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Bumblebee

Transformers
by Monkey Boy

Of the OAFEs, I would definitely say I have the least affinity for Transformers. I grew up with my share, like most boys, and I liked the Alternators line as I'm something of a car buff, but I just never got into Energon, Cybertron, or Whatevertron. Despite this, or maybe because of it, I'm probably the staunchest OAFE defender of the 2007 Michael Bay Transformers film. I liked it. A lot.

Before I saw the movie, I didn't have much interest in the toys. Upon seeing the film, however, I had to get my hands on a little piece of the movie I could take home. And the one I wanted most of all was the star of the show. No, not Optimus Prime - Bumblebee.

The first main wave of Transformers movie figures gave us a Bumblebee, but it sucked hard. Based on Bumblebee's initial look (a beat up '76 Camaro), it featured opaque windows and a few airbrushed spots of "dirt". I was, however, attracted to the increasingly dazzling promo shots of the upcoming second version of Bumblebee, based on his appearance later in the film. Unfortunately, as by far the most desirable figure in the second wave of figures, Bumblebee he's a favorite of scalpers and can fetch anywhere from 4 to 7 times his retail price of $10 on the secondary market. Thankfully I only had to shell out a few dollars more than that for mine.

Before he came to Earth, Bumblebee could have cared less about his appearance. As long as his alternate mode kept him hidden, and protected his plasma cannon from the weather, he was content. But now, on Earth, he has found friendship for the first time in as long as he can remember in the person of Sam Witwicky. At Sam's urging, he scans a sweet new vehicle form. Now, he's still ready to fight to the end against the Decepticons, but he sure hopes nothing too bad happens to his paint job.

This version of Bumblebee is billed as an "'08 Camaro." After fleeing from the Decepticon Barricade with his new friends Sam Witwicky and Mikaela, the latter ultra-hot chick insulted Bumblebee's crappy vehicle mode, at which point the robot took it upon himself to scan a passing car that might better suit the taste of his human companions. Coincidentally, the car he scans is also a yellow Camaro with black stripes... kinda.

You see, Bumblebee's second mode isn't exactly a Camaro. It's a Camaro concept car, occasionally optimistically referred to as a 2009 model. Either way it wouldn't the car of the future - today! technically be found driving in traffic for Bumblebee to scan, unless the movie takes place sometime in the future.

It's still a bit of a stretch to call the car a Camaro. Retired in 2002 due to slow sales, muscle car buffs blew a gasket when Chevrolet reintroduced the American icon in concept form in early 2006. But the car has been in a kind of limbo since then, and it's unlikely that it'll be available by the projected '09 date applied to Bumblebee's model. The version seen in the film isn't really even a true Camaro. It's something of a kit car, built by automaker/tuner Saleen, made to look like Chevy's concept Camaro. Saleen, best known for its work on Fords - and not Chevys - was given a nod in the film in the form of Barricade, whose vehicle mode is a Saleen Mustang police car.

So how's the figure? Well, in vehicle mode, he's pretty nice, and in scale with the other Deluxe-class Transformer cars like Barricade and Jazz. There isn't much kibble visible (I swore I'd never use that word in a review, damn [ha! you lose! --ed.]), since most of it is located in what would be the car's interior and undercarriage. Thankfully, the windows are transparent blue plastic instead of opaque, although there isn't any facsimile of an interior like there is on Jazz's movie figure.

Transformation is a little tricky at first for a novice TF collector like me, but after a few transformations you'll get the hang of it. wish his face mask moved It basically entails opening the doors, pulling the rear part of the car behind the hood in half, flipping the arms around, pulling the hood down to become his chest, and stretching the legs out fully. Like most TF movie figures, Bumblebee features "auto-morphing" technology, which involves pieces moving by themselves during transformation. For example, when you pull Bumblebee's legs to stretch them out, various pieces will rotate into place. His chest emblem is also supposed to flip up into place, but it doesn't work as well. Overall, the auto-morphing is a forgettable gimmick that only serves to make the figure more difficult to get back into vehicle mode.

The robot mode is surprisingly true to Bumblebee's onscreen appearance. Of course it's not exact, but it's about as close as a 6" figure, bee-yotch bound by the constraints of physical space, can be. There's even a faux bent license plate near the waist area, although the vehicle mode doesn't have a license plate. The doors pop out of the shoulders like wings, and the grille splits into multiple sections, just like in the movie. Like other TF movie figures, the blue clear plastic on the back of the figure's head pipes reflected light through the eyes, making them appear to be lit up. The paint of the figure overall is quite good, but the largely black face, like most TF movie figs, is severely lacking paint detail.

Bumblebee is highly articulated, though what can truly be considered a point of articulation becomes fishy; some parts move simply for transformation purposes. He's got a balljoint at the neck, balljoints in the shoulders, peg biceps, hinged elbows, balljoints in the wrist, a balljoint in the waist (which is unfortunately rather loose), balljoints in the hips, multiple hinges in the knee area, hinged ankles, and hinged toes. Not too shabby by any means, although the looseness of the waist is a shame and interferes with posing.

cool but extraneous For accessories, Bumblebee gets a gun that vaguely resembles his cannon from the film. It fits nicely in his hand, and stows between the legs in vehicle mode. It can be split apart and "auto morphed" into a transparent blue blade, which is cool but extraneous. It can be somewhat difficult to extricate from Bumblebee's vice-like grip, so be careful.

Bumblebee is a really nice figure that's almost as iconic as Mr. Big Rig himself as far as the TF movie is concerned, if not even more iconic. Maybe that's way he's almost impossible to come across in early shipments of the second wave. Is he worth $50 or more? No way. You could almost get the electronic, twice-as-big Ultimate Bumblebee for the prices Deluxe BB is fetching on the secondary market. He's a great figure, but he's not worth that. Wait for Wave 2 to hit en masse, and don't get screwed into paying more than retail. And speaking of things coming later...

With pictures of him all over the internet in robot and vehicle mode, Bumblebee began to feel a little bit uncomfortable. Stealth Bumblebee People recognized him everywhere. More importantly new Decepticons arriving on Earth found him easily, which put Sam and others in danger. With Mikaela's help, he picked out a new color scheme for his armor plating that made him harder to spot, and also made it easier to sneak up on any Decepticons that wandered into the range of his plasma cannon.

Fans have been waiting for this figure ever since its existence was revealed in the January '08 Previews catalog. It's just a repaint of the Camaro Concept mold, but then, so was Cliffjumper. And this one doesn't even have the benefit of being a fan-friendly retro callback. Why the excitement? Because this is the first Bumblebee to come with his "battle mask."

not in the face, not in the face! In the movie, when BB got in a major fight, a few panels from the top of his head slid forward - probably to protect his optics or something. And until now, the only merchandise with the mask was one of the little Robot Heroes figures. Fans expected that the $90 Ultimate Bumblebee would at least have this simple feature, but were met with disappointment. The mask is detailed nicely, it's just a shame we had to wait for a non-movie variant to get it.

Bumblebee is now black with yellow highlights, rather than yellow with black highlights. It makes for a very sharp appearance in both modes. His windows are still translucent blue, and he's even got the same cannon/stinger combo weapon (which is based off a scrapped design from the movie, not just something the designers pulled out of thin air). The robot limbs are grey, still a future car instead of black, and that makes them stand out well. And man, does the car ever look cool in "reverse" colors!

If you want the armored head but you don't like the Stealth Bumblebee color scheme, never fear: it's also going to be available on the "Premium Series" Bumblebee, which is the name for the things that are supposed to be the most movie-accurate, or something. Usually it just means a few extra paint apps, and in a few cases they're anything but accurate. But the point is, an armored head on a yellow body is something you can get without doing your own headswap... but Stealth Bumblebee is pretty cool anyway.


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