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REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS CYBERTRON PRIMUS
By Thomas Wheeler



Where did Cybertron come from? That's actually a heck of a good question. The concept of a machine planet that gave birth to a race of sentient robots isn't an easy one to address -- nor has it been addressed all that consistently within the Transformers.

If we look back to Generation One, the Quintessons would have us believe that they are responsible for the creation of both the Autobots and the Decepticons. But even assuming that's true, that doesn't explain where the planet Cybertron itself came from. Furthermore, if we're prepared to agree with the histories of Beast Wars and Beast Machines, and link them to Generation One, then at some point in its distant past, Cybertron actually started out as an organic planet the same as any other.

This, in a roundabout way, brings us to the name Primus. The name tended to turn up in the original Transformers concept, largely as an exclamation along the lines of "Thank Primus", much as someone might say "Thank God" whether they actually had any devout faith in God or not.

Head into the Transformers Cybertron concept, carried over in some aspects from Armada and Energon. While not specifically tied into Generation One, there are certainly similarities. We have Autobots, Decepticons, Optimus Prime, Megatron -- and let's not forget Unicron.

In the Generation One universe, specifically in Transformers the Movie, Unicron was the biggest Transformer of all time. A planet-sized robot, he destroyed other machine worlds and consumed them to power himself. Unicron feared only one thing -- the Autobot Matrix. Ultimately, it was his downfall. In more recent Transformers tales, Unicron was just about as unpleasant. He was certainly just as big, and we finally got a Unicron toy a couple of years ago, a massive construct standing 16" in height in robot form that, while not the specific Unicron from the original movie, was close enough for most Transformers fans, whether they paid attention to the current series or not. It was still UNICRON, someone they'd been waiting for in toy form for 17 years, and there was certainly enough of a resemblance.

But there were still some "what if" questions to be asked. What if Unicron had a heroic counterpart? What if some benevolent robotic being named Primus actually existed, and was in some way responsible for the existence of the Transformers?

But the one question that didn't get asked was -- what if Primus -- was Cybertron...

As far as the toy line is concerned, Primus -- IS Cybertron. I've heard it said that the animated series treats the situation by claiming that Primus is at the core of Cybertron. Hey -- close enough if that's the case. My apologies to Transfans if I am mistaken here.

But, whatever the case, Primus has appeared, and is making such an impact that the current crop of Transformers Cybertron toys all carry the subheading "Primus Unleashed". As aside here -- although I have hardly been able to pick up even a significant percentage of Transformers Cybertron toys, and even though I'm looking forward to forthcoming Transformers toys, once the Cybertron concept has run its course, I'm going to miss it. Just based on observation in the toy aisles and the handful of toys from the collection I have brought home, this has likely been one of the most extensive and well-planned-out Transformers concepts ever. Hasbro and Takara have really done an amazing job with it, and all parties involved are to be congratulated.

As for Primus, of course he was brought into the toy line, and thank goodness. The toy is amazing. I was talking online with someone recently about the complexity of certain Transformers, especially the Alternators, based as they are on real-world cars. I said that I couldn't imagine the level of engineering that has to go into one of those toys, and the other person pointed out that if it weren't for CAD (Computer Assisted Drafting) programs and the like, a lot of modern Transformers would pretty much be impossible. I hadn't even considered that option, but it makes sense, and is probably accurate.

But something like Primus probably came close to overloading even one of those programs. A Transformers Alternator has to be based closely enough on a real-world car to meet the satisfaction of the actual manufacturer of the real car, and still be able to transform into a fully-poseable humanoid robot.

Primus has to be detailed enough to plausibly seem as though that in his non-robot form, he's a whole freaking planet.

That means, if nothing else, a level of detail on this toy that'll give you both eyestrain and a headache just trying to study it. It's absolutely incredibly. Some parts are symmetrical compared to their counterparts on the other side of the robot body. Others aren't. And yet they all fit together and work. The detail level on this toy is actually more extensive than on Unicron, even though Unicron is a bit larger.

That brings me to one point that I want to address. Neither Unicron nor Primus are to scale with any other Transformers toys. If they were, I doubt that I would be able to readily fit them in my apartment COMPLEX, let alone my apartment. But I don't believe that they're even to scale with each other, although on this point I remain uncertain for one reason, which I will explain in a moment.

Unicron stands about 16" in height. Assuming that the modern Unicron is about the same size as the original, that makes him about as big as a large moon, in "planet" form, and perhaps somewhat larger in robot form
-- but still not as big as Cybertron itself. And indeed, the fact that Primus is more detailed than Unicron might be testament to this.

Primus, on the other hand, stands about 14" in height, counting the half- spheres on his back. Presumably he is somewhat smaller in "planet" form (and no, I didn't try it yet -- Primus came packaged in robot form, thank God, and he can stay that way. It's how I prefer my Transformers anyway). So one would have to assume that either the two toys are not to scale with each other, or they are, and the explanation that Primus is the CORE of Cybertron, and not the entire planet, is the accurate one.

And yet the package explanation for Primus states he is the entire planet, and really, he looks it, as I will discuss momentarily. And just to throw a little extra confusion into it all, a limited number of Primus toys, including the one I purchased, come with a damaged head of Unicron. And this head IS to scale with the Unicron toy! It's the same size, more or less, as the Unicron toy's head.

So what's the answer? I haven't the slightest idea, and I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to enjoy both of them. There's more than enough nit-pickers in the Transformers hobby to discuss THAT one back and forth until the end of time...

My guess is the bottom line is pure economics. By making Primus slightly smaller, basically in the same box size/price range as the huge Starscream toy, Hasbro was able to sell him to the stores. Starscream is almost an aberration, sizewise, in the Cybertron line, and Primus still manages to tower over everybody else, including the huge Optimus Prime and Megatron in this line, who come in at about 9-1/2 inches in robot form.

One thing that I'm sure Hasbro and Takara wanted to create here was an amazing robot, clearly a hero, but not someone that would detract from the far better-known Optimus Prime. In this they succeeded. Primus has a very noble-looking headsculpt, with a faint trace of Optimus to it, but it is clearly distinctive unto itself. Primus' body uses somewhat understated colors. There is none of Optimus' red here. The torso is light blue, while the rest of the body is dark blue and pale grey, with a bit of gold and black trim. It's a very pleasing, and somehow heroic, color scheme, that takes nothing away from Optimus, and also sets Primus apart from Unicron, who is predominantly yellow-gold with some purple.

The planetary detail on Primus is absolutely staggering. Look in the indentations on the sphere portions on Primus' back and lower legs. You will see what look like representations of futuristic skyscrapers, of the type that the Transformers might dwell in. These are actually listed on the box as the cities of Cybertron. In over 20 years, I have never seen a Transformer with this level of detailing. Even better, it's all neatly painted. Every painted detail on this robot has been done with an incredible level of precision. Thank God the Transformers have managed to avoid the sloppiness problems that other lines have been subjected to.

Articulation in robot form is equally remarkable. The hands alone are astounding. Not only is each finger individually articulated, but there's a second mid-point level of articulation on each finger! Primus can close his hands into a fist, or open them for a handshake -- although what he'd shake hands with I have no idea...

Primus has a full range of motion in his robot form. His head turns, his arms move, elbows, arm swivels, waist, legs, leg swivels, knees, the whole works.

The only oddball part of Primus' robot form is his lower legs and feet. They're partial spheres of his planet form, and the feet are these sort of "flaps" that open up in the front. They honestly don't look as though they'd support Primus' weight or let him stand up very well, but they do just fine. Primus stands without any problems whatsoever.

I think one of the things that sets Primus apart from Unicron is that the designers had more freedom with Primus. Even though the Unicron that appeared in the Armada series on which the toy was based wasn't technically the same Unicron that was in the 1986 animated movie, there was still a certain long-established expectation of what Unicron should look like, and the designers didn't want to stray too far away from that. Doing so, I'm sure they knew, would upset legions of Transfans -- and nobody wants that.

But nobody had any real preconceived notions about what Primus should look like, except that in planet mode he should have some resemblance to Cybertron, and I think that gave the designers a freer hand to create a truly astounding robot. And they certainly succeeded.

Primus' origin and back story is actually covered in two places on the package -- the character outline on the back, which is for "Cybertron Primus", and some lengthier details on the side of the box, which are listed as being for "Cybertron". I present them both here:

CYBERTRON PRIMUS: Mighty creator of the Transformers race, both Autobots and Decepticons owe him their loyalty as his children. He is as old as the Universe itself, and matched in power only by his twin brother, the evil Unicron. Primus is the lord of light - a pure, natural force of order, strength and peace, committed eternally to the struggle against chaos, destruction, and the ever-advancing darkness of Unicron.

I'm assuming Primus and Unicron are fraternal twins here...

CYBERTRON: Until now, Cybertron has been known only as the ancient home of the Transformers. With their home damaged almost beyond repair and unable to resist the pull of a gigantic black hole that threatens to destroy it, the Autobots have retrieved the legendary Omega Lock and the four Cyber Planet keys. The power of these ancient artifacts re-links the spark of Primus to his physical form - the planet Cybertron itself!

Content throughout history merely to observe his creations as they explored the universe around them, Primus has never before unleashed his full might. Though he was awakened from time to time during the long history of the Transformers, never before has the danger to the universe been so great that he has felt the need to show his true form. Now is a time of greater need than he has ever seen before. Now, all of creation cries out its need for its greatest champion and protector.

And yes, Primus does come with an Omega Lock accessory, and one Cyber Planet Key. Other Cyber Planet Keys will work in the toy. Primus has several modes, actually, including a battle station as well as Cybertron itself, of course. Primus also has several light up features and sound effects (batteries needed for this).

All Transformers also include a graph of their capabilities, ranking 1 through 10, on Strength, Intelligence, Speed, Endurance, Rank, Courage, Fireblast, and Skill. Need it be said that Primus is pretty well off the scale on most of these. Strength and Skill are listed as "Unknown", but who really wants to find out the hard way? Intelligence and Rank have the symbol for "infinity" next to them, and Endurance, Courage, and Fireblast are listed at "10", which is probably an understatement for all of them. Only in Speed does Primus come up short, listed at "5". But hey, he's a whole dang planet! How fast does he really need to be?

A brief word on the Unicron head accessory. It's a creepy piece of work. Half of the robotic face has been blasted off, revealing this extremely well detailed but kinda scary-looking robotic skull underneath. There's tentacles coming out from underneath the head. There's battle damage all over it, which for once on a toy is certainly appropriate. Guess we know who came out on top in this fight, and it wasn't Unicron!

Bottom line -- this is an incredibly amazing toy. It really needs to be in contention for one of the top action figures of the year. Every time I look at it, I see another area of detail. Hasbro and Takara really went to the limit on this one, and it shows. Primus isn't inexpensive, but you'll be getting your money's worth, I assure you, and TRANSFORMERS CYBERTRON PRIMUS definitely gets my highest recommendation!