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Blackjack's review: Screen Battles: Desert Attack

Name: Scorponok
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class:Deluxe Class

Scorponok is easily one of the most memorable Transformers visually from the 2007 live-action movie, in no small part due to the fact that he’s a giant, car-sized robot scorpion that tunnels through the sand. He’s unique, unlike the rest of the humanoid cast, and gets a sizable amount of focus throughout the first half of the movie as a little hunter Decepticon thing launched by Blackout to hunt down Captain Lennox’s rangers throughout the desert.

Granted, this Scorponok has nothing in common with any previous Scorponoks (the G1 Decepticon leader, the Beast Wars thug and the Energon zombie or something) beyond transforming into a scorpion, but that doesn’t make him any less awesome.

Scorponok was initially released in the Deluxe Class format, which I was unable to find despite my efforts – both Scorponok and the modern-Camaro Bumblebee were absolutely gone thanks to scalper assholes, but lo and behold, Hasbro saw fit to release a ‘Screen Battles’ set containing Scorponok and three little soldier figurines. So I bought that.

In addition to this, a small, white, non-articulated Scorponok figure was included with the Voyager Class Blackout toy, and a Legends Class figure was released very late into the line and is probably the single good offering from the 2007 Movie’s Legends Class line.

Beast Mode:
The Screen Battles version of Scorponok is a slight repaint of the original Deluxe Class toy, with additional ‘sand’ detailing applied on to Scorponok’s claws and his flanks. Personally I think it’s a fairly unobtrusive addition which makes him look a fair bit more similar to his CGI model. Of course, instead of being 80% silver and 20% silver-with-a-different-hue, Scorponok is coloured far more colourfully for a toy. Sure, he is mainly silver, but have a lot of other secondary colours, like dark brown, orangey-brown, light gray and black throughout his body, filling all that Bayformery details and greebles. His three pairs of legs (scorpions have four pairs of legs boo bad research) are coloured brown, as are the wicked-looking claws and the long harpoon-like stinger. It’s generally a nice example at how a toy can be colourful yet pretty practical and low-key at the same time.

Though I absolutely dislike how the curling portion of the tail is cast in a cheap-looking light gray plastic that sets it apart from the darker, shinier gray that the rest of him uses. Also don’t see the point of randomly painting two red diamonds on top of his tail.

The amount of detailing in this thing is pretty impressive as well, and not just the general outline of his scorpion mode. There are all sorts of markings scattered all over the silvery parts, stuff like ‘No step’, ‘Caution Fuel Explosive’, ‘0360’ and ironically ‘rescue’ all done in a quasi-military style. It’s part of Scorponok’s design and considering he was ‘birthed’ from Blackout, who himself turns into a military helicopter where these kinds of markings would be commonplace, it’s not a far stretch to imagine such markings being around as well.

While Scorponok looks more or less like a scorpion, there are some places that sets him apart from his animal counterparts (beyond being made up of metal, that is). Running across his main body is a spinning set of insane buzzsaws and turbines that in the movie spins around to help him move through sand. The claws, likewise, look like engine parts with the ‘wrist’ section being chunky cylinders and the claws themselves being three-pronged affairs that… well, I don’t really know how to describe it… just look at the pictures, eh? The tail is far different from a normal scorpion as well. The main body of the tail curls up just like a normal scorpion, but instead of a single sting you get a trident whose shaft sticks out from behind the main tail. While it looks like bad engineering, this trident-shaped kibble is actually part of the movie’s design, and the general look of the stinger is pretty fitting to the movie’s. his face is pretty awesome-looking too, with four eyes and lots of buggy mandibles true to the show’s design.

He really is fun to muck around. Pushing Scorponok on the ground orturning the wheels will cause the central buzzsaw tunnel of death thing to rotate, and through a clever series of gears causes those awesome-looking three-pronged claws to rotate as well. It’s the most well-realized gimmick to try and bring the sense of movement that the Bayformers have into toy form. And unlike many other geared toys, none of this gearing impedes Scorponok’s articulation in any way. Scorponok’s ‘shoulders’ and ‘elbows’ are hinged and have rotary joints that you can move freely. While my Scorponok’s gearing system has kind of broken down after a certain bout of rough play, the things still move relatively well.

All six of Scorponok’s legs are on ball joints though it’s kind of useless to try to move them. Scorponok’s tail can rotate at the base and is hinged at three points. The trident can shoot forwards on a spring-loaded button to spear any rangers in front of him. His head can tilt up a little, though the battle-mask seen in the movie (for all of two seconds) doesn’t work. Scorponok’s ‘fingers’ can also splay out to kind of simulate their movement when the Decepticon was opening fire with his claws, though I like the spinning-claw gimmick too much to do this.

Scorponok can be attached to the underside of the Voyager Blackout toy despite the sheer scale inaccuracy. By attaching to three pegs, one of which is connected to Scorponok’s gearing system, you can press Blackout’s button to rotate Blackout’s rotors and in turn rotate Scorponok’s central turbine and then rotate his claws. I have no idea what application this can have, but having a helicopter carry around a gigantic metal scorpion of doom with spinning claws ready to dismember you is a probably useful in some aspect in battle. A decent bonus, I suppose, one that actually works well.

Scorponok is almost entirely perfect, with my main problem being the paint on the tail (or lack thereof) which really is insignificant.

Robot Mode:
Because apparently you can’t market an insanely cool-looking robot scorpion in a Transformers line without having him transform, the designers put in a half-assed version of G1/BW/Energon Scorponok’s transformation. And I do really mean half-assed… the robot mode feels so much like a ‘bonus attack mode’ seen in many other Transformers. It looks extremely rushed, and it’s generally just Scorponok with the claws and face positioned to look forwards and the flanks swinging down to act as legs.

It’s not even a good robot mode since the legs are extremely stumpy (although they are articulated in the thigh and knees) and the massive tail just hangs down and generally looks terrible. It curls up so if Scorponok uses the stinger in robot mode he’d spear his own chest.

I don’t think I’ve ever really used this mode at all. Scorponok is a scorpion, and that’s that. This is just kind of embarrassing.

Little Soldier Figures:
Included with the Screen Battles version of the toy are three figures, based on Epps (the Tyrese), Donnelly (the dude with glasses that Scorponok speared and pulled down into the sand) and Figueroa (the dude that keeps speaking Spanish and seemingly dies of wounds after the battle) from the movie.

These three little mini-PVC’s don’t really look like their on-screen actors, but the resemblance is enough to tell who is who. They’re all static, permanently in action poses on these little stands that represent the desert and the brick walls of the village in which their battle with Scorponok took place. Epps is holding a handgun and a grenade launcher, and the other two are holding machineguns or bad plastic approximations of them. Donnelly’s machinegun is kinda melty on mine.

Unlike the memorable scene in the movie, Epps doesn’t have two dozen back pockets.

The PVC figures are kinda cute, and look pretty unique and pose quite well with Scorponok. If Scorponok ever gets hungry for munchies, he can eat them. Shame they didn’t include a ‘spear me here’ post in Donnelly, but you can’t have everything.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 0/10 Yeah absolutely no effort here, Hasbro. Not that it’s a bad thing, no one cares about Scorponok’s robot mode anyway.

Durability: 7/10 Scorponok himself is durable, but the gears within are not. The rangers are relatively stable but Donnelly and Fig’s guns are made of weaker plastic that can warp.

Aesthetics: 10/10 He’s a really awesome and extremely accurate representation of the movie’s CGI model of Scorponok, that’s for sure. The additional sand decals from this version of the toy make him look better.

Articulation: 9/10 Not the best articulated toy, but a robot scorpion hunter doesn’t really need a huge range of articulation.

Fun: 9/10 Coming with little people to kill is indeed a great bonus to an already awesome little toy.

Price/Value: 5/10 The Screen Battles are a wee bit more expensive than the vanilla deluxe class toys, and I personally don’t think the little soldiers are worth it, but I can’t lie – I do love displaying Scorponok next to the little soldiers and replicating one of the most memorable battle scenes in the Bay movies.

Overall: 8/10 Scorponok is a toy that somehow outdoes a lot of toys in his line, and outdoes a lot of toys in future lines as well. Granted, while the designers only had to focus on a single mode to make him good, and that’s kinda cheating, they did focus on that single mode and made him absolutely perfect. Yes, the gears may break and yes, there could’ve been some improvements done to it but Scorponok is truly a toy that transcends the test of time and is still a better-realized toy than a lot of the offerings made for the movie sequels’ lines.
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