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Ratchet

Transformers
by Artemis

All the movie Transformers underwent a big redesign from their old, familiar G1 forms, but none more so than Ratchet, who discovered the benefit of having a head that wasn't just a sticker on the driver's seat.

Ratchet, the Autobots' medic, is probably the bravest of them all. He'll risk his life to pull any wounded comrade from the battlefield. Ratchet Indeed, he did not join Optimus Prime's team to be a soldier; rather, he's there to save lives, and thinks Prime is the best chance the universe has for peace.

Every team needs a dependable one - Optimus is the leader, prone to grand heroism and self-sacrifice, Jazz is funky, Ironhide's a trigger-happy nut, and Bumblebee talks in pop songs and is mainly interested in getting his owner laid, so it falls to Ratchet to be the stable, reliable... kind of boring one. Poor guy. Still, at least he doesn't have to pretend to be an ambulance any more - there can't be anything more annoying than turning up at a disaster scene to defend the Earth against the Decepticon menace, and having some paramedics start shoving wounded civilians into you by accident. After all, what's he going to do, weld them back together?

Ratchet's altmode is a Hummer H2, a six-ton truck that melts an ice shelf the size of Jupiter every time you start the engine. Thankfully he's not one of the legion of Hummers used as regular passenger vehicles (ye gods) that's one heavily modified hummer but rather is a customised search and rescue vehicle, retaining the basic humanitarian nature of Ratchet's altmode while skewing it into a more mechanical area. The eye-watering lime-green-and-red paint job was made up by the movie's design team, but it looks genuine enough for a high-visibility emergency vehicle. It's a big, solid truck with a minimum of kibble - the visible joints in the rear are the worst of it - but some of the painted details could have been better. The red text and stripe along the back half of the truck is uneven where it crosses the transformation seams, and a lot of the smaller details like the tools stowed on the outside are left unpainted, giving it a bit of a toyish look. On the upside, the front of the vehicle - which is what you tend to look at first - meh is quite convincing so far as Transformers go, with painted spotlights and turn indicators, a good windshield, and neat little Autobot Fire Department badges on the doors. Being painted rather than cast in colour, the doors are a slightly lighter, yellower hue of green, but it's nothing to get upset about.

Transformation is reasonably complex, but overall a bit unsatisfying. Swing open the panels behind the doors, pull the arms out from beneath the passenger compartment, and slide out the front wheel/door assemblies, detach the roof rack, open up the passenger roof and swivel the windshield halves to either side, open up the lever Ratchet's model holding the front and back together, separate and unfold the legs, swivel the shins 180° and automorph the feet out, fold the roof down onto the hood and close it up against the hips to lock it in place, open the engine bay to reveal the head, reattach the roof rack on the back, and generally muck about until you find a pose you like. It's not simple, but there's nothing really elegant about it - at no point do you think "wow, that's clever," it's just a workmanlike job, done well but without flair.

That said, the robot's low on kibble and undesirably visible bits of car - the roof rack hanging off his back is the part that sticks out the most, and being a piece of equipment rather than part of Ratchet's body, that's forgivable. kibble? what kibble? The door panels on the backs of the shoulders are a bit conspicuous, but not terribly so, and having the front of the vehicle be upside-down really does a lot to differentiate it from the plethora of hood-as-chest Transformers there have been over the years. Compared to the CGI model, Ratchet as a toy is a lot stockier and squarer - the lower legs especially, since they need to be mostly right angles as the back of the truck, are very blocky in appearance, and they dominate the more shardformer-esque thighs and hips. Again there's a lot of unpainted detail - the technological sculpted details on the outside of the shins, which are hidden in vehicle mode, would have done well to be painted black, while the toes should have been painted green. Even so though, there'd have been no getting around those big square knees.

Ratchet's head also suffers a bit from lack of paint - big saggy cheeks the silver painted directly onto green plastic lacks the darkness to mesh with the black engine underbelly the head is sitting on, leaving it looking a bit like it's just been stuck on there as an afterthought. The blue light-piped eyes are squinty, as per the CGI model, which limits how much light can come through them. There are some minor red details on the face and head, but they're pretty negligible, unfortunately. One spark of creativity in the design is the way the front wheels sit up on either side of the chest - not part of the CGI design at all, but they mimic the way the banks of spotlights rise up in the same place on the real robot.

Articulation-wise, Ratchet is a mixed bag. His neck is a swivel - disappointing, there's no reason it couldn't have been a balljoint - and his shoulders are also just swivels, though given how they have to work during transformation that's a bit more understandable. He has swivel biceps and peg elbows, an axe? why? which are nice and versatile, but the hands are a real let-down - for who-knows-what reason, since they're stowed inside the vehicle in altmode, the forearms completely envelop the wrists, so not only is there no swivel, the wrist peg joint is utterly immobilised. Each hand has a peg joint in the thumb too, but again the construction of the forearm immobilises it - on the right arm, which unfolds into an axe, you can see the range of motion, but only when the folded-up axe is swivelled out of the forearm bay. It's a confusing design, not least since the motionless hands really limit how natural the arms can look in various poses.

There's no waist - impossible, given the main chassis transformation - but the legs are decent, with balljointed hips, swivel thighs, peg knees, and some motion out of the peg ankles used in transformation. A slight irk with the feet is that the edges of the shins extend past the soles if you move the feet at all, making stable posing a bit difficult unless you have the whole shin perpendicular to the ground, which rules out in-motion poses to quite a degree.

As mentioned, the right arm can transform into an axe - but you just have to look at it to see how uninspiring that is, not least because the matching paint app on the lower blade bada-climp, bada-clamp! (which the prototype had) was skipped, so let's move on. Ratchet's real accessory is the roof rack, which as well as attaching to his back can be mounted on his left forearm. The packaging refers to it alternately as a claw and a battle stretcher - indeed there is a peg on it which, when moved, will make the halves of the rack open and close, claw-like, provided you open them first since it's not strong enough to pop out the peg holding the rack together. Without that peg though, the whole thing is so loose as to be pointless, so - Ratchet being a medic - the stretcher seems the way to go. There, at least, it looks the part - you'd need to have the forearm swivelled 180° for it to be the right way up, but since the hand is somewhat symmetrical that doesn't look too bad.

Vanity is not a fault from which Autobot Ratchet typically suffers. He is more concerned with saving the lives of his fellow Autobots Rescue Ratchet than with what they think about him. He's never paid much attention to the decorations adorning his vehicle mode. However, after discovering the tendency for human rescue vehicles to be decorated in certain ways, he started paying more attention to his appearance. His new paint job helps him fit in, and allows him to help more humans and Autobots than ever before. Plus, these new decorations just seem more natural somehow.

Yes, there's nothing like some fanboy pandering to liven up a bio paragraph. One of the Transfans' constant complaints was Ratchet being lime yellow instead of red and white, so why shouldn't the bio on the repaint tell them that they're right to feel that way?

Rescue Ratchet is a straight repaint ecnalubma - the mold is exactly the same as the previous figure, just done in white plastic instead of neon green. This time the vehicle is specifically identified (on the doors and hood) as an ambulance, ridiculous as that is; this is a vehicle for hauling around equipment, not bodies. On the plus side, the tool storage areas on the top get their own paint app now, and the kibble underneath the truck is no longer as glaringly blatant. Interestingly, though? No Autobot symbols visible anywhere.

In robot mode, Rescue Ratchet's white body is accented with red, and there are nice silver crosses on his shoulders. With the Autobot symbol in the center, they definitely look like medical insignia. His joints are all the same, but the axe on his right arm is a bit beter, since at least now neither half has a paint app - it's just plain white. The stretcher/claw benefits from being silver, No, I paged Nurse RATCHED... as well, since it no longer blends with the black tire. The translucent plastic is still blue, but since it's not attached to a yellow body, it doesn't turn green.

I feel a bit harsh saying it, since there's nothing major wrong with the toy, but Ratchet is a disappointment - as a Voyager Class toy I expected him to be better than the next size down, the Deluxe Class, and he's not better, just bigger. He's not an embarrassment to the toyline, but he's not going to win any awards either - if you need him to complete your collection, buying him won't be a pain, but if you just want a Transformer, and don't mind which one, look elsewhere before here.


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