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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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numbat's Review: Jetfire

Name: Jetfire
Function: Geriatric Comic Relief and Complex Plot Expositionist
Subgroup: Seeker / Revenge of the Fallen Leader Class

Jetfire is an iconic G1 character, that has seen a number of versions in subsequent lines. Originally introduced as a Transformer scientist in the G1 cartoon series, Jetfire (called Skyfire in the show – the difference in names is for copyright reasons at the time which have been covered at length in other reviews and threads, and so I will not go into detail here). G1 Jetfire had been frozen on Earth and had been unaware of the start of the Transformers Civil War. When he is rediscovered, he initially joins his old friend and fellow scientist Starscream, as a member of the Decepticons. However, he quickly realises that he does not share the Decepticon values, and switches sides to join the Autobots. As I have not followed any Transformers cartoons since RID, I’m not able to provide an overview of any subsequent versions of Jetfire’s character, although certainly an interest in the G1 character resurged with the release of the fantastic Voyager Class Jetfire in the original Classics toyline.

When rumours emerged that Jetfire would indeed make an appearance in Revenge of the Fallen, I was very excited. I became even more-so when leaked toy photos suggested that he may be a disaffected Decepticon, and that he was to be the long rumoured Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Transformer. However, when it emerged that he combined with Optimus Prime, I was a bit sceptical.

The actual onscreen character was not at all what I had expected, although this is no bad thing. While the G1 character is one of the more interesting ones, the movie added more depth having Jetfire as an aging Decepticon explorer, disaffected with the cause. Plus, the combination with Prime was actually also quite original, with Jetfire sacrificing his life and Optimus then using his parts as upgrade armour and weaponry. Not your conventional Transformer Combiner, and the result looked totally awesome to boot!

Having enjoyed the screen performance, and with the Blackbird plane being a childhood favourite, the purchasing of the Leader Class toy seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, the stock photos and online reviews all looked quite atrocious, and so, amazingly, I managed to pass on the figure quite easily. Roll on 2011 though, and he was still warming shelves, and knocked down on super-sale to clear the way for Dark of the Moon toys. I really couldn’t quite resist at 17.99 (5 less than the price of a Voyager Class figure), and figured it would be worth that much, surely. Surely?

Alternate Mode:

Jetfire’s alternate mode is an SR-71 Lockheed Blackbird. The coolest jet there has ever been. Period. And the Leader Class figure delivers a phenomenally well detailed and quite massive representation of this quite fantastic plane. There’s moulded detail all over the plane, picking out panels, vents, intakes, the cockpit, hatches – it’s all there. As you’d expect, it is almost entirely jet black, with some nicely applied red lines and text (‘JTFR’, ‘Lt. Col. Brawley’, a snazzy Decepticon insignias with wings and ‘17972’ printed beneath...), as well as silver for the cockpit windows and scratched out Decepticon insignias. And, of course, there is the iconic cartoon skunk Skunk Works logo outlined in white on the tail fins. I am also particularly impressed by how fine the nose tapers off (albeit as rubberised plastic).

Did I mention that it’s massive? Measuring around 17 ” (45cm) long, he’s around 1/72 scale in this mode, and way out of scale with most other figures. Legends Class 2010 Camaro Bumblebee is around 1/64.5 scale, so even he is too big next to Jetfire!

This seriously is one heck of an awesome and realistic alternate mode!

That is, if you only view him from above...

From the sides, robot legs, arms and other kibble become very apparent, as if slung on to the bottom of the Blackbird, destroying its sleek curved profile. From beneath it is even worse – Jetfire’s whole robot mode body is basically a rearranged jumbled payload clamped on to a Blackbird. Plus, there’s a combined mode chestplate just hanging there on rubber strips. The designers really have failed tremendously. There is almost zero integration between the robot mode and plane mode – plane parts are not reused for robot mode parts, and robot mode parts are not reused or even hidden in shellformer style in the plane mode. Well, with one exception – the landing gear is actually literally held in place in plane mode by the robot’s hands! That really takes the biscuit and sums this figure up for me... They may as well be two separate entities!

There is a ridiculously huge gatling gun which can be attached to the nose, as well, but I tend to avoid this. (Incidentally, you can load a missile into the centre of the gatling gun, and fire it - but this looks even more ridiculous...)

At least, given the lack of effort that appears to have gone into any clever Transformation to hide the robot, you would hope the alternate mode fits together easily – wouldn’t you? Well, alas, they missed the mark here too. The panels and engines all must be arranged just so for the Blackbird mode, and will pop off at the merest of glances. It’s a real pain to transform Jetfire from robot to Blackbird, and something I try to avoid. This is, of course, all wrong, as the single most fun part of any Transformer really ought to be the transformation! That’s what they’re all about!

I do appreciate that the designers had their work cut out for them here – the Blackbird does not lend itself to the cheats required to deliver good Movieverse figures, and they also had to build it around the Optimus Prime powerup mode.

But still, I find this mode totally underwhelming...

Robot Mode:

The transformation from Blackbird to robot is not particularly challenging, as the panels are all more than happy to pop apart. I do worry a little as the panels that make up the Blackbird often feel quite thin and brittle, but so far nothing has broken. Given how much of a pain Jetfire is to transform, wear is not likely to be a huge issue either... The only irritation transforming in this direction is that two of the fuselage panels which hide the head in plane mode will almost certainly pop off their ball joints every single time – perhaps more than once...

As already mentioned, transformation in the opposite direction (robot to plane) is much more difficult and fiddly. In fact, to put this into perspective, ROTF Voyager Mixmaster is another figure with a horrendous transformation. However, I personally find Mixmaster's transformation easier than Jetfire's. While Mixmaster's is more complex, Jetfire's is infinitely more fiddly and takes much longer. Equally, I enjoy MP-05 Megatron's insanely complex transformation, which is actually a lot less fiddly than Jetfire's. At least perseverance rewards you with fantastic alternate and robot modes with both Mixmaster and Megatron, but you'll feel short-changed with Jetfire. Hopefully you're getting the idea - Jetfire's transformation is horrendously annoying, and not at all rewarding.

The transformation in either direction is made all the more annoying by the easily activated sound box, which results in jet noises, transformation sounds and ‘Jetfire’s my name’ repeatedly interrupting your concentration.

The robot mode is much like the Blackbird. Where the plane looks like an SR-71 with a robot slung beneath it, Jetfire’s robot mode looks like a robot with a plane hanging off its back (as well as that chestplate for the combined mode with Prime). Again, rather underwhelming...

Measuring around 9 ” (24cm) tall, depending on how bent over you have him, he is quite a bulky Leader Class figure. He’s also horrendously brick-like, sharing similar torso transformation with 2007 Movie Leader Megatron, limiting his poseability and causing balance issues when coupled with the plane kibble hanging off his back.

The robot mode does have a lot of detail – vents, pistons, wiring and cables make him look old and skeletal, and give the impression of the film design. But only the impression. Less effort has gone in to making Jetfire film accurate than any other Revenge of the Fallen Figure (ROTF) I own, although the designers have at least attempted to pack him with enough detail so that he looks at home in the toy line. There are a few key details which do match with the film design – the beard and whiskers (rubberised plastic), exposed engines on the legs, fans on the hands. However, ever single piece of plane that obviously makes up part of the robot is a double, and never sees action in the alternate mode. Furthermore, unlike with many other figures which share this cheat, no attempt has been made to hide the doubles. For example, the cockpit on Jetfire’s head is revealed as false, with the true cockpit fully visible split between either arm. Then there’s the engines on the legs, shown to be doubles by the real articles which hang in full view off Jetfire’s back. Plus, there are two big grey clips hanging off Jetfire’s chest that are used for the combined mode with Prime, but can’t be folded away at all – they just hang to either side in the armpits, or stick forward out of the chest under his chin depending on your preference – either looks bad, but I think the armpit configuration is the better of two bad options. The overall robot mode silhouette is something like an awkward pterosaur with its wings folded up. Seriously poor show.

The landing gear is perhaps the only piece of the plane mode that is actually reused here in robot mode – but as the walking stick!

While the articulation is limited for this size of figure (15 points), further restricted by poor freedom of movement for most of these, it is quite possible to strike suitably geriatric poses reminiscent of the film character, and which hide the blocky nature of the torso to some degree. The trick is carefully balancing the weight on the walking stick – which can take a few attempts, as the wheels do move freely!

You can clip the gatling gun to Jetfire’s arm, and a Blackbird panel on his back converts into the massive battleaxe that he uses to bring the pain to Mixmaster, which is a remarkably nice touch for what is otherwise a fairly thoughtless figure design.

Colourwise, Jetfire retains little black (except on the head, knees, hands and Blackbird kibble), instead being dominated by teal, with silver paint and plastic highlights and a few greenish-gold details. He also has the obligatory red eyes. The face detailing is actually remarkably good too, but totally lost in the flat black and under the beard, meaning that, although his head is film accurate, it doesn’t look like it unless you examine it closely.

The Mech-Alive gimmicks on Jetfire include lights, sounds and moving head and chest panels when you pull down the switch on his chest (similarly pointless and far more detracting than ROTF Leader Megatron) as well as rotating machinery in his thighs activated by swiveling his legs. The latter is actually a nice touch, whereas the lights and sounds coupled gimmick is really quite annoying, particularly during transformation.

I suppose, the best feature of the robot mode is the fact that the toy is a nice scale to crush the Legends Class Scorponok figure from the first live action movie. (As Jetfire does in the desert battle in ROTF.)

After experiencing the Blackbird mode and robot mode, I seriously felt that I had been ripped off with this figure, event at 17.99. I pity anyone who bought him at full retail of 49.99!

Combined Mode:

The combined mode with ROTF Leader Class Optimus Prime redeems Leader Class Jetfire, and makes him worth the 17.99 I paid for him. Thankfully. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I finally managed to complete the extremely fiddly process of combining the two, and experimenting with different arrangements to create a more film accurate configuration than the extremely poor official Hasbro version detailed in the instructions.

The resulting Powered Up Prime mode is really intimidating and totally huge! The silhouette can be arranged to look very much like the film design, with adjustments to the arm positions, Jetfire’s head, Blackbird panels and afterburners, and the essential variant foot transformation detailed by Clay.

The combined mode is not very poseable – the legs are totally locked in place, and have part of Jetfire’s torso hanging between them. From the side, this looks awful, but I am surprised by how little its presence is felt when viewed from the front.

Jetfire’s axe and walking stick combine to form the massive rail gun used by Prime, while the gatling gun clips on to Prime’s arm for extra firepower.

While not 100% film accurate, and certainly not to scale (but, then, neither is the film design – I doubt you’d even notice much of a Peterbilt when combined with all of the parts of an SR-71 Blackbird!), but it does a very good job, and looks great.

If you have that most awesome figure that is ROTF Leader Class Optimus Prime, Leader Class Jetfire makes for a worthwhile upgrade at 17.99. I would not recommend paying any more than 20 for the privilege, however – the figure is really not worth it.

If you don’t have ROTF Leader Class Optimus Prime, don’t get Jetfire (but you should seriously consider getting Prime!).

Overall, Jetfire is a totally underwhelming figure on his own, but a nice upgrade for your Optimus Prime.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 1 – While there’s a lot of fiddling to be done, and rearrangement of body parts, I struggle to call this a transformation. Plus it’s annoyingly difficult to boot. Worst transformation of any Transformer I have ever owned.
Durability: 5 – While Jetfire’s robot mode is a brick, the Blackbird panels all feel quite brittle and thin, and can pop off – I’d be concerned that they’ll either snap or drop off and get lost. Plus the landing gear does not attach securely in plane mode, and can easily drop off.
Fun: 5 – On his own, Jetfire really is not much fun. Combined with Prime, I’d push the two of them up to a 9, but this review is really about Jetfire as a figure, and, on his own, he’s pants (probably a 2). Balanced out, I think 5 is fair.
Aesthetics: 3 – Jetfire has two dreadful modes. The Blackbird looks like a plane with a robot slung to the bottom, and the robot looks like it has a plane hanging off its back. I give it a 3 rather than a 1 because the Blackbird looks amazing when viewed from directly above, and the combined mode with Prime is awesome.
Articulation: 3 – Jetfire is not particularly well endowed with articulation for his size class, and what he has often has restricted movement. It’s difficult to strike a good dynamic pose, and takes a lot of fiddling to get him balanced. The combined mode with Prime is even less well articulated, with movement limited to the arms and head. But at least the combined mode has good balance and looks imposing!
Value/Price: 5 – I bought Jetfire on super clearance before the Dark of the Moon toys hit, and so he cost me 17.99. I think this is about what he is worth, so this would be average value in my books. If judged at full RRP (49.99 in the UK), I would give him a 1.
Overall: 3 – Leader Class Jetfire has two underwhelming modes, plus one pretty awesome combined mode with Leader Class Prime. He’s the poorest Leader Class figure to come out of the Movieverse lines, and on his own merits a 1. Combined with Prime and at less than half price (I got mine at 36% of full RRP - i.e. 64% off), he steps up to a 3. This is a poor figure, only worth buying on clearance to combine with Prime, or if you're an insane completist.
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