REVIEW: HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE 5 ZELIX with ZEMERIK
I've been a Hot Wheels fan for just about as long as there have been Hot Wheels. I have a fairly vast collection of the cars, although I will also readily admit I'm not quite as die-hard a Hot Wheels collector as some people out there.
However, I have enjoyed and supported the line for many decades. That having been said, there have been some concepts within Hot Wheels that just haven't quite worked as well as hoped, and it's generally been when Mattel has tried to work some specific story concept into a special line of Hot Wheels cars.
Several years ago, there were the AcceleRacers. These were cool cars, and there was apparently some animation somewhere to back them up, but that and a few track sets was about it. The cars were popular enough, but not a major hit, and an extension of the line barely made it out.
Last year, Mattel made the unfortunate mistake of linking Hot Wheels to the live-action Speed Racer movie. Technically, this wasn't Mattel's fault. They weren't responsible for the movie. But it was still a disaster for them. I enjoyed some of the cars, having recalled the original Speed Racer animated series from when I was a kid.
So it's probably fair to say that Mattel has tended to have a little trouble working story themes or specific concepts into their otherwise massive powerhouse toy line known as Hot Wheels. Well, they're trying it again. And honestly, this time, I hope it works, because I think they've got a pretty cool concept on their hands.
It's called BATTLE FORCE 5. It currently airs on the Cartoon Network. Fortunately, there was a short entry to be found on Wikipedia. It reads:
In the Battle Force 5 series, Vert Wheeler and Sage assemble a team of racers to compete against the robotic Sark and the animalistic Vandals in the Battlezones to determine the fate of the Earth.
The adventures of these characters take place throughout a series of Battlezones. These were apparently created by the "Blue Sentients", of which Sage is one, and have names such as "City Wreck Battlezone", "Cybergrid Battlezone", and one of the really odd ones, "Inside Body Battlezone".
The package card for the toys makes further mention of the necessity to capture something called BattleKeys, which they need to keep from the robotic Sark and the animalistic Vandals, and "to save the world from evil".
Sounds like an interesting show, really.
Anyway, I recently saw the toy line emerge. As one might expect, despite the fact that it does include figures, it's generally found in the die-cast aisle. The Battle Force 5 line seems to feature three main segments -- Hot Wheels-sized vehicles based on the vehicles from the series (and track sets for them); somewhat larger vehicles with built-in special features; and the line with the really larger vehicles and the figures.
Since I'm mostly a figure collector, this was the aspect of the line that caught my greatest attention, although I have to say there's some seriously wild Hot Wheels-scaled cars available for BF5. And I returned home with a vehicle called ZELIX, and it's driver, ZEMERIK.
This is not one of the good guy vehicles. Zemerik is the leader of the evil Sark, the robotic opponents of Battle Force 5. The other bad guys are the animalistic Vandals. I find it interesting that we have a toy concept here with two distinct enemy forces, and right out of the gate. Not a lot of toy lines have done this over the years. G.I. Joe did. Along with Cobra, there were the Iron Grenadiers, the HeadHunters, and the Lunartix Empire, but these took years to develop after the initial introduction of the line.
I've heard this concept described as "MASK meets TRON". Based on the visual images of the toys themselves as well as what's seen on the packaging, I'd say that's a fair assessment, with maybe a bit of NASCAR RACERS thrown in for good measure, at leats insofar as the human characters are concerned. A group shot of the main cast on the back of the card shows a group of individuals dressed in colorful uniforms, each one with a distinct color. These outfits look something like high-tech armored super-hero suits. They're tight-fitting, and have colorful armor plating over the musculature, along with additional details.
The costumes do evoke a sense of TRON in some respects. Although lacking the circuitry imprintings, they do have a certain computerized look to them, which is doubtless enhanced in the CGI animated series. And they also evoke a sense of MASK, apart from the vehicles, given how relatively short they are. This is necessary, however, since Battle Force 5, being related to Hot Wheels, is first and foremost a vehicle-driven line, and making the figures much larger than they are would've made the vehicles themselves far too large. Here's also where you sort of get a sense of the NASCAR RACERS line.
Obviously, the TRON/MASK connection is going to be less present on the bad guys, although there's still the figure size to be considered. I'm trying not to draw a comparison here that the man bad guy in TRON was named "Sark", and that's the name of the race of villainous robots in the concept, represented here by Zemerik. That's PROBABLY a coincidence. Probably...
Zemerik is a pretty big guy, relatively speaking. Although the humans in this series are somewhat more varied than would be encountered in real life, if we take one of the more average looking ones (which I happen to own), by the name of Stanford Isaac Rhodes IV, and measure him, he comes out to about 2-3/4" in height -- a small bit of which is spiked hair.
Zemerik, on the other hand, is a full three inches in height, and he doesn't even have hair. Now, that's only a quarter of an inch, but in this scale, that's huge.
So, what does Zemerik look like? How about -- General Grievous on steroids? Okay, the main difference is that Grievous was a cyborg, not a robot, and Zemerik is all robot, but there's definitely some resemblances. Zemerik has a long, angular face, with deepset black eyes with glowing red centers. He has no visible mouth, but rather a sort of grid across his lower face. The illustration of Zemerik on the package shows that right around his throat region is a black -- something -- insignia? medallion? device? -- with a glowing red emblem in it. This was a little too much for the action figure to manage, although the object is sculpted on the figure.
Zemerik has a large, powerful-looking torso, a framework, really, silver in color, with tightly-woven blue cabling running throughout it. There's something about this, and perhaps combined with the small size of the figure, that vaguely reminds me of some of the figures from a short-lived Hasbro line from over 20 years ago, called Air Raiders.
Zemerik has two arms and legs, very sturdy-looking, and very highly detailed. The arms end in hands with two fingers and a thumb, and the legs end in feet with two claw-like toes. Here the Grievous resemblance comes through once again. However, unlike Grievous' seeming scrawniness, Zemerik looks more like a serious powerhouse of a robot.
Paint detailing is not that extensive on this figure, but what there is of it is very neatly done, especially Zemerik's eyes. His torso has been molded in the blue of the cabling, with the framework being painted metallic silver. The arms and legs are molded in a silver grey, and are not painted. There's a few detail areas that look as though they should be painted the same blue as the cabling, but have not been. Let's give the painters a break, though. This is a very small figure and some of these areas would be very difficult to paint. If you want to be picky, take Zemerik to an art supply store, try to match the color (and it's a pretty weird shade of blue-turquoise), and get a very small brush. Good luck.
He also has these broad armored shoulder pads, that look as though they were molded and assembled separately from the rest of the figure. Nice bit of additional detail.
Zemerik is articulated at the head, arms, and legs. This may not sound like much, but consider two things -- #1, the size of the figure, and #2, all he really has to do is sit in his vehicle and drive the thing. He's poseable enough for that.
Speaking of which, let's turn our attention to the ZELIX. Now, I'll admit, I'm not entirely sure what sort of vehicles a race of robots would design. Somehow, I doubt that they would come up with anything that looks quite this wild. That's not a complaint. I love this thing. I'm just surprised that it was designed for use by a race of robots, that's all.
There isn't a straight line to be found anywhere on the Zelix. It's all curves, and most of them are very threatening in appearance. The vehicle has a black central body, but the outer frame and wheels are a transparent turquoise. Okay, granted, I'm something of a sucker for transparent-colored toys, but this vehicle would look incredible in almost any color scheme.
The central part of the vehicle, the black section, is a long, curved shape that is pointed at the front and the rear. There are curved arches over all four wheels. Beyond this are four additional arches, that extend out to the sides of the vehicle, again around the four wheels. These are done in transparent turquoise, as are the wheels themselves.
Honestly, this vehicle looks almost like it used the Hot Wheels "flame" logo for its basic design inspiration. The front blue arches are pointed and pointing forward, while the rear arches, although also pointed towards the rear, are more curved, and doubled. It takes a little imagination to see the Hot Wheels flame in this, but not too much. The end result is also a very cool and impressive vehicle.
Some assembly IS required. The four pieces that comprise the outer arches need to be attached to the vehicle, and there are no written instructions included. However, it's a fairly simple procedure, and you can readily use the photograph of the completed vehicle on the back of the package card for reference. And I think it would be impossible to misassemble it.
The canopy to the Zelix opens from the rear, and there is a seat within for Zemerik to occupy. The interior of the Zelix is black, with a blue-turquoise seat, and admittedly not a whole lot of interior cockpit detail. But from a toy standpoint, it works well enough. There's a restraint on the seat that will hold Zemerik in place.
The Zelix also features a spring-loaded missile launcher, right up front and center, and a single missile. It took me a minute to figure out where the activation button was. It's on the top of the vehicle, the raised section in the center. Nicely hidden, really. For a matter of size comparison to the Zemerik figure, when fully assembled, the Zelix is over 11" long, and 6" wide!
It's interesting to note that both the vehicle and the figure have the Hot Wheels logo molded on them. It's on the bottom of the vehicle as one would expect, and it's on the bottom of one of Zemerik's feet. Somehow, I'm just not used to seeing a Hot Wheels logo on a figure. :)
So, what's my final word? The vehicle and figure appear to be of excellent overall quality. Sturdy materials used, well sculpted, well designed, and neatly painted. Although my specific knowledge of the animated series is, at the moment, somewhat limited, what I see here is a cool concept that has been carried out in a very high quality toy line.
My one concern is that it takes a lot for an all-new concept to really make it in the toy world today. Established concepts such as Transformers, Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers, and various super-heroes seem to have the run of the toy aisle. And I don't have a problem with any of those concepts. I like them all myself. But it does make it tough for something new to get any sort of foothold.
How long will Hot Wheels' Battle Force 5 last? I really don't know. I'd like to think for a good long time. But we'll see. In the meantime, I expect I'll be acquiring a few of them here and there as I can, and I look forward to presenting reviews of them. And I should really try to track down the show, as well. I sincerely hope this concept is a great success.
Meanwhile, the HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE 5 set of ZELIX, with its driver ZEMERIK, most definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!