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Numbat's Review: Deluxe Class Soundwave

Name: Soundwave
Function: Communications Master and Sadistic Spy Extraordinaire
Subgroup: Dark of the Moon Mechtech Deluxe Class

Soundwave, the iconic G1 character, makes his welcome Earthly live action debut in Dark of the Moon (DOTM). While he was in Revenge of the Fallen (ROTF) as well, he merely directed Decepticon activity from orbit as a Cybertronian spy satellite, tapping into Earth’s communications networks. He is certainly never seen in robot mode in ROTF, although we do get plenty of time to appreciate his head a creepy voice (provided by none-other than the original Soundwave – Frank Welker). One of the reasons Soundwave had not appeared in the live action films sooner was that the film makers struggled to find a suitable alternate mode for the character (Blackout is almost certainly the result of an abortive attempt to include Soundwave in the first live action Transformers film (TFTM). Certainly the mass shifting boom-box of G1 was not only outdated but also impossible to deliver in live action.

DOTM establishes Soundwave’s presence on Earth fairly early on, in the African savannah scene where Megatron makes his return appearance. The robot mode takes some cues from the concept art design for ROTF Soundwave, but clearly is a car. He’s a gorilla armed spiky Decepticon covered in speakers or satellite dishes, which is a neat spin on the tried-and-tested car chest Transformer design.

Soundwave goes on to have some of the most memorable scenes in DOTM, using his silver Mercedes Benz SLS AMG to capture Carly and blackmail Sam into helping with Decepticon espionage and leading on brutal Autobot executions in the gruelling Chicago battle sequences. It seems ironic that after so much difficulty deciding on Soundwave’s live action Earth alternate mode Bay simply went for the Transformers cliché – a super-expensive sports-car. But frankly, it works well and makes a lot of sense given Soundwave’s espionage role – he is using this mode to forward the Deception agenda.

Surely the introduction of a classic iconic G1 Transformer in DOTM would warrant toy releases in several size classes – especially for a new Decepticon that plays such a major role in the film? Well, erm, nope. Afraid not in the Hasbro-serviced West at least. While both Deluxe Class and Human Alliance Class Soundwave moulds were created, and even produced and boxed ready for distribution, they only ever received a limited release in the Takara-served Asian markets. The only version of DOTM Soundwave to see release by Hasbro, sadly, was the Legion Class (new name for Legends Class) figure. Why so many non-screen characters and a plethora of Bumblebees were released ahead of new characters such as Soundwave is totally beyond me, especially after Has-Tak invested in the moulds and even production. It is one of the great mysteries – the fourth biggest grossing film of all time had a toyline that bombed with Wave 1 and Wave 2 Bumblebees alongside non-screen characters clogging retailer shelves more than a year on. Certainly somebody at Hasbro’s head must have rolled for this (if not at DOTM surely after the repeat performance with the Prime First Edition line).

Because of the limited Asian release and zero Western release, Deluxe Soundwave commands high prices from scalpers. Interestingly, Human Alliance (HA) Soundwave does not have similarly high prices – possibly due to the poor stock photography impacting on initial demand. So you do have a choice of Deluxe Soundwave or HA Soundwave at similar prices, but a lot of collectors will be after the Deluxe version simply because it is a better scale for display alongside the majority of Movieverse figures.

The big question is – is DOTM Deluxe Class Soundwave worth tracking down?

Alternate Mode:

As already mentioned, DOTM Soundwave transforms into a sleek, sexy, inordinately expensive silver Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. Measuring 5 ¼” (13.5cm) long, HA Soundwave is 1/35 scale in SLS mode, which is exactly the same length as DOTM Deluxe Bumblebee and a slightly larger scale. However, it does feel a lot smaller than Bumblebee’s Camaro mode – it’s slighter and has less mass – and the proportions are a bit stretched, making the car look long and thin.

That aside, the SLS mode is packed with moulded detail, especially considering it’s a tad on the small side. Panels are all moulded, the fuel cap is incredibly detailed, all the grilles are there and the Merc insignias are sculpted on the front and rear (which is tiny!). Sadly the paint applications are a little on the light side – some of the grilles are picked out in black while others are left plain (sadly the sections of grill within the Merc insignia on the front end are not painted black), and the rear lights are painted red. The lack of consistency with the grilles is rather irritating. The wheels are very nicely sculpted, with detailed brake discs. Unsurprisingly the Human Alliance version is much better detailed, but interestingly the Deluxe version has the on-screen alloy wheels (painted a bluish silver), whereas the Human Alliance figure uses a different alloy wheel option (both are genuinely available on the SLS though).

Rounding things off are the ‘SLS AMG’ printed on the rear in white, and clear windows. By clear, I mean totally clear, and so, sadly you can see a lot of the robot mode packed in there including the chest which uses a false duplicate of the front end of the car… In this case, tinted windows (or even solid black) would have been preferable.

And, of course, there’s the plastic used for the car shell. Instead of the gorgeous silver in the film, Deluxe Soundwave’s SLS is cast in cheap looking (and feeling) pale metallic grey – and when I say metallic, I’m being generous. While both the Human Alliance and Deluxe versions suffer from the use of metallic grey plastic rather than silver paint (which would have been used in the ROTF line…), there is no doubt the Deluxe version has come off worse in this respect. There are also two sections where transparent plastic has been painted grey to try and match the body colour, and missed the mark.

Of course, being DOTM we must have Mechtech ports – and indeed we do. In this case there ate two ports on Soundwave’s roof. Fortunately, like most of the later figures these are hidden by springloaded pugs of the same grey plastic as the rest of the car.

The final issue with Deluxe Soundwave’s car mode is that the robot arm satellite dishes / speakers scrape along the ground while he rolls and this is apt to scrape paint – it’s even worse in the Deluxe version than the Human Alliance figure.

DOTM Deluxe Soundwave’s SLS mode isn’t bad at all, it’s just not that great. The details are all there – it’s the execution that lets it down.

Robot Mode:

Before you transform Deluxe Class Soundwave, take a look at the underside of the car. Unlike the Human Alliance version which is jam-packed with robot parts, the Deluxe Class is mostly empty unused space. This should start alarm bells ringing given how slight the car mode is to begin with…

One area where Deluxe Class Soundwave has lucked out, though, is in his transformation design. While not particularly complicated, it’s fun and quite different from other Transformers. Interestingly, the mass of the vehicle is used mainly to form Soundwave’s legs, whereas the Human Alliance figure uses most of the mass for the arms. Undoubtedly this helps give Deluxe Soundwave more normal robot mode proportions, but the trouble is this does not match his CGI model at all!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first thing you’ll notice about DOTM Deluxe Soundwave in his robot mode is that he’s a bloody midget – measuring just 5” (12.5cm) to the top of his head spikes. What’s more is that, just like his car mode, he’s very slight. The upper body is skinny, as are his arms, while his legs are blocky and clumpy. This results in a very small looking robot, unlike the CGI design where the upper body is massive with huge gorilla arms bristling with satellite dishes or speakers. Sure, Deluxe Class Soundwave does have the speakers on his arms, but they are quite small. On the plus side you can slide the outside painted dishes out and away from the forearm to make them more obvious.

The second thing you’ll notice is that the designers made no attempt whatsoever to hide the car mode kibble – the whole roof, part of the rear and the bonnet all just sit there on Soundwave’s back, destroying his silhouette. I think the use of clear plastic for the windows was an afterthought attempt to mitigate this effect, but all it really does is ruin the car mode. It would have been so easy to have folded these back sections away much better with the addition of a swivel and a hinge or two at most, but the designers just didn’t bother.

Also, when viewed from the side there is a huge gap in Soundwave’s torso where you can see the car mode front, which spoils the illusion of the highly detailed false car front used for his robot mode chest.

So, anyway, yes – Deluxe Soundwave does have more normal robot mode proportions than his Human Alliance counterpart, as well as normal feet – however this is not at all an accurate representation of the film character model.

On the plus side, the shoulder wheels lock into place perfectly, and are independent of the arm articulation – something the Deluxe does better than the Human Alliance figure. Also, the car chest is all grey, avoiding the use of navy which does spoil the Human Alliance version a little.

While most of the robot mode is the horrendous metallic grey plastic, navy blue is used on the arms, knees and upper chest, while black and gold paint picks out some details, leaving AllSpark blue to highlight a couple of the satellite / speaker dishes on Soundwave’s arms. The head sculpt is really gorgeous and looks fantastic in silver paint with the red visor (clear light piping with red paint on the front – looks great!) – it’s such a shame silver wasn’t used anywhere else on the robot (or car) mode, which results in the head looking totally out of place. Finally, Soundwave has a Decepticon insignia on a speaker dish on his right arm (unlike the Human Alliance version, which has one in the same place on both arms).

With five points of articulation on each arm, six on each leg and a swivel for the head, one thing you can’t complain about on this figure is the articulation. It’s a shame the car kibble gets in the way of it! Soundwave’s best poses look hunched and angry, but could hardly be called dynamic.

As this is the DOTM line, Soundwave comes with the requisite Mechtech weapon – a massive thing in his case which goes some way to bulking up the plastic quota on what is otherwise a very small Deluxe toy. Still, I’d rather a larger Transformer than the weapon – which is a huge canon that Soundwave could never realistically wield. This transforms into a huge satellite dish thing (which at least makes sense for his character), but as with all Deluxe figures you can’t lock it in place in this mode. It’s dark grey with light grey parts and navy blue and gold paint – again, making up some of the paint budget which would have been better spent making Soundwave silver. Soundwave can hold the gun, or mount it on either shoulder (nice G1 homage).

So, what’s the verdict? Undoubtedly the Human Alliance version of DOTM Soundwave has the better SLS mode and robot mode, and is a lot more fun than Deluxe Soundwave. However, if you’re not into Bayformer designs, then the Deluxe Class version does at least use more traditional proportions, even if this is not film accurate.

Deluxe Class Soundwave is not a bad Transformer, he’s just not great. He’s let down by several lazy design flaws, cost cutting measures and the poor likeness to the CGI model, but in his defence he is great fun to transform.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 7 – DOTM Deluxe Soundwave’s transformation is his best feature – he’s addictive! It’s a shame that the designers were lazy and left car kibble hanging off his back, which could easily have been hidden with the addition of a swivel and a hinge or two.
Durability: 5 – Soundwave’s plastic feels cheap and fragile, so I’d worry for his long-term future (particularly with that car kibble hanging between his legs!). The paint on his forearm satellite / speaker dishes will also scrape if you roll the car mode.
Fun: 7 – You know what? Despite all his flaws, Deluxe Class Soundwave is great fun to transform, and I really do love playing with him. Shame about the limitations in robot mode.
Aesthetics: 5 – Soundwave has a highly detailed if oddly proportioned Mercedes SLS mode, and he looks like a generic Transformer in robot mode. The only things that make him look like Soundwave are the head, chest, speakers and shoulder-wheels – he lacks the CGI model proportions from the film itself.
Articulation: 7 – Soundwave has superb articulation, but its use is limited by the poorly placed car kibble.
Value/Price: 3 – DOTM Deluxe Soundwave still commands a disproportionately high price. While this has come down a little, I doubt it will reduce much more. I was fortunate to get him at a very reasonable price from Knightdramon and don’t regret it, but couldn’t recommend spending the money he generally goes for. He’d be a mediocre Transformer at shelf price.
Overall: 5 – DOTM Deluxe Soundwave is not a bad figure – he’s just not particularly great either. He could easily have been so much better. If you had to have a version of DOTM Soundwave, I’d recommend the Human Alliance version over the Deluxe without any hesitation.
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