Hot Rod was introduced in THE TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE 30 years ago
Hot Rod’s introduction is clouded in controversy
THE TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE was released almost 30 years ago on August 8, 1986. With the release of the film I was introduced to what would become my favorite Transformers character, Hot Rod. For the youth of that time, this film had quite an emotional impact that some have yet to fully get over. Yes, grown men still complain about the death of Optimus Prime. We’re talking a devastation on par with the death of Bambi’s mom, it was that traumatic. Although I loved Optimus Prime, my eight-year-old self actually liked the fact that Prime, and so many other iconic characters, were killed in action during the first few minutes of the film. Unless you were watching ROBOTECH or some other Japanese import, characters usually didn’t die in U.S. cartoons. Most shows like TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE, HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, etc. were simply a revolving door of action and violence with no real repercussions or consequences. If ROBOTECH had taught me anything it was that main characters could die and the show was far more compelling because of it.
Meant to bridge the gap between Seasons 2 and 3, this film was really about introducing new characters to sell more toys. The new characters introduced were pretty darn great in my opinion. This included a young hot-headed Autobot called Hot Rod, who quickly caught the ire of many a TRANSFORMERS fan. One can say he was instrumental in the death of Optimus Prime. Prime had narrowly defeated Megatron, and had it not been for Hot Rod’s interference Prime most likely would have blasted Megatron into oblivion. Does that make Prime’s death Hot Rod’s fault? I say if Prime had simply blasted Megatron to bits instead of monologuing, Megs would be dead and the Transformers universe would have been vastly different going into Season 3. But Prime had to ramble on about this and that, while Megatron went for a discarded blaster. Enter Hot Rod who, while trying to stop Megatron, actually got in the way of Prime’s shot, allowing Megs to take Prime down. So, if Prime would have just wasted that evil Decepticreep right away Hot Rod would not have felt the need to help Prime. Prime was inadvertently the cause of his own death.
The rest of the film effectively has two sets of Autobots on the run. We witness the emotional growth of Hot Rod, who eventually opens the Matrix of leadership, destroying Unicron in the process, and saving the universe and becoming the new leader of the Autobots, Rodimus Prime. From that moment on Hot Rod was and is my favorite Transformer. As with the rest of the Transformers, Hot Rod’s story has changed over the years, but THE TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE will always be my favorite version. (Although, some of the comic-book story arcs are pretty great, too, namely IDW’s MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE series.) Buy the 30th-anniversary Blu-ray edition here.
Today’s review will focus on the Takara TOMY Masterpiece Hot Rodimus, or MP-28. Because of licensing issues the name Hot Rod could not be used. He will, however, still be referred to as Hot Rod throughout this review. Since revamping their Masterpiece Transformers line with MP-10 Optimus Prime, Takara has done an amazing job creating cartoon- and comic-accurate Generation One characters. The final figure before the revamp was MP-9 Rodimus Prime, a figure that I was not interested in seeing as he was the bigger-scaled Rodimus after he assumes control of the Matrix of leadership thus becoming the leader of the Autobots. Aside from an extremely frustrating transforming design, the figure looked amazing, but I was holding out hope that a proper Hot Rod would someday see the light of day. My patience definitely paid off.
There is a lot of good with this figure. Since the film took place in the then-future of 2005 Hot Rod had a very advanced alt mode. Sleek and futuristic he was definitely a Hot Rod in every way. Sporting a chrome blower and flames on the hood and a wing-like spoiler, this guy oozes awesome. I’ve been tempted to pick up a second figure to display in the alt mode. The colors and paint apps are near perfect, though I did have one major letdown I’ll get to in The Bad. Hot Rod’s headlights are wonderfully detailed. All the lines and sections blend in well and don’t interrupt or take away from the sleek design of the alt mode.
The transformation was pretty straightforward, with no real nerve-racking parts. As I’ve said before, there are various pages on YouTube that will walk you through step-by-step of most Transformers and other transforming toys. I highly recommend this method over using the instructions that, in this case, are in Japanese. These are expensive figures and it’s always best to let others potentially break their figures over you breaking yours.
Robot mode is a little more precarious. The head on Hot Rod is aesthetically very pleasing to look at. He looks as if he jumped right out of my TV and landed on my shelves. From the chrome exhaust arm cannons to the flames and Autobot emblem on his chest this guy is cartoon accurate. He’s also very well articulated and can be placed in a larger variety of poses than most other MP figures. However, remaining in said poses without falling over tends to be a bit of a challenge. Which leads me to …
Unfortunately there is a fair amount of bad with this figure. While in alt mode, the kibble on the underside of the car hangs slightly lower than the tires, preventing you from rolling Hot Rod around. Now, I don’t tend to pretend to drive my toy cars very much anymore, but I must confess I do from time to time when I first remove them from the box. With Hot Rod you take the chance of damaging some of his hidden robot parts, such as his head, if you wheel the little car around the living room floor, so be careful. I noticed a chip on the tip of Hot Rod’s nose when I transformed him. I’m not 100% certain it was caused by rolling him around in alt mode, but there is a good chance that was the cause.
Because of the way he transforms, Hot Rod has a pretty good-sized backpack that from the side makes the rest of the body look a bit too skinny. This backpack has been one of the major complaints with this figure, and though I’ll agree the design isn’t the best, it doesn’t bother me too much. What does bother me is that the added weight of the backpack and the overall slimness of the rest of the figure causes posing to be a pain in the arse. His legs are pretty skinny and though he’s very well articulated he tends to randomly fall backward. That being said, with a lot of patience and futzing you can find some pretty amazing poses for this guy.
Hot Rod comes loaded with accessories. He’s equipped with the buzz saw he uses during his and Kup’s underwater escape, along with two blasters and even the fishing pole from the beginning of the film. Another great feature is the flip-down visor he uses from Lookout Mountain right before the Decepticon attack on Autobot City.
The box is in scale with the other Autobot cars in the line, sporting a picture of Hot Rod in both modes on the front and detailed photos of the figure and accessories on the back along with his scale to MP-22 Ultra Magnus. Inside, Hot Rod and accessories rest in a clear plastic tray.
I really love this figure. Issues aside, I rate him an 8 out of 10. I was tempted to go 9, but he had enough issues that I lowered the score a point. Does that take away from the utter joy I have finally owning a G1 accurate Hot Rod? Not at all. This is a figure I’ve waited 30 years for, and every time I see it on the shelf with the other Autobots, I’m tempted to take him out and futz with him. That is a sign of a really well-done, fun figure.
All in all this is a great time to be a Generation One Transformers fan. If you have yet to pick this guy up he’s still available for $79.95.