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REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS BEAST WARS RHINOX, TARANTULUS, DINOBOT, & RATTRAP
By Thomas Wheeler



The 10th Anniversary of TRANSFORMERS BEAST WARS continues, and for this review, I'd like to review no less than four of the most recent entries in the line.

TARANTULUS

You know, it seems to me that it's increasingly hard to find really good, fleshed-out characters in modern animation shows. Oh, there's plenty of action and adventure, and there's nothing wrong with that. But watch a modern episode of Transformers or G.I.Joe and try to find a really well- rounded, interesting character in the midst of all the explosions. Maybe they're there, but it's not that easy.

Then there's Transformers Beast Wars. Over the course of three seasons, they produced a series whose stories and characters I'd put up against a lot of contemporary live-action science-fiction. And the show certainly had interesting characters.

Take TARANTULUS. On the surface, a villainous Predacon in league with Megatron, just as dedicated to eliminating the Maximals as anyone else. But with a beast mode of an immense spider, you'd've thought more of the cast would've realized just what sort of intricate webs this character was capable of spinning.

A scientific genius, if a decidedly warped one, Tarantulus was generally content to spend most of his time in his laboratory, which he deliberately set up away from the rest of the Predacons. Over the course of the series, it was revealed that, in fact, Tarantulus was a spy for the Predacon Tripredacus Council, with no real allegiance to Megatron whatsoever. Later on, he would try to work out an alliance with the mysterious alien race known as the Vok. Ultimately, Tarantulus wasn't loyal to anyone except himself, and was interested first and foremost in building his own power base.

In this regard, he could be likened to Starscream from the original Transformers, but that's about as far as it went. Where Starscream was about as subtle as a well-thrown brick with his desires and intentions, Tarantulus was a lot more subdued. He could play the part of obedient lackey, make alliances with other ambitious Predacons as casually as you please, discarding them at his convenience, of course, and somehow either manage to keep everyone in the dark as to his true intentions, or prove himself so valuable in a given situation that turning him into scrap for his betrayal simply wasn't worth it.

If all that isn't vile enough, don't get me started on his appetite. While most of the Predacons preferred to get their nourishment from energon, Tarantulus wasn't above indulging his organic beast mode, and given his size, he could trap some pretty large prey in his web. In one episode he'd snared an entire deer.

Nice guy. The sort you hope a meteor will land on their head. But, there's no denying that Tarantulus was a complex individual, and his character would probably take one look at some of the people and robots populating modern animation, and wonder if they're even worth trying to trick.

As for the toy - for those of us who were so broke and/or stupid that we had to sell our Transformers Beast Wars collection some time ago (and I sort of hope I'm not the only one that had to), or never picked it up, or were too young to really remember it well, or whatever, the 10th Anniversary Transformers Beast Wars collection has been a most welcome addition to the toy stores lately. The initial assortment included Cheetor, Rhinox, and Waspinator, all from the original molds, but recolored somewhat in order to better match their animated counterparts. The new assortment features RatTrap, Dinobot, and Tarantulus.

With no Beast Wars comic book at the time, the CGI series was seen as the authoritative word on Transformers Beast Wars, even if it only involved a fraction of the characters that turned up in the toy line. The recent comic book mini-series from IDW Publishing has done a nice job of bringing in other characters.

The animated series was nothing short of incredible, and is very well- regarded by most Transformers fans today, so it's not surprising that when Hasbro decided to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the concept, they chose characters that were prominently featured in the show, and recolored the toys as needed accordingly. Tarantulus was certainly a prominent character in the show.

The toy is, obviously, a huge spider. Personally, I hate spiders. And there's no shortage of them in this region, some of them some very nasty customers. But a toy spider, I can deal with.

The toy is superbly well-articulated. If I ever had one complaint about the original Transformers, it's that they weren't especially well- articulated in their robotic forms. Most of them just sort of stand there. This situation was remedied with the advent of the Beast Wars, and generally speaking, all Transformers of any significant size have been well-articulated ever since.

Although Tarantulus' eight spider legs are not individually articulated, the front four do move at the "elbow" joint. Part of this is because these four leg segments can be detached and used as missiles. In the animated series, Tarantulus is capable of using his eight spider limbs, in robot mode, as machine guns.

Transforming Tarantulus is not at all difficult. It's really just a matter of pulling his robotic legs out, folding down half of his body, and moving his arms outwards.

The figure, like Waspinator, technically does have two faces. There's the more "monstrous" one, that is the best known one from the animated series, but if you tip that head all the way back, a second, more robotic-looking face is revealed. Personally, I suspect most collectors will be inclined to leave Tarantulus with his more familiar visage. The "second face" feature is, as much as anything, a leftover from the original Beast Wars run, since these toys are based on the same molds.

Tarantulus can also fire a sort of harpoon/grappling hook out of his - well, where spider's usually shoot webs from. This is on a length of rope, allowing Tarantulus to sort of spin a web and hang from it.

The only other real item of note is that Tarantulus has the Predacon insignia stamped on him. This is not something that the original Beast Wars did, but I'm honestly glad to see it being done this time around. It's a nice touch.

The character profile for Tarantulus on the package reads as follows: TARANTULUS - Predacon Tarantulus is the very soul of treachery. As a Predacon spy, he had every intention of betraying and destroying Megatron when the time came, but now that he's been stranded on this stinking, mudball planet, his agenda and ambition have grown. Access to the alien technology of the mysterious Vok has given him a taste of true power, which he will stop at nothing to claim as his own.

Sounds about right.

Tarantulus comes with a DVD of a Beast Wars episode, one prominently featuring him, entitled "Spider's Game". This episode also prominently features Blackarachnia, as well as the introduction of Inferno. He also comes with the left leg of Trans-Mutate, the buildable Beast Wars figure that can be assembled from parts with the first six Beast Wars figures in this anniversary line. Trans-Mutate was featured in a fan-favorite episode (if not one of mine), and was a sort of strange, half-formed/ malformed Transformer who emerged from a malfunctioning stasis pod and made trouble for everybody.

This 10th Anniversary Transformers Beast Wars set is a welcome line for those of us who want to recapture the Beast Wars, and certainly I recommend TARANTULUS as part of that!

RHINOX

With a name like that, it's not hard to figure out what Rhinox transformed into -- a rhinoceros. Rhinox is a Maximal, second in command to Optimus Primal, and one of the most steadfast Transformers you could ask for. Loyal, intelligent, a superb scientist and tactician, and he managed to go three seasons without shredding either RatTrap or Cheetor, which I think says a lot about his temper control.

Rhinox's deep and rather gruff voice tended to be something of an indicator of age. Clearly this was an experienced Maximal, and Optimus Prime regarded him as a close and longtime friend and loyal confidant.

And anyone who's ever been on a jungle safari will tell you -- a rhino can be a pretty tough customer. They may look slow, but you don't want one mad at you. They're a lot faster than they look, and they'll give you a fight if you make the mistake of crossing one. Granted, they don't tend to transform into a robot and pull out a couple of high-powered machine guns -- thank God -- but as the Predacons learned on several occasions, making the assumption that just because Rhinox was on the bulky side and tended to prefer his science labs to being in on the action didn't mean he didn't know how to fight. Being on the wrong side of Rhinox in combat wasn't a good place to be.

Although generally a serious customer with seemingly little sense of humor, Rhinox nevertheless managed to occasionally end up in situations that were -- well, there was that one episode. "The Low Road". Rhinox was
-- misfiring -- and then made the mistake of eating some local beans -- and -- let's just say the episode lived up to its title, and the result was easily the most humiliating defeat the Predacons could have possibly suffered. But frankly, I doubt it was anything Rhinox would've bragged about much, either.

Fortunately, this is NOT the episode included on the DVD that comes with the toy. And I should really get around to discussing that at this point.

The biggest apparent change to this Rhinox from the original, other than the very nice Maximals insignia stamped on the figure, is the eyes. The original Rhinox had rather robotic-colored eyes even in his animal form. The new Rhinox has more "realistic" eyes, with whites and pupils. The overall color scheme has been slightly altered to be more in keeping with the animated version of the character, as well, which was one of the purposes of this toy line.

Rhinox initially looks a little small in robot form, until you compare him to either of the robotic forms of Waspinator or Cheetor, and you realize he's just about the same size. Granted, in the animated series, he tended to be slightly larger, but we'll let that slide.

Transforming Rhinox from rhino to robot is not as easy as it looks. His rhino armor plating has a nasty tendency to get in the way, and occasionally even snap off. This is essentially a precaution designed to keep the toy from breaking entirely, and as such is a good one. But you're still likely to end up with several loose rhino parts before you're done. The instructions are only so much help, as the two- dimensional illustrated diagrams just don't quite fit the three- dimensional toy as well as they should, so sometimes it's a little hard to figure out exactly where the figure's rhino armor is supposed to be placed.

One friendly note -- don't let the rather alarming face you see at first when you're getting Rhinox into his robot form throw you off. True, it doesn't look that much like the Rhinox character as seen in the animated series. Fortunately, this rather ferocious face splits in two, revealing a second face underneath it, that is much more in keeping with the character's likeness from the show.

Rhinox has several weapons, including a saw blade that attaches to a spring-activated device that is actually stored in Rhinox's chest. In the animated series, this saw blade also doubled as a machine gun. In the toy, there's a couple of mace attachments you can give it.

Rhinox comes with the lower torso and right leg of TRANS-MUTATE, a new figure, a sort of half-formed Transformer that turned up in one episode, after emerging from a malfunctioning stasis pod. The episode was extremely popular with many Transformers fans, and a figure has been designed and broken down into six parts, much like a Marvel Legends giant figure.

Rhinox's character profile reads as follows: RHINOX - Maximal second-in- command and chief science officer, Rhinox prefers to remain at his station aboard the Axalon to engaging in battle, but that doesn't mean he can't fight. On the contrary, his triple-plated steel skin and wide array of medium range and hand-to-hand weapons make him dangerous to even the toughest opponent. There's a good reason Rhinox is the last line of Maximal defense, after the perimeter is breached and all weapons systems are offline - no one's ever got past him.

I seem to recall this one episode where this was precisely the situation. The ship's defenses were down, the place was surrounded by Predacons, and Rhinox very calmly took the elevator outside and without so much as a word, opened up a can of firefight and gave the Predacons some serious damage before they could even react.

Now, some of you might still have your original Beast Wars toys. I don't, so I'm pleased that some of the more prominent ones are being reissued. And in any event, I certainly recommend them. TRANSFORMERS BEAST WARS started a new era for the entire Transformers concept, and presented an amazing story in its CGI animated series. It restored a toy line that might not have otherwise survived, and which has thrived ever since, even as it has gradually returned to its more robotic roots.

But there will always be room for the BEAST WARS, and RHINOX is an important part of that, and he has my highest recommendation!

DINOBOT

One of the most complex characters in the Beast Wars CGI series was certainly Dinobot. There's no way that this 10th Anniversary Beast Wars line of toys could have been properly done without including him.

Introduced in the first episode, Dinobot was technically one of the bad guys, a Predacon. However, disgusted with the lack of honor his fellow warriors showed, and failing in a bid to take over the Predacons himself, he defected to the Maximals. He wasn't exactly welcome there, but Optimus Primal was willing to give him a chance. The level of trust he had with the others tended to vary. Rhinox and Cheetor tended to keep an open mind, if a wary one. Rattrap was never entirely convinced that Dinobot was really on their side.

Granted, Dinobot didn't easily fit in. He was, first and foremost, a warrior. He had no use for pleasantries, couldn't care less about exploration, and sometimes it seemed that the only thing keeping him from trashing everybody on both sides was his personal sense of honor, which he regarded with as great a level of importance as his warrior skills. As much as anything, he was the "Worf" of Beast Wars. A warrior amongst those who fought only when they had to, never really fitting in, but managing to get along just well enough.

It's amazing that a cartoon show for kids would develop this complex a character.

In his animal form, Dinobot was a velociraptor, the vicious predatory dinosaurs made famous a few years earlier in Steven Spielberg's movie based on the Michael Crichton novel, "Jurassic Park". One might expect Dinobot to have been a larger dinosaur, but Megatron had the T.Rex motif sewn up.

Toywise, if one figure from the original Transformers Beast Wars line was screaming to be recolored for the 10th Anniversary line, which has sought to match more closely the look of the characters as they appeared in the animated series, it would have to be Dinobot. In the show, Dinobot appeared to be a tan dinosaur. But the original toy was closer to pink! Not exactly the best way to project a macho warrior image. Thankfully, the new toy is more of a bronze-ish tan, much more in keeping with the character as he appeared in the CGI series.

In his robot form, Dinobot is a little strange. He seems much bulkier and "squared-off" somehow, than how he appeared in the series. Granted, some liberties had to be taken in the design elements to allow the characters to move well, and have reasonably sized heads to speak and show some level of emotion. I've also found it interesting that, in their robot forms, the Beast Wars re-released thus far are all pretty much the same size. This certainly wasn't the case with the show, where, in Dinobot's case, he was distinctly larger. But again, this is a creative decision that I don't blame the producers of the show for making. I do, however, find it interesting from a toy standpoint, that Takara and Hasbro can take some very different animal designs, and work into them robot designs that, when transformed, are all pretty much size compatible. Although less complex, this has to be, in its own way, even trickier than designing the Alternators. At least those are all 1:24 scale cars!

Dinobot's file card reads as follows: A warrior to his core, Dinobot lived only for honor won in combat. Disgusted by the greed and dishonesty of Megatron, and with a life-debt owed to the Maximal leader, he joined Optimus Primal. Though Dinobot was never fully trusted by some Maximals, his strong honor code and philosophical nature led him always on the path to victory. He was one of many to fall in the Beast Wars, sacrificing his life in a heroic battle against overwhelming Predacon attack.

Now, it might seem surprising to read that last sentence. That's not the sort of thing one usually expects to see on the character card for a toy. But in this case, this rather depressing outcome is necessary. The Beast Wars episode featured on the DVD included with Dinobot is "Code of Hero", which is the episode in which Dinobot fell. That "overwhelming Predacon attack" is a little bit of an exaggeration. He fell after being beaten to a point beyond repair by Megatron, who was after some valuable and highly dangerous secrets that Dinobot had stashed. And really, if you're going to feature one key episode about Dinobot, it's going to have to be this one.

This wasn't quite Dinobot's end, though. Sometime later, Megatron developed the TransMetals 2 procedure, and found a way to sort of bring Dinobot back, in a skeletal, almost zombie-like form (this was also featured as a toy in the line). This Dinobot clone, as it was described in the show, was loyal to Megatron, assuming it even had the capacity to be voluntarily loyal to anything, but at the end, even this version of Dinobot betrayed Megatron, sacrificing itself once again to foil the plans of the Predacon leader. If anything proved where Dinobot's loyalties truly were beyond his original sacrifice, it was this.

It's probably worth mentioning that the original Dinobot toy saw a second character molding in the original line, a white version with spots instead of stripes, and it was given the name Grimlock, the name of the best known of the original Dinobots from the Generation One Transformers. This character never appeared in the animated series, but he has turned up in the recent Beast Wars comic book from IDW Publishing, which has been making significant use of characters that were toys but weren't in the show.

Dinobot was a favorite character with a lot of Beast Wars fans, and it's certainly understandable as to why. He was one of the most complex and interesting characters on the show, and there's something fascinating about an outsider like him who adds something to the mix of the rest of the heroes that keeps things from getting dull. His departure from the series, however heroic, was something that always bugged me.

And I certainly recommend the 10th Anniversary DINOBOT to any Beast Wars fan. Even if you have the original, you will want to get this one (and given how hard he was to find compared to the others, I suspect he's proving to be pretty popular). If nothing else, he'll look a bit better in your Beast Wars display than "pinky".

RATTRAP

Interestingly enough, the Rattrap toy offered in this series is not the original. It's the TransMetals version. There's several reasons this could be the case. The original Rattrap toy was quite small, and might have been seen as unacceptable given the basic price point of the series, and given that the other five toys released this far were originally part of the "Deluxe" line, as was the TransMetals Rattrap. It's also entirely possible, although I personally suspect somewhat less likely, that the original Rattrap's molds were unavailable.

However, the TransMetals version of Rattrap certainly appeared across a considerable amount of the CGI animated series, so his presence here in the 10th Anniversary toy line is certainly acceptable.

The TransMetals series was a line within the Beast Wars line that gave the animal forms of many of the Maximals and Predacons a more robotic look, as well as enhanced and increased their overall abilities. This was in some contrast to the early Beast Wars characters, which made more of an effort to look as much like "actual" animals as possible. The TransMetals went over well enough, though, since for the most part, the toys had excellent designs, and most of them also featured color-chromed parts, which is generally a popular feature.

Anyway, as for Rattrap - he was one of the first Maximals, part of the crew of the ship the crashed on primitive Earth. Definitely a robot with an attitude, he didn't care for staying on Earth, his respect for Optimus Primal tended to waver (he often called him "boss-monkey"), and he was only a warrior when he had to be. He was, however, a highly skilled sneak and information gatherer, so the rest of the Maximals put up with his sarcastic and often abrasive attitude. He also had a running feud with Dinobot, whom he never fully trusted. Dinobot was admittedly not especially fond of Rattrap, either, generally referring to him as "vermin". Rattrap most often called Dinobot, not inaccurately, "chopper-face".

He was also just a bit of a fatalist. One saying he became abundantly well-known for over the course of the series was anytime some sort of catastrophic crisis was about to hit - which happened with increasing frequency as the show progressed, was, "Eh, that's it - we're all gonna die." To a degree, Rattrap was second only to Waspinator as far as providing comedy relief for the show, mostly by getting in over his head more often than not.

As for how a robot from a planet halfway across the galaxy from Earth could have what amounted to a Brooklyn accent - well, I'm not even going to try to figure that one out.

As a toy, in robo-animal form, Rattrap is pretty cool. Although he has four legs, he also has two immense wheels on either side of his body, which can supersede his rear legs. One can imagine that when Rattrap underwent the TransMetals process and gained this new feature, he was probably very pleased. Consider that in his more "natural" animal form, Rattrap was highly vulnerable. He couldn't fly. He was hardly the fastest of the Beast Wars, and he had few means of defending himself. But the TransMetals form turned his tail into a weapon, and the two wheels gave him the speed he needed to keep up with many of the faster Maximals. He was also a good bit better armored.

In robot form, he still looked a fair bit like his original self, although recolored. Since these 10th Anniversary Beast Wars toys have themselves been recolored, as needed, to try to more closely match their animated counterparts, I have to say that the Rattrap toy accomplishes this admirably. And in robot form, his tail becomes a whip-like weapon. The tail is really an amazing piece of work. No less than 11 individually-articulated segments make up this piece alone.

Rattrap's personality profile on the package reads: Getting stranded on a remote, empty world to serve as a spy and sneak-thief for Optimus Primal wasn't high on the list of priorities for Rattrap. Smart, sneaky, and sarcastic, Rattrap often rubs other Maximals the wrong way. He's never too keen on lobbing artillery around like the others; a stand-up fight just isn't his thing. Give him the chance to bust into a Predacon base and snatch some juicy data though, and that's when he really shines.

Rattrap comes with a DVD of the Beast Wars episode, "A Better Mousetrap", and the right arm of the buildable figure of "Trans-Mutate".

Anyone who enjoys the Transformers Beast Wars will enjoy these toys, especially if they, for whatever reason no longer have their original collection. Here's a good chance to get the major players back, and I definitely recommend the entire line, and certainly RATTRAP!

It's my understanding that the Beast Wars line will conclude with the release of redone versions of OPTIMUS PRIMAL and MEGATRON. I think that's a shame. I'd like to see the line continue, and I think there's enough of a fan-base for these animation-accurate re-releases to warrant it. Who wouldn't like to see BLACKARACHNIA, TIGATRON, SILVERBOLT, INFERNO, and others?