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|Movie Blackout||Reviewed by Thunderscream|
|The First Strike|
If any character in the 2007 Transformers movie had more names attached to them during the initial production stages, Blackout's the one. Internet rumor had him initially being called "Soundwave" while later official sources called him "Vortex," then "Incinerator" before they settled on "Blackout." As one of the first Transformers characters to have his robot mode made public, he served as an indication that the movie designers were going in a whole new direction for everyone's favorite robots in disguise. Released in the initial wave of movie-related toys, Blackout was could be purchased one of two ways; either individually or in a Toys R' Us exclusive "Decepticon Desert Attack" two-pack with Deluxe Scorponok.
|Altmode: Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Lowe|
The vehicle mode Blackout uses to disguise himself is the Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Lowe transport helicopter. Also known as the "Super Jolly Green Giant" or "Super Jolly" for short, the MH-53 is the US Air Force version of the Marine Corps' CH-53 "Sea Stallion" and while both have a similar appearance, there are some key differences. The most noticeable of these is found under the cockpit: the Pave Lowe possesses a retractable refueling boom and Doppler radar dome; the Sea Stallion lacks either of these modifications and thus has a much rounder cockpit.
Blackout's primary color is a deep shade of gray-blue, a slight departure from the steel-gray found on the real helicopter. The windows in the cockpit and along the sides of the fuselage have been painted black, while the refueling boom, engine intake cowlings, main rotor, tail rotor and trigger all been cast in black plastic. Yellow has been used to outline the left and right cockpit windows, the radar dome is painted gold, and two horizontal red lines have been painted across the upper left side of the tail. A light black spray wash has been applied to the body of the helicopter, mostly around the cockpit, on the side pontoons and along the tail. This is presumably so Blackout looks like he's got a little dirt and grime, like an aircraft that's been in service for time, lending a greater degree of realism to this form. This is the form Blackout takes in the individual Voyager packaging.
Blackout has a high degree of detailing sculpted into this form. The helicopter's fuselage is covered with depressed lines patterned in such a manner as to replicate metal paneling. The windows could have just been painted on, but the manufacturer has also carved them to look as if they've been set inside the frames. The sculptors managed to include windshield wipers between the front top windows of the cockpit. The intake cowlings have circular vent holes along the outside, just as it would look on the actual MH-53. The blades of the rotors have been cast so that they're at an angle, an aerodynamic feature that most real-life helicopters possess. Drop tanks have been molded and attached to the ends of Blackout's side pontoons, though, taking scale into account, these are somewhat smaller in appearance than what's seen on the helicopter in real life. What won't be found on Blackout in the form is the Decepticon emblem, a fairly uncommon trait on Transformers figures, past and present, but one that heightens the illusion of being a "robot in disguise." In the final issue of the IDW prequel comic, and even at the start of the movie, it appears that the Decepticons are doing everything in their power to conceal their presence on Earth and are aware there's is at least one Autobot on the planet, with more possibly on their way. While humans would likely not take notice of a Decepticon insignia emblazoned on one of their vehicles, an Autobot might, ruining a soldier's disguise, making concealing even that symbol of allegiance a priority. Unless an Autobot scanned Blackout, there's nothing on him to differentiate him from the real Pave Lowe.
The main action feature with Blackout involves his main rotor assembly. Push the trigger at the end of the tail in and the rotor spins for a short period; pumping the trigger causes it to spin continuously. Just be careful how vigorously you pump as the body of the helicopter and even the cage can fall out of place, depending on how tight the joints on these parts are. The tail rotor can spin as well, though that requires manually pushing on one of the blades with a finger. The blades of the main rotor are able to fold up towards the back and while it has to do with Blackout's transformation, it is a feature commonly found on the H-53 series so that they can be stored in hangars or on carriers in large numbers. In regards to the toy, it's a useful feature to store Blackout in a crowded desk drawer or on a cluttered shelf. If anyone is confused about the best direction in which to fold the blades, the manufacturer has been gracious enough to sculpt a little triangle onto the rotor mount; just turn the rotor until the top of the triangle points towards the cockpit.
Blackout has another action attribute, which involves the "cage" at the rear of the helicopter, just under the tail. Blackout comes packaged with a small Scorponok figure, which is stored in the cage; it's also where the smaller Decepticon can be deployed to hunt down any stragglers who've escaped the main assault. To release Scorponok, press down on the black-colored trigger on the right of the enclosure; the door will fall open and Scorponok will drop out. This feature is located in a surprisingly appropriate place as this is precisely where the rear cargo ramp hatch is found on the MH-53. I should note that the cage may not lock securely in place on some toys and thus fall open on its own if Blackout is jostled slightly. One will also noticed three pegs on Blackout; one in the center of the tail boom and one over each drop tank. While these are intended for certain aspects of his robot mode, it's interesting to note that one can fit a Minicon or Energon weapon on the side pegs. It's a rather tight fit, however, and it does have the potential to interfere with the rotor blades. He has three sets of plastic wheels, a retractable gear under the nose and one under each of the pontoons. The wheels are separate pieces from the struts and roll freely, allowing Blackout to move across a smooth surface. One needs to be cautious of "flash," un-sanded bits of plastic on the side of the wheels that can get stuck in the wells, preventing them from moving at all, but this can be solved with some sanding.
Turn Blackout on his back while in helicopter mode and you'll notice a pair of pegs on his underside along with a hole just in front of the cage. These allow the deluxe Scorponok figure to attach to Blackout while he's in vehicle mode. Just turn Scorponok's tail so that it's under him and line up the corresponding holes and pegs and the two are ready to charge into battle together. There's a cool little feature with this combination; pump the tail trigger on Blackout and as the main rotor spins, it also rotates the hole in front of the cage, which, when attached to the peg at the base of Scorponok's tail causes his pincers to spin. Though a neat little interaction between two figures, the scale is considerably off and it's not really true to how the pair works together in the movie. It could also be argued that it adds more value to Scorponok than it does to Blackout. It's also a bit difficult to display the pair in this form, so unless the Scorponok's tail is straightened out behind him, which makes him look like Blackout's flattened him, or someone has a tall enough stand, it's probably best to display them separately. They cannot combine while either is in robot mode.
Always read the instructions before you begin converting your Transformer. With Blackout, where you start depends on which box you bought him in. The instructions that come with the individually packed Voyager release start from his helicopter form while those in the Desert Attack pack start in robot mode. Since each set of directions correspond with how the figure is packaged, this shouldn't pose an issue.
The official rating for Blackout's conversion is "3 Advanced" and it may take a couple of attempts to get the hang of it, but it quickly becomes old hat. The hardest part is getting his "automorph" gimmick to work correctly. Automorph is a term used to describe the technology that allows the Transformers in the movie to rapidly convert between forms. On Blackout, gears in the cockpit allow the head and chest of the robot to rotate forward when his waist is pulled back. This takes a little bit of finesse to perform correctly and may even require a slight adjustment to get the head and chest in the right position. There have also been reports of the gears slipping out of place, causing center part of the cockpit to stick up a bit. This can easily be fixed by unscrewing the right side of the cockpit and resetting the gears, but it's still an annoyance. I personally have not been impressed with this gimmick in any of the figures that possess them; it might have been better to leave it out entirely.
Blackout's robotic form stands an impressive seven and a half inches tall from the bottom of his feet to the top of his shoulders. All of the colors of his helicopter mode carry over to this form, though the front of his legs, arms, and chest bear more black on them. There's a little silver on sides of his chest and abdomen and there's a small, silver Decepticon insignia stamped in the center, just under his head. His hands and the missiles over his shoulders are cast in bone-while plastic. His head is sculpted from two pieces of blue-gray plastic with the front half painted mostly black. The back of his head and his optics are cast in clear red plastic, hold a small flashlight behind his head and the optics appear to glow. The Toys R' Us Decepticon Desert Attack two-pack has him packaged in this form
In almost every movie related media released, from early concept art to the pages of comic books to the film trailers, Blackout has been shown as a large, hulking, powerful looking individual that towers over all around him, including many of his fellow Decepticons. Considering the MH-53 is one of the bulkier helicopters in service, the appearance of the robot using it shouldn't be a surprise. The designers attempted to mimic these features in the toy and they succeeded to a certain degree. The limbs are covered in detail work intended to replicate the struts, wires and panels seen on his animation model. His shoulders are broad and extremely tall, plus there's a large speaker-like vent on is back, presumably the generator for the EMP pulse he emits in the film's opening scenes. The shoulders and EMP generator are set so high on him that they create a well around his head, limiting his field of view from right in front of him to about fifteen degrees on either side. They also interfere with lighting the optics; any light source has to come in from the top. The head is probably the biggest design departure: in concept artwork and from the headshot on the box, Blackout has a tall, narrow, head with an owl-like face. The toy manages to preserve the owl-like appearance, but is shorter and wider than what has been shown. Given the mechanical, almost hollow nature of the character's face, added to the need for his to fit in place during and after the conversion process, it's an acceptable modification. Blackout possesses a pair of rockets at the top of each shoulder, giving him an extra set of long-range weaponry. These have been glued into place and so can't be removed. His hands have been cast so that they form a thumb and two fingers and are open in the shape of a "C," a common feature on many Decepticon figures.
Blackout has twenty points of articulation, most of them concentrated around his limbs. The missile mounts on his shoulders can be lifted or lowered to an individual's content and the head can turn completely around. The shoulders swing back and forth, the arms rise, fall and turn at the shoulder, the elbows bend and the hands can "wave" at the wrists. He can turn at the torso, the legs can swing at the waist, move to the side, and bend at the knees. His long toes can also be positioned slightly depending on the intended pose. He's pretty stable in this form and can be posed in almost any manner without the danger of tipping over. Though he looks something like a tripod thanks to his tail hanging down behind him, he doesn't need it to stand, which is good since it detaches to become a shoulder mounted weapon. Carefully snap the pack off his back, push the rotor section down ninety degrees, unfold the blades, line up a hole under the midsection with the peg on his shoulder, adjust his arm so his hand can grasp the small tab under the rotor and Blackout is armed for combat. The spinning rotor feature works in this configuration, which sort of gives the impression that he's holding a large fan. Unfortunately, putting his backpack on his shoulders changes his center of gravity, cutting his possibility. If he's standing straight up, for example, his legs have to be spread apart so he doesn't tip over, and if the joints in his hips aren't tight enough, he'll end up doing the splits. It's also contrary to what's been seen up to this point; in promotional material for the video game tie in, Blackout can be seen holding the main rotor, without the extra tail kibble, using it like a large buzz saw and even has it fold up to wield the blades like a club or sword, all with the skill of a martial artist. This setup seems a little too awkward for such action and is more akin to hefting a bazooka than being an effective weapon. The cage holding the Scorponok mini-figure is fully functional in this mode and since it's attached to the tail boom, the small Decepticon can be deployed whether the tail is attached to Blackout's back or on his shoulder. It will require a little manual help to open the cage in either configuration; he won't drop from the shoulder like he will from the helicopter and dropping him off his partner's pack seems a little awkward for both.
There are a few other problems with Blackout. One small issue is the appearance of stress marks on him, particularly around the holes that help hold him together in vehicle mode. Stress marks are discolored streaks of plastic that can appear when slot is too small for its peg or a part has been overextended but not to its breaking point. Reports vary and some figures may not develop signs of this flaw, but it's something to watch out for. Another issue is his size; the bio on the back of the Voyager packaging describes Blackout as "the largest of Decepticons" and in the few cases where he's shown with other Transformers he is one of the biggest. However, when compared to the other Voyager-class toys, he looks rather short and skinny. Making him into a slightly larger figure might have helped make him look a little more imposing and even open up some action possibilities for him. His waist also has trouble staying connected to his upper torso, causing him come loose when handled mildly, much less in the vigorous manner a child would treat the toy.
|Scorponok Micro Figure|
In the movie, Scorponok is Blackout's partner, the only Transformers character in the movie with a form that resembles an animal and the only one that doesn't transform. Operating more on instinct than intellect, he's deployed in the first scenes to hunt down a band of American soldiers who manage to escape Blackout's attack on a military base. Given the relationship between the pair, and that the scale between Blackout and deluxe Scorponok is considerably off, it's only appropriate that smaller version of Scorponok would be included. Measuring less than two inches in length and an inch in height, the Scorponok micro figure is tiny in comparison to his partner, even his deluxe counterpart. He's cast in bone-white colored plastic with black spray wash along his back and tail. An amazing amount of detail has been sculpted into him, including the grinders down the middle of his back, the face and eyes on his head, metal paneling on the pincers, and spine-like joints on the tail.
Although Blackout can interact with the deluxe Scorponok figure, the fact that he comes with a smaller Scorponok figure is both appropriate and closer to how the pair is portrayed in the film. In the movie, Scorponok is not much taller than the average human and hides easily on Blackout's person. The disproportional scale of Blackout and deluxe Scorponok makes this somewhat unfeasible, so it's nice the designers thought to include a smaller version of the little terror. The micro figure is stored in a small cage under Blackout's tail and can be deployed by depressing a small black button in front of the cage. Although he's upside-down in the cage, he'll land right side up when he's released, depending on how high he is from the landing surface. His only point of articulation is at the tail; push the tail down, then release it, and it pops back into position thanks to a spring at the base.
Though "micro" Scorponok is a good companion figure, he seems a little bland in the color department. A paint scheme similar to but not exactly the same as deluxe Scorponok could have been used in place of his current black and white scheme. A couple of more pins at the shoulder joints for his pincer arms could have been used to give him a couple more points of articulation. Some figure may have a weak spring in their tail, meaning it won't immediately snap back into place when released, if at all.
Blackout has an excellent vehicle mode, a complex transformation process, an admirable robot mode and a mildly interesting combination with the deluxe version of Scorponok. He's got a few problems with joint tightness in both modes, his automorph feature is a pain that could have been excluded, and his weapon seems a bit over the top. Even so, he's a pretty decent toy, worth picking up for a kid or the kid at heart, but I do recommend considering your options carefully when picking him up. If you have an interest in buying deluxe Scorponok, you should look into the Desert Attack pack at Toys R' Us; if not, the more widely distributed Voyager single pack is probably your best bet.
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