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Thorin Oakenshield

The Hobbit
by Rustin Parr

We recently named ToyBiz's Lord of the Rings toyline the third best line of the last decade, so while I've never read the The Hobbit you can bet your sweet bippy I am extremely excited for the for the toys. They come to us from The Bridge Direct, a relatively new company that only formed in 2010, so many of us were worried about what that would mean for the toys (especially considering many of the failed movie lines over the last couple years from companies trying to break into film-licensed figures). Well, it turns out that Bridge Direct absorbed several of ToyBiz's old staff and brought on Gentle Giant to sculpt all of the figures, so all of that worry was for naught - these figures are great.

As a young Dwarf Prince, Thorin witnessed the destruction and terror wrought when a great fire-breathing dragon attacked the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. When no one came to the aid of the surviving Dwarves, a once proud and noble race forced into exile. Now as the strong, fearless fighter and respected leader of The Company of Dwarves, Thorin is determined to reclaim his homeland and destroy the beast that brought such misery upon his people.

The big question is: do these figures "work" with the ToyBiz ones. The answer is a huge relief and a resounding yes. Thorin stands nearly 5¼" tall, and that puts him in perfect scale with the ToyBiz humans and Hobbits. Almost as importantly he has a very comparable quality in sculpt, paint and articulation, making it almost as though the ToyBiz line never ended.

Articulation wise we're looking at 14 points: balljoints at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and feet with a swivel at the waist and wrists. All work very well and they've even tried some new things I quite like: for instance, there are little "clothes spikes" that come down from the back of the upper arm which serve to both inhibit "back bend" on the elbows as well as to hide the disc in the joint to some degree - pretty cool. Sure, ToyBiz was the inventor, pusher and main user of the double-hinged elbow and knee, but the reality of the modern toy economics no doubt renders those of too high a cost, especially on a line like this which has little-to-no tooling re-use possibility. I know it'll be a hanging point for some, but not for me and it shouldn't be for you. You get a reasonable amount of motion, a more sightly figure with more poseability than the average figure these days.

The sculpt is very good, certainly on par with with (if not better than) Gentle Giant's own work, and that of Phil Ramirez, Steve Kiwus and the other sculptors who worked on LotR. The quilting on the tunic is a bit soft, but that's forgivable as it is quilting. Similar is the likeness. My preference is for texture and detail but GG typically skews smooth. Add to that thick fleshtone paint and this isn't as detailed a face as we might expect, but it is a good likeness nonetheless. It even makes the prosthetics look more natural than the cartoonish proportions in the film. The hard lines of the dwarven geometric aesthetic are rendered very well throughout the costume, particularly on the scabbard.

Thorin gets five accessories: his dwarven sword, an elvish sword with scabbard, a wooden arm guard and a removable cloak (I'm sure the swords have names, but three months before the film I don't know what they are). He looks equally good with and without the cloak on, though without it his hair and beard do "hover" a bit. That means you get better range on the head's balljoint, right?

Both swords are excellently made: cast from hard plastic, finely detailed, and well painted - I even love the designs of both, especially the dwarven one. That is one slaughterful weapon! The elvish scabbard is a nice piece and immediately identifiable as WETA's elf style, which is pretty cool. It attaches to the figure's back via a peg and has a split in the top half to allow for the beveled edge to slide in and out; the sword fits very snugly inside.

The wooden guard is an incredibly awesome piece I hadn't been aware of before. Why, it's almost like he has some sort of oaken... shield. Oh! It looks just like a chunk of bark but has some Dwarven metal at the shoulder end. It connects to the left wrist with a peg (which means without it there is a peghole). Near the peg on the underside is very clearly the initials "AL" sculpted into the piece. Is this a sculptor signature, a Chinese tooling code, fabulous screen accuracy? I have no idea, but I dig it.

The paint is pretty darn good. It does seem the bulk of him is cast in grey-blue plastic, but with a hearty black wash on top it's none too bothersome. Add to that plenty of painted details throughout and you get a pretty good looking figure. As mentioned above, the paint for the fleshtone is a bit too thick for my tastes, and if I'm being fair then it's a bit too pale and certainly could use a hint of weathering to better match the rest of the figure; but I'm so pleased with the figure overall it doesn't bother me too much. In fact, I am surprised by how much I do like this guy. I expected to like the figure but the relief of it perfectly matching the ToyBiz line and having more articulation, accessories and paint detailing than I expected just combine to make me a very excited collector!

The movie opens on December 14th, so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this figure in late September. It seems a bit early to get these out, but it does make sense in a way, to help build word of mouth. Bridge has been pretty discreet about their plans for the line, and indeed even the lineups (for instance it wasn't until buying this that I knew they were doing figures of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) or Legolas (Orlando Bloom) at all, let alone in the 6" scale) but now that things are out we should be able to start assembling our "buy lists." While the 4" range sees a lot of figure re-releasing it appears that the 6" line is totally self-contained in the single-carded line, which means it'll be easier to collect. I paid $16.49 plus tax for this guy, but that was at my area's "expensive Toys Я Us," so I'd assume these have a $14.99 SRP. Considering the market and that these are 1:1 with ToyBiz I think that's a perfectly fair price, especially at five-figure series. This is a great figure and bodes exceedingly well for the line and the future of Middle Earth action figures overall!

-- 09/29/12

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