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Knightdramon's Review: AOE AD-31 Armour Optimus Prime

Name: AoE AD31 Armor Knight Optimus Prime
Function: Supreme Commander
Subgroup: Age of Extinction Leader Class
Size Class: Extensive leader class repaint/retool

Optimus Prime really needs no introduction, no matter the Universe/era he's in. He's the generic embodiment of peace, wisdom, tranquility spiced with a hint of violence. Or in Movie Prime's case, a lot of violence.

Optimus returns in the fourth installment of the movie franchise, thirsty for revenge and battle. Optimus has gone through an evolution throughout all the movies. In the first movie, the "audience" bot was Bumblebee, so Optimus was the distant wise leader, kind in his interactions with Sam, valiant yet at a comfortable distance. Revenge of the Fallen further showcased his fighting skills, or rather, just his fighting skills, as Optimus was..."away" for the majority of the film. In Dark of the Moon, Optimus is kicked while he's down, being betrayed yet not immediately able to retaliate. Lastly, in Age of Extinction, Optimus has just had enough, he's front and centre and does not take kindly to any challenge.

Toy-wise, for every movie, Optimus has received voyagers and leader class figures. The leader class figures all follow a same system---the first version is released, which wows (or just impresses) many people, lingers around for some months, then a vastly superior repaint of said figure is released, yet somehow people are never mad about this.

Let's go back in detail...Movie 1 had LDR Class Optimus, with a Hasbro "premium" repaint with a more accurate head and a blade instead of a cannon, which takara went even further and chromed out more. ROTF had the amazing LDR Class Prime, with a lot of fans criticising the difficulty of his conversion. Around November of the release year, takara releases Buster Prime, a retool with transformable guns, new head sculpt and possibly the best paintjob for the mould. This has since been repainted and released in various sets.

DOTM had a movie accurate retool and slight repaint of the ROTF mould, coming out with a new mould jetpack, then with all the movie accurate guns and a darker paint job, which was given the premium asia treatment a few years later.

Age of Extinction has a brand new leader figure [as Prime completely changed alt mode and design], which was released first by hasbro, then a slightly repainted and superior takara version, then repainted again by hasbro, and now takara released an overhauled retool and repaint, which we will be reviewing today.

Fourth time around, I wised up and did not go for the first release [to be fair, I only did this with the first movie. Only got Buster Prime from ROTF, nothing from DOTM].

-Gorgeous- paint all over, the new sculpting is great, first movie Prime to finally incorporate a smart faceplate changing gimmick.

Articulation ain't shabby all around, with all the important joints being on strong ratchets, decently articulated feet once you get the hang of it, and a very well made ball jointed head.

Bad things---while articulated enough, the figure is restricted by kibble all over. The waist kibble is not easy to get out of the way [see on the plastic quality below], shoulder kibble is manageable but can look odd at certain poses.

Plastic...oh dear. I am the LAST person to complain about plastic quality, but his entire backpack/truck rear section and truck side panels/waist in robot mode is made of the thinnest plastic imaginable. I worry I'll snap it while handling him, or warp the damn thing when posing his legs.

Overall I'm conflicted, as the sculpt is very sharp, the paint really brings the exquisite detail out and the articulation is decent, but he's too reliant on obstructed articulation, and while the transformation is simple and fun, the thin plastic makes it scary.

Vehicle mode

Deciding that he's had enough of it, Optimus changes between two forms in the fourth film. The first form is a beat up flat cab truck covered in rust and in generally pretty bad shape. Upon going from near death to full health with no explanation whatsoever, he scans a new alternate mode of a Western star cab.

It's basically a more futuristic, rounded up and blinged version of the truck he was in the first 3 movies. Every rough edge has been smoothed down, every noticeable surface blinged and decked out in red flames, making 2014 Optimus more of a weird update [or downgrade] to Rodimus instead of Optimus.

As goes without saying on this "premium" release, everything that should look and be painted, is actually painted. Almost the entirety of the frame/toy is cast in a glorious glossy/pearl blue colour. There's a ton of tampographed paint on in the form of his flames, covering most of the front engine area and going around almost all the way to the back of the truck cab. The paint job is -very- good for a mass production toys, with the flame detail being carried out very reasonable across broken up surfaces all across. Seeing as the flames are a relatively complex design going across 6 different parts on each side, I must say they've done a good job. Silver is sparsely used here and there, mostly limited to engine and side details, as well as the headlights, the a small part on the back of the cab and the trailer hitch, as well as the back end of the truck with the taillights on. Chrome is no stranger on the set, with the smokestacks, front grill, parts of the steps and gas tanks, truck cabin lights, western star logo AND the hubcaps are all chromed out. The front grill even has some blue chrome detailing in the middle.

Moulded detail is not plentiful on the figure, but does the job. There are thin panel lines all over the cab panels, perfectly showcasing a more "luxury exhibition room" persona for the truck instead of a rough, street-tested frame like the last iteration of leader class moulds. Each hubcap has got plenty of moulded detail and an autobot symbol moulded on the centre. The wheels are rubber, which is a nice surprise and a throwback to the 2007 leader mould. Even though the entire front of the cab is comprised of multiple panels clipped together, thanks to smooth surface detail and minimal visible seams thanks to the very dark colours, it comes together fairly well and does not look gappy.

The truck mode runs about 25 centimetres from one end to another, around 12 from wheels to the top of his smokestacks and close to 8 centimetres in width. Sadly this makes him the smallest movie leader Class Optimus figure. The figure comes with two accessories, a new mould shield and sword based closer on the designs he used in the movie rather than the concept art. The sword does a good job at looking more show accurate than the previous iteration, with very good surface detail all over and crimson/navy blue highlights on the hilt. The entirety of the sword is moulded in a semi transparent orange plastic. The shield is quirky...while more show accurate, it is moulded in a semi-open "energy" radiating position (something that never happened in the movie). It is also moulded in clear orange plastic, with tons of silver, crimson and blue paint used to pick out the base details and the gattling gun placement at the end. Sadly the gattling gun is too short and puny, so it just looks as the end of a shield rather than a gun of its own. For storage, the sword can securely clip on the underside of the truck on a hitch [think of a smoother Generations Drift type of clip] while the shield can just...clip on the trailer hitch. Hmm.

Even though this is a decked out premium release, Armour Knight Optimus Prime still suffers from cutback flaws in his design. There is worryingly thin plastic used in various areas, there are no electronics present, and the back of the truck section with the wheel wells is a gappy and terrifyingly thin area. Standing out like an elephant in the room, the very back end of his side gas tanks is STILL left unpainted blue [which really stands out next to the chromed section right next to it], and is half finished if you look at it from the top.

All in all, the truck mode is gorgeous in terms of looks, mediocre in terms of bang for buck when it comes to size, and mildly disappointing as an actual well put together figure (more of that on the robot mode section).

Robot Mode

Okay, I won't lie, I actually like the transformation on this one. It's clever, not complex, but leaves a lot of room for improvement. The leg transformation is pretty fun, incorporating a spring loaded panel that springs up to cover what would otherwise be empty space near the knees. However, the upper body transformation is just poor, with the arms basically feeling like leftovers and just tucked in under the gas canister's empty space in truck mode.

Standing roughly 24 centimetres tall, this version of Movie Prime is actually one to look at. He's simply gorgeous, having almost every single part of him painted and having perfect paint apps through and through. Bar a few joints [elbows, shoulders and knees], all gray plastic is painted in a nice silver tone, with gold, red and navy blue used to pick up details here and there. Almost every single piece on this figure is painted, which is a rarity these days.

Sculpted detail is plentiful throughout. Ridges, bolts, "cables" and overlapping pieces of armour cover every inch of Prime's body, with a lot of praise going to Prime's chest for looking like a layered conjunction of armour parts over his regular body. The headsculpt is absolutely marvelous and takes the prize for the best Movie Prime headsculpt ever, with the highest of praise going for his eyes, having just the one milimetre of baby blue paint needed to look -just- right. The sharply moulded head keeps true to the AOE Prime design, being primarily silver with a few blue accents on the helmet. The arms look a bit..bland in comparison to every other part, as there's few colour intersections through and through [his new forearms are awesome though, more on that later]. His legs go to an extent to replicate the armour look, especially on the thighs, with some gold paint used for cabling, but fall flat as the "armour" they connect through is just the sides of his truck. The lower legs alternate neatly between armour and truck parts, with just enough detail on the armour parts, before ending on newly sculpted legs.

After an identical vehicle mode to the regular release, let's have a look at the new parts of this version in robot mode---The feet are entirely new, being slim, thin knight-like shoes instead of the spiky thick feet the regular edition had. These are beautifully cast in silver and painted cherry red for the soles. The front waist piece is also new, much smaller in length and thus not restricting forward leg movement as such. The flip down chest piece is entirely new and painted to match the movie model as close as possible, with flame decals, underlying gold parts and mechanical detailing all meshing into one. Moving on to the arms, the entire forearm piece is brand new, modeled after the knight gauntlets that Prime got towards the end of the film, with flaming details painted all over. Sadly the fist design, with the thumb moving in inwards is carried over from the original release. Last but not least, the headsculpt is entirely new, edgier, movie accurate and features the first movie Prime changing faces gimmick---you lift the middle part up [like on Human Alliance Sideswipe], and the face rotates around like on the first Masterpiece Starscream feature. It's a simple design that works well, although the parts are small enough to make me feel a tad uncomfortable in using too much force for them.

Articulation is brilliant and restricted. The arms are free-moving in general, with a forward/slightly downward movement at the shoulders [used as a transformation joint], feature 360 degrees ratcheted movement all around, have ratcheted outward movement at the shoulder, a basic ratcheted elbow joint alongside an elbow free-moving swivel, and uniquely to this mould, feature unhindered wrist rotation. The thumbs also stupidly move in and out. He also has a free moving but very restricted waist joint [the legs bump in every single hip armour panel, front skirt panel, and the gas tanks on the back]. The hips themselves have full ratcheted lateral movement and front and back movement, but they bump on so many things you can only get like 2 clicks at most in any direction before you have to move things around. The knees are ratcheted as well, offering a substantial range of backwards motion, but are essentially useless as you can't bring the leg forward that much to take advantage of them. There's also a free swivel right above the knee. The feet are far more articulated than they seem to be, as there's an odd, thick ball joint for roughly 270 degrees of horizontal movement, joined with a downwards pin swivel for the feet AND the entire back calf panel that can rotate for transformation. It's a tricky combination that doesn't look so good in some poses, but offers a great deal of flexibility. Lastly, the head is on a ball joint with a decent range of motion.

Lastly, for armaments, the sword and shield are present as well. The shield can only be plugged into the forearm and only looks good in like 3 poses. The sword is supposed to lock onto the hand via a clip and the thumb that "locks" it into place, but doesn't. The clip is too far up the sword handle, so the weight is always skewed, no mater the pose, and the sword slowly leans off the hand. The fact that every single meaningful joint on the arms is a heavy ratchet means that every time you move the arm, the sword is just shocked off its position. The figure can do a decent two-handed grip on the blade [ie the money shot of the movie, aka "excalibur shot"], but that's the extent of it.

If at this point you are still reading [been a while since my last review], you'll be ready for the vitriol for this figure. Basically for each part on this figure that moves, there's another part that moves against it. I've mentioned the thick ratchets dislodging the sword at every instance. The shoulder pauldrons also make it hard to have a symmetric pose based on the elevation of each shoulder/arm. The waist is a nightmare as there's 7 pieces that get in the way of any meaningful movement. The truck backpack is horrendous, with the upper part with the wheel well sticking a tad too far up and the gas tanks being too long down and too thin (seriously, just applying pressure on any part of the backpack or the sideskirts bends the plastic). And if that wasn't enough, the actual meaningful face changing gimmick? Due to how strong the head pop up spring is, there's a chance you'll open up the face panel each time you spring the head up thanks to how insecure the face connection can be in conjunction with how strong the spring is.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings for this release. While it probably is the best example of perfect mass-produced paint on a figure, and the details are just stunning, it has too many flaws working against it to make it stand out. The new sword works against it, and after you go past the marvelous paint details, it's a cumbersome mould from the waist down, which really works against it considering how much articulation it's currently packing. As such, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this figure to anybody who's not already a massive fan of the design or the original toy. This release trades off all the aesthetic chores and inaccuracies of the original release, but under the gorgeous paint and detailing, it is still a poor mould.

Transformation Design: 4. With just a couple more swivels and sliding joints, you could eliminate the fugly backpack altogether, but the way the arms just bend into a random position for truck mode does not sit well with me. Kudos for the innovative twists for the legs though.
Durability: 3. The fact that I can break every single piece of his backpack and sideskirts with two fingers and a little bit of pressure horrifies me on a leader class toy. Seriously, grab one gas tank [in robot mode] with your thumb and the other with your forefinger and squeeze. They'll break.
Fun: 2. Not much fun when you've got a very decently poseable robot mode that you can't move much due to many limitations. The fact that it's so difficult to get him to grip his new sword puts a hold on any fun upper body poses you could think.
Aesthetics: 8. Stupid backpack aside, he -looks- perfect. The fact that the part of the backpack that actually sticks up over his head is so perfectly square messes up his otherwise edgy silhouette, brought to life by a striking palette of colours and sculpting.
Articulation: 7. As mentioned numerous times, he has all the right joints, but everything works against him.
Value/price: 3. Got this shipped to me for around 55 GBP, which is/was the retail for the regular release. For this amount of paint alone it's worth it, but it's still made of weak plastic, is very light and has no electronics to justify the cost.
Overall: 4. Good for completists and a good complimentary piece to the United Autobot set that has premium paintjobs on the other 4 Autobots. If you just want a definitive movie Optimus, you're better off hunting a premium release of the ROTF LDR Mould and calling it a day.
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