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Padme Amidala Legacy

SW: Evolution
by Artemis

What's better than one Natalie Portman? Three Natalie Portmans! Trust George Lucas to muck up an otherwise flawless axiom.

Padme devoted her life to the people of Naboo and became a key figure in the dramatic events that changed the galaxy. Her courage and compassion deeply affected those around her, and was the pivotal legacy she gave to her children, Luke and Leia. While Queen of Naboo, Padme stood up against the Trade Federation's siege of her planet. As a Senator, Padme fought to keep the Republic from falling into war. Her last act was to give birth to the twins who would fulfill her legacy by restoring peace to the galaxy.

Even before the much-maligned (and deservedly so) Prequel Trilogy, the Star Wars expanded universe just loved delving into the past and future of the OT's "present," with many a historical ancestor or far-flung descendant of the characters we know and love - or at least know, for those who hate Ewoks (I don't mind them overmuch). With this rich tapestry of lineage - or, if you prefer, tendency to self-plagiarize - to work from, something like the Evolutions packs were inevitable.

This one, unlike the majority of the others which trace factions like the Sith, the Jedi, or the Mandalorian/Fett family, features just one character, Padme Amidala, at the three stages in her life - those stages being "dumb but plucky," "still a bit silly but kind of kick-ass," and "useless." Just like the prequels.

Stage One is Pads as Queen of Naboo, in the preposterously elaborate get-up she wore for about five minutes on Coruscant during The Phantom Menace - I swear 90% of the power output of that chrome cruiser of hers must be devoted to hauling the raw tonnage of her wardrobe around. She's got a heavy multi-layered kimono-inspired gown, with heavy sleeves and a giant sash around her middle, and her headdress du jour is bead curtains framing her face, and a toilet brush stuck on the top of her head. The sleeves are the main issue with the figure - there's some nice paintwork on them, scrollwork faking the more intricate designs on the costume itself, but the bulk of them rendered as plastic can't be overlooked, and the way the elbow openings leave room for the forearm to move means the material doesn't sit naturally. There's some quite nice fine texture work, like a weave on her sash, and crinkles on the hem of her skirt where it's resting on the ground, but the sleeves dominate the overall effect, to the figure's detriment.

Her face is a decent sculpt, for the size - a bit too large a nose for Natalie, but nothing heinously wrong overall - but this time it's the paintwork letting the sculpt down. To save on paint apps her face is cast in white, with her eyes and the red lips and markings painted on. With nothing to subtly suggest that the makeup is applied over a natural flesh tone - difficult at this scale, true - she looks, well, pretty much like a clown.

She's got no articulation below her swivel waist - she has legs, at least from the knees down, beneath the skirt, but they're immobile. Above she's got swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, with secondary swivels beneath the elbow joints, kind of de facto wrist swivels - not bad, but it's ridiculous-looking to have the sleeves pointing anywhere but straight down, so you may as well ignore the shoulder joints in terms of useful posing. Her neck is a balljoint, and the thin, flexible trailing beads/ponytail fore and aft let her head move about a decent amount.

Stage Two, like Episode Two, is a promisingly large step in the right direction. Representing then-Senator Amidala in the bodysuit and poncho she wore for the latter stages of the film, its main failing is the poncho - a cloth accessory, and like all cloth accessories at 3¾" scale, it just doesn't have the weight to sit down the way it should. Fortunately it's got a stitched layering to its design, rather than just being a flat piece of cloth, so it can be arranged in such a way as to look kind of not rubbish.

Thanks to the poncho being cloth rather than sculpted, and therefore not imposing any mobility restrictions, it's also the best-articulated Padme I've got. She's got a balljoint neck, swivel/pin shoulders, swivel/pin elbows, swivel wrists, a swivel sternum, peg hips, swivel/pin knees, and swivel/pin ankles. That's a wrap, folks - any more articulation than that and you're into the territory of those everything's-a-balljoint Japanese micro-figures. Whether it's standing around looking austere, scrambling over rubble fighting giant alien cats, or scurrying around letting blaze with laser rifles, this Padme's up to the task.

Beneath the poncho the good Senator's sporting her white bodysuit, with tan belt and boots, and silver bands around her biceps. This is without a doubt one of the best Padme figures I've seen - she looks sleek and cool, the costume is accurate and attractive-looking, and the articulation doesn't muck up the figure's aesthetics on any level. While her face isn't the best work I've seen on a technical level - the flesh tone is the plastic colour, so it's glossy, and matches poorly with the sliver of neck visible above her collar - it's still attractive enough for its size. Overall, excellent job.

Just to make the other two figures even more envious, she's got something they don't - an accessory. Besides the poncho, which can be easily removed by the simple expedient of popping her head off (there's no possibility of damaging the figure in so doing), Senator Amidala gets her trusty wood-handled blaster pistol, manufactured by the Theed Retro Sci-fi Ray Gun Armanents Division, which fits neatly into her holster when she's not using it. It's not a fancy accessory, since it's pretty tiny, but its only flaw is that the barrel on mine is bent, due to the way current Star Wars figures are packaged, with their guns wedged into their grips instead of stored safely - and flatly - in their trays. I wish they'd stop that. But even so, Padme mkII is the firm bet in this field.

Stage Three is Pregnant Padme, which follows the example of Revenge of the Sith in making Natalie Portman look like a dog. I think someone at Lucasfilm misinterpreted the idea of the "pregnant glow" - guys, it's meant to be a good thing. Her outfit is a faux-Grecian spaghetti strap dress, with geometric folds down her back, and a straight drop off her chest, which I think is one of those silly ideas meant to "play down" the round stomach. Here's a thought for maternity-wear designers: we know women get big stomachs when they're pregnant; stop trying to minimize it, it looks ridiculous. Aside from the clothwork on the dress itself there's little enough to talk about design-wise, just some silver strands around her chest and biceps by way of decoration, all cleanly-enough applied.

Her face is actually one of the prettier Padmes there've been over the years, though it doesn't sit perfectly on the figure itself - she's craning her neck forwards, and with the divide a neck joint introduces, that leaves her face thrust somewhat unnaturally forward. Her hair is a mass of curls, in unpainted brown plastic - the skin of her face, as well as her shoulders, is painted, and it shows as a markedly different skin tone to her arms. It's not as bad as the photographic flash makes it look, but it's present even to the naked eye, especially the difference in finish between the flat paint and semi-glossy plastic.

She's got the usual neck balljoint, with the solid hair preventing her from looking up at all - which is an incredible drawback, as her jointless torso and legs force her to stand at a severe forward angle, so much so that I had to use a base just to get her to stop tipping over forwards long enough to take photos of her. Her arms are highly articulated, with swivel/pin shoulders, and swivel/pin/swivel elbows, but again the figure manages to snatch failure from the jaws of promise, with the mid-arm articulation making her elbows look fantastically bloated. Overall, if you want a figure to commemorate how rubbish Padme was in Episode III, this one's crap enough to do it.

A final selling point of the Evolutions packs - and with one good figure out of three thus far on this one, they need it - is that they come packaged with extra "secret" accessories, concealed within the box, though no doubt anyone with five minutes and Google will be able to find out what they are for each set. In this case, they're a white robe, and a desert headdress kind of thing. The robe is a glossy synthetic fabric, and... well, it looks godawful, so the less said the better there, although what with the way it sits like a clown suit on whatever body's wearing it, you could put it on any of the three figures and it wouldn't make a lick of difference.

The headdress is designed specifically for Pads MkII, since hers is the only head small enough to get into it - I don't recognize it from anywhere off the top of my head (it's not the one she wore in the Clone Wars movie), but it's coloured to match her poncho. Getting her eyes showing through the gap in the front isn't that difficult, but the combination of sculpted fabric on the headdress and cloth fabric on the poncho isn't an attractive mix, so using the two together isn't a great look, while using the headdress on its own would just look a bit strange.

So, that's the evolution of the Amidala legacy - which, let's be honest, isn't that much of a legacy, since everyone's forgotten about her by the OT, and even Leia seems to have gotten her mixed up with someone else who lived a bit longer. If you pay full price for this set, you're not going to come away feeling good - the Queen figure just isn't very good, and the Mother figure... well, if Ellen Ripley saw the factory where they make those, she'd take off and nuke the site from orbit, just to be sure. And sadly, the "special" accessories don't do much to sweeten the deal. But the middle figure is a truly kick-ass representation of Amidala, especially since it matches her appearance not only in her life-action heyday in Attack of the Clones, but also the surprisingly good Clone Wars CGI series as well. If you see this set on sale for around the price of a single figure - or even a bit more than that - it's worth it for that one.

-- 03/07/09

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