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Royal Guard

SWVI: Return of the Jedi
by yo go re

How much do I like Star Wars' Royal Guards? This is the fourth one I've reviewed. Note: not the fourth one I own, the fourth one I've reviewed.

Resplendent in crimson robes and armor, the Imperial Royal Guard protects the Emperor. Secrecy shrouded the Guard, with rumors abounding about the sentinels' backgrounds and combat capabilities.

Well sure, now, now that the old stories which actually revealed their backgrounds and training have been moved to the "Legends" header. Of course, maybe that's what the line about rumors is referring to: all those stories we used to know are just tales told around the campfire; there was no Kir Kanos, he was just a figure made up because the Rebels needed to put a face behind that expressionless red armor.

While the Mandalorians and the Stormtroopers had fairly normal helmets (ones that covered the full head but nothing more), the Royal Guards wear pieces that come all the way down past their throats and rest against their chest and shoulders. These things are hard plastic, not cloth - they wouldn't be able to turn their heads at all! The sweeping lines are minimalistic, and the only real feature is a black slit for the eyes, meaning they'd have no field of vision, either. Think about that: in order to even see more than one or two degrees to the side, they'd have to turn their entire body at the waist; and yet these guys are supposed to be fearsome warriors?

All we ever see the Guards do in the movie is stand around stoically, looking cool in their big red capes. The cape on the toy is softgoods, which actually works okay here, since it really does just need to hang straight down and cover everything - it's not like it needs to billow out dramatically, you know? There's a single opening on the right side of the cloak, so you can duplicate the "standing with one arm exposed" pose from Return of the Jedi. The fabric is a noticably darker shade than the helmet, which it shouldn't be, and it's rubberbanded around the toy's legs in the package, which leaves a big blatant wrinkle all the way around at shin height. Not cool.

The cape is not removable, which is a shame, because a lot of care and attention went into the creation of the body. Since canonically we don't have any clue what Royal Guards wear under their robes, the toy takes its cue from Crimson Empire, giving him a dark maroon body suit with bright red armor attached to it. That means thigh-high boots with angular shin armor, a belt with groin guard and butt-plate, geometric armor protecting his chest and shoulderblades, and rounded shoulder pads. Most of that is sculpted on, though the belt is a separate PVC piece. His suit is very wrinkly, creating a great contrast with the smooth armor. The fact that there's no sort of armor on the arms makes it clear that this is supposed to be a movie Royal Guard, not comics.

Whatever his origin, the articulation is no different from his fellow Black Series releases, with swivel/hinge rocker ankles, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips and torso, swivel/hinge wrists, elbows and shoulders, and presumably some sort of joints in the neck and head, though as we intimated above, the shape of the helmet keeps the head from moving much at all. You can swivel it to the sides, slightly, but he definitely won't be nodding any time soon. The cloak obviously moves out of the way when you pose the figure, but it ends up looking like a tent in a lot of poses. And thanks to the way it's designed and the way it's tucked under the helmet, you can't even throw it back over his shoulder in a cool way.

The accessories are minimal. There's the traditional force pike, able to be carried vertically in the right hand, and a small black blaster pistol that's holstered on his right hip, but is meant to be held in the left hand. Obviously we'd have liked a removable helmet, but there really isn't anything else Hasbro could have included that would have made sense.

The Royal Guard is not without its flaws, but its bright red color offers a break from Star Wars' usual drab palette.

-- 09/24/17

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