• Transformers: Age of Extinction Optimus Prime (Leader-class) Review

      With Hasbro's Transformers: Age of Extinction product line hitting brick & mortar retailers this weekend on May 17th, let's take a look at the new movie's new Leader-class Optimus Prime figure. Yesterday was a review of Voyager Grimlock, the day before was Deluxe Drift, and last week was our interview with Hasbro's Transformers design team.

      This is actually the 2nd Leader Optimus based on his modified Western Star 5700 semi look in the new movie's line, as Hasbro released another Leader Optimus a few months ago as a "first edition", and while this main-line version and the first-edition figure share a number of design philosophies, they are very different figures in many significant ways -- from everything seen, it appears this main-line figure is the superior release.

      This is a bigger version of the Voyager packaging, a rectangle window box with the brand name running down the side and a big piece of character art framing the window; notably missing is any image on the front of the toy's vehicle mode. The back sports a look at the toy in both modes, a bio, and unlike the other 2 size classes, callouts for the accessories. The figure is held to the tray by clear T-bands, a lot of them, and a rattan string.

      Robot mode:

      This Leader-class Optimus is about a head shorter than the Leader-class Optimus figures from the previous movies, notably lighter, and sports no electronics of any kind. Optimus stands around 9 inches tall, and sports a lot of vacuum-metalized (aka "chrome") elements including a chrome chestplate, smokestacks, fuel tanks (though not oil tanks), sun visor, grille and bumper. This is a more balanced approach than the First Edition figure, and the chrome stacks are quite welcome.

      Optimus comes with his Sword of Judgment, a reuse from the First Edition, and his Vector Shield which is a new accessory that is seen in some of the marketing. The sword can be held in either hand (each hand has a small tab to align to a notch on the hilt) and stowed in a loop on his back. The shield can only be pegged into his left forearm in robot mode, and has no other storage that I can find. The design appears to have a tri-barrel cannon at the narrow end, which appears in a more retracted form in marketing materials.

      Pros -
      - nice details in the sculpt, especially head and arms
      - new head has mouthplate instead of First Edition's creepy lips
      - decent articulation for the most part, including ball-jointed neck and swivel waist
      - good paint
      - sword loop changes from vehicle mode's vertical to a nifty diagonal orientation
      - light-piped eyes (yellow, like Scut Farkus... and the G1 Optimus toy)
      - shield has nice detailing and doubles as a forearm-mounted gun

      Cons -
      - sizable portion of the truck becomes a large frame backpack (though less than that of the First Edition figure)
      - looks more like an homage to this movie's character rather than a true representation
      - shoulder pads and hip skirt panels, while articulated, get in the way of limbs a lot during posing
      - chrome chestplate lacks the visual depth of the painted one of the prototype
      - shoulder articulation has awkward ratchet that limits natural poseability to straight-up-and-down or way out to the sides
      - lack of wrist articulation hinders 2-handed sword poses
      - hands don't hold standard 5mm pegs from other accessories
      - backpack segments actually intersect with legs, sometimes catching during posing
      - limited detailing below the knees

      With the Revenge of the Fallen Leader-class Optimus figure, the design was very detailed and fairly screen-accurate, but at a cost of having a very complicated and technical transformation; Hasbro felt that it was too much, and wanted to adjust for this line. The instructions for AOE Optimus here have 20 steps and leave 1 notable step out involving folding out the fuel tanks to get around the forearms. Like Voyager Grimlock, the instructions leave out the robot-to-vehicle change entirely (despite that being the first experience fans will have with the toy since it's shipped in robot mode); unlike Grimlock, reversing from these instructions isn't too confusing.

      The transformation of the lower body is fun and clever, it really feels like something interesting happening, there's even a spring-loaded panel to cover a void. The upper body unfortunately is more simplistic, there are a lot of big panels and sections moving around, and the arms just tuck away without locking into anything before getting covered up by said big panels -- which just feels lazy. Meanwhile, the figure's singular gimmick is found in the head springing up out of the chest when the chestplate is pushed closed. It is an easy transformation without feeling totally simple, but due to half being interesting and half not instead of a balance.

      Vehicle mode:

      In this look, Optimus changes into a Western Star 5700 semi truck tractor, albeit a modified version. The movie truck has a very plasticky look that's smoother than most trucks, and this vehicle mode reflects that. The Sword of Judgment sits flush against the underside of the truck, while the Vector Shield's storage is plugged into the fifth-wheel.

      Pros -
      - chromed grille/bumper, smokestacks, sun visor and fuel tanks are standout features in the movie design and well-reflected here (pun not intended)
      - no recognizable robot mode parts showing
      - rubber tires
      - some nice small details, especially the Autobot faction logo in the hood ornament and wheel hubs, and the Western Star logos
      - solid feeling, tail is a touch loose but in a way that seems appropriate
      - sword storage is nifty
      - wheels roll despite low ground clearance from sword

      Cons -
      - rear of truck is a bit too hollow and skeletal
      - considering how simple the movie truck's lines are, this sculpt is lacking fine details like headlights and tire markings and the like which makes it feel less detailed than it really is
      - missing a lot of painted details including flames on rear fenders; silver on hood upper vents, Western Star logos, and grab bar behind doors; blue detailing on grille, any sort of paint on headlights and tail lights
      - red flame paint looks thin, doesn't wrap around or look as bold as movie paint
      - truck design is stretched at nose and behind the cab doors, giving it a narrower, less beefy look, and more blank unpainted space in front of and behind flames
      - smokestacks are hollow from the front
      - yellow windows are a little odd

      Age of Extinction Leader-class Optimus Prime is a mixed bag, with some fun and interesting bits tempered by some uninspiring elements. There is some personality here, a few things that are fun to fiddle with, and some pose potential. At the same time, there are drawbacks in robot mode that feel out of place for a figure this large and expensive, the massive panels and backpack, as well as a lack of screen accuracy. Unquestioningly, this figure is superior to the First Edition figure in almost every way; but it has less going on than previous movies' Leader-class figures, is smaller, and costs $5 more. The final rating is a 5.5/10.

      This review sample was supplied by Hasbro.