Friday, 19 January 2018

Jurassic Renaissance

- Ben Watson

I've never been much of a fan of the Dinobots. In fiction they're either portrayed as a group of lumbering dimwits or 2edgy4me "badasses". Couple this with the fact I suspect I grew out of a childhood fascination with dinosaurs around the age of 9 and these iconic staples of Transformers history have never had much sway over me. But now, thanks to their latest incarnations I think that's about to change.

Having grown up with Beast Wars adjacent to the second Jurassic Park film, Young Ben loved some dinos and would happily reel off their names like some kind of cretaceous incantation. Back then T-Rexes were suave Machiavellian villains and Velociraptors, cunning warriors. However upon unearthing the Dinobots some years later left something to be desired. Here I was met with something that should by all rights be extremely cool - proper robot dinosaurs - but due to the toys' dated appearance and the group's lacking characterisation I think the best I could muster in response was "huh."

Subsequent reanimations for the team did equally little to stir my interest. I didn't pay attention to Animated at the time, never had any access to the early 2000's Dinobots subline and was made to groan and scratch my head at their apparently pivotal inclusion in Age of Extinction only to see them perform very little on the big screen. Of course at this point new dino figures in colourful imaginative forms flooded shelves and my personal saturation point was quickly reached. I can probably chart a solid 6 weeks of 2014 where I genuinely found appeal in the reinvented team and their perfectly fitting new members. Now though, I honestly think they'd be the first lot to go in a sales purge. Leave the movie lines to realistic vehicles, if I wanted some Digimon, I'd go buy them. But where does this leave the present day and the clear turnaround of thought that's making me write this article? 

After a brief moment of going "I actually really like this" when met with RID 2015's gold version of Grimlock I did stop and think equivalent figures of the other lads would be something I could go for. Of course, that never came to be and we were left with a single solitary big-name-from-previous-movie-hype-cash-in dino. But he was enough to open my eyes to the possibility of new G1 themed Dinobots being a bit of a hit. Roll on Power of The Primes' first wave providing as much dino content as the whole of Animated in one fell swoop (pardon the pun) and I became firmly fossilised in the notion of getting my hands on every dino the line would have to offer. 

Initial photography showed some wonkiness to the figures but when that's the sign of combinatorial sacrifices being made, I can certainly live with it. You may expect I was indifferent to the reveal of Volcanicus, the team's new combined form but this emergent behemoth may be a huge factor in the revived Dinobots' status as Actually Rather Good. 

I loved Combiner Wars' ethic of putting Special Teams and higher tier characters on the same footing by making them all gestalt ready and seeing the same being done with the Dinobots is a delight. Let's face it, most other five man teams in Transformers combine already, it's a no-brainer to add the dinos to that list and it adds a layer of fun to these figures that really makes them shine. That and the fact they're quite shiny. The uniform shade of gunmetal plastic for their bodies is spot on along with an applause worthy clear plastic over gold detailing effect. Hell, even the stickers on Grimlock add that necessary retro vibe to make him feel perfect. Somehow, where the G1 Dinobots always looked dated, the POTP Dinobots look both fresh and perfectly evocative of their iconic original selves. 

Excellent mechanical detail abounds in that modern crisp manner. Articulation and G1 proportions coexist. Headsculpts are more on-point than any predecessors. Paint jobs do everything they need to (unless you wanted Swoop to be red, sorry) but also much more than ever before. Now, the Dinobots don't just represent a uniform team with their shared colour schemes, but also the most visually cohesive combiner around - at least once Sludge and Snarl are released. In short, the POTP Dinobots seem to be a masterclass in updating G1 designs and they've totally won me over. 

I'll always value the qualities of a toy over the nuances of the character from fiction it represents every time (if indeed that character even appears in any fiction. Lookin' at you Slash). So with the sheer satisfaction these figures bring, I can totally overlook their 90% Furmanism By Volume personalities and for the first time also really appreciate the incredibly strong design the G1 - or Diaclone - originals represent. Thus the Dinobots have proven themselves to be the strongest slice of Power of The Primes so far and not only deliver a huge segment of the core of G1 that's been missing from updates for more than a decade, but a set of very fun new figures certainly worth your time. Even with the missed opportunity of Primemaster compatible Diacloney cockpits...

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23 

Read an earlier article here

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