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Crystal Skeleton w/ Throne

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
by Rustin Parr

Ah, mail-away toys! Decades before Build-a-Figure pack-ins, the best incentive to force people to buy multiple items from a toyline was to have some cool toy one had to send away for. Typically one had to buy a clearly stated number of figures, clip out the barcodes from the card back, toss in a check for shipping and handling, throw all that crap in an envelope and mail it off the to toy company. Six to eight weeks later a neato exclusive arrives in a bashed up white mailer box and you're suddenly the envy of all your friends. Well! Hasbro is taking us back to those fun and innocent days of yesteryear in an effort to move copious amount of Indiana Jones merchandise.

There are a total of three different mailaway exclusives available through the "Ticket to Adventure" program, one for each of the main "play categories" for the brand: 3¾" Action Figures, 12" Dolls (it's what they goddamn are - get over it, you sissy little "it's called 1/6th" wieners!), and 2¼" Adventure Heroes. Each carded, boxed, or two-packed (contingent on the category) figure comes with a sticker and a little "Ticket to Adventure" booklet. One fills up the booklet with the required number of stickers, includes the requisite check, and then the exclusive gets mailed to your home.

For the 12" figures, four "Ark" stickers and $10 gets you a 12" scale Ark of the Covenant (the only movie-accurate [i.e. with carrying poles] Ark Hasbro plans on releasing); six "map-piece" stickers with $5 grants you the Adventure Heroes Indy with Horse set; and, for the core product category, six "relic" stickers plus $6 collects you a 3¾" scale Crystal Skeleton with Throne - one of the coolest toys of recent years!

Gone are the days of polybagged figures in white mailer boxes - all of the Indiana Jones exclusives ship in boxes that look like crates, which ties into the whole "crate o' artifacts" approach Hasbro has to the license. The box is more than just black ink printed on cardboard - its a glossy image much like any box you'd find in stores, and appears to use photos of real wood to complete the appearance. It also features some faux-addressing to Dr. Jones, cementing the theory that this is a "real artifact" - what fun! It's a nice extra touch to the overall product, which doesn't really serve any function rather than boosting the "neat!" effect. One thing that's surprising, though, is just how big the box is.

The throne and the skeleton rest in a plastic tray that seems purposefully designed to use as little space as possible while consuming as much volume as possible. Granted that this was no doubt laid out to protect the toys from breakage, but I can't help but marvel at the near-extravagant excesses of such wasteful packaging! But once that is heartily dealt with (the throne pops right out, as does the Skeleton once two clear rubberbands that hold it in place are cut) and placed joyfully in the recycle bin, we finally get to enjoy that most illusive of action figure perks - the cool mail-away.

And my god this is an awesome figure! You wouldn't think it to look at it (or see its source material in the movie) but this thing just rocks. First thing you'll note is its size: The Skeleton is in 3¾" scale, meaning that he stands a whopping 5½" tall! As if that wasn't enough, he's loaded with articulation! Twelve points to be exact! The Skeleton has a balljointed head, shoulders and elbows, swivel waist, balljointed hips and, coolest of all, double-jointed knees.

What really sets the figure apart though is the range of motion most of the joints possess. Since this is just a skeleton, the ball-hinges and double-jointed knees allow for a variety of poses far beyond most figures of this nature, size and scale because there is no clothing or flesh to hinder the motion. Swivels at the wrists would be nice, but a great feature of the balljointed elbows is that the joint can swing a full 180° practically making up for a wrist joint as it allows the palm to face inwards or outwards based on the bend.

The Crystal Skeleton is a textbook example of the kind of figure you put on the coffeetable or next to your computer because any down moment you hands have they'll be all over this bugger posing him to the X-Treme.

As per the title of the film, the head (or "skull" as scientists and nudists refer to it) is removable, giving us a film accurate, in-scale Crystal Skull for our 3¾" figures finally (yay!). However note that the balljoint socket in the skull is very tight A) allowing for minimal movement (boo!) and B) making removing and especially replacing pretty difficult (double boo!).

The overall sculpt is very detailed, which is also quite remarkable considering how thin some of the bones are. Included are all the little details that prove the massive skeleton is not human (in case you still weren't convinced by the completely inhuman skull trucked around for three quarters of the film or the five minute long scene of each and every character having to individually accept that the skull was not human in origin [all this from the creator of... well... it's goddamned George Lucas! What else should we expect!?]) such as the doubled femurs and humeri and the latticed, completely Star-Trek-didn't-do-this-first-with-the-Klingon-anatomy ribcage (which, on a side note, appears to be cast separated at the sternum then glued together allowing for the entire abdomen to be a single piece of plastic - pretty neat!). A couple noteworthy anomalies are the bowed upper humeri (effectly biceps), a conceit no doubt to allow the arms to better rest on the throne, and an off-center right hip socket which causes a minor asymmetricality to the legs.

The whole guy is cast in translucent blue plastic to match the crystalline nature of the titular Skull, though they seemed to have used two different kinds of plastic. The forearms/hands, lower legs/feet and the waist all have a better clarity, richer blue and even sturdier feel to them than the rest of the body. It's possible that this plastic was allowed to cure longer, thus causing these effects, or that it simply is a higher grade of plastic that the rest of the pieces, but either way it's a shame the whole figure lacks that look. The remainder of the figure has a less blue and more opaque look, but fortunately everything comes together fine and it all "gels" as a single piece.

No Crystal Skeleton would be complete without a throne from which to bark Aztecan orders and underwhelm modern filmgoers - fortunately, Hasbro abides strongly to that requirement.

Much like the Skeleton, the throne is also 10 times better than expected. I was anticipating a fairly thin, hollow, single-mold piece along the lines of the 3¾" Ark of the Covenant but instead we get a thick, heavy, almost solid piece. The whole thing is incredibly sculpted and is richly ornate. Its cast in a very good gold plastic (why oh why won't Hasbro do a classic C-3PO in gold plastic rather than that horrible vac-metalized look that was tacky even 10 years ago!?) with a very, very nice, light wash of "metallic peach" (probably a light a copper or something) that accents the textures and detailing incredibly well. In person this is simply one of the coolest and best executed accessories/diorama pieces I think I've ever seen. It appears that each plane of the chair has one-to-two pieces (including the bottom - the whole thing is fully enclosed) that makes the piece surprisingly solid. The Skeleton sits comfortably upon its throne, though it may take some patience and jimmying to get the arms to rest just right.

This set represents a really great choice for an exclusive of this nature. It's more-or-less what Indy is hunting down in the fourth film, much as figure buyers must hunt down six relic stickers to get this figure. Its also one hell of a toy, arguably the best thing yet to come out of the Indiana Jones toyline (which is weird to admit for a Raiders/Crusade purist) and fits perfectly the nature of the mailaway program in that it's a key element of the film but not one so major it will be missed by some people and, moreover, in that it's the kind of thing that is definitely worth having more than one of (perhaps even, dare I say, 13?), so for those out there like myself who not only are buying every figure but amassing armies out of the battle builders we get something we'll all probably want several of.

The 3¾" Indiana Jones line has caught a lot of flack for its quality control issues (Hasbro had to use a new manufacturer in order to keep everything on schedule and aparently the new company lacks the skill, etc., to output product at the same level as Star Wars or even similarly scaled lines like Golden Compass, PotC or Prince Caspian) and while I'll agree that generally all of the heads are bad news, and a poorly molded/painted head is hard to overlook, I'm simply just too elated to be finally getting Indiana Jones toys to really let some mediocre paint hold me back.

For the most part all of the figures are very cool and more recent production runs seem to be improving somewhat, so the line is definitely worth collecting - especially if you can get the Crystal Skeleton. Heck, if you're not sold on the line just buy up six "German Soldiers" from Raiders for future 3¾" lines (like Hellboy II or Marvel [but not DC Infinite Heroes, because those suck]) to fight so you can get this skeleton.

Granted, on top of the cost of the six figures you'll have to pay $5.99 for shipping/handling, but look at it like it's the same as buying the figure in the store - except that to get all that's included, this would have been a $10 deluxe set at retail. And its all-new, all-exclusive tooling is an even better deal when compared to the Clone Wars Commander Rex figure, which costs a dollar more ($6.99) and is nothing more than a repaint with less paint (i.e. cheaper to produce) than the version available on shelves!


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