Optimus Primal. The boss monkey. The big banana. Or slightly big banana, as his Beast Machines toy was the first leader toy to come out as a deluxe figure. The scaling in Beast Machines was all over the place, with some interesting choices for whom got what size figure. On the face of it, madness. With a bit more thought, you can see that Hasbro actually had thought about why the likes of Nightscream and Cheetor got such large Ultra Class toys – they were the instant ‘kid appeal’ characters from the show, so it makes sense to give them the Ultra Class treatment. This version of Optimus, a more spiritual and remote leader probably didn’t have the same appeal to the under 25s as we might like to think he had. Optimus would get a larger toy, but later in the line’s run when the character started to be notably more proactive.
I always found Optimus Primal’s Beast Machines CGI model to be something of a grotesque. Maybe it was the near constant use of forced perspective, but had hands that dwarfed the rest of his body and a truly ugly head that dangled around, slug like, from his neck. I could never understand why Mainframe’s new CGI model for the character was such a disaster given how good the original Beast Wars gorilla alt mode for Primal was. Still, the cack handed CGI model was left at the door insofar as the creation of the toy was concerned.
As with all the initial Beast Machines toys, Optimus’ plastic incarnation pays lip service to the character model and does its own thing. The gorilla mode is a nice mix of black, gold and clear blue plastic. He has a bright orange Maximal symbol stamped to his left shoulder and this opens up to store his shuriken. Or snot. The beast mode is surprisingly sleek and smooth and like a lot of the Beast Machines toys, you’d be hard pressed to really identify this a Transformer in the traditional sense, did you not know better. The beast mode does have some flaws though. The massive front arms and elongated fingers do dominate the figure and make him look like he’s dragging his withered rear limbs behind him. Which he sort of is as his back right leg features a spring loaded gimmick for use in robot mode. His right leg just has to be left curled up as there’s nothing else that can be done with it. The rear left leg does act as a counter balance for this, but without constantly putting Primal in some kind of running / leaping pose, he will look silly. The beast mode also has a ‘muscle flexing’ action which reveals his chest mounted spark crystal . This will also change the expression on the gorilla’s face from toothy growl to complete wide eyed panic.
There’s not much to the transformation. The arms become the legs and vice versa and that’s about it.
The robot mode is fairly decent stab at capturing the essence of the on screen character model. He’s got the bulk and presence you’d expect of Primal and it’s a great looking figure overall. The articulation is very well done. The legs have an excellent range of motion with swivel joints above the knees, good solid ball joints at the hips and shoulders. This is also the mode where the springy right arm comes into play and Optimus limpy throws his shuriken to the floor. An action feature well worth including then. Balance is also a bit of a problem as the retracted fingers are uneven and the whole sole of his foot doesn’t quite come into contact with the floor, so he does tend to topple over frequently.
He’s probably no one’s favourite version of Optimus Primal, but for all his faults, I really like the toy. Whether it’s the colours or the intent, rather than the execution, I don’t know but he just to me is the best version of Beast Machines Primal. The larger versions just seem to try too hard to appeal, whereas this initial toy was just presenting something interesting and different on its own terms without having to worry about focus groups and sales charts. What is probably the most refreshing thing about the toy (as far as Transformers goes anyway), is that this the first leader toy that hasn’t been brought out at a deliberately huge toy and hasn’t followed the pattern of subsequent leader toys i.e. coming out as a bloody great lump which is then poorly translated to a smaller size class and price point.
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