Yesterday, Hasbro did the impossible. It made me care, not just about Bayverse Transformers toys (“Bayverse” being the derogatory adjective applied by fans of the 1980s cartoon to the cinematic movies that premiered in 2007), but about a Bayverse Transformers movie! That’s right, the reveal of the Summer 2017 line for Transformers: The Last Knight was so good, it was able to cut through a solid decade of geeky disdain.
The New Guys
That’s not to say that all the reveals yesterday were great. There were plenty of designs that made me crinkle my nose. Mostly, renditions of existing characters like Bumblebee and Prime. But the new designs in Last Knight, with Transformers who are clad in armor inspired by medieval knights rather than a loose assemblage of undercarriage pieces, has breathed new life into what was becoming a stale aesthetic.
This has resulted in impressive designs like Dragonstorm, a duocon combiner made up of two individual bots (with individual dragon modes) that combine to form a three-headed dragon. It’s a surprising reach into the grab bag of gimmicks that Hasbro has used for Transformers toys over the decades, and I think it’s executed brilliantly here. Dragonicus and Stormreign are impressively hefty looking (and despite my Photoshop composite here, are just as big as regular Deluxe toys) and their massive combined form appears to fit together nicely. It’s possible to figure out where most of the alt-mode pieces are hiding on the two combiners, but they work so well with the overall design, that it adds to the deco rather than detracting from it. The pair will be sold together for $49.99 this summer.
Decepticon Nitro is new as well and, if he wasn’t introduced in the movie line, I never would have guessed that he was a Last Knight toy. He’s got a decidedly Japanese anime, Gundam-eque influence, with smooth lines, armored sections, and even proportions that are worlds better than “Stork Leg Optimus Prime.” His alt-mode design is influenced not by real-world jets but more by Hasbro’s other eighties darling, G.I. Joe (according to the designers on yesterday’s Google Hangout). A larger, Voyager class toy, he’ll retail for $29.99 when he’s released.
Coming in at the $19.99 Deluxe size, Cogman and Hot Rod are the two other new movie toys that caught my eye. Cogman because the arc of the character revealed with this listing is fascinating. He’s the World War II-era tank that is featured in the movie posters and is depicted here as Anthony Hopkins’ character’s chauffeur and butler, his transformed head able to get behind the wheel of his own Transector (his beheaded robot body) in Aston Martin form. Yup, the Titans Return Headmaster gimmick that I love so much is making its first appearance in the movie-verse! But what geeks me out is the story potential of this pairing. So Anthony Hopkins as a soldier in WWII befriends Cogman, who has been around since medieval times (judging by the armor of his bot mode), then the two grow old together, with Cogman teaching Hopkins all about Transformers history and vice versa to the point where Cogman modifies himself even further by becoming a Headmaster to better interact with the human world. Yes. This is all fan wankery, but it’s the most theory crafting I’ve done for a movie-verse Transformer ever (and will likely be obliterated by a perfectly droll Bay-ism, like he has horrendous gas)! Hot Rod, on the other hand, is a perfect (and licensed) rendition of a Lamborghini Centenario. Possibly one of the sexiest production cars on the road.
…Let’s just pretend he doesn’t have a bot mode, shall we? This is one of those cases where I really can’t wait to see what else they do with the mold. Speaking of which…
The Newish (Old) Guys
On the “we need to find a use for these molds, so let’s make them movie toys” front, we have the Toys’R’Us exclusive “Mission to Cybertron” line. A solid chunk of it reuses older Bayverse toys (and the less said about those, the better), but Hasbro has also made some very interesting toy revivals with this subline.
Megatron caught my eye first, mostly because this is a shiny new deco of a toy that’s been around (originally inspired by Megatron in the modern IDW comics) since 2013 and has taken turns as Dreadwing and Krok since then. This is probably the nicest paint I’ve seen on the figure since its original release. It’ll be well worth hunting down.
The last two toys are some of the biggest, smallest, and mythologicalist in the entire Last Knight line. The Day-Glo planet is what happens when the 2006 Transformers: Cybertron cartoon meets the old-school Generation 2 toyline and is shoehorned into a 2017 movie exclusive subline (confused yet?). Despite being older than the modern Transformers movies, Cybertron/Primus is a fantastic toy with a lot of play value and two very satisfying modes. The eye-popping color scheme is meant to refer back to the original G1 cartoon in planet mode and represent the “power of Primus” in bot mode. I don’t know if I buy that rationale completely, but anytime I get Day-Glo orange and electric blue combined on a Transformer, I’m happy. $149 worth of happy? Maybe not. But then I’ve owned him before. If you’ve never had a chance to grab him before now, I’d recommend it.
His combining companion is another one of those toys that make me actually think about The Last Knight in ways that are similar to interest and hope (which are always dangerous emotions to associate with a Bayformer movie). Infernocus is a redeco of the Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters Terrorcon combiner group that originally hit the shelves in 2013. But here, he’s some sort of combining Transformers hell demon, controlled by the evil sorceress Quintessa (which also happens to be the name of the home planet of the evil robots from the 1984 Transformers: The Movie). If this is actually central to the movie and not just a desperate attempt to reuse toy molds before they degrade, then I have actual questions I want answers to! Forget racist robots and Bumblebee and his obsession with leaking his fluids on people (and Devastator’s… ugh… wrecking balls), this is the kind of meaty mythology that makes my energon-fueled heart hum. Is he an emissary of Unicron that’s going to destroy Cybertron? Is he something worse? Is the fact that the sorceress controlling him is named after the race that created the original cartoon’s Autobots and Decepticons coincidence or foreshadowing? Damn you, Hasbro, for making me actually want to watch this explosion-fest to find out. Regardless of the answers, you’ll be able to own him and his sorceress friend for $34.99 this summer.