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Padme Amidala - Ilum Mission

SW: Clone Wars
by Artemis

Padme likes white, doesn't she? Must be the effect of all those ridiculous get-ups she has to wear for work - it's no wonder any time she gets to dress for herself, she goes with something plain.

A sacred site for the Jedi, the temple on Ilum is the source of focusing crystals which the Republic's protectors use in the construction of their signature lightsabers. Having Master Yoda onboard her star yacht, Senator Amidala makes with all speed for Ilum after receiving news of Jedi in peril. She and the diminutive Jedi Master embark upon rescue operations to locate and free the entombed Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and her former apprentice Barriss Offee. The harsh, frigid atmosphere of Ilum is a perilous place for a battle, with the freezing ice storms and unrelenting wind almost as deadly as the small army of Separatist chameleon droids the would-be rescuers find awaiting them.

Padme's Ilum outfit is another demonstration of how technology declined due to the Galactic Civil War and its aftermath - a generation after this, Luke and Han were bundled up like Kenny from South Park on Hoth, and even Leia, enjoying the privileges of rank by staying in the command centre, had a hefty parka on hand. Her mother, though, was safely protected from the harshest of elements by a catsuit with a bathmat draped around her shoulders. How times change.

Like Asajj Ventress, Pads here is sporting an animated look from the Clone Wars cartoon, rendered in a realistic style to match other Sideshow 1/6th-scale dolls. The bio above, along with several more paragraphs on the box, outline the basics of the story this ensemble is drawn from, as well as the state of the galaxy in general and the good Senator's place in it, but since this is basically just a cold weather version of the outfit Padme wore on Geonosis - before it got modified by the Eye Candy Tiger - I really don't imagine that its obscure origin (to Star Wars laymen, or just people like me who think Genndy Tartakovsky's art style sucks, no matter how good his storyboarding is) is going to hurt it much in terms of product recognition among potential buyers.

The face is a real piece or work that's hideous! - and I mean that in both the appreciative and sarcastic interpretations. Even for a reasonably high-priced 1/6th-scale figure, the likeness is strikingly good - the sculpt truly captures the image and the essence of Natalie Portman's face, and the paint backs it up with excellent subtle work on the lips, cheeks, beauty mark, and eyes. The heavy eyebrows are a touch overdone, veering more towards animation than realism, but they're forgivable in light of the outstanding work everywhere else.

However, technical quality isn't everything, as this face demonstrated with its eyes. They're painted very convincingly, but someone decided that what Pads really needed was to be looking off severely to her left, which, sad to say, makes her look crazy. Yes, it's a breathtaking likeness of Natalie Portman, but it's Natalie Portman as a homicidal maniac, and there's no two ways about it, that detracts from the doll in a big way. Granted, she did let Anakin stick his whatsit in her hoo-hoo, but apart from that I don't recall any indication that Amidala was insane.

Everything but the face is covered by costume - she has got sculpted ears, since you can see their shape through the tight hood, but there's no hair on her head, though since it's all one piece the skin tone covers the whole head. It's a bit larger than necessary, so as to suggest that there's a layer of hair bundled up inside the hood, but I think not so much that, with a careful stubble paint job, it'd still look weird if used as the basis for a V for Vendetta figure. The craziness would work a bit better there, too, at least for the latter stages of the movie. Head aside, the body is all plain grey plastic.

Padme's wardrobe on this outing is based off a tight white bodysuit, which zips up the back - either the zip is glued shut, or it's just hellishly stubborn, but I couldn't make it budge. The suit has a well-chosen bulk and elasticity to it - it's not so tight that it doesn't crinkle a bit at the joints, where it should if it were real, nor is it so thin as to completely reveal the hard edges of the joints beneath. The seams - inner legs and arms, hips, and shoulder/ neckline - are all sewn quite professionally, but around the hip I find the stitching to be a bit more visible than I'd like, giving away the scale somewhat. The hood is a separate piece, but the neck fits in nicely beneath the bodysuit's shoulders. The base outfit is completed by boots, which fit over fully sculpted (albeit unpainted) feet - very tightly, so don't pull them off unless you're sure you'll have the patience to coax them back on again - and gloves, which attach to the peg mounts in the forearms. Both boots and gloves have fuzzy edges, in the outfit's off colour, a nice sky blue.

Incidentally, did you know Senator Amidala is a chimpanzee? I know, I wouldn't have picked it from the movies either, but get a look at the length of those forearms. The problem, of course, is that the body is designed to have separate hands - but in order to make the gloves look tight, the wrists are too narrow to fit over the body's wrists, so the connecting pegs are all the way back at mid-forearm. So she's got two forearms per arm, essentially. It's a stupid, obvious problem, and I really can't believe Sideshow couldn't think of anything better to represent the gloves without causing it. Even a separate hand, with the sleeve of the glove fitted as a vambrace, would have been an improvement. Between the crazy lady face and the chimp arms, this doll is on pretty shaky ground.

Anyway, on top of the bodysuit Senator Chimpandala wears a hooded cape, modelled fairly faithfully on the animated appearance of the garment. That too is a bit of a drawback, since in a "stylised" (read, "ugly-looking") cartoon a cape with a rounded shape like this may look fine, but that just ain't the case in real life. Furthermore, unlike the excellent Jedi cloaks Sideshow uses, there's no wire in the cape or hood to help fake the shape of a life-sized garment - it sits on her body like a 1/6th-scale piece of cloth would, and takes a bit of effort to coax into something resembling realism. To match the gloves and boots, the cape is rimmed with more of the sky blue fur, and has a pair of furry pom-poms on the ends of its cord. To give them credit, the pom-poms do make it very easy to tie and adjust the cord, but the whole thing still looks more like something Barbie would wear than anything you'd want to walk into a potential laser battle wearing.

Underneath her sleek bodysuit and Barbie's Alpine Holiday cape, there's a pretty versatile body. The head is a balljoint, naturally, and since there's no hair to get in the way, motion in all three axes is plentiful - though, again, that goddamned crazy stare makes it difficult to find positions she looks natural in. She has swivel/pin shoulders, swivels at the tops of her biceps, double pin elbows, and the wrist swivels alluded to earlier regarding the gloves. There are two balljoints in the torso, one at the sternum and one at the waist, both with pretty flexible ranges, though only the sternum one has a really good side-to-side tilt range. Swivel/pin hips, thigh-top swivels, double pin knees, ankle-top swivels, and swivel/pin ankles round her out, giving her the ability to take pretty much any pose it'd be reasonable to expect of her. Unlike the hideous thigh swivels DC gave us with their 13" Power Girl, Sideshow had the common sense to mount the swivels on both arms and legs in positions where their cross-sections are as close to circular as makes no odds, so even turned right around they don't show up much beneath the costume.

To keep anyone from mistaking her for a cold-climate go-go dancer, Padme wears a tan holster belt - and sorry for making this review one long whinge, but this doesn't work too well either. The material is just too damned firm, such that it won't sit down on her hips properly, nor will the lip of the holster itself close. The holster also seems a bit large for its pistol - it isn't really, the fit, while loose, is close enough, but the stiffness of the material just makes it seem like the holster is bigger than it should be. The belt is fastened by a stud concealed beneath the plastic pouch on the left hip.

Speaking of the pistol, sans holster it's actually quite a nice piece. It's of the same make as those used in the movies, a kind of upperclass Flash Gordon style, with a round zap-gun body mounted on a refined wooden handle. Both the silver of the body and the streaked brown of the handle are painted adequately - they don't stand out on their own, but they're good enough to pass muster as an accessory - and the fit with the right hand is decent, although with the pistol being on the large side, and the trigger having some length to it, you can't get the hand right up beneath the body of the weapon.

Padme also gets a slim cylinder, which the accessory count informs us is a grenade - if you say so, I'd have taken it for a communicator or something. Just as well I don't have to call anyone in the Star Wars universe, or I guess I'd blow myself up by accident. It's just a simple cylinder with some rudimentary sculpted detailing and a fairly slap-dash paint job, but being small it passes well enough. The left hand, more tightly clenched than the right and lacking the extended trigger finger, can hold the grenade fairly well, though it could still be knocked loose. Unfortunately the way she's looking off to her left means there's no way she could look natural throwing the grenade with her left arm - it's possibly to get the grenade into her right hand, but it's a very delicate fit. I was happy just to get the photo taken before it fell out again.

Rounding out the accessory count is a pleasant surprise, a pair of binoculars that are pretty much flawless. The white and grey body is livened up a bit by faint markings - I'm not sure if they're meant to be decoration, or just scratches from long use, but they look fine either way - and a few little controls on the back edge. The two eyepieces line up well with Padme's eyes, and her hand can grip the binoculars well enough to hold it in place fairly convincingly, though with no wrist joints beyond the forearm swivel there's a bit of a tendency to tilt downwards. Marking it as a Star Wars bit of tech, there's only a single lens at the front. It's not the most complex of accessories, but it does its job very well.

She also comes with the usual Star Wars stand, a round base with a waist clamp in back. The post for the clamp seems a bit too loose in its connection to the base - it'll hold the doll in place, but I'm of the habit of picking up waist-clamped dolls by the post, and if you try that with this one, the base will fall off. It's not the worst difficulty, but it's a problem Asajj's base didn't suffer from, so it's worth noting.

So that's Padme's winter adventure - an excellent face held back by a bizarre leftward gaze, a good body hampered by awful forearms, and a well-made costume sabotaged by the goofy-looking cape and crummy holster. Shame, really. Still - aside from the holster, which is a minor issue - the only complaint with the costume, rather than the body, is that it looks like it belongs on a Barbie, which makes my usual method of improving sub-par Star Wars figures quite appropriate in this case.


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