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Lara Croft

Tomb Raider Legend
by Artemis

What can you say about Lara Croft that hasn't already been said? More to the point, what can I say that I haven't already in various reviews - even the first line's a rehash. Okay, well did you know Lady Croft was the cover girl for an issue of LOTL, Sydney's favourite lesbian magazine? Sometime in the late '90s I think, '99 perhaps - well before the movie. Obviously Angie's Lara was featured heavily when she turned up too.

After the death of her mother, Lara Croft was raised and mentored by her archaeologist father, Britain's Earl of Abbington. The disappearance of Lara's father and legal battle over his estate that followed left her the Countess of Abbington. Carrying on in her father's footsteps, Lara travels the world seeking ancient artifacts and historical sites, but not without receiving criticism in the archaeological community. Though some scholars think Lara's methods brash and reckless, her findings have lead to discoveries of great historical significance. Her agility and strength give her the skill to collect well-hidden priceless artifacts while her beauty and high-society upbringing gain her many admirers.

And hey, did you know Lara Croft's designer Toby Gard was displeased at all the focus on her sexiness, since it lessened (he believed) her recognition as a determined and capable woman. Well, sorry, but you spend the whole game watching her butt while she backflips and rock-climbs and handstands and so forth - what did you think would happen? Evidently some of her more modest Legend outfits were in part to make her more appealing to female gamers, which... you know what? No. It's the same mentality as continually wants superheroines drawn with more realistic figures and less revealing costumes, because then women will read comics. You know which comic lots of women already read? Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose. Yes, the one where the heroine has colossal boobs, is generally naked, and is frequently having sex. Why do women read Tarot, which is essentially Wicca soft porn, and not Justice League of America? [Because nobody else will? --ed.] Because it's not written by condescending pricks who think all women care about is whether you can see Power Girl's cleavage or not.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, Lara. This one is Sideshow's Tomb Raider: Legend effort, a 1:6 doll with various costume options. The body is the usual Sideshow female, familiar (to me at least) from various Star Wars femmes fatale (and Padme, but "femme ineffectuelle" doesn't roll of the tongue quite so well). For the record, the articulation run-down is: balljoint neck, swivel/pin/swivel shoulders, double pin elbows, swivel/pin/swivel wrists, shallow balljoint sternum, shallow balljoint waist, swivel/pin/swivel hips, double pin knees, swivel/pin/swivel ankles. With all those joints - and the SPS ones faking proper three-axis balljoints - she's a fairish acrobat. But since it's the only real original element, then, let's start with her head.

She's attractive, I'll give her that - strong jaw, pretty nose, full lips, and elegantly arched eyebrows that give her an unhurried air, as if (as you'd expect) she's not particularly ruffled by carrying on a running gun battle with bad guys and monsters and whatever else is after her today. Her hair is a very rich auburn, verging on all-out red - that ain't right for Lara, she's meant to be dark brunette, with a touch of auburn highlight at most. What's mostly not right, though, are her eyes - at least, one of them, take your pick. One is looking straight ahead, the other's wandering off to the left, and seen close-up it ruins an otherwise decent (though not exceptional) paint job. With her head turned to the left, and seen from casual range, it's not so noticeable, but figures in this price range really ought to be out of the reach of silly errors like that.

She comes packaged in her heaviest outfit, with stiffish rubber boots, tan trousers, and a heavy aviator jacket that looks like she found it in a B17. It moves like it hasn't been washed since the '40s too, which is to say, it doesn't - one photo on the packaging shows the top right corner of the jacket's front panel folded back (like Kirk always did with his Starfleet uniform in the movies), but that's impossible to achieve with the real thing unless you bend the stiff, unresponsive material back, clamp the fold with a pair of pliers, and then physically sew the tip down to keep it from flipping back up again. It's just poor material, and it, along with visibly too-large stitching, sabotages the whole jacket, despite some decent efforts with the lapels and cuffs.

Best to get rid of it then, which brings us to Look #2, the blue sweater. The top edge of the sweater, and its white undershirt, visible in the jacket photos are actually little strips sewn into the jacket itself; the real sweater is a separate piece, with the undershirt likewise just a little strip attached in the collar. For display purposes, it's much better than the jacket - it's much softer, freeing up the body to move more easily, and such stitching as there is is low-visibility. Getting it on to the body, that's another matter - there's no opening back, as most doll clothes have, which admittedly means Lara's good to view from 360°, but it also means you have to put it on her like a real top (albeit with the convenience of being able to remove her head first). The material isn't very stretchy, and the fit is tight - getting her arms and shoulders up through the narrow waist of the sweater was a bit of a battle.

What with the long sleeves it's not an exact match for the classic Lara, but at least the colour is close enough, so I decided it was shorts time. Getting the pants off is a simple matter of removing the boots, undoing the holster belt, and undoing the pants at the back of the waist - after the sweater struggle, I was glad of an easy wardrobe change. See that? That's called "tempting fate." Oh, the shorts went on well enough, but the boots, oh boy the boots. First on were a pair of white socks, which added just enough width to her feet to make it really, really difficult to get the boots back over her heels. I'll grant there's a knack to this - I've done it with the looser boots on Sideshow's old Faith, from Buffy (now looking thoroughly Slayer Plus in a Triad "Sci-Fly 2.0" combat bodysuit) - but try as I might, I could not get the damned boots back onto Lara's feet.

In the end I gave up, and took her feet off - luckily the detach point is very low down, and with some careful folding of the socks to wedge into the boot tops, she doesn't lose any height. Sideshow really needs to discover bootfeet - that is, footwear that plugs directly into the ankle - since not only would it let the boots go on and off easily, it'd let the feet move. Lara's boots are thickish rubber, and there's pretty much nothing you can do in terms of posing the feet that the boots won't undo the moment you let go of them - the foot just isn't strong enough to keep the rubber from settling back into its default position. So, effectively, she's got swivel ankles, which is a huge drawback.

The shorts go on easy, as I said, but they're not ideal either - they're hotpants, basically, stretchy material rather than the rugged shorts we normally see Lara in, and while shorts so thin they may as well be painted on look fine on Karima Adibebe - the last Lara promotional model, the one who's roughly contemporary with these outfits - that's because she's a real woman with real hips, not a doll with great big crevices between her thighs and her torso. Since the shorts are darker, and not that thin, the effect isn't so godawful as 13" Power Girl's stupid tights, but after moving the legs you'll have to adjust the shorts again to keep the joint from showing through, and the hip line is never as good as it should be. To top it off, being so clingy the shorts don't add much width to the hips, meaning that the holster belt is loose on her - speaking of the belt, it's a bit of a weedy-looking thing, with a tiny version of the real thing's chunky belt buckle, a permanently attached round thingy (limpet mine maybe?) too far off to the right, and a tendency to fall open easily.

Lara's final look for this figure is to swap out the sweater for her olive green crop top, and god dammit, they mucked that up as well. The garment itself is okay so far as looks go - a bit thick, compared to the stretchy real thing, but it's decently made and has the white bit sewn in to fake the two-layer effect - but put it on the body, and everything falls to pieces. See, Karima is a healthily-built woman with a pleasingly rounded bust and a yummy midriff, while the Sideshow female body has hard little breasts and a tiny middle, sandwiched as it is between two joints. The narrow waist is especially visible with the olive top - it's just plain unsightly. And, like the sweater, the olive top doesn't open at the back, so it's a rerun of the upper body struggle to get the damned thing on - only this time the waist is even tighter. I was all but certain either a shoulder or an elbow was going to shatter, the amount of stress I had to put it through to get the top over it - if this was a doll I'd really liked, and thus would've been disappointed to wind up supergluing back together, I'd probably have given up. Luckily she survived getting her top on.

That catalogue of misfortune called a wardrobe over and done with, we now arrive at accessories, and finally something's been done right, more or less. Lara's got her faithful automatics, which fit into the holsters tightly but well, and likewise into the pistol-grip hands - she comes with three pairs, fists, pistol grips, and generic grips. The pistols look pretty good, with separate pieces for the black body and silver sleeves, and best of all the sleeves can slide back - stiffly, but they can - just like the real thing.

She's also got a submachine gun with an extending stock and a buckled shoulder strap that can be shortened or lengthened as necessary, four hand grenades, and a pair of binoculars with a clip to fit onto her belt; the grenades can go on the belt too, just by slipping their release handles in. And lastly she's got her backpack, which is made decently - although it doesn't open - and fits Lara pretty well whatever top she's wearing. The shoulder straps have little loops in them to carry two of three designated accessories, two flares and a flashlight - the loops are fantastically tight though, and since the three gizmos are quite thin (far too thin in the case of the torch, compared to the real thing - it looks more like a penlight) you'll need to be careful not to bend them pushing them into place. Where the third one goes, I can't imagine.

Lara comes with the usual Sideshow base, a black disc with the Tomb Raider Legend logo printed on it in silver, and a waist clamp. It'll keep her upright - with the uncooperative rubber boots, she won't balance well otherwise in all but the most sedate poses - but it's not very attractive, nor is the clamp very tight, which means she'll move around within it, and possibly tip herself over if you're not careful and you try an ambitious leaning pose.

The bottom line is that this isn't a cheap figure - but it feels like one, because there are just too many annoyances: the ugly, stiff jacket, the tortuous process of getting the other tops on, the boots and what they do to the ankle articulation, the ugly midriff, the inaccurate belt. When you plump down this much rhino for a toy, it's fair to expect better than this.

-- 04/10/09

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