Thursday, July 10, 2014

Import Monster Review: Transformers Masterpiece -03 Grimlock (2014 TRU Exclusive Re-issue)

                              Hey look, it's still "Figures I Like From Lines I Don't Collect By Companies I Hate Week 2014"!  This review was supposed to be posted Tuesday, but hey....  here it is on Thursday instead.  Enjoy.                  

Let me get this out of the way first:  I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Transformers fan.  Robots in general bore me.  I was also never one of those guys who loved cars, either.  For me vehicles are a means to an end…  A way to get from Point A to Point B.  So a franchise that involves robots that turn into vehicles would most likely have nothing to offer a guy like me…  Right?  Well you’d think so, but you’d be wrong.   You see, there is a certain faction of Autobots, with a very distinct sort of transformation.  Sure, they’re robots some of the time…  But when they’re not they’re dinosaurs!  You can keep your Optimus Prime, and Bumblebee…  I’ll take Grimlock and The Dinobots any day!

Interesting thing about the 80s (brace yourselve, kids this might be disturbing):  Back then and eBay didn’t exist.  Our parents had to use something called a “telephone machine” to track down the toys we wanted.  As such, getting the EXACT figure that we desired could be an arduous task.  Often we had to settle for second or third best, rather than the exact gift that we wanted.  I remember one such elusive first choice:  The Transformers G1 Grimlock.  As far as the Dinobots went, this guy was always tops for me.  He was tough, he was in charge, and he was a Tyrannosaurus Rex (my all time favorite).  I wanted one sooooo bad, but this figure always seemed to elude my parents.  In the end I got Swoop the Pteranodon, who I broke almost immediately.  Boundless Joy!

Fast forward to 2009 (or 2010…  I don’t exactly recall), when a friend of mine introduced me to the Takara Transformers Masterpiece -03 Grimlock.  I thought it was the coolest damned thing I had ever seen, and I immediately wanted one.  That is until I saw the ludicrous price tag.  It’s a rare occasion when I will spend over a hundred dollars on a figure, and this was not to be one of them.  However, much like Rattlor (same friend and everything), an opportunity recently arose for me to get the 2014 Hasbro reissue for a steal.  Naturally I jumped on-  Wait a minute it…  Back up.  HASBRO???

Yes, Hasbro.  Remember those guys who licensed your childhood?  Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Jurassic Park, Marvel, and so on…  These guys practically have the market cornered when it comes to the Boy’s Toys That Matter.  I have quite the history with them as an adult collector as well.  Up until recently (well, 2010 or so) I collected the 3 ¾” Star Wars line, in a cherry picking sort of way.  I even dabbled briefly in the 6” Black series, as well as various Marvel figures.  I stopped collecting Hasbro figures around the same time I started collecting import figures.  What a strange coincidence!  In all seriousness, Hasbro figures in general aren’t what I would consider “collector figures”.  The Star Wars Black and Marvel Legends Infinite series have taken steps to remedy that, however, but I think that Hasbro often has a hard time straddling the gap between “kid-friendly” and “collector-geared” figures.  Oh and did I mention that their quality control often sucks?  Particularly paint applications on human faces.  Good luck finding a Winter Soldier Cap without blue mask paint slopped on his face.  You know…  Like in the movie?

Anyway, we seem to have gotten a bit off track.  Hasbro releases the Masterpiece Transformers stateside, and the figure my pal had found was the latest reissue of the Hasbro retool of the Takara MP-03.  Of course I jumped on that dirt cheap Grimlock like an enraged baboon.  Transformers collector or not, nothing could free me from the grip of my Nostagia-fueled insanity.  Finally I had my very own G1 style Grimlock.  Not only that, but this was a larger, vastly improved version.  So was it everything I had hoped for?  Or should I have let it stay buried, like the hidden bones of some massive prehistoric beast?  Read on and find out!

Package (5/5):

I guess when they say “Transformers Masterpiece”, they want the title to be reflected in every aspect of the figure.  This package is amazing!  It's big and primarily red and white.  There is a large Autobot insignia divided in half on the left front and left side of the box.  The right front of the box says "Transformers" in vivid red letters, and the right side of the box has a bio for Grimlock, as well as some stats.  Strength "10", huh?  No kidding.

A sleave-like cover is slipped vertically over the box.  This depicts the figure in both of his forms on the front, and the back shows the various accessories and features of the figure.  Overall, it's a really nice package...  but wait.  Those who inspect the images on the slip cover closely may notice something interesting.  The Grimlock depicted on the cover isn't the product contained within the box  It may be similar, but at least a few differences are:

*Dulled claws and teeth:  This is no doubt due to the fact that the original figure was made for collectors by Takara, not Hasbro.  When it was distributed by Hasbro stateside, the sharper edges were probably dulled to avoid any safety issues.  Of course this could have been avoided if Hasbro had had the guts to market the Masterpiece figures as straight up collector figures in  the first place.

*Different colored translucent plastic:  I don't know why this was changed.  The new translucent plastic is greenish instead of colorless like the one pictured in the image.  I can't say which one looks better,  but the change is baffling.

*Missing deco on Grimlock's legs:  Two red stripes are missing from his dino knees/robo elbows.  Odd.  Just looks like a cost saving strategy to me.

Sculpt (5/5):
Robot Mode:  I’ll start with what I would traditionally consider the “boring” part of Grimlock’s sculpt, his Robot mode.  Much to my utter surprise, however, this form turned out to be almost  as visually interesting as his dinosaur transformation! 

Bulky and covered in fierce, spiny adornments, Grimlock's appearance is striking to say the least.  The open parts from his Tyrannosaurus form lay across his back, giving the visual impression of a royal cape or robe.  It's somewhat majestic, and befitting of his station as the Ruler of the Dinobots.

Remember back in the 90s when all the comic artists were doing the big, dumpy moon boots?  Remember that?  Well Grimlock was doing that crap BEFORE it was cool.  Man, everything about this robot mode just screams "tanky".  Sometimes ya just gotta feel sorry for the Decepticons.

Dinosaur Mode:

Especially when the aforementioned tanky brute transforms into a freakin' massive robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex and tears through their ranks!  Hot DAMN!  Do I love this mode.  Ya know that fat, bulky, tail-dragging T-Rex that was so prominent in 80s media?  Well here it is, perfectly represented in plastic and die cast.  Hell, even the erroneous three fingered paws are present.

Dull or not, the teeth are covered in chrome finish and look awesome..  Same thing with the claws, and the foot claws are actually heavy die cast metal.  There are various inner workings visible through the aforementioned translucent green plastic.  This adds depth and the illusion that this is actually a working machine, and not just an action figure.

Speaking of machinery, the sculptors put a lot of effort into rendering various wires, rivets, grooves and other mechanical details.  You would think that the transforming gimmick would severely affect the accuracy of this figure's forms, but it really doesn't.  This figure truly looks great in either mode.

Except his head still looks like a damned Dustbuster from the front.

Paint (5/5):

There's actually surprisingly little paint application on this figure.  Most of the parts are molded in one color.  The paint that is applied is clean, with little to no detectable slop.  What really impresses me is that things like the panels on his legs are molded in translucent plastic.  They could have just as easily been stickers.  

Articulation (2/5):

Grimlock sports some fantastically disappointing articulation.  There are a ton of moving parts associated with the transformation gimmick, but guess what?  Yeah, we're not covering those here.  I don't consider that true "articulation".  If you don't like it, you can head over to and watch one of the billion transformation videos that have been uploaded there.

The issues with Grimlock's articulation are legion.  And they stem not only from the actual limitations of the engineering, but from the overall annoying looseness of a lot of the joints themselves.  And I am talking ridiculously loose.  Coupled with the fact that this is a solid, heavy figure, these floppy segments make certain poses next to impossible...  And this is coming from a guy who prides himself on achieving difficult poses.

Anyhow, let's take it from the literal top.  Grimlock's robot head has an insane range.  It's able to look in pretty much any direction a human head can...  And more.  The shoulders are anchored by a single ball joint, and they have an okay range.  They're very loose, however, and are prone to popping off.  Below each shoulder joint there is an awful, frictionless swivel.  This ensures that whenever Grimlock's arm isn't perfectly balanced, it gets dragged to the side  by the weight of the die cast wrist spikes.  What a feature!  It's just fantastic!!  I love when joints are put on this Earth solely to ensure that poseability is turned into an exercise in frustration.

Interestingly, Grimlock's fingers are actually articulated on his left hand, allowing for somewhat intricate gesturing like beckoning. 
His right thumb is articulated on a true ball joint.  Both wrists are on swivel joints.  Also, as the wrist spikes are Grimlock's T-rex mode's toe claws, they're all articulated on hinges.

Moving on to the waist, it really doesn't move much.  Just a bit from side to side.  The hips are where everything goes straight to Hell, though.  And it's a shame because they were pretty close to excellence here.  See forward and backward motion works great.  Moving it front to back is like a glimpse into the ultimately untapped potential of this release. 

And then it happens.  You move one of the hips to the side.  Then the loose-as-a-marionette, friction-less side motion begins.  You grab at the figure to catch it, but you only succeed in accidentally knocking the lower leg aside, dislodging a second, perpendicular ratchet joint which collapses the entire figure.  Somehow the torso disconnects, and you end up with something like this:



It just looks like a pile of ninety singles, doesn't it?
The knees are double ratchet joints that are super tight and work great back to front....  But then collapse like a wet noodle with side to side motion.  And for ankle joints...  what ankle joints?  The feet barely even lock together.  What ankle joints there are pretty much useless and fall apart with the slightest nudge...  Ya know!  Just like in the cartoooooooon....

Tyrannosaurus Rex mode suffers from its own set of issues regarding articulation.  Not that all of it's bad of course.  The jaw is on a ratcheting hinge, though I can only seem to get two clicks of motion out of it.  This is most likely due to the Jaw Crunching action feature, which is activated by pushing a button on his left cheek.  The head can look straight up, but wobbles side to side due to the action feature.  I've found that you actually can lock it into the position you want if you turn it until you hear a click, though.  Not exactly ideal, but at least we got ANOTHER action feature.  I swear there's a billion on this guy, none of which work properly.

The arms are a real kick in the teeth.  Grimlock...  WHY???  Is it not bad enough that everyone and their mother is making stupid T-rex arm jokes?  Did yours have to be so floppy??  Really, you're not helping.  They're connected to the main body on the floppiest ball joints I've encountered in a long time.  Believe me, it took a lot of finagling to pose them for the photos.  It's a shame since there is nothing impeding their motion.  I even tried the polish trick, to no avail.  The elbows are on hinges that work great.  There really is a ton of range.  There is no wrist articulation, which is one of the more baffling decisions.  Swivel wrists are very basic points, and they're sorely missed here. 

Finger articulation on figures can be hit or miss.  Here, it's kind of moot without any sort of wrist articulation.  But don't worry.  All the finger joints are nice and tight.

Honestly, what good is articulating the fingers anyway-


In a perfect world the "Ragtime Gal" type pose above and the "Modern T-Rex" pose below would be simple things to achieve.  Not here, though.  Not with this figure.   Every position becomes a balancing act, where even the slightest tip will buckle Grimlock's legs and collapse him in a heap on the shelf.  Starting with the hip joints, they are the same ball joints as the robot mode's shoulders.  Which of course means they like to go off on their own frequently.  What's more, there's supposed to be an action feature where if you push the hip joints down, Grimlock lifts his head up.  Guess what?  Yeah mine works maybe one time out of ten.  The stupid swivels that plague robot mode's arms are now on the legs, and the elbows-turned-knees are too weak to support the weight of the figure.  Remember in the show when Grimlock kept sprawling on his belly due to lacking the leg strength needed to hold himself up?  Yeah, me neither. 

One of the few articulation points that actually functions properly are the toes.  And to be honest, who even needs to move those?  Good thing they got those right...

There's a bit of articulation in the massive tail, as the chrome tip can be moved from side to side.  The good news is:  The rest of the tail's articulation potential is wasted on yet another useless, barely functioning action feature!  If you move his tail from side to side, he looks like he's thrashing his head once in a while.  If he feels like it. 


Overall the articulation on this figure is depressingly bad. 

Accessories (4/5):

Grimlock comes with a decent amount of accessories, and they work pretty well with his built in light-up action feature.

First up is a sword, which has a clear hilt and blade.  When you press the back of Grimlock's right arm a red light shines through the hole in his hand.  The result is that it makes the  translucent sword look like a cross between a broadsword and a lightsaber. 

Which is weird.  I thought it looked more like:

Yeah.  Probably not exaggerated at all.

Next up is an awesome crown, which actually fits perfectly on his head.  It looks really cool.  Honestly, it's my favorite accessory because it fits the character so well.  THe next thing is probably my least favorite accessory.

Grimlock never struck me as a gun guy.  He just seems too primitive.  He may have used one, but this crazy double barreled Star Wars pistol looks like it belongs more in the hands of someone like Megatron.  Also, it doesn't light up as well as the sword.


Overall, the accessories are good, but some flame effects would've smashed this up into 5/5 territory.  Also, some functioning legs.  Just sayin'.


For everything.  Watch out for your toes, small children, your Gramma.  Heavy pieces kamikaze off this guy constantly, and no one is safe.  Regarding the safety of the figure itsef, watch for repeated shelf dives.  I have a feeling that this guy might not survive a five or six foot fall.  In fact, I recommend T-rex mode for sitting on the shelf.  It's a real shame, as the robot mode is surprisingly cool looking.

Overall (3/5):

I love this figure, but I can't honestly recommend it.  And I sure as Hell won't recommend it for its ludicrous $90 MSRP.  I'm just gonna say if I had dropped 90 bucks on this (and not the $60 I was lucky enough to spend), the score could've dropped another half point.  And believe me, I take no joy in writing that...  I love this character, if not his franchise.  And he LOOKS great, that's the kicker.

I don't know if something happened in the transition between Takara and Hasbro, but Masterpiece-03 Grimlock is a mess and a half.  I'm not too familiar with Transformers in general, but I was definitely under the impression that the Masterpiece series were the top of the heap.  Of course it could be that the mold just hasn't aged well.  The original Masterpiece Grimlock was released back in 2009 so who knows?  Maybe it's time for a brand new version.  I hear he's out of scale with the newer ones, too.  Who the Hell wants a midget Grimlock? 
If anyone out there actually owns the original Takara MP-03 and wants to chime in about any differences please feel free to chime in below.

Also you might want to check out this short companion video Steven McCarthy did:

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