Welcome to the second part of our extended look at the latest Unique Toys offering, their Masterpiece-Movie-styled on Age of Extinction Galvatron! Nero comes with high expectations but has already made a fine first impression in truck mode.
Despite a few quibbles here and there, it’s about as impressive a vehicle mode as one could hope for and certainly does a fantastic job at bringing a 2014 custom Freightliner Argosy to life. We’ve also ascertained that it’s quite a bit of fun to transform!
I say ‘fun’ knowing that such a term is inherently subjective and that by their very nature, complicated conversions of this kind are likely to leave many collectors cold. Yet Nero shows how to be both intricate and straightforward at the same time, with all the various panels gliding and clipping together in exactly the way you would hope for. It also manages to strike the right balance in looking more complicated than perhaps it actually is, thus giving you the right vibe for representing a Bayformer ‘bot.
Even on the reverse to robot mode, I was pleased to find most of the twists and turns have a relatively logical sequence, and whilst I will happily acknowledge needing some reference along the way, if you allow enough time (and have enough patience), there’s quite a bit to enjoy here. Unique Toys have weaponised this kind of fold-inside-out black magic by now, but Nero might be their most accomplished transformation yet in many ways.
And as per the company’s usual form, it spits out a robot mode looking surprisingly on-point versus the film’s CGI model, which is especially impressive when you consider the Galvatron seen on-screen changes mode by way of ‘transformium’. At this point, it’s worth also acknowledging the look of this guy is never going to win over everyone; just the nature of it being a Bayformer is going to be enough to turn off some. However, I imagine the Galvatron design might challenge even the most hardened movieverse fans to some extent!
I won’t lie; I recall watching AOE myself and being distinctly unconvinced about some of the aesthetic choices made for this guy. Yet seeing it here now in plastic form, I’m tempted to say that not only have Unique Toys done their absolute best work with releasing it, but actually, they’ve somehow made me appreciate the look of the design that much more. Yes, it’s still ugly in many ways… but in the right ways, y’know?
After all, they’ve captured the mish-mash hodgepodge aesthetic of the character, appropriately making him look like a Coca Cola can that’s been attacked with a pair of garden shears… and dare I say it’s actually quite pleasing on the eye? I’d stop short of calling Nero ‘handsome’, but at least it’s good looking in a twisted evil sense, maybe.
A big part of that centres around how Unique Toys have crafted the chest area, interpreting the weird hole at the centre of it all in a manner that makes it look a little less ridiculous than perhaps you might expect. The various pipes, tubes and wires all freely flowing toward it have a pleasing sense of rhythm to them, ably credited by some exceptional sculpting work.
That’s carried on elsewhere, as honestly, Nero is covered in lush moulded detailing, all of it adding to the sense of presence and helping to sell the toy as something befitting a big-screen movie representation. There are some liberties taken here or there, I’m sure, but considering the insanely intricate source material, I can’t help but marvel at what a terrific job they’ve done with it here.
I think the colour scheme works well, despite being predominantly monochrome. While the truck mode may have only used a few sparse splashes of blue to break up the sea of grey, there are far more highlights to notice, including some subtle but worthwhile golds. Of course, your eyes are naturally drawn to the vibrant orange on the chest, but all told, it’s enough to make Nero feel visually attractive beyond your average grey Bayformer.
That sculpted detailing and colour work carry through to the face, which, although undoubtedly one of the more divisive elements of this design overall, has been expertly recreated by Unique Toys, in my opinion. This is how you craft something that pays respect to the source but still looks aesthetically pleasing in its own right. The expression on offer also does a great job capturing the sense of the character, such as he was with his four minutes of screentime.
There’s also some devilishly striking red on offer for the eyes, enhanced by an optional light-up feature. In truth, this gimmick hasn’t worked for me at all, not least because the battery compartment is absurdly fiddling to unscrew and reinstall. I couldn’t get the batteries to fit particularly well on my copy, which was frustrating as every push and pull I had to make to get them in had me nervous about breaking the wires holding the whole contraption in place.
Once I managed to stuff it all back together and get the head closed up again, I found the light-up eyes functioned well for several minutes before they fizzled out for some reason. I have no clue if maybe I accidentally pulled on one of those wires a little too hard at some stage or if it’s a problem elsewhere, but suffice it to say, I’d given up by this stage. The gimmick wasn’t necessarily impressive enough to make all the effort worth it for the fleeting moment it worked.
Besides, in a clever move, Unique Toys have painted the eyes red anyway, so they look suitably colourful even with the lights out of action. It’s a solution I’m incredibly grateful for, especially considering how dull and lifeless such things can appear on other toys when not in operation.
The other main gimmick on offer with the robot mode is the cannon, a separate moulded piece that slots over either hand and pegs into place, again recreating a similar attack from the film. It’s nicely moulded and finished and does look neat once it’s in place, although I did find the connection wasn’t the most stable.
It’s a bizarre-looking weapon and perhaps not quite in line with my tastes as far as accessories go, but hey, it’s screen accurate, so what are you gonna do? Either way, it works just fine overall.
Really then, the other main thing to talk about here is the articulation, which I would say is a bit of a mixed bag overall. Don’t get me wrong, all of the basics are covered, and there’s undoubtedly enough movement available to allow for some decent poses. However, there are also more than a few quirks to the proceedings, which can leave it feeling a little awkward at times, too!
First, some of the joints are *exceptionally* tight, with ratchets so strong that a bit of force is required to budge. Yet other parts of the toy feel surprisingly loose, to the point where they can flop around somewhat unexpectedly and make posing a bit of a challenge at times.
That’s true in the shoulder pads, for example, one of which especially feels like it’s just not as solid as it’s supposed to be and thus takes the sheen off the overall finish a smidge. However, the most problematic elements here are reserved for the lower half, with some of the joints just simply not up to snuff.
Take the hips, for instance. The forward motion is all good, held stably in place by yet another set of solid ratchets. Yet the hinge out to the sides is oddly loose, leaving the hips to give way at times during posing. The ankles are also not nearly as sturdy as I would like them to be, meaning that the experience of articulating Nero can be somewhat frustrating at times.
These problems aside, pretty much everything else going on here is all good stuff (even accounting for the bizarrely-impeded waist swivel), and overall, Nero does still manage to look mightily spectacular once you actually do get him posed up. It’s just a shame that some of those joints let the side down a bit.
Still, I credit Unique Toys for what they’ve achieved, especially as it’s yet another feather in their cap for their burgeoning line-up of MPM-style figures. At this point, they’ve become the go-to company for a lot of movieverse designs, having firmly established a solid reputation on previous figures such as Challenger, and Nero is just yet another example of why that is.
It’s little surprise that Nero and Challenger make for a compelling double act then, brilliantly recreating the brief scenes the two characters shared together in Age of Extinction. For fans of these designs (and yes, there are some!), there’s little doubt that these are some of the most screen-accurate takes we’re ever likely to see.
It leaves me feeling that whilst Nero may not be entirely perfect in every regard, he’s still a terrific accomplishment, and he firmly takes the spot on my shelf.
— Sixo (@SixoTF) March 3, 2022
He’s also the last
Megatron Galvatron I need for a complete line-up of movieverse designs. With Unique Toys also working on what I suspect will become the definitive Dark of the Moon interpretation, it gives you some insight into how much they’re dominating the proceedings. Needless to say, it’s well-deserved.
WHAT’S HOT? Overall, a fantastic design, with a really nice truck mode and a stunning robot mode. The transformation is complex but really impressive!
WHAT’S NOT? The main thing is the lacklustre joints in some areas and quibbles, such as the odd battery compartment – just a few bits to take the sheen off overall. Otherwise, this would have easily scored higher.