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Growing up in the 1980s, a few toy lines dominated my Christmas and birthday lists. Lego, of course, was huge. It was before, and it’s even bigger now. By the time I was 11 or so, I had a Lego town spread across my bedroom. Wonderful stuff. And amongst the action figure ranges of the era, one stood tall above the likes of ThunderCats, Masters of the Universe, M.A.S.K. and Dino-Riders: the Transformers. Of course, it’s a brand, a franchise, whatever you want to call it, that’s remained hugely popular in the years since its introduction in 1984 (I got my first Transformers toys at Christmas 1985 - Optimus Prime and Soundwave). But what we never got in the ‘80s was an official crossover between Lego and Transformers.
Well friends, that’s all changed now. Available on June 1 for an RRP of £149.99, Lego’s official Optimus Prime set presents the Autobot leader, the truest icon of the Transformers series, in brick form like never before. This is a massively upscaled take on the ‘80s ‘G1’ toy with comparably simple engineering for transformation (yes, this really transforms!), rich in detail and complete with a raft of accessories, and makes for a hugely imposing presence on any collector’s shelf of either plastic robots or model kits. Once built, Lego Optimus Prime towers over any Prime proper - be it old-school G1, modern Generations-line release, or fan-favourite Masterpiece range. Suffice to say if you’re buying this hoping that it’ll scale with a Transformers collection, yeah, nope. Thirteen and a half inches, by the way.
Check out the reveal trailer for the Lego Optimus Prime set below - we also filmed the build process but, uh, let’s just say the footage wasn’t the best and leave it at that. Photos, at least, right?
First impression when picking this up: sheesh, this box is heavy. I know there’s a truck inside, but still, what are these bricks made of? Plastic, obviously, but there’s definitely more weight to this than your usual set of this size (1,508 pieces, since you asked). It turns out that’s mainly down to the chunky instruction book, which also features a wealth of trivia on the Transformers brand and Optimus Prime himself, as well as the accessories contained in this set. Did you know the rocket pack that this Prime comes with, which bulks out the back of the figure substantially, isn’t actually his? I mean, I did. I’m that sort of nerd for this stuff. But if you didn’t know, building this set will fill you in on that lil piece of trivia and more, much more.
The book also shows you the all-important steps for transfo… Sorry, for converting Prime from the robot mode you build him into to his alt form of a classic Frieghtliner truck cab - no Bayformer flame decals here, but no trailer either. Fair enough: that would have bumped up the price and probably ended up in a drawer anyway. The process is pretty simple and leans on the basics of the G1 toy: flip the cab 90 degrees and tuck in the arms and head, while bringing the legs together and flipping the feet. There’s a torso twist to incorporate too, which is more evocative of modern Optimus Prime toys, but unlike many of those figures proper the Lego Prime doesn’t feature a fake grill for its robot mode - what’s on the chest is also on the cab once everything is slotted into place. It’s nice to see the wheels remain prominent, too - they’re often hidden away on modern (collector-focused) Prime toys.
Naturally, you have put this Prime together before you can play with him, and while this isn’t the most exciting building experience I’ve had with Lego in recent years - mainly due to the repetition of making a second leg, a second arm, a second hand - it’s never dull and so far away from the fingertip-punishing fiddliness of the recent Sonic the Hedgehog set. There’s plenty of surprising moments as something that looks like a mess suddenly becomes a recognisable component in just a few more steps, and there’s a genuine thrill to be felt when the legs and arms are clicked into their positions, using a combination of ratchets and ball joints. It’s reminiscent of the Junkions repairing Ultra Magnus in the 1986 animated movie, if that means anything to you, only with the legs the right way around here. Some of the decals on the set are pre-printed, like the face details and the Autobot symbols on Prime’s shoulders and Sideswipe’s rocket pack, but there are a few places where a steady hand is needed to get stickers just right: the crotch (more on that in a second, which is a weird thing to write), the thighs and the little informative plaque that you can sit next to your finished build. Prime’s a 10/10 in every category by the way, except speed and firepower. Which is surprising, as the gun you construct here is a whopper, alright.
One of the first downers with this set - one of only a few, it has to be stressed - presents itself fairly early on, since the legs are made before the arms: there’s no knee bend. Prime stands pretty securely when built, aided by rubbery grips on his heels, but when it comes to posing him the best you can do with his legs is spread them a little, twist at the knee and tilt the feet in. I expect some folk picking this up will create their own modifications to give the Autobot leader some mid-leg articulation. Obviously in truck form this rigidity is a plus, but it’s a shame that Lego’s designers couldn’t find a way to incorporate a bend here - even the original toy from 1984 has it. Another slight disappointment is the hands, which are more like boxing gloves than anything else. You can remove a three-stud piece to free up three ‘fingers’ if you want to give Prime a Simpsons look, but otherwise it’s a case of making do with big blue mittens. At least he can do a thumbs up.
Far better is the head. The eyes sit maybe a little higher than they should, but there’s no denying: that’s Optimus Prime. I love the way his antenne can be flared outwards rather than remain firmly horizontal - it makes his face all the more dynamic somehow, and gives it an anime feel (and means you can give him sad floppy dog/rabbit ears, if you want to). His elbow joints aren’t tight enough to stop his forearms from falling down if he’s holding his rifle, but again you can work around that, and generally speaking the whole upper body of this set is just so perfectly Optimus Prime. And yes, the chest opens to reveal the Matrix of Leadership - not that he can really hold it, but be fair: it took mainline non-Masterpiece figures until Earthrise to crack that properly.
Also in the set is Prime’s Energon axe - it’s hilarious that this features in so many Prime releases, given it’s in the animated show for one scene, ever. You have to remove one of his hands to properly accommodate it, but it slides into a slot hidden in the forearm very snugly and does look the business. That aforementioned rifle, Prime’s trademark ion blaster (if you wanna see it in action, please, watch this immediately), is a fun little build in and of itself, essentially one single long piece with a wealth of smaller parts threaded onto it. Smartly, it can be stored into Prime’s truck mode too, its handle (which isn’t held - the rear of the gun plugs into Prime’s forearm) folding down to fit neatly between his legs. So far as storage solutions on Transformers toys go it’s very elegant, with only the Masterpiece figure MP-10’s flip-down backpack representing a tidier result. There’s a purple Energon cube included too, because I guess someone wanted to take the brick count to over 1,500.
The sole remaining loose part is a replacement crotch piece, stickered, which subs in for his robot mode, um, junk I guess, when in truck mode. Yes, Transformers fans, this Lego Prime is a partsformer. I can hear the sighs from here. Obviously switching these pieces isn’t a necessity for the transformation, likewise the flipping around of the tanks on his legs, but it’s an option. And options are nice to have. Handled properly, with care and following the steps closely so nothing gets caught, the conversion to truck and back won’t have bricks pinging off everywhere, but there are a few places on my set, at least, that have a hard time staying put. There are brake lights on Prime’s feet that constantly want to come away, and where his torso spins can also edge ever so slightly apart. Do the transformation a few times and you learn where to apply a little extra pressure, but don’t be too crestfallen if the first time sees your Prime creak a little much and crack in areas you’d rather he didn’t. His head isn’t super well attached, either, but as a build-within-a-build it’s solid enough to take a tumble should it take flight from his shoulders.
If the far-younger me had the chance to own a Lego Optimus Prime in the 1980s, I’d have jumped at it. All my chores, done. The most wonderfully kind attitude around the house, guaranteed. Helping mum with everything, absolutely. No second thoughts, no indecisiveness: this crossover was the one that I most wanted, albeit without knowing then just how much I wanted it. To have it now, an official set no less, as an adult, I’m right back there: Christmas 1985, my own Optimus Prime, just a year or so away from having both arms snapped off by my younger brothers. Y’see, if it was Lego back then, it’d have saved a lot of tears. But that it’s Lego right now, well, that really rolls back the years.
Our lego Optimus Prime was sent to us by Lego - thanks! The set can be ordered online at the Lego website, and of course found in stores.
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