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Blackjack's Review: Crankcase

Name: Crankcase
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class: Deluxe Class
Accessories: Blaster/Blade Claw

Right. So Crankcase is one of the new Transformers in the early waves that hit the shelves as Dark of the Moon is set to hit the theatres. I keep telling myself that with one week till the premiere of the movie, I'll wait until the movie comes out before buying any toys, so I can choose the characters that I like.

I've resisted, but they had this big Transformers event at the local mall with a giant replica of Bumblebee and Skids to boot! And, of course, buttloads of new toys. Despite my repeated mantras otherwise, I caved in and brought the first third-movie Transformer that looked cool. Which happens to be Crankcase.

Now this review is written before I watched the movie, so bear in mind I have no idea what Crankcase will do, bar ramming Ironhide if the trailers are to be believed.

One thing is for sure, though Crankcase is an all new character. His G1 incarnation, a Triggercon SUV, was a complaining machine. G1 Crankcase was supposed to get a Classics repaint toy but due to wave problems this toy migrated into the Movie line, so the Movieverse got itself a Crankcase. As you can imagine, toy exclusives are massacred in IDW comics so bye-bye to this Crankcase!

Now DOTM Crankcase, well, he's an all new character, not the complaining machine of the previous two Crankcases. A quick glance reveals him to be based heavily on the Predator, with claws up the wing-wong, the skeletal torso, that crazy mandibled mouth, and most importantly the iconic dreadlocks. The fact that he looks as if he could jump and beat the snot out of you doesn't hurt either. The short bio (these things get shorter and shorter and less alive with every line, I swear) describes Crankcase as an expert tracker and infiltrator that watches the Autobots from the shadows for Megatron, and never engages in combat. But if he does, the result is fatal for the other guy. Which adds to the whole Predator vibe.

Excited yet?

Well, word of warning for prospective buyers do not trust stock photographies for Crankcase. Please read my review; there are some changes made to the toy which adversely affects it.

Alternate Mode
Like all show characters that turn into cars and military equipment (bar poor Sideways), Crankcase transforms into a licensed vehicle. In his case, a Chevrolet Suburban SUV. It's a departure from the fact that only Autobots are allowed GM vehicles, but it's a refreshing change. Now Crankcase seems to be on the small size compared to earlier SUV figures like, say, Stockade or the repaint Crankcase, but I'm not sure whether this reduction in size is for all Dark of the Moon toys or just Crankcase.

The Chevrolet Suburban is a beautiful, powerful-looking SUV. I am partial to black SUVs I drive one, and this one looks close enough to my car. Although rather obviously it's not as sexy as the powerhouse that is the Chevy Suburban. The Suburban does look really powerful, looking more like a military-inspired vehicle rather than something you take out and drive every day.

The front end really reminds me of Movie Ironhide's front end. Powerful. And the way that the large, chunky wheels are actually lower than where they should be in a normal car elevates the Suburban more, making it look even more powerful. But there is nothing here that suggests that Crankcase is a Decepticon. In fact, considering the vehicle modes of the Movie Autobots, I would've been fooled that this was an Autobot if it weren't for the silver Decepticon insignias embalzoned on the front doors.

Detail work is still intricate, but really not as impressive as the first-Movie counterparts. This is compounded by the fact that many moulded details, like the Chevy insignia on the front end, or the license plate, small stuff usually given paint applications, are left unpainted. Which is a shame, really Crankcase looks smaller than your average Deluxe class; you'd think that would allow them to get more paint.

Crankcase's main colour, lest we forget, is a beautiful, sexy black. It's on the entire frame, and the wheels. Even the windows are tinted black. The headlights are cast in clear and yellow plastic, while the lightbars on the roof are cast in clear and orange. The rear lights are red.

Sadly in front of the windshield and halfway on the roof are two robot-mode joints that are blatantly visible, for they are cast in gray plastic. Now had they been painted over black which wouldn't be implausible for these joints don't show in the robot mode Crankcase's disguise would've looked excellent. But no.

The raised wheels might cause you to miss this at a glance, but looking at Crankcase from the side does reveal some kibble. The robot mode toes poke out from near the rear wheels, and the blades attached under the hood are visible from the front and side. Although this allows you to deploy the blades out in vehicle mode so Crankcase looks like some sick insect vehicle. I mean, try swinging the blades out like an attack mode. It's something that looks great in a road fight scene, like something out of the Batmobile. And it has the bonus of looking as if Shrapnel has scanned a car altmode but left the pincers in, which is a bonus.

Also, there are two hardpoints on top of Crankcase's vehicle mode near the lightbars, which again ruin the otherwise sleek vehicle mode. You can attach any MechTech weapon onto it. Or really any sort of gun with the standard 5mm port. See, the unifying gimmick for the main DOTM line now is apparently interchangeable weapons. Oh goody. Crankcase's MechTech weapon is a large, chunky blaster thing. Depress a lever and it extends and deploys two claws, nigh-identical to the ones that the Predator uses on his wrists. It really looks silly mounted in vehicle mode, especially with a more wicked-looking 'attack mode' option with the pincers.

Robot Mode
Crankcase's transformation is pretty refreshing and straightforward. As a side note, the DOTM instructions use photographs instead of line drawings, just like the G1 toys. It's a really nice touch, and makes it more clearer... until you realize some steps are physically impossible to do. Do NOT attempt to swivel the dreadlocks to the side when transforming into robot mode, or upwards when transforming to vehicle mode. Despite what the pictures imply, the dreadlocks cannot move on the hinge. Trying would lead you to probably rip the soft plastic apart. So again I implore you, leave the dreadlocks be. When transforming into vehicle mode just stuff the dreadlocks in under the chestpiece like how they packaged Crankcase in; trying to arrange it to follow the instructions would mean an instant trip to the barber for poor Crankcase.

Another thing to note that Hasbro did was de-clawing Crankcase. It's apparently done hastily. Why? Just look at the stock photographs of Crankcase anywhere on the net. He's got this long, wicked-looking, sharp, pointed finger. And it's the middle one. Health issues aside, which idiot designer thinks it's a good idea to have a children's toy permanently posed flipping you off? Well, instead of doing the sensible thing like Takara (remolding the hand piece), Hasbro's Crankcases are apparently already in the pipeline, so the middle fingers are hastily cut. And I do mean hastily. Nevermind the ugly stumps left behind, some Crankcases appear to have non-uniform cuts on the finger. Hopefully later there will be a 'Premium'-style repaint/remold that will fix this problem, but as it is Crankcase's hands just look ugly.

Crankcase is pretty lanky, but is heavily built enough that he doesn't exude fragileness like, say, Sideways. Rather he looks like one of those 'lightning bruiser' type of fighters, which, again, suits the whole Predator shebang.

Crankcase's got some new colours here. The whole length of his arms that aren't vehicle mode kibble are all light gray, as is the waist, the upper legs and the claws that end up on his back, a la Shrapnel. His claw-toes are painted silver, his crest is painted silver and his dreadlocks are painted gold. I particularly like the chromey-gold paint applications on his lower jaw, and some bits on his skeletal chest.

While a little plain, I particularly like the amount of detail work that was put into Crankcase's torso. Like Shockwave, it is molded to resemble ribs, and there are some painted bits that seem to resemble a pair of retracted smaller claws near his ribs just decoration or something that will crop up in the movie? Either way it looks wicked. Crankcase's facesculpt looks like what would crop up if Megatron and the Predator somehow had a secret love-child. Crankcase's head has two devilish horn-like protrusions from either side of his forehead. He has four slanted eyes under it that is able to be light-piped, if not very well. Crankcase's mouth is patterned after that of a Predator's real mouth, that is, mandibles and teeth up the yin-yang. The lower jaw, as previously noted, is painted gold. And obviously, the dreadlocks. All in all very Predator.

However the dreadlocks do not bode well. By running straight down it covers some of the chest detailing, and it would look much better if we would've been able to display it like the stock photographs. Sadly that is not to be. Crankcase has three dreadlocks on each side of the head made of soft plastic, so they can be turned around to stimulate real cables/wires, although I don't recommend doing it too often lest the plastic breaks.

I like how the vehicular parts are arranged in Crankcase's robot mode. Now to those that never watched a Predator film, the Predator is essentially an alien stalker/hunter that wears a suit of armor. Crankcase's vehicle mode parts seem to be arranged to evoke this fact, since the plates on his arm sort of overlap and really look like some sort of armour plating. While the arrangement of the parts on his leg wheel in the middle of a bunch of plates in Bayverse style is both Transformer-y and Predator-y. Sadly we do not get the Predator's iconic plasma gun or whatever you call it. You know, the one that has three laser pointers... the barrel from ROTF Brawn is just perfect, pointing up from one shoulder. Poor Crankcase has to make do with... a lot, actually.

While Crankcase has been declawed, the massive pincers on his back are fully functional. Aside from looking really wicked, you can imagine Crankcase charging the enemy, twirling, and the pincers snap and slash and tear limbs apart... standing still it looks impractical and you'll want to fold it aside, but it's hard not to imagine Bayverse designs not movie, amirite? I can't bring myself to display Crankcase standing straight, but I always display him slightly crouched, arms ready to slash at anything that might pop out.

And, the gun. It's a rather chunky/blocky affair, which actually looks like some sort of blaster and is infinitely better than the piddly peashooters that the Universe/Classics ilk got over the years. I am not really a fan of this, but I suppose it's better than nothing. Pull the lever and the top part of the gun extends out, and the two claws exactly like the ones mounted on the Predator's wrist extend like a bayonet. I don't really like gimmicky weapons like this, but it suits the theme.

However, all these praise about the design... how does Crankcase hold out as a toy? Well, size-wise Crankcase is not as underwhelming as his robot mode. Standing straight he sees eye-to-eye with Jolt and Sideswipe, and while crouching he makes a great sparring partner with Ironhide, something that would surely be a kickass fight if the oft-repeated trailer scene is anything to go by. Crankcase has got quite a decent amount of articulation as well, and is pretty balanced to do so. It's not quite up to Battle Blades Bumblebee or Special Ops Jazz, and is really the average of the current Deluxe Class toy. His shoulders are double jointed, his elbows and wrists are jointed, his thighs and knees are both double jointed (handy for Predator leaping and crouching poses) and his head can tilt and turn around. And we have the pincers, as well as limited ankle movement due to transformation.

However, like Rampage from the ROTF toyline, there are really distinctive bits that Crankcase is rushed to meet the first wave. The hastily-chopped middle finger, for one. Sub-standard paint applications. A slightly underwhelming vehicle mode size. The dreadlocks not working as they should. As much as I love the design, there are many last-minute changes that mar this otherwise great-looking toy, so that really Crankcase feels like an unfinished product. Knowing HasTak's tendency to release repaints of characters that appear in the film, often with improved paintjobs too (Sideways had, what, three repaints as himself after ROTF, and he appeared for all of one minute in the movie?) I'm very underwhelmed by this toy. I love the design and all, but it does not disguise the substandard nature of Crankcase.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 6/10 The dreadlocks not moving properly causes the otherwise excellent transformation design to be rather frustrating since you need utmost care in making sure the dreadlocks don't snap off when you fold Crankcase into vehicle mode.

Aesthetics: 9/10 What can I say, I like my Transformers distinctive and weird-looking. I'm also a fan of the Movieverse designs, of black SUVs and of the Predator. Not sure how accurate the Crankcase toy is compared to the CG model, though.

Durability: 4/10 The aforementioned dreadlocks look fragile and look as if they would snap off. Also, the joints does not feel as tight as they should be, meaning that they might get loose quite soon.

Articulation: 8/10 Pretty above-standard fare for a Deluxe class toy, helped by the long arms and legs. You can put Crankcase into quite a number of poses, no?

Fun: 8/10 I enjoy Crankcase. He's got an awesome built-in weapon, a cool appearance, and while I'm not a big fan of MechTech's bulky weaponry, I do quite enjoy the little bugger. He looks just so wicked that it's not hard to imagine him hunting down little Autobots and tearing off their heads. Plus, if trailers are anything to go by, Crankcase will battle Ironhide. And that Deluxe Class Ironhide from the 2010 line suits this perfectly!

Price/Value: 5/10 The prices of DOTM deluxes have been lowered somewhat, but compared to a previous deluxe class SUV like Stockade from the first movie line Crankcase looks considerably smaller, so it's an equal exchange, I guess.

Overall: 6.5/10 I'd say wait for a few months until the inevitable Walmart-exclusive/Premium class/random repaint toy appear before buying Crankcase. He has waay too many problems that really should have been fixed before release.
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