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|Movie Brawl||Reviewed by Thunderscream|
Brawl could be considered one of the more obscure characters in the Transformers series, especially to fans that've only recently become familiar with the franchise. The name was originally given to a "Generation One" character known for his hair-trigger temper, desire for wonton destruction, and for being a member of a group known as "Combaticons". The name has only reappeared once since that toy's initial release, for a repaint of the original figure that was released in the Generation Two toy line. After a thirteen-year absence, Brawl makes his grand return in the 2007 movie Transformers from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, complete with a persona that's very similar to that of his predecessor. Of all the characters in the movie, his is so far been the only one who hasn't been seen in trailers or commercials; fans have only seen the character in production stills and concept art, and even then he was the last to be revealed. The movie toy provides one of the few glimpses of this most enigmatic character.
|Altmode: M1 Abrams Tank|
The first Brawl had a tank for his vehicle mode; this latest incarnation of the character returns to the classic form. Whereas the original Combaticon bore a resemblance to a Leopard 1 military tank, the movie character takes the form of an M1 Abrams, albeit one that's been heavily modified. It should be noted that the toy actually has less modifications than what photos from the movie and associated video game have indicated, most likely due to the safety laws in some jurisdictions. He's colored primarily in olive and dark gray camouflage, a departure from the more familiar sand that the M1 is seen sporting, but is rather fitting for the character. He also has light gray for the supports for his smoke dischargers on the turret and the trigger on the cannon, and black for the dischargers, treads, spare gas barrels on his back, and back-mounted claws. A small, dark grey Decepticon emblem has been stamped on the main gun turret, just behind the cannon barrel.
Brawl's tank form is solid, with only a few loose sections that can come loose with light handling. The piece that hold the main turret in place doesn't lock, but it does hold it firmly enough so that it doesn't come apart, unless you try lifting the figure up that way. The front side panels on the main body don't lie flat against the driver's section and create a slight gap, but this is relatively minor problem that doesn't detract from the toy's overall appearance.
There are several features on Brawl that differentiate him structurally from a real M1 Abrams. In the tank's front, just forward of the treads, are a pair of six-bladed claws, which some versions of the M1 have been seen carrying. While some might interpret these as "mine catchers," they bear a stronger resemblance to the "hedgerow cutters" that World War Two tank crews attached to their tanks while fighting in Europe. It's a rather feature considering the M1 was originally designed to fight in the same geography its World War II predecessors fought in. The most noticeable "modification" on the figure is the addition of a second, smaller turret, complete with a pair of small caliber cannons. This could be considered a visual homage to the original toy, which also bore a set of double cannons. The designers have also managed to give the smaller turret the ability to move independent of the larger one, though one will have to hold big one in place. This little touch could have easily been ignored; that it was included is a credit to the designers and manufacturers. Attached to either side of the smaller turret is a set of quad-barreled launchers that could be seen as either smoke dischargers or grenade launchers, adding another small but significant aspect that a child can wrap their imagination around.
Brawl has a few action features in this mode. His turrets can turn 360 degrees and can do so independently of each other. The large cannon in the main turret is capable of firing a single projectile included with the figure; the action is done with a spring-activated trigger on the top rear of the gun base. Due to the nature of his transformation, the main gun can't rise or fall, but that's not much of a detriment. There is also a set of small wheels in his treads that allow him to roll easily over a smooth surface.
As with any Transformer figure, I recommend reading the instructions before making any attempt to transform Brawl for the first time. Although his packaging rates his transformation as an "advanced conversion" (a 3 on a scale of 1 to 4), transformation is actually rather easy after the first couple of tries. The hardest part will be rotating the pieces his arms are mounted on into their proper positions; especially since his arms have some kibble attached to them, which can get in the way. The instructions also neglect a couple of steps, such as turning the smaller turret so the barrels are pointing up and opening panels on the sides of the small turret so as to extend the quad-barrels up so that they're positioned over the shoulders.
Several movie figures employ a gimmick that official sources have referred to as "automorph technology," or just simply "automorphing." In the movie, automorph technology is what allows the Transformers characters to transform rapidly in the heat of battle; in real life, it simply means that moving certain parts of a figure triggers others to move into place automatically. On Brawl, pushing his chest piece down causes his head and the front treads to rise up into place; pushing the chest up again causes them to fall back into place. It's an interesting little gimmick, though somewhat disappointing compared to the spring-activated transformations of some early Beast Wars figures and even the contemporary Fast Action Battler toys.
When measured from his feet to the top of his back, Brawl stands less than five inches in robot mode, slightly more if the gun barrels on his back are taken into account. All of the colors of his tank form carry over into this one; there's a little more black on him now, mostly on the front of his forearms, hands, midsection, and inner thighs. He has a little silver on his face, mostly around the "mouth" and he bears a bit of gold on his forehead, chin, shoulders, and upper legs. The back of his head and eyes have been molded out of a single piece of clear red plastic; hold a small flashlight at the back of his head and the optics appear to glow.
Brawl's robot mode is less of a departure from the traditional, human looking forms that most fans are used to with their favorite robots in disguise, especially when compared to many of his fellow Decepticons, some of whom have truly unique forms. Even so, he does have a couple of features that are different from what fans have come to expect. His head is very boxy and the face has been sculpted to look more alien and machine-like. The hands are probably the most noticeable feature in this mode; his hands are three fingered claws instead of the more traditional fists, though their sculpted as if they're closing around something. The bottom finger of each hand has been constructed as a separate piece from the thumb and forefinger, giving him the appearance having three separate fingers. It obviously took some thought and effort to achieve this and is a nice visual touch that adds to his powerful and fearsome appearance. In appearance, Brawl reminds me of some of the drill sergeants one sees in movies and TV series in this form, though I believe his personality would be similar to Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket. He's powerfully built without looking overly clunky and is definitely armed to the teeth. This is obviously not a character an Autobot would take lightly in combat.
Brawl has nine points of articulation that allow him to be posed in any position balance will allow. His head can turn 360 degrees in all directions, though he really couldn't see anything sneaking up behind him. His arms and legs are mounted on ball joints, allowing them to swivel about are able bend at the elbows and knees. A pair of joints just above his knees allows the legs to swing from side to side; this would be rather awkward on a human, but fits an extraterrestrial robot just fine. Because of how they've been built, his hands cannot rotate at the wrists, but this could be considered an acceptable loss. All of the joints on him are tightly fitted, though not to the point where they are difficult to move. His right arm carries the main cannon, which is able to rotate on its mount, though I get the impression that it's intended to be a fixed mount, to be aimed in whatever direction the character is pointing. The rear of the cannon has been sculpted to resemble machinery of some type; it's vague enough to be interpreted as energy batteries, cannon shells, or anything else the imagination can conjure. It is fully capable of firing the single projectile that comes with the figure. He carries another weapon on the wrist of his left arm, which looks like a small Gatling gun with a pair of long, sharp blades at the end; Brawl definitely has one devastating left hook. The detail molded into this weapon is a little more intricate than that found on the cannon; there's even an ammo belt being fed into the chamber of the Gatling.
Brawl has a couple of major, and they all pertain to the pieces that are supposed to hold his arms in place. The piece that makes up the bottom of the gun turret is narrowed down in the back to fit into the depression in his back, just behind his head. However, this part seems to have been molded slightly too wide for the space and doesn't quite stay in place, at least not without popping out. Sanding down the sides might fix this problem, but I would recommend that this not be attempted unless you're an expert "kitbasher." The other problem involves the pegs and slots that are supposed to hold his arms to against sides of his chest. The small, trapezoidal pegs don't lock into their corresponding holes, so the arms can fall out of place easily with even the slightest handling. Placing a small indentation on the pegs themselves, or even making round pegs, might have fixed this problem. Because of his arm issues, placing the figure in any action pose is problematic, especially since the arms have to be held down when trying to move them. It can also affect the figure's stability; an arm out of place can send him toppling over.
The only "accessory" that Brawl comes packaged with is a single missile for his main cannon. The missiles' construction is rather simple, molded from a single, three-inch straight piece of clear red plastic. There's a knob at the end that's been sculpted to look like flame from a cannon blast and grooves have been carved into the top so that it fits snuggly into the barrel. A notch at the back has been cut into it so that the spring-activated trigger can hold it in place. One does have to consider that he has a number of integrated weaponry on him, but it still feels like he got the short end of the accessory stick.
Brawl has an excellent vehicular form and a strong robot form, but collectors and kids alike may be put off by the problems with his arms. Despite that glaring problem, he's a good catch and he definitely lives up to his G1 predecessor. He's a welcome addition to any Decepticon army.
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