Review > Masterpiece Grimlock (MP-08)

When a number of you guessed Masterpiece Grimlock for my 150th review, I was actually a bit puzzled until I realized the figure would probably be shipping soon–and I think I got the shipping notice the same day. I’d forgotten all about the guy.

Before we move on, confession time. Yes, I bought Masterpiece Optimus Prime, and even reviewed him for Michael Crawford’s site. But later, I sold him. Yes! I was a fool, I admit it. In any event, that’s why you won’t see any comparison photos with MP Op. However, it’s notable that Grimlock is smaller than MP Optimus, despite generally being depicted as taller in the cartoon. This is most likely a result of having to keep his price in the realm of the not-insane, but those who like to display the MP figures next to one another will probably be disappointed.

In that review, I wrote, “Masterpiece Optimus isn’t just a toy — this is an event. It’s the toyetic equivalent of a blockbuster movie — a good blockbuster movie, like JAWS or Ghostbusters.” That holds true for every Masterpiece Transformer so far–each one is an incredible work of toy engineering and artistry.

As most of you probably know, the original Grimlock is my favorite toy of all time. That will probably never change, since it has the advantage of my childhood memories and nostalgia. But while it can never be that same toy my parents first gave me in the living room of our apartment over twenty years ago, Masterpiece Grimlock is nonetheless a superb tribute to one of the most popular Transformers ever.

Of course, that excellence comes at a price: I paid $150 for this figure (including shipping), and depending on where you buy him, you could pay a bit less or significantly more. But, as even my wife graciously came to accept, there was no way I wasn’t getting this toy.

One last thing before we get to the review: I’d like to address a criticism I saw in another review, this one of the Transformers Classics Grimlock. Reviewer yo go re wrote, “Grimlock is the Boba Fett of Transformers: blessed with wild popularity, but without having done anything to earn it.” This characteristically glib statement is unfair and just plain wrong. While Grimlock’s initial popularity with kids was no doubt due to the fact that he’s a robot who transforms into a Tyrannosaurus rex–how could that not be a kid’s dream toy?–he received plenty of characterization in the cartoon and particularly in the comics, where he became legendary Transformers scribe Simon Furman’s signature character. Grimlock hasn’t done anything more or less than any other Transformer character to “earn” his popularity.

But getting back to Grimlock…what else can I say about him? He’s a robot. He’s a Tyrannosaurus rex. His name is Grimlock, for heaven’s sake! That has to be one of the baddest-ass names ever.

Packaging: Grimlock comes in a large black box with some nice graphics, although I would have liked to see the classic G1 art somewhere on it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a gatefold front, so you can’t see the figure until you take him out of the box. Inside he’s strapped down in a clear plastic tray.

Design: The premise behind the Masterpiece Transformers series is to create toys based on the cartoon and comic depictions of the characters in as highly accurate a manner as possible, while still preserving the ability to transform. This is a very difficult task, because the vagaries of the way the Transformers were drawn–the stylistic license and other artistic touches–often exaggerate or alter aspects of the toy’s design in a way that wouldn’t allow for them to transform properly.

In general, the cartoon looks are smoother and more rounded than the blocky G1 toys were. Depending on the character and the nature of his transformation, the Masterpiece figures have had varying degrees of success in mimicking both modes: Masterpiece Optimus was pretty much perfect, while Masterpiece Megatron suffered from legs that were too thin (and transformed into an amusingly oversized Walther P38). Grimlock, fortunately, falls more on the “perfect” side of things.

Dinosaur mode: I would imagine that, when designing Masterpiece figures, the designers start with one particular mode and then do their best to make the other mode look as good as possible. In the case of Optimus Prime and Megatron, they clearly started with the robot mode, since that was the more distinctive form and the one you saw the most of on the cartoon. Even the original G1 Optimus and Megatron looked fine in their truck and gun modes; the idea here was to make them resemble their robot modes as well. I think this has been true for most of the Masterpiece figures.

For Grimlock, I’m guessing the designers started from the tyrannsaur mode and then worked the robot mode to fit. Grimlock spent most of his time in the cartoon in dinosaur mode, which had a few differences from the G1 toy: the torso was longer and thinner, the head was longer and the teeth sharper, he had three fingers rather than two on each hand (which is inaccurate to a true Tyrannosaurus rex and the original toy, but accurate to the cartoon depiction), and his body, particularly his tail, was actually flexible. Also, in both robot and dinosaur mode, his eyes were blue, rather than red like the toy.

It’s to Takara Tomy’s immense credit that they’ve worked all of these aspects into the toy. Grimlock is the spitting image of his cartoon counterpart, right down to his chromed teeth and triple fingers.

Robot mode: The robot mode isn’t quite as perfect as the dinosaur mode, but it’s still very well executed, and looks very much like the cartoon, particularly the head.

Plastic & Paint: Transformers don’t usually have the same number of paint applications as a sculpted action figure, as they’re mostly molded in their specific colors. Grimlock does have a few paint applications, though. There’s some nice black and red work on his flanks. The shiny blue and red used for his robot mode visor looks great as well, and can be swapped from red (toy version) to blue (cartoon version) in both modes.

As far as I’ve been able to tell, the only die cast metal parts on the figure are the claws on the feet, the gold hips, [the pelvis —update] and a few of the smaller parts used in the transformation.

There are also little Easter eggs hidden throughout the sculpt, such as the articulated flamethrower device in the dinosaur mode’s throat and the rocket exhausts on the bottom of his feet (on the back of the robot mode’s wrists).

Articulation: Another hallmark of the Masterpiece line is the fantastic articulation worked in to the figures. While their G1 counterparts were incredibly stiff, the Masterpiece figures have articulation on par with DCUC or Marvel Legends.

In dinosaur mode, Grimlock has an opening jaw as well as head articulation to look up and down; a swivel neck; ball jointed shoulders, hinged elbows and individually hinged claws on each hand; ball jointed hips, hinged knees, and hinged toes. Also, both the small silver tip of his tail and his larger “rump” section can move side to side, and when you move the rump, his head shakes back and forth (see Features, below).

I’m not sure I can even accurately count up all the articulation points in robot mode. Suffice to say he’s got a ball joints at the head, shoulders and thumbs, a ball joint-like range of motion at the hips, hinged elbows and knees, and a neat system on his feet that allow him to stand in a wide stance. It’s more than enough articulation to get him into most poses.

Accessories & Features: Like his Masterpiece predecessors, Grimlock comes loaded with accessories and action features.

As mentioned above, Grimlock will shake his head when the larger part of his tail (his rump) is moved back and forth. Also, if you click open his jaw, pressing on his left cheek will cause the jaw to snap shut.

The area between his dinosaur mode’s eyes can be raised to change his eyes from red to blue, and a switch on the back of his robot mode’s head does the same.

[Update: a reader pointed out to me that the dinosaur head can move up and down when the figure is pushed down on its hips.]

Grimlock’s accessories include his signature double-barreled gun and vibro-sword. When placed in his right hand in robot mode, both can be made to light up by pressing a button on the back of his right shoulder. The sword looks a lot better than the gun, as it has a lot more clear plastic to light up.

He also comes with episode-specific accessories such as his apron, bow tie and tray of drinks from “Madman’s Paradise” and the intelligence-transference device he used on Computron in “Grimlock’s New Brain.” The drinks plug in to the tray, and the tray itself can be plugged into holes in the bottom of Grimlock’s wrists. The helmet of the brain-transference device clicks onto Grimlock’s tyrannosaur head, and the other end has a suction cup for attaching to the Transformer of your choice.

Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything. Suffice to say ol’ Grim is loaded with accessories and features. But hey, you are paying an average of $150 for this guy, so it’s nice to get your money’s worth.

Included in the box is a small instruction booklet that also gives a sort of history of Grimlock, such as notable cartoon episodes and a look at past Grimlock toys. It’s written entirely in Japanese. There’s also a collectible card and a sheet showing how to replace the batteries in the shoulder.

Transformation: As usual with the MP figures, it took me quite a while to transform him the first time. I even had to resort to the instructions, to my everlasting shame–and even then I had trouble, since they’re written entirely in Japanese.

While the basic conversion works the same as the original figure–the robot’s legs become the dinosaur’s tail, the robot’s arms become the legs and so forth–the leg transformation is very complicated. Once I got the legs down, though, the rest of the process was fairly easy.

Quality Control: The only problem I had with the figure is one of the pieces of the foot articulation popped off a few times, but it went right back on.

Overall:

11111

I’ve owned many Grimlock figures since that first one, including the Action Master, Pretender, and recent Classics versions–and none have come close to the appeal of the original until now. As of right now, Grimlock is far and away my #1 candidate for Toy of the Year. An amazing update of a much-beloved toy.

Yes, he’s expensive, but so are all the Masterpiece Transformers. These are high-end collectibles, and again, they’re the blockbuster movies of action figures. It’d be nice if the figure were cheaper, but I don’t feel ripped off at all, thanks to the abundance of accessories and features.

Related Links:

  • For even more photos of MP Grimlock, check out my Flickr page!
  • You can order your very own Masterpiece Grimlock via Amazon or other online retailers.
  • iGear is already offering an upgrade set for this figure, including a crown, a mug of Maccadam’s Old Oil House, and a miniature Thrust for Grim to munch on.

Comments now closed (19)

  • I couldn't believe that this wasn't the review for the contest. It just made too much sense with it shipping soon and being Grimlock. Oh well. This figure looks so amazing. Stupid budget is the only thing keeping him from me. Great revew Poe.

  • Wow I am so tempted to buy this.Please talk me into it. I need to know one thing though, how durable is it? After all it is a toy and I have had some bad experiences buying high price Transforming robots that were not too durable and broke upon opening them.

  • I am also surprised you didn't wait for this to be your 150th, given the love you've displayed for G1 Grimmy all this time.

    Despite that, another interesting review. I wish I had the desire to lay out the money for this fellow, because he'd be fun to review.

  • I just got my Masterpiece Grimlock last night and I can't tell you how happy I am to have him, I was going to buy a Masterpiece Starscream, when I saw the listing for Grimlock and just had to have. Now I have my all time favorite Transformer standing proud next He-Man,Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Michelangelo as a team of my favorite heroes from my childhood.

  • I sell drugs and it contributed directly to me being able to buy one of these. I am living the dream, George. It is not, however, glamorous, or cool. Working in a pharmacy is a horrible, horrible way to make a living because you quickly learn that so many people dependent on prescription medication for their continued existence have no idea how the system works so that they can continue to get the prescription medication they need and have an ingrained resistance to simple things like reading their vial label to see if they actually have refills remaining and if the prescription remains valid.

    I think the red pelvis of the robot mode is diecast metal as well, Poe.

    Also, although it was tough for me to figure it out, in dinosaur mode the gold part to where the hips attach has a little bit of up and down movement. If you do push down, this causes a piece in Grimlock's neck to cause his dinosaur head to move up – not as much as the instruction manual made it look, though. Or, at least, I wasn't able to make the head rise as much as the booklet implied it ought to.

    If I have one complaint about the figure, it's that the left hand seems unable to hold his sword or gun. I wouldn't want both arms to have a light-up feature – it would've been good enough for me if the hand was just molded closed with the right sized hole. Unfortunately, the nobs on the accessories are too short for the left hand to get a grip on.

  • He's a stonker isn't he? A truly great toy.

    Alas waaay to far out of my budget.

  • Well I've blown a month and a half's toy/fun budget on this Bad boy and am now suffering the buyers remorse that comes with the fact that it's going to take 2 weeks plus to actually get here and I get to salve my wounded wallet by basking in the magnificence…..

    Ah well, life is nothing without the occassional sacrifice.

    Cool review Poe, you have made me feel a lot better about the wait.

  • but he's SO SMALL. 2 DCUC Supes could equal his height. Totally, out of scale here.

  • I think Grimlock's the right size. If he were the size of Marvel Icons, I think he'd be too big to play with or handle.

  • Andrew I've been thinking of becoming a pharmacist myself, since I'm still undecided on my major, and I think being a doctor is just too long. Plus Every Walgreen's always has a corvette. I'm guessing its the pharmacist that work there.

  • I think he's good on both counts. The only obvious flaw on mine that might be attributed to something is that the left gold part of the shoulder/hip doesn't as snug as on the right.

  • Andrew, Grimlock's left hand has this smaller hole, around where the knuckle joints are. Pegs right next to the handles of the sword and gun plug into this hole, allowing grimlock to hold weapons on his left hand, as well.

  • Awesome! Thanks, Kenneth. I mistook the smaller hole on the left hand as just a part of the articulation and nothing more, and completely missed the smaller knobs on the weapons.

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