Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Movie Masterpiece Barricade - Refined Review

- Ben Watson

Moving beyond the poster boys of Optimus and Bumblebee, the Movie Masterpiece line seems to be beginning to properly establish itself. With Ironhide on the way and our subject matter today, the line's first Decepticon, Barricade (if you don't count what is technically MPM-1, Takara's release of the 2010 Leader Starscream). So how does this bad cop go about his beat? 

Being one of the small roster of new characters chosen to grace the first live-action film, Barricade very quickly gained a kind of fan favourite status. What better way to represent and introduce the Decepticon philosophy than making the police car robot a bad guy? Something seemed to instantly click with his character. But somehow this didn't relate to him becoming a regular feature of subsequent media. Not appearing in Revenge of The Fallen, though apparently not shown to explicitly die in the first film so he could be brought back for it, it wasn't until Dark of the Moon that he popped up again in an unexpected cameo. Sitting out Age of Extinction and then making a semi-triumphant return in The Last Knight, replete with characterful new look, brings us to his standing in the present day. Ten years have yielded a total of two extra appearances for the character (No Animated walk-on? No Prime namedrop? Ok...) and yet even with those stats on the table, Barricade feels no less worthy of receiving the Masterpiece treatment. 

Widely regarded as one of the more iconic additions to the franchise made by the movies, Barricade - despite his lack of screen time - has never been far from the minds of fans. A strong contender for the 2007 focused MPM line then. Here his first appearance is as faithfully recreated in plastic (and metal!) as it's probably possible to be. His trollish proportions and appropriate layout of car parts are all here. Articulated claws end his very long arms of the law. The vehicle mode's actual wheels adorn his wrists. The front bumper of the car peels away and warps into his chest. Spikes fold out of his hips and feet. Even the lightbar on his back splits and angles out.

A great deal is done to break up and round out the shapes all previous Barricade figures have worked with which they - due to their mainline Deluxe (on average) price point limitations - never really did. The transformation of this figure is very involved to result in the look of this robot mode, but isn't anywhere near as complex as you might think. Following the general scheme of the original 2007 Deluxe, it's nowhere near as time consuming or frustrating as, say MPM Optimus' conversion. Using the greater size of the figure (something akin to a very large Voyager) parts which would have been fiddly and too small to manipulate, let alone engineer and mold properly are here given the ability to add that extra level of deformation to the robot mode.

However, care has been taken with the design to not break up the car mode too much. Seams are mostly kept to the "natural" panel edges of the car to result in a particularly clean alt mode. I say "mostly" because there is one particularly jarring scar running down each of the doors. Rather than work with the line created by the edge of each of the windows, which would result in more accurately shaped panels on the robot's arms, the seam is jagged and cuts into the body of the car. Why? Despite this singular flaw, Barricade's fully licensed Ford Saleen police cruiser mode is spot on. Featuring all the necessary decals, including his infamous "To punish and enslave" motto. This mode even goes so far as to sport an Oklahoma license plate and each of the headlights are actually painted pieces behind a clear front. 

While the alt mode is suitably imbued with malice and relatively perfect, to which degree the same could be said of the robot mode is up for debate. Yes, Barricade strikes the perfect monstrous figure when resting on his feet rather than his wheels, but isn't without his limitations. Firstly a waist swivel is present, but totally blocked by the folding and tabbing roof kibble that makes up his back (that has the gall to feature a stand port as if to say "yes this is his actual back, what were you thinking?"). Similarly, his wrists are fused. Admittedly, so much goes into make each of his hands in the transformation that I can't see how this could have been engineered to include a wrist joint, but the lack of one on a Masterpiece figure is certainly jarring. His large and expressive hands are left for you to try to make the most of using only his very high elbows and bicep swivels. 

Despite these slightly annoying hindrances, Barricade can still articulate with character. Even his mouth opens! Ratcheted shoulders, hips and double knees along with perfectly tight ankles allow him to hold many a menacing pose. The inclusion of diecast also adds to his stability. Found making the basis of his torso, including his radiator grille and in his feet (the soles of which are softer plastic for grip on flat surfaces) the material adds that suitably high-end heft to the figure. All this combined with the way the robot mode is made of relatively large pieces makes the figure feel rock solid. 

In terms of accessories, Barricade includes only one. The mace/rotor/spiked wheel/Dyson death machine that he extends from his arm in his only fight with Bumblebee in the first film. It certainly beats any previous weapon a Barricade figure has wielded just due to its screen accuracy but if this is what we got instead of a Frenzy minifigure... I know what I'd rather have. Still, the rotor itself spins and is of quite an appreciable size. However, it has nowhere to store in robot or vehicle mode when not attached to his half-untransformed arm and must adorn a clear display stand it comes attached to?! The instructions even tell you to keep it this way when not in use! While I can joke about something else replacing the weapon, it's clear as day that this stand piece didn't need to be included and can be chalked up as a complete waste of resources. ...Well I guess it did give me a laugh at least. 

So we've covered build, articulation, alt mode, weapon, detailing... What about the paint? This is my one real head scratching moment with this figure. Ok, the mace stand might have beaten it, but why does the figure feature this particular deco? Metallic blue abounds to add something for your retinas to latch onto beyond more black and white but surely it should be purple? Maybe I'm alone in this assumption, but when every other Barricade has had these sections painted purple (even the badge on the car's side) I have been lead to believe that's the colour they should be. Was I just not paying attention and he has in fact got blue highlights in the film? I can only assume "yes" is the answer to this as apparently the design team has worked with the actual renders from ILM used in the film when producing the MPM line. That doesn't make me think it's any less weird though. To me, this deco feels totally out of left field but I must admit, it works. 

MPM-5 Barricade then is a tour-de-force of excellent styling. Finally, after a decade we've received the most astoundingly accurate rendition of the character and while it isn't 100%, it instantly throws any previous contenders to its throne (looking at you Human Alliance) in overnight lockup/the big house/the klink. I'm left with the inescapable feeling that this is what movie figures should have been from day one. With no real budgetary constraints towards rendering the design as faithfully and as ingeniously (and as solidly!) as this, it really does have the air of a proper piece of movie memorabilia. Whatever your stance on that movie may be, this is the kind of product that has been missing from its merchandise for over a decade and for that reason alone, MPM Barricade is worth a recommendation. The real dues you have to give the figure however are many and its sheer presence gives me a lot of hope for the continuing Movie Masterpiece Series. To not think about adding this figure to your collection would be...criminal. 

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23

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