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General Grievous

SW: Clone Wars
by Artemis

Shocka's already gone on a little rant about how Revenge of the Sith was a pretty shabby movie (coincidentally, in another review of General Grievous) - for the record, I'm going to go one better, and say it was the worst of the prequels. Yes, worse than The Phantom Menace - at least TPM knew it was a kids' movie and behaved accordingly, so dumb as it is, it's actually quite entertaining to watch, like a kitten rolling around like a spaz trying to catch its tail. RotS, on the other hand, thought it was some kind of important war epic, so it wound up being like a middle-aged self-appointed "intellectual" rolling around trying to catch his tail, and then claiming it was a commentary on the superficiality of the audience. You know what, no.

General Grievous is a brilliant strategist who has honed the droid army into a terrifyingly efficient fighting force. He has carried out the plans of the Separatists on planets and moons throughout the galaxy. Part living matter and part machine, Grievous is as skilled with a lightsaber as any Jedi Knight and relishes any opportunity that allows him to duel - and defeat - a Jedi.

Oh come on, he's not "skilled" with a lightsaber, he just waves them around on his 360° wrist joints - Bart and Lisa Simpson invented that fighting style years ago. And he's a three-packs-a-day man, to judge by his cancerous hacking cough throughout the movie - no, George, most of the audience didn't watch the cartoon - which can't help his chances in duel much. There must've been some pretty sorry excuses for Jedi getting about in the earlies.

Anyway, let's call a halt to the complaining for now - if you really want to know more, just ask on the forum, I can go on for days - and look at the action figure. This boy is the Clone Wars incarnation of Grievous - that's the new Clone Wars, not the pre-Revenge one, although it's still set prior to Revenge (would a different name have been so much to ask?)... whatever, it's the one that's animated, but realistic rather than whatever it is Genndy Tartarovsky thinks that he does. Appropriately Grievous splits the difference between the hyper-stylized original Clone Wars and the strict realism of RotS, with a form that's close enough to real to pass alongside traditional Star Wars figures, but which shows its animation heritage when compared to the real deal.

I have to admit, he actually looks pretty damned good - he's a real-looking robot, but without the need to work alongside real actors, the designers have exaggerated some of his visually cool elements. His torso and limbs have a funky angularity to them, with lots of sharp edges and concave surfaces on his armour, and the contrast of the bone plates against the dark metal "skeleton" is very striking. He's also noticeably thin around the joints, which makes him look fast and scary.

The only sore point, visually, is his head, for various reasons. Firstly, it's tiny - if you put the figure on its own, this tends to make the body look large, like a big unstoppable juggernaut, but alongside other figures it just looks like, well, he's got a tiny head. Secondly the hunch of his neck means that you have to tilt the head all the way back on its joint just to get him looking vaguely forward - again, if he was standing next to a figure an inch shorter than him that'd work, but he's only four and a third inches tall, so his permanent downward gaze just makes him look embarrassed (maybe he's been reading his RotS dialogue). And finally, when you do get him looking at you, the face isn't really very detailed - the broad strokes are there, but the sculpt is soft, the dark grey details are a bit fuzzy, and the eyes are flat and lifeless.

The thinness of his body works visually, but it comes at a cost - his articulation is pathetic. The best of it is his balljoint neck, a true three-axis ball, though the joint housing makes turning his head from side to side mostly impossible. He's got swivel/pin shoulders, a peg waist, peg hips... and that's it. No elbows, no wrists, no knees, no ankles - he can wave his arms around like a demented barnyard animal, and that's about it for him.

To his credit he's got two separate sets of arms, which detach at the shoulder - one with single arms, one with them split in two. You'd think that'd help, but really all it achieves is to double the amount of ways he can't be posed very well. His arms split forward and backward, not up and down, so to get them looking right - at least, as they mostly did in the movie - you have to swivel the arm sets around forward, which throws off the look of the shoulder armour, and it's simply impossible to make him look as though he's fighting properly. I don't think you can deny that he simply needs more joints to be a good action figure, even if they would have meant bulking out the limbs a bit.

His saving grace is his accessory count - ignoring the extra pair of arms, he's still got five, which is a lot more than most figures get these days (it's five more than a lot of figures get, even). He's got a big chunky blaster - a heavy submachine gun kind of style, but in Grievous's hands it looks like a big pistol - and four lightsabers.

These are two basic designs - one with buttons along its grip, one with a ribbed section in the middle - but differentiated very effectively by paintwork on the hilts, with grey and silver and black and gold used to good effect, and the fact that each style of saber has one blue and one green version. Unless you inspect them closely, it's not difficult to think they're four entirely unique lightsabers, and that's a good deal any way you look at it. Unfortunately they've all got that stupid "flare" around the hilt that all sabers in this scale do, but that's just something you have to become accustomed to with Star Wars figures as a whole.

He's got his good points and his bad points, does Grievous - by its own merits as an action figure, I'd say the bad articulation and teensy head tend to outweigh the basic good design and accessory count just a bit, though I wouldn't go so far as to say they make it a completely rubbish figure, just one that's flawed. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if a number of collectors bought him just for the lightsaber collection - I did, after all. Maybe that's not cost-effective as a long-term accessory-gathering strategy, but just this once I felt it worthwhile to procure sabers for some other Star Wars-scaled figures who, let's face it, deserve them a lot more than General Dogface here.


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