After we accidentally let some spoilers about Darth Vader slip, we're trying to be more careful. So if you don't know by now that Senator Palpatine becomes the Emperor, then you'll want to... oh, poop.
The Supreme Chancellor encounters questions about his ultimate motives. During a confrontation with Mace Windu, he uses his deadly powers and experiences unexpected and frightening results.
You've got your choice of Episode 3 Palpatines: you've got your full-on Senator, with real deliberating action; or, if you prefer the old movies, you can get an Emperor-in-training version. They're both decent, but the one that really stood out for me was the one that spans the gap.
Supreme Chancellor Palaptine is looking quite regal in his burgundy and maroon robes. It's easy to get lots of sculptural detal when your character is wearing skintight spandex, but Hasbro does it on real clothes. It must be cold on Coruscant, because Palpatine's dressing in layers, and each of them has a different texture:
first is a simple smooth robe, with some simple crosshatching to hint at woven threads; above that is a darker, floor length shawl that crosses over his chest, features big puffy sleeves and has a sort of nubbly, crushed-velvet look to it; then finally, over the top, he has a lighter robe with a complex overlapping diamond pattern.
The facial sculpt is very good, really capturing Ian McDiarmid in 1/24th scale. Hasbro sometimes has problems getting their likenesses dead-on, but this one's definitely accurate. He's got the receeding hairline, wrinkled skin and even the creepy chicken neck. For some reason, however, the head is tilted back - if you put him in a display, he'll be looking up at you, not at whatever figures are with him. It's a bit odd, but only noticeable if you look at him directly from the side.
With joints at the neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists, Palpatine is slightly less articulated than the average Star Wars figure, but that's because he's got an action feature: press down on the figure's shoulders and he raises his right arm. No, it's not a sieg heil, it's a lightsaber attack.
Yes, pissing off all the diehard fanboys who believe that if it's in a Star Wars book, it counts for the movies, Palpatine wields a lightsaber (apparently one of the officially licensed novels "established" that he never had). The saber is a molded part of Palpatine's right hand, so he'll never be caught off guard. He's a Sith, so you can probably guess what color the blade is.
Actually, it almost wasn't: early versions of this figure shipped with a blue saber, but it was corrected for later shipments.
Fulfilling the "unexpected and frightening results" portion of the cardback text, Palpatine comes with an extra set of evil bodyparts: you can swap out his relatively normal head and hands for super-wrinkly versions; seems this is the precise moment that the ex-Senator from Naboo began his transformation into Old Lady Monkey-Eyes. He's even got translucent blue Force lightning that snaps onto his wrists.
The second facial sculpt isn't quite as good as the first. Yes, it still looks like McDiarmid,
but the wrinkles seem a bit too understated - maybe a paint wash would have helped a bit, but it just doesn't seem cartoony enough. Where are the giant bags under his eyes, or the deep crevass in his forehead? There's a picture of the Emperor on the back of the card, and you can tell that using his powers so heavily nearly destroyed him. Plus, this head leans even further back than the first.
The paint apps are good, for the most part. The normal and evil heads have different flesh tones, and there are bright red circles around his yellow eyes. The sleeves of his robes are a bit too light, but that's not a terrible mistake - at least they do have a paint wash to bring out the detail. The fingernails on his lightsaber hand are the same silver as the hilt he's holding, the sign of a missed app - still, it's hardly noticeable and doesn't detract.
I remember when Hasbro released their first figure of Emperor Palpatine - hell, I remember where I bought it and what I had for lunch immediately after, but that's beside the point. Anyway, it was a fairly immobile piece with one accessory: a real action stick. Palpy's shown up a few times since then, but he's really undergoing an action figure boom with Episode 3, with at least three basic figures, a two-pack and a deluxe version. It's a good time to be a crotchety old man.