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Movie Protoform Starscream Reviewed by Thunderscream
It Came Because Space Was Too Cold

As the 2007 Transformers movie edged closer to opening day, Hasbro slowly began to roll out its tie-n toy line. The main line wasn't due to be sold until the first weekend of June, but the company decided that it would attempt to whet the interests of children and collectors with the release of two "preview" figures a month before the general release. Called "protoforms," the figures were intended to show how these characters looked before they obtained their "local camouflage" in the movie. The characters chosen to be previewed are arguably the two most popular in the franchise: Optimus Prime and Starscream. This review will focus on the Starscream figure.


Altmode: Entry Mode

Starscream's so-called "entry mode" looks very much like a mechanical version of a comet's core or a meteor. It's meant to represent the pod-like forms the Transformers characters use to arrive on Earth in the movie. The primary color used on this form is a dark brownish-gold, with applications of silver on the "face" and along the lower sides. A pair of intake fans has been molded into the front of the "comet" and painted black, while red has been applied on the front and lower side panels. A Decepticon emblem has been sculpted into the panel that cover's Starscream's head; both have been painted silver so the insignia can be hard to spot with just a casual glance.

The entry mode is very alien in appearance, definitely lending itself to the "not from Earth" theme the designers have been aiming for in the movie. Although this form is intended to represent the character's form just before he lands on Earth, there are a couple of design elements that do indicate his future form, namely the intakes in the front and two pairs of fins, one set of horizontal fins in the back and another pair of vertical fins in the front, on the top of the pod's "head." The front of the entry vehicle bears a resemblance to a creepy, insect-like face: the intakes form eyes, the front panels point outward creating a beak-like nose and there's a small mouth formed by a gap between the "beak" and the part that will become his waist in robot mode.

Most of the joints that hold Starscream together in this form do so tightly enough that nothing flops around. The only problem comes with the parts that become his legs; his gun is supposed to go between the legs and upper panel of the comet and can be jostled out of place if handled too much. There are three wheels on the underside of the comet form on which Starscream can roll down a smooth surface rather easily. Because they're arranged in a "tricycle" manner and set very close to each other and far in front, he does have a slight tendency to wobble when he rolls. Starscream also has a set of fins at the front along the side that normally should be closed against his form. However, one could open these fins in this form and imagine them acting as a type of "airbrake", slowing his decent through the atmosphere so his landing isn't so rough.


Transformation

Keep the instructions on hand and make sure to read them before attempting to transform Starscream for the first time. Even so, transforming this character is an easy process and most should get it after the first try. I do wish to warn folks to keep a sharp eye on their instructions; Starscream comes packaged in his robotic form, where most instructions should start. However, there has been at least one report of an instruction poster having been misprinted to start from his entry mode. It may simply be a single error, but it is something to watch out for.

Protoform Starscream could be considered the first figure to employ a gimmick officially known as "automorph technology." This technology is supposed to be what allows the Transformers in the movie to convert quickly during combat. On Protoform Starscream, this simply means that gears in his chest cause his head to rise on its own when the arms are pulled forward. This is where the confusion with misprinted instructions can come in, as the head won't fall back into its compartment when the arms are pushed back. Another problem that can crop up is when placing Starscream's hand gun into the slots in the dorsal. The slots and tabs don't hold the gun securely so the legs can knock it out of place when they're folded up. Although there's a hole in the dorsal for the trigger to go, it's still very easy to send the missile flying off unintentionally.


Robot Mode

Protoform Starscream stands about 5 inches in robot mode, not unusual for a deluxe-class figure. All of the colors of his entry mode carry over into his robotic form; the only color additions to the figure are the silver and black on the head. The back of the head and the optics have been fitted with a piece of clear, red plastic; shine a light in the back and the optic appear to glow.

Starscream is one of the most popular Decepticons in the franchise and his physical appearance in the movie has been a subject of often heated controversy. With Protoform Starscream, it's clear that designers wanted incorporate the classic design of the original character with the features he's seen with in the movie. There are several physical features of the toy that are almost definite nods to the original character. The intake vents on either side of his chest are located in nearly the exact same place as a set of depression in the chest of the original toy. The two vertical fins on either side of his head take the place of the intake vents on the G1 figure. There is also a stabilizer fin on the outside of his ankles, as was the case with his predecessor. Keen eyed fans might see other similarities with his ancestor, but much of it is subject to personal interpretation. The differences between the two characters include a much more alien appearance, a much more slender design, and the lack of null ray rifles on the arms of Protoform Starscream. The hands have been sculpted to look like three-fingered clamps rather than human fists, open slightly as if to indicate a relaxed poise, though they're rounded middle so that he can hold onto his gun. The head is the most noticeable difference, much more like an insect's than the helmeted human faced appearance most fans were used to. Some have pointed out that it's very similar to the cranium of the Beast Wars character Quickstrike. Keen observers will notice that the picture on the back of Starscream's packaging shows a different, more box-like head on the figure; apparently the sculpt was a changed between the time that picture was taken to when the figure was actually released. Whether this was due to production problems or to better match the appearance of the character in the movie is unknown. Personally I believe that the head in the picture is better than what is on the figure.

Starscream has fourteen points of articulation in this form, most of which are centered on his limbs. The head can turn from side to side, though the fins on either side combined with his chin prevent him from turning his all the way around. The arms are set on ball joints at the shoulders and a pivot joint underneath that, the elbows bend and the wrists can turn on a pivot. The legs are also set on ball joints at the hips and the knees can bend. His torso his connected to his abdomen via a ball joint, though this makes his midsection somewhat unstable. The joints are fit firmly into their sockets so there is no "wiggling" of limbs, though they're not so tight that it's impossible to move them. The only exceptions are the joints under the shoulders, which are attached so tightly that it's difficult to turn them without also moving the shoulder joint. The fins that are attached on the upper arms can also get in the way and don't lock into the open position, so they can close and impede movement. He's fairly stable thanks to his big feet so positioning him in any action poses isn't a problem.


Accessories

Starscream comes with a handheld blaster that's been molded in the same brown-gold plastic as the figure itself. The blaster is very angular in appearance and has several vents and wires sculpted into it. It's capable of firing a small, three inch long projectile up to two feet away, far enough to get lost behind furniture. The missile has been molded in brown-gold plastic and has some very odd engravings in it, almost flame-like. The designers may have had clear plastic in mind during the figure's planning stages, but the manufacturers made a change in the construction for whatever reason. It would have been nice if the missile was made out of clear red plastic as it would have added a little more color to the figure. Since the gun is stored internally when Starscream is in entry mode, a red missile could have lent itself to hinting that the gun also serves as an engine of some sort. This is a serious oversight on the part of the manufacturer.

Also included is a small, triangular piece of soft plastic that's been molded out of clear red plastic and lightly painted with gold-yellow paint to resemble a stream of flames. A concave depression has been carved into the wide end of the flames so that it can be attached to the tip of the missile when Starscream is in entry form. This is presumably meant to represent the exhaust of whatever type of engine he uses to propel him through the expanse of space. It could also be consider the tail of the fireball that engulfs him upon hitting Earth's atmosphere, though that could be a stretch of the imagination. The piece also has grooves at the tip so that it can fit into the muzzle of the gun, making it look like muzzle flash as Starscream blasts away at his opponent. The missile can also be placed in the depression to give the impression of a recent launch, though notched end has to be pointed outward for it to work right and making it look somewhat comical. The notched end of the flame is rather short and doesn't reach all the way to the trigger, so it can't be fired. While I'm sure the designers intended on this piece to look like fire of some kind, I can't help seeing the folded top of an umbrella. Stick the flames on the missile and then place it in his hands and it looks very much like he's carrying an umbrella; pose him right and it looks like he's doing a rendition of "Singing in the Rain."


Final Thoughts

Protoform Starscream is an excellent transition from what fans have seen before to what they can expect in the movie. He has room for improvement, specifically in regards to his accessories, but overall, he's not a bad addition to anyone's collection.

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