REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS JUNKHEAP
There are few more bizarre groups within the history of the Transformers than the Junkions. First introduced in the superb animated Transformers movie, which took the drastic step of fast-forwarding the animated series' storyline twenty years into the future and introducing a host of new characters, the Junkions are a group of transforming robots, ostensibly Autobots, who inhabit a planet, although to call it that is stretching the definition just a bit, called -- Junk.
A bit of research called up the following information on the planet of Junk and its primary inhabitants: The Planet of Junk is the home planet of the Junkions, a group of Transformers who transform into motorcycles.
It is not really a planet in the normal sense of the word, but rather, a landfill in space that has accumulated enough mass to be held together by gravity. Depending on the storyline, it has been depicted as either a traditional spherical planet or as an elongated slab.
A group of Transformers known as Junkions inhabit the Planet of Junk. The planet is close enough to Earth to receive television broadcasts with only a few decades of lag. According to the Quintessons' preliminary analysis, "the primitive television transmissions from Earth constitute their entire culture." As a result they only speak in phrases from commercials and TV shows. Given this, Junkions can be somewhat hard to understand; they tend to talk in somewhat of a mish-mash of catch phrases and sound bites (referred to in the film as "talking TV").
Junkions are regarded by many other races as being slightly to extremely insane, depending on the race. They also have a rather extreme xenophobic streak due to their isolation on Junk, and are naturally put off by and wary of strangers, even going so far as to assault the Autobots when they first crash-landed on their planet during the course of the movie. Apparently the only way to gain the trust and friendship of the Junkions is to announce the universal greeting -- which is almost as silly sounding as the TV-based speech patterns, and whose closest known spelling is: "Ba-weep-graghna-weep-nini-bong."
After the initial battle, the Junkions become allies of the Autobots. Oddly, their eyes are red, which is usually associated with Decepticons in the animated series, whereas blue was traditional for Autobots.
Their only exhibited alternate mode is a motorcycle; when they attack, they attack en masse, organized into pairs with one in motorcycle mode and the other riding in robot mode to provide firepower. Junkions are superb technicians, capable of assembling all manner of functional machinery from junk.
These abilities make Junkions very durable; Junkions are built out of scrap and are naturally very ramshackle, but if their parts are scattered then they can reassemble themselves almost instantly, repairing and reattaching broken off parts and drawing replacement parts from nearby sources (other disabled Junkions, slain Transformers, junkyards, etc.). As Springer says: "It's not hard to knock 'em down, it's getting 'em to stay down that's the trick!". On the Planet of Junk, they are nearly invincible.
The background soundtrack to the battle on the Planet of Junk is "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Dare to Be Stupid", which, similar to Junkion speech, contains many pop-culture catchphrases.
The only notable Junkion is their leader, Wreck-Gar. At least until now.
Wreck-Gar was, of course, made as a toy in the original Transformers line, and has remained a popular character throughout the history of Transformers, even turning up in some other Transformers concepts. Most recently, he was turned out as a toy in the Transformers Generations line, the successor to the excellent Transformers Classics line.
I've said this in any number of Transformers reviews that I've written: As much as I have enjoyed the Transformers concept over the years, my one complaint with it was the fact that the original toys just weren't particularly well articulated. Now, in fairness, this wasn't necessarily the point of the toy. The point of the toy was to be able to transform between some vehicle, weapon, or other "alt mode", and a reasonably humanoid robot. Allowing for that robot to have a typical action-figure's degree of articulation was obviously not a primary consideration at the time, and might not have even been technically possible.
Nevertheless, it was a little disappointing for me to watch the animated series, and even take note of the very action-oriented character illustrations on the packages, and then have a robot that couldn't really do much more than just stand there.
Modern technology, which no doubt includes a generous measure of computer-aided drafting and designing, not to mention modern expectations of action figures on the part of both kids and collectors, has remedied this problem. Indeed, Transformers started gaining a greater level of mobility in their robot modes starting with the Beast Wars line, and they maintained it throughout every concept that followed.
However, there was obviously an interest in seeing the best-known, Generation One characters rendered in more mobile forms. This is where the Classics line, now known as the Generations line, came into being. Finally, new versions of characters such as Starscream, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Cyclonus, and many other popular Generation One characters were brought back, in entirely recognizable robot AND alt modes, and had a proper action figure's level of articulation as robots.
No great surprise, there was a considerable demand for Wreck-Gar, and he finally joined the Generations line a while back. But keep in mind, the Junkions are an entire community. When they went up against the supposedly invading Autobots, and then later assisted them in their battle against Unicron, they did so en masse -- and it was quite a mass of robots.
Finally, after something on the order of twenty-five years, we have an official second Junkion, and his name is JUNKHEAP!
Like Wreck-Gar, Junkheap transforms into a motorcycle. No great surprise there -- they all appeared to be motorcycles. One of the wildest scenes in the initial battle was a Junkion robot getting knocked off a Junkion motorcycle, with both of them getting sprawled across the landscape, and once they shook a few loose nuts out of their heads, they switched places. The motorcycle became the robot, the robot became the motorcycle, and they rode right back into battle. Not the sort of thing you're going to encounter anyplace else, really.
So, how's the toy? Really extremely cool. Obviously, one of the reasons for doing a second Junkion in the Transformers toy line was to get a second use out of the very distinctive molds that were created for Wreck-Gar. One can hardly blame Hasbro for this. Toy molds are expensive. And in fairness, a lot of the Transformers do have similar appearances. Even back in the 80's, any number of original Transformers shared molds. Consider the Seekers, the various Decepticon planes. Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp were all derived from the same molds. So were Bumblebee and Cliffjumper. So were Sunstreaker and Sideswipe. The list goes on.
That's not to say there weren't distinctive Transformers. Soundwave, Megatron, Shockwave, Grimlock, and any number of others never saw secondary uses. But when it was possible and appropriate, it did happen.
As for Wreck-Gar and Junkheap, I'm almost surprised it didn't happen until now. One does sort of wonder just a bit how identical the Junkions really were to each other, facial appearances notwithstanding. But it could well be that however they developed in the first place, they found the motorcycle mode both distinctive and best-suited to their purposes -- whatever that might have been, and decided along the way that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" -- a catch-phrase that it's not hard to imagine them using. Of course, given their behavior, it seemed that an equally valid phrase for them might have been, "If it ain't broke, give us a minute..."
Obviously, Junkheap is a pretty straight recoloration of Wreck-Gar, with a new headsculpt. You're not really going to reuse Wreck-Gar's head and get away with it. It's just too distinctive, especially with the maniacal grin and the long mustache and goatee -- and what sort of robot thinks about facial -- hair!? -- or whatever it was -- in the first place!? Okay, I know the venerable Alpha Trion had it as well, but really, this had to be an affectation picked up through encountered with organic life.
The color patterns for Junkions tend to be fairly limited. Wreck-Gar is mostly metal and earth tones (or maybe rust tones!?). He's mostly gray, tan, and yellow-orange, with some black and a bit of red. No great surprise, Junkheap has a similar color scheme, although the detailing in his motorcycle mode is different -- stripes instead of flames -- and he's more burgundy than tan. He seems to have more extensive yellow-orange detailing on him, and there's almost a very slight tan tinge to his silver-gray sections.
The overall color scheme for Junkheap is impressive, in that it is definitely different from Wreck-Gar's, and yet it still falls well within the expectations for a Junkion.
In motorcycle mode, Junkheap isn't exactly to scale with most of the automotive Transformers in the Classics/Generations line. That's okay -- scale has always been a somewhat relative thing in the world of Transformers. Imagine if they tried to do Unicron to scale. I don't think "stately Wayne Manor" would be big enough to contain that, never mind my apartment.
In motorcycle mode, Junkheap is about six inches long, and not quite 3-1/2 inches high. And he's a very effective-looking motorcycle. One tends to wonder just how exactly one is going to get a humanoid robot out of this -- even a slightly wacky one.
I am far from an expert on vehicle types and models, so I wasn't entirely sure whether Junkheap represented an actual, real world motorcycle. Some of the Transformers over the years have been very closely based on actual vehicles of one sort or another, even outside of the officially-licensed Alternators line from a few years ago. However, as far as I've been able to determine, this particular motorcycle model has no specific real-world counterpart.
It certainly LOOKS plausible enough. It's no stretch of the imagination whatsoever to see someone riding a motorcycle just like this one down the street. In motorcycle mode, Junkheap has a mostly burgundy body, with a yellow-orange frame around his headlight, and a little silver piece jutting above the headlight, that has the Autobot emblem in it, and a clear lens in the headlight. This is interesting on two accounts, in how it differs from Wreck-Gar. Wreck-Gar has an opaque red headlight, and the little piece jutting above it is clear, and lacks a visible Autobot logo, although technically, it's still there. Wreck-Gar was part of the fairly brief "Reveal the Shield" line of Classic/Generations Transformers, that brought back the thermal stickers that revealed either an Autobot or Decepticon emblem. This was a practice used briefly over the course of the original line, to make Transformers that much more distinctive from the host of robot toys that tried to ride the wave of their popularity after their initial introduction.
Since Junkheap is NOT part of the "Reveal the Shield" line, his Autobot emblem is readily apparent, and painted in the traditional red. This is also interesting, because if memory serves, the original Wreck-Gar's Autobot emblem was orange, but I may be mistaken about that.
Junkheap has yellow-orange striping on his sides, and a black, ridged seat. His handlebars, engine, and most of the visible machinery of his motorcycle mode is silver, or a sort of pale gray with a hint of tan. The wheels are yellow-orange, which is one of the color differences that really sets him apart from Wreck-Gar, whose wheels are gray. Junkheap also has some red panels on his sides.
According to the package, Junkheap's transformation difficulty is listed as "2" on a scale of 0 to 5, which is defined as "Intermediate". Let's find out. I'm reasonably adept at transforming a car into a robot. A motorcycle -- not quite as sure, and it's been a while since I did Wreck-Gar. I have a habit of transforming my Transformers into their robot modes ONCE, and leaving them like that. And as I said, Junkheap is such an effective-looking motorcycle, that I'm not entirely sure how we're going to get a humanoid robot out of this. But, I did it once -- I should be able to do it again.
Of course, there are printed instructions, but I have found that the two-dimensional diagrammed instructions, lacking any sort of written words, don't always transition to the three-dimensional toy as well as one might hope. It also helps a bit to keep the package available, since it includes a photo of the toy in both modes. If you can get it to match the photo, you know you've done it right. Wouldn't hurt to have Wreck-Gar on hand, either, if you happen to own him.
But I do try to use my Transformers reviews to provide some written instructions, which I hope will be helpful.
The first thing you do is pop the exhaust pipe and "hubcap" off of the rear wheel. This will eventually become Junkheap's weapon, and I'll discuss it more later.
Next, rotate the rear wheel 180 degrees upwards along the hinge on the left side.
Then, grasp the central body that includes the headlight, handlebars, and fuel tank, and stretch them upwards away from the rest of the vehicle, and then pivot the front section further upwards along the hinge under the fuel tank. At this point you've got something that doesn't look like much of anything and you're probably wondering where this is going to end up.
Now, rotate the seat section outwards from a post concealed beneath the seat. At this point, you should be able to start to tell that the two separated body sections that you've been working on are going to be forming the legs of the robot, even if the upper body still isn't making a lot of sense just yet.
Next, pivot the legs around at the upper leg swivel, and then take note of the instructions for how to form the feet. This isn't easily explained verbally, and it really does help if you have the Wreck-Gar figure to have it on hand for comparative purposes. The oddest part of this is that it is NOT necessary to manually bend the handlebars back. As you move the headlight up the leg, they will move back of their own accord. Don't forget to rotate both feet around to the proper positions.
You will notice that Junkheap's legs do not match each other. But they should be even in length. Remember, he's a Junkion. Who says they have to match?
Now it's time to go to work on the upper body. Rotate the upper section around until the wheel is facing towards the rear.
Next, spread the arms out to the side. The wheel should accompany the left arm. And also, raise the head up from what is now the upper torso.
Finally, lower the arms, and rotate the hands around properly. And Junkheap is in his robot form!
It can be a little tricky to get Junkheap to stand up perfectly straight. I had the same problem with Wreck-Gar. The legs are not quite even. But you can usually fiddle with the knees and feet just a bit, and get him to stand fairly straight, and regardless, he does stand well.
It's interesting to note the color differences between Wreck-Gar and Junkheap. They're fairly considerable. Wreck-Gar has a mostly tan torso, with yellow flames on it, and just a bit of silver around his abdomen. Junkheap, on the other hand, has a burgundy upper torso, and a mostly silver lower torso. He lacks Wreck-Gar's flame trim, but a couple of widgets on his torso have been painted yellow.
Wreck-Gar's upper arms are tan, his lower arms are yellow-orange, and his hands are tan. Junkheap, in contrast, has yellow-orange upper arms, burgundy lower arms, with red "cuffs", something Wreck-Gar does not have, and gray hands. Junkheap also has red hips, compared to Wreck-Gar's gray, the a sort of "knee pad" on Junkheap's left leg has been painted yellow, with a burgundy interior detail, whereas the corresponding piece on Wreck-Gar is entirely black.
Wreck-Gar's lower left leg is mostly yellow orange, and his lower right leg is mostly tan. Both of Junkheap's lower legs are mostly burgundy. Wreck-Gar gas tan feet, Junkheap's are silver.
Despite being mostly made from the same set of molds, they really manage to look quite distinctive from each other.
Of course, Junkheap has his own unique headsculpt. And while I don't believe it resembles any particular member of the Junkion population that we may have encountered in the movie, it definitely has a Junkion look to it. It's rather angular in appearance, with what looks like a red headlight jutting out from the forehead. Junkheap has eyes that look like goggles, stretching over the bridge of his nose, as opposed to two distinct and separate eyes, an almost pinkish face, and -- he does have a mustache, although it's not as pronounced as Wreck-Gar's.
The back of Junkheap's head is molded in transparent plastic, which is a neat trick in its own way. When a light source is poised near the back of Junkheap's head, it makes it look as though his eyes are glowing.
Now, Junkheap does come with an accessory. The exhaust pipe and "wheel" that were removed earlier. The pipe can be straightened out along a hinge, and the "wheel" can be converted, very cleverly in my opinion, along a gear within its center, to fan out into a four-bladed battle axe! It doesn't spin, but its own little "transformation" is interesting. It's different from Wreck-Gar's, as well. His is entirely silver-gray. Junkheap's has yellow blades.
The character profile for Junkheap on the back of the package reads as follows: Assembled and raised in the scrap heap, Junkheap is a supremely resourceful bot. It was he who helped orchestrate the repair and reboot of the disabled Ultra Magnus. The mighty Autobot was so impressed with the talent of Junkheap that he encouraged Autobot Ratchet to spend an extended leave on planet Junkion to hone his repair skills.
It's a good profile, with a couple of minor continuity glitches. Although Ultra Magnus was attacked and disabled on the planet, and the Junkions did indeed very effectively repair him once peace had been made with the Autobots, the name of the planet is Junk, not Junkion. Also, tragically, Ratchet was among the casualties in the movie. During the third season of the Transformers animated series, which took place after the events of the movie, Wreck-Gar largely became the Autobots' chief medic/mechanic in his place. I'm prepared to overlook that one, since Ratchet has been made as part of the Classics/Generations line, and, what the heck, we may be dealing with a slightly alternate universe here. There's been no shortage of those in the history of the Transformers.
Nevertheless, the profile does give Junkheap a good individual characterization, as well as a certain prominence, since it states that it was he who orchestrated the repair of Ultra Magnus -- no small feat.
Junkheap's power rankings give him an "8" in Skill and Speed, "6" in Strength, Endurance, and Fireblast, "5" in Courage, and "4" in Rank and Intelligence.
So, what's my final word here? The Junkions have been an established part of the Transformers universe for some time, even though we mainly knew them through Wreck-Gar, and the rest seemed to be mostly drones. I think it's cool that we finally have a second distinctive personality among the Junkions, and Junkheap is a good one, both as a character and as a toy, and he manages to look different enough from Wreck-Gar as a toy to be an individual, and still a Junkion. I believe any Transformers collector would be very pleased with him. I certainly am. He's well-made, the painted details are superbly well done, and he looks cool in both his motorcycle and robot modes.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of JUNKHEAP from the Junkions definitely has my highest recommendation!