number of moving parts means that there's not much that the designers could have done to mitigate that, but it's a problem nonetheless.

The figure is also very compact in jet mode, taking up a bit more than half the volume of the Classics F-15 Starscream. And compared to that figure he's decidedly undergunned. He doesn't really have any 'play feature' weapons at all. His only accessories are a set of missiles that hang off of each wing. Molded together in a three-missile bunch from a soft, rubbery plastic, the weapons are purely cosmetic. I'm of two minds on the missiles, honestly. On the one hand, it contributes to Starscream's quasi-realistic look. On the other, it means that there really isn't much to do with Starscream in jet mode. He doesn't even have flip-down landing gear to fiddle with.

In the end, Starscream's jet mode is a decent enough disguise but it's not really all that much fun.

Robot Mode: I assumed right from the get-go that any attempts to render Prime Starscream in toy form would end in disaster. I didn't think it was possible for a recognizable fighter jet to even come close to transforming into his tall, slender robot mode. I figured that the toy would be a fiddly, kibble-covered mess that wouldn't be worth a second look.

Boy, was I wrong.

As far as looks go, Starscream is essentially perfect. His proportions are spot-on, and his tiny jet mode somehow manages to fold out into a satisfyingly tall robot. The toy captures Starscream's hunched-over posture perfectly, gets his wings just right and even manages to somehow turn his ridiculous high heels into useful, poseable feet. There's no kibble to speak of, and honestly I can't think of anything about the mold that doesn't look the way it's supposed to.

Starscream's colour scheme is essentially unchanged from jet mode, with the red and blue a tiny bit more prominent but otherwise featuring the same utilitarian mix of silver and grey. His torso, in particular, has so many paint apps on it that it's almost ridiculous compared to most contemporary Hasbro toys. The dark greys are a bit darker and the light greys a bit lighter than they appear on the show, but to good effect. Since this Starscream isn't moving, the slight increase in contrast makes him much more visually interesting.

Starscream's head sculpt is really nice, too. Not only is it show-accurate, but it features a smug little grin that's really all you need to see to know that he's a backstabbing little schemer. One minor quibble is that the crest in the centre of his head is made of a light grey soft plastic instead of being painted red like it is in the show, but I for one only noticed because it was pointed out to me.

Moving on to play value, I've found that Starscream is a very poseable robot. He's got five points of articulation in each limb, as well as a ball-jointed neck. His high heels look like they're going to make him maddeningly difficult to stand, but since the 'toes' and 'heels' each move on a joint independent of the other it's easy to position his feet to support his weight even though only a tiny area of each foot is actually touching the ground. Furthermore, his slender body and lack of kibble give him a tremendous range of motion that most Transformer toys can only dream of. You can put Starscream into practically any pose you can think of. Sadly, my Starscream's hips are so loose that he's more likely to topple over under his own weight than stay standing up in any pose I might put him in. It's a problem that's easily fixed with a layer or two of clear-coat, but there's no excuse for a brand-new Transformer to be this loose right out of the package.

Like jet mode, in robot mode Starscream has no accessories to speak of other than his two bunches of missiles. They clip into place on his forearms, at the spot where a somewhat larger, single red missile is attached on the character's show model. It's a shame that they're grey, really, because a splash of red on the arms would have been a welcome addition to the character's look. They don't really do anything and don't look very impressive, but unlike the boring alt-mode Starscream's robot mode is interesting enough on its own merits that having poor accessories is a minor quibble instead of a major problem.

Overall, I like Starscream's robot mode quite a bit. It embellishes on the animation model a little bit, but it's a reasonably faithful and extremely dynamic representation of the character.

Transformation Design: Starscream's weak jet mode loses some points, but it's still impressive that they managed to do as good a job as they did. 7/10

Durability: Between some very soft plastic, loose ball joints and a lot of thin parts held together by pins, sadly Starscream seems like the sort of toy that the years aren't going to be kind to. 6.5/10

Fun: The lacklustre jet mode drags him down a bit here too, but the expressive robot mode is so much fun to fiddle with that he still gets a good score. 8.5/10

Aesthetics: The jet mode doesn't look bad, and the robot mode is just great. 9/10

Articulation: Starscream's a champion on the articulation department. I can count the Deluxes I own with this much poseability on one hand and still have fingers left over. 10/10

Price: If you can find him at retail, he's a steal. Sadly, the First Edition toys were a poorly-distributed side-line and most people won't be able to get their hands on him as easily as I did. For $16.99, he's a great toy. But if I'd paid $30 plus shipping I'm not sure I'd be quite so happy with him. 6/10

Overall: Starscream isn't without his flaws, but he's a unique toy with a lot to offer. He's a bit unconventional, but if you're interested in the Prime toys at all you could do a lot worse than Screamer. 8/10
 
 
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