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Fellowship of the Ring
by yo go re

One Ring to rule them all.
One Ring to find them.
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.

The manifest visage of all evil in Middle-earth, Sauron was known by many names to the free peoples of Middle-earth. In the guise of one both fair and wise, he came as a bearer of gifts, magic rings which would prolong the lives of their users and grant certain powers to them. In time however, the true nature of the Dark Lord was revealed when Sauron placed upon his own finger the master Ring, the One Ring of Power to control all others. In the Second Age of Middle-earth Sauron came out to do battle with the allied forces of Men and Elves as a great and undefeatable warrior.

Three minutes into Fellowship of the Ring, when Sauron strides into battle, we first understand just how great a threat he truly is. Though he'd been shown by himself just moments before, we could now see him in comparison to the other characters. Sauron towered over man and orc alike. And as he swung his mace, decimating the armies of the Last Alliance, we could grasp just what they risked by facing off against this great evil.

When the rumors first started to percolate about the possibility of a Sauron figure, the fans made clear what they wanted: a figure properly in scale, wearing the wicked pointy armor. And if they could find a way to give the figure removable fingers and a real ring, all the better.

Amazingly, ToyBiz came through.

Sauron stands 10⅞" tall, which puts him head and shoulders (heh) above the rest of the LotR figures. Well, except for Treebeard, but what do you expect? Elrond, easily the tallest standard figure, looks positively Hobbit-sized next to the dark lord. The horse and rider sets can look him in the eye, as can the Cave Troll. Sauron in action figure form is just as tall and imposing as Sauron in the film. Excellent.

Comprising nearly 200 individual components, Sauron's armor was conceptualized and crafted by the Oscar-winning team at Weta. Warren Mahy was the main designer, and Stu Johnson led the team that built the suit over a four-month period. The face of his helmet is strongly influenced by a horse's skull, and every inch of the armor is covered by a delicate acid-etched intaglio.

While real steel armor was built, it was seldom used in the film - Sala Baker, the man inside the armor, could have seriously hurt himself had he fallen over, and the other stuntmen could have been grievously injured by the many sharpened spikes. The toy captures all Weta's fine detail work, and a very slight blackwash brings it out.

Press the button located on Sauron's back, and he says one of four phrases from the film:

  • I see you!
  • You cannot hide!
  • There is no life... in the void.
  • Build me an army worthy of Mordor.
The speech is quite clear, and his eyes flicker red as he speaks. The battery compartment is located in the small of his back, covered by his capes. The button is between his shoulder blades, which means you're liable to set him off at any time. Spooky!

Toy Biz also maintained their expected level of articulation, giving Sauron movement at the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists and neck. He carries his crushing mace, and wears a layered cape held to his arms by elastic bands. All quite nice, but it doesn't stop there. Toy Biz answered their fans' pleas with the one feature that could set Sauron above all others: removable fingers and the One Ring.

Sauron wears the ring of power on the index finger of his right hand, just as in the film. His four fingers are one molded piece, and plug into his palm. The tiny metal ring has a golden hue and slips easily into place, and you need not even worry too much about losing it - ToyBiz included a baggie with four extra One Rings, just in case.

OAFEnet Fun Fact: I got this figure as a gift about a week before December 25, which means that on the fifth day of Christmas, I got five golden rings. Beat that!

(Incidentally, if you haven't seen the Extended Edition of the film, you haven't seen it at all. Get out and see it.)

It takes more than sculpt and articulation to become Toy of the Year. It requires an attention to detail and care for the fans, fair price and, perhaps most importantly, it should raise the bar for all toys. Sauron looks great, he plays well, and is a spectacular re-creation of the film character.

-- 12/31/02

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