Not every toy collector collects the same things. In fact, if you look around, you’ll find that pretty much every major reviewer has certain favorites, and certain lines that did not make the cut. For me, it’s Transformers. I don’t collect Transformers. Why? Well, there are five reasons: – cost, space, cost, space, and cost. My budget os stretched thin enough as it is, and the last thing I want is to get sucked down yet another money sink. It’s a little sad, since I actually get Transformers requests… so hey, there’s a new movie coming out this month, and why not try one out?
Well, just this once.
Grimlock was always my favorite Transformer because he was my sister’s. We would play out in the yard with our friends, and she always got to be Grimlock. Our grandma gave us some bootleg Grimlock toys once, and we never knew that they weren’t the real thing (they were brown instead of gray). So when I saw that everybody’s favorite robosaurus was going to appear in the new Transformers movie, I pretty much made the decision to pick one up. THere are a lot of different Grimlock toys out there, too, ranging in size and complexity – at least one of them has a “one-step” transformation, though I can’t imagine how it would look good.
This is the Voyager Class figure, which I guess locks it into a 7″-8″ scale. Again, I’m just not terribly familiar with Transformers – the last “real” TF piece I picked up was the Fishbee from Beast Wars back in the ’90s (note: I also own the Toaster from one of the movies, but he doesn’t count). So please forgive me if I miss out on any fandom subtleties, I am flying blind.
Grimlock comes in a big window box. It shows off and protects the figure, and includes several pictures and a bio on the back. The biography tries to keep it mystery whether Grimlock will join the Autobots or Decepticons, but seeing as how the ads all show Optimus Prime riding him like a pony, I think we have our answer. But after all the clamshell and blister packs that I have had to deal with in Life In Plastic, it’s nice to open an ordinary box.
Grimlock’s robot form is very, very reminiscent of a Samurai. Or a Chinese soldier. Yes, I am aware that they are different, but Hollywood sure isn’t! Grimlock has a decidedly asian flare if you squint really hard, especially visible in the layered cut of his pauldrons or the sweeping curve of his head crest. Okay, it’s really visible in the face – Grimlock’s head is about half a step removed from a Kabuto. It manages to give him some style without pandering, although I have no idea what east asian soldiers have to do with a dinosaur.
But let’s be honest, Grimlock’s robot form isn’t why somebody would buy him. He’s a dinobot. We’re here for the dinosaur! Grimlock turns into a gigantic and stylized Tyrannosaurus Rex. In his classic look, Grimlock reflected the era’s concept of dinosaurs – big, bulky, and standing straight up. He was also pretty pear-shaped, a lot like Godzilla. His new design reflects a new era with our modern understanding of the Tyrannosaurus Rex – you know, the idea that they had devil horns and an exposed exoskeleton. Okay, maybe he’s been stylized a little bit. Movie Transformers tend to look one part Terminator and one part Alien, and that aesthetic has carried over to Grimlock. It isn’t as evident in his toy, which seems to have ditched the most overt Gigeresque details, but make no mistake that they are present. He’s more than a dinosaur. He is a beast.
And of course, Grimlock has kibble! Kibble being leftover parts from either form that the transformation could not hide. He isn’t as bad as a “shellformer” (a Transformer whose transformation is basically stuffing the robot into a shell), but you can see a few of his parts. The lower jaw of his T-Rex form handGs loosely behind him along with a section of his neck, his dino feet are clearly attached to his elbows, and his pauldrons have tiny T-Rex arms hanging from them. The fact that most of the kibble is hidden behind Grimlock is a good thing, as it hides it from most displays. His T-Rex form is a little dodgy from some angles, but overall looks far more complete than his robot form.
Let’s get this straight: Unless I’m colorblind, this toy is not painted like Grimlock in the movie. Movie-Grimlock is brown and gray. Toy-Grimlock is orange and silver. Maybe he’s a darker, dingier orange in the movie, but this difference is hard to miss. It isn’t the first time it’s happened – Movie-Shockwave was gunmetal gray with a dark purple tint while the toy was violet, after all. And even with the inaccuracy, it’s probably for the best.
Each piece is cast in its own color, thus providing minimal paint apps that can scuff with play. They are there, just not too prevalent. And his color scheme is eye-catching, with an excellent shade of copper-orange that helps Grimlock stand out.
This is normally where I would list a figure’s articulation by joint type and number, but it’s just not possible with this one. Because of his transformation, Grimlock moves everywhere, and most of his joints are ball joints. The ones that aren’t are generally hinges rather than swivels, or hinges set up with swivels. He can take an incredible amount of gymnastic poses in either form, although there are a few oddities – his hands do not swivel, even though the dinosaur claws can rotate to cover them.
In dinosaur mode, Grimlock is surprisingly agile, with full motion in his digitigrade legs. His arms just have the one joint each, but come on, T-Rex arms are meant to be pathetic. His jaw moves as an action feature – press the button in his neck, and his mouth snaps closed. Release to open it again. It’s cute, but it limits the ways you can pose him. His jaws will be open. His tail actually has a hinge in it, despite most of its length being taken up by a stiff weapon.
Let’s talk about the transformation. Grimlock’s robot-to-dinosaur transformation is featured as having eighteen steps. The instructions aren’t perfectly clear, but it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. I have no idea if it is comparatively simple or complex for a Transformer, but it’s amazing to see him change. A pseudo-Samurai robot becomes a Tyrannosaurus Rex with very, very little sloppiness. Essentially, you combine his shoulder guards with the kibble on his back, pull his claws over his hands and rotate them, fold his legs into a tail and turn them around, bring his arms around and bend the into legs,connect his pauldrons into a chest segment, pull out his chestplate so it hides his face, connect his weapon to his tail, and press it all together. It’s simpler than it sounds, and surprisingly creative! I actually have fun messing with Grimlock’s transformation, which is a really good sign that it isn’t an annoying mess.
Grimlock comes with one accessory, an Awkward Mace. Really, it’s awkward. The weapon is a micture betwen spear and spiked morning star, with a removable spiked head and a blade on the butt of the shaft. It’s a little too short to be a spear and too long for a mace, but decent for a javelin. He also can’t hold it properly – just like the Mechanized Patriot, Grimlock’s hands are permanently “closed” – thumb and forefinger connect, so there is no give in his fingers whatsoever. Any weapon will have to be threaded through the hole, and his hands are constructed from really sturdy plastic. Since his own mace is too thick to fit in either hand, Grimlock’s weapon gets a small side handle, kind of like a kali stick. But since his wrists don’t rotate, there is no way that he can hold this thing and look natural. The weapon’s one saving grace is how it functions as a tail extension. Does he use this thing in the movie? Is it just random kibble? We won’t know until the film comes out.
Grimlock costs $25.00, which is just past most people’s threshold for a toy. It’s certainly a work of engineering wonder, so the immediate play value is tremendous. The figure doesn’t quite look s good on a shelf as, say, NECA’s offerings, but that isn’t what this is for. You are paying for the transformation. I can’t fault it too much for the price, but I have to admit that it’s a good deterrent from getting more.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
I know that this thing is durable, but it feels fragile – it’s the hard plastic. The joints are all designed to pop out rather than break, which is a good thing, and I honestly cannot think of any genuinely fragile pieces. It just feels lightweight.
WHERE TO BUY:
As Transformers are mainstream and tied into a big summer blockbuster, you can find these everywhere. I got mine at Toys R Us.
This is a robot dinosaur that transforms into a robot samurai. I really can’t fault it very much. Just on coolness factor alone, it wins big. The likeness is an issue, but you get that with nearly every Transformer made, and there isn’t much that can be done about it aside from reviving the Robot Replicas line. So is Grimlock perfect? Well, no, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he will look nothing like this toy when we finally see him on-screen. But as a toy, Voyager Class Grimlock is fantastic. It manages to hit a balance between looking cool and being functional, with a transformation that isn’t too hard to figure out.
I try to keep a good variety on this blog. Along with all the Predators and He-Man figures and Independent Keshi, you can find some unique reviews like Gremlins, Garbage Pail Kids, Ninja Turtles, B-Movies, and even some really obscure demons. So although Grimlock has not converted me into a full Transfan (do they still use that word? Does it mean what I think it means?), but I certainly like the figure.