Once again this Christmas, two magical heavyweights geared up for a wizard's duel at the box office. So far Tolkien is dominating the cinematic scene, with a tighter connection between the new film and the last creating a "must see" vibe. Meanwhile, J.K. Rowling missed her once-a-year schedule, with book five not coming out until June 2003.
The toys made it to the shelf on time though, and seem to be holding their own against the gang from Middle Earth. Mattel's traditional toy company roots are showing, however, as we've got a whole slew of Harry figures and very little of anyone else. It's this sort of skewed character-centricity that Poe discussed (and derided) in his PoA "Variations on a Theme" column.
The only character other than Harry lucky enough to warrant even a second action figure so far has been new intro Gilderoy Lockheart.
Replacing Professor Quirrell as Hogwarts' new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is the international celebrity and famous author Gilderoy Lockhart. He is truly full of himself, constantly telling tales of his own bravery.
When it's decided that the Hogwarts' students need to know how to defend themselves, it falls to Professor Lockheart to guide their activities. He's seen here in the uniform he wore to the first meeting of the dueling club.
The costume designer did a grand job on Gilderoy's outfit for this section--his garb is based on the type of clothes one wears when fencing, from the thick gloves to the padded vest. The detailing extends to the golden heart emblem painted on his chest and the texture of his snakeskin shoes. He comes with a removable cloth robe, itself detailed with fine golden stitching. Overall, much better than the solid gold suit that the first Lockheart figure sported.
Actually, this figure is an improvement in almost all areas. Sculpt, articulation and even the action feature are all better. The first Lockheart was taken from the scene in class when he released a cageful of pixies to rampage around the room. With "pixie-launching" action, Gilderoy had a birdcage permanently molded to his arm and chest. Push a button and the tiny creature inside would launch, which was fitting, but the action feature completely derailed the sculpt. It was terrible. He was barely articulated, his clothes lacked detail in either sculpt or paint, and the one redeeming quality was the spot-on Kenneth Branagh likeness.
The dueling club subseries of figures all have the same basic action feature--twist their waist and their arms move, supposedly to cast a spell. Not bad, but nothing special, either. Lockheart's left arm moves side to side, while his right moves front to back. He's articulated at the shoulders, elbows, waist, hips and knees, and while that does sound like a fine amount, it's still not good enough.
The fingers on the figure's left hand are splayed, and his right hand is designed to hold the included wand. However, the hands are posed at very odd angles and never really look right. An extra point of articulation near the wrist would have worked wonders (and been totally hidden by the gloves), but Mattel didn't bother.
The likeness is just as good as before, though this time he's glaring at an enemy rather than beaming at his class. If anyone wanted to make Shakespearean action figures based on one of Branagh's films, these figures would provide great ready-made heads. All we need now is an Emma Thompson figure and we'll be all set.
The biggest drawback to this figure is its size. Apparently the molds got tooled incorrectly, because Lockheart is approximately half an inch larger than he should be. Though not a vast error, the scale is thrown off enough to look out of place with the other figures.
Mattel has made some good choices with this new line of Harry Potter toys. As we complained about for the first movie, the figures came with a lot of extraneous goods--a magic trick (that was lamer than lame) and a "casting stone" that only served a purpose if you bought the expensive spellcasting playset. Neither was very good, and neither has made it to the second film's toys.
Though he's got a few problems, this Gilderoy figure is a far sight better than the first one. And really, it's not a bad toy. Besides, when else are we going to get Kenneth Branagh figures?
What's your favorite Branagh film? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.