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Death Star Trash Compactor

SWIV: A New Hope
by yo go re

In 2002, Hasbro released a series of "Screen Scenes" box sets, each with a few new figures and a movie-accurate backdrop. And more than that, each set was paired off with another, so your diorama ended up twice the size. For instance, the Death Star Trash Compactor.

Luke, Han, and Chewie infiltrate the Death Star to free Princess Leia. While making their escape, they dive down a garbage chute and become trapped in a trash compactor with a hungry dianoga. Then the walls begin to close in on them, and our heroes are caught in a tight squeeze!

This set, though obviously one complete piece, is actually divided between two boxes - they're even numbered 1 of 2 and 2 of 2. Set 1 includes Luke and Han; Set 2, Leia and Chewie.

Since this is the famous trash compactor scene, Luke Skywalker is wearing his purloined Stormtrooper armor. Now, yes, we've had armored Lukes before, and we're getting a new one in a few months, but this version is still unique, still different from all the rest.

Having fallen into the garbage water standing stagnant at the bottom of the trash compactor, Luke's hair is plastered wetly to his head, and his armor is covered in gunk. There was a similar Luke packed with the Escape the Death Star game, but that was a re-used mold and the gunk was merely painted on - for this figure, it's sculpted.

You can tell this Luke is meant to convey the moment in the film when he's being strangled by the dianoga: he's sculpted with his eyes closed and his mouth open, choking. His arm is designed to clutch at his throat; or, more accurately, to clutch at something that's around his throat. Yes, it could be the dianoga tentacle, but you could also have another character's arm there. Maybe they got sick of his whining.

The articulation is disappointing, despite the fact that this is one of the first Star Wars toys to feature balljointed knees. He has no articulation in his arms other than the shoulders, so his elbows and wrists are locked in position. That means his right arm is permanently bent to reach for his throat, and his left is permanently held out to the side, away from his body, with the included blaster pointed vaguely at the water.

Han, meanwhile, is actually worse, thanks to the lack of knees. He moves at the big five (plus waist), and his posing options are just as limited as Luke's. Of course, that's mainly due to his more dynamic pose: he's leaning over to try to help Luke out of the water, so his legs have a slight bend, and his torso is hunched to the side. Still, that's not something we've ever seen in a Stormtrooper before (or since), so it has to be worth something.

Just as above, the detritus on Solo's uniform is a sculpted element, not just a paint app. Since he's bent over, Han's the same height as Luke, showing that Hasbro was really paying attention to scale by this point. Both guys have slender bodies, rather than the bulky, broad-shouldered Stormtroopers most of the toys had presented before (and Family Guy seems to think is how Stormtroopers actually look).

The likeness is too long and narrow to be a perfect Harrison Ford, but it is much better than last year's wildly disappointing Indiana Jones figures. The major problem? His hair looks too big and poofy. It's the right style, just very... large. Full of body. Han Solo is supposed to be scruffy-lookin', not shaggy-lookin'. But again, a unique head is a good thing. This figure also includes a blaster rifle, and he can hold it in his right hand.

Princess Leia is the shortest figure in this set, a mere 3¼" tall. Her little white smock has been sculpted specifically for this scene. What's that mean? That, since it got wet, it's clinging differently to her body than it did when it was dry. We're not quite into "wet t-shirt contest" terriory, but it's close.

Leia's tilting the opposite direction from Han - he was leaning down to the left, she's going up to the right. Standing by herself, she looks like she's in the middle of her lounge act. Singing Leia! If you ever wanted a Star Wars Holiday Special figure (besides the Animated Debut Boba Fett, of course), this figure could represent the scene where Carrie Fisher sang "A Day to Celebrate." Because you know you love it.

Unfortunately, this Princess Leia toy does not resemble the live-action version at all. The face isn't ugly, it just doesn't look like Leia. Surprisingly, however, her hair seems to have been crafted with the love of a master artisan. Seriously, you can almost make out individual strands on her accurately twisted head-buns, which seems a bit excessive considering the otherwise generic "girl face #AA-23" likeness. We salute you, anonymous unexpected hair sculptor!

Leia doesn't get a weapon - after all, they just sprung her from her prison cell. Well, I guess she could have fashioned a shiv, but if she has, she's still got it secreted on her person somewhere. Instead, Leia comes with 7½" of pipe. The one she used in a vain effort to stop the walls from closing. If it was going to impede the trash compactor, why would it be in there in the first place? Anyway, she's perfectly positioned to hold it, and she moves at the Springfield Four.

And finally we come to the real star of the show, Chewbacca. Why is he the star of the show? He's not, but we needed to introduce him somehow. In fact, he's probably the set's biggest disappintment, and I don't just mean that because he stands 4½" tall. Chewie is sculpted nicely, with some impressive work on making the fur look like it's hanging realistically, but his articulation is nearly non-existent. He moves at the shoulders... and honestly, nothing else. Yes, the neck is a swivel joint, but his long fur locks the head in place.

Chewie's pose is fine when he's in the scene, but it looks really weird on its own. He's got one hand held out flat (to be pressed against the door), and is looking back over his right shoulder. That, coupled with his bent-legged stance making his butt poke out, makes it look like he's giving Han his best "come hither" look. It's kind of creepy.

Each half of the scene comes with its own inch-high display base. Instead of having footpegs to help the figures stand, there are large holes in the surface to let them sink in. Obviously, this is meant to represent the shin-deep garbage water found in the trash compactor. The base is translucent yet murky, so light shines through, but still makes the liquid look filthy. There's a bunch of painted garbage poking through the surface of the water, and it's actually unique between the sets. There are different holes to accommodate the different figures, and a few removable bits of junk - on each set we get one free-floating chunk of debris, and one pipe type thing that's plugged in place.

As a backdrop, both sets have a cardboard panel showing the walls of the trash compactor, and some more garbage. It's unclear if the walls are based on actual photos of the set, but if they are, they're still heavily Photoshopped. There's only about a 2" by 3" patch of detail, which is then mirrored and repeated to cover the rest of the space. Since each half of the diorama is about 6" wide, 6½" tall and 3½" deep, that's a lot of repetition, and it's all really obvious. At least Set 2 gets a door on one side, to break things up.

One really neat feature of these two sets is that the irregular edges of the "water" match up perfectly, so you can push them together for a seamless diorama. And while that's cool, what's even better is that they actually line them up either way - end-to-end, to make a wide and shallow display, or side-by-side, if your free space is narrow and deep. Hell, change it around every so often, and pretend the walls are closing in. The cardboard backdrops do a decent job of lining up both ways, too.

But hey, we're not done yet! The bases aren't the only things between the two sets that can fit together: each includes a bit of the dianoga; buy them both, and you can put the halves together to form the complete creature. Awesome! Set 1 includes the body/mouth and most of the tentacles - including the long one strangling Luke - while Set 2 gets just a bit of central mass and two tentacles, instead showcasing the eyestalk that popped out of the water when our heroes first fell in. Assembled, the dianoga is a massive 4¼" long, 4" wide and 2½" tall - and none of that is even counting the 9½" long bendy tentacle, which you can pose however you like.

Overall, these two sets combine to form a really excellent diorama. Yes, the figures thmselves are rather disappointing when removed from their intended environment, but the fact remains that they do look quite nice when they're in that environment. Basically, they suffer from the same major flaw as most McFarlane Toys product: yes, it looks good doing what it's "supposed" to, but it can't do anything else. Fortunately, as a Star Wars product released after the rise of the collector market, you can reasonably expect to get these for about half of what they cost new, and at that price, the problems are easier to gloss over.

-- 01/25/09


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