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Maris Brood

SW: The Force Unleashed
by Artemis

Finally, a new Star Wars lady who's not stuck in a two-pack with some pointless guy.

Maris Brood is a Padawan who escaped Order 66 and has been in hiding with Jedi Master Shaak Ti on Felucia. When she is violently separated from her Master, her impetuous and angry nature leaves her vulnerable to the influence of the dark side.

I'll let you in on a secret: I find Jedi and the Force immensely boring. In fact, the brilliance of the original trilogy in that regard was that the Force had nothing to do with anything. Sure, it let Luke do a couple of magic tricks, but it never influenced the way anyone behaved - the whole "dark side" thing was just a flowery way of describing someone acting like a jerk, not something that'd actually mind-control you into serving the Emperor if you killed one guy out of anger. Needless to say, I found all the Jedi stuff in the prequels, not to mention the endless Jedi tales in the EU, thoroughly tedious. Luckily action figures don't require you to sit through their backstory.

Maris is one of the Aayla Secura sub-branch of female Jedi, eschewing the traditional Tatooine Dirt Farmer wardrobe in favour of leather pants and just enough duct tape across her top to keep from bouncing around distractingly during a fight. She's a Zabrak - Darth Maul's lot - and as such she's got the little horns on her forehead, but her skin is ashen grey rather than firetruck red - and Jedi Master Eeth Koth was brown in the prequels, so it seems Zabrak are one of those races like Twi'leks who come in a range of colours (or possibly they're like living mood rings, and Maul was red because he was mad all the time).

Physically she's on the slim end of athletic, but fairly decent-looking so far as realism goes - you always get a degree of caricature on figures this small, but the Star Wars mob have been doing them long enough not to get carried away. There's a fair bit of detail, mainly on her costume, with a banded texture on her pants, fine detail on her shin armour, and a few buckles and fabric contours on the various straps that make up her outfit from the waist up. Her narrow waist can look a bit awkward from some angles, between an arched back and a fairly nondescript backside, but then again she's alien so an unusual-for-human physique may just be par for the course. The only complaint really worth noting is that her heavily-articulated arms look quite bulky compared to her slim legs, which throws off her sense of visual balance a bit.

The Star Wars women have always had mixed success with action figures - sometimes they come out okay, but there've also been some truly godawful faces in the mix, both in terms of actor likeness, and simple aesthetics. Maris escapes the worst of it - compared to her CG model the paint apps fall down, with the lips the wrong colour (red instead of black), and the paint surrounding her eyes simplified to the point where it loses any resemblance to the source art. That said, the resulting face, while only vaguely right for the character, is at least fairly attractive and characterful in itself, and since she's from a game, not a movie, the inaccuracies aren't such a great drawback. Her titchy little Zabrak horns are well sculpted, and picked out with red paint, and though her hair is simplified with only a minimal attempt to indicate a braided texture, the elaborate hairstyle is decently replicated, with the main body of the hair spread out behind her, two loops draping down her back, and a third circling her neck like a collar - interesting cultural touch there.

The paint on her body is unremarkable, but, like Clone troopers, it does its job well. The grey skin is darkened a bit by a wash, which is only intermittently successful, but the final result is at least consistent over the separate pieces it covers, so you don't, for instance, have bits of her arms that are noticeably lighter or darker than the rest. The browns of her pants and boots tend to blur together a bit, and the coverage on her skimpy bikini top is a bit lacking (you can easily see the light grey skin tone on the top edge of it) but there's nothing on her that's unforgivable, and the overall look of her is quite appealing, with the strong contrast between skin and clothes.

Luckily Star Wars figures have moved on from the days of the five peg joints - especially in these post-prequel days, when we've all seen Jedi leaping about like kung fu maniacs, high mobility is mandatory in their action figures. Maris manages to excel and disappoint at the same time.

Her upper body, at fairly minimal cost to the sculpt, is heavily articulated, with a balljoint neck (the braid around her neck is soft and allows a lot of freedom), a swivel at the sternum, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows with a swivel forearm. Short of hinge joints in the wrists - very fiddly at this scale - there's not much more you could do to her arms. From the waist down, however, she's a different story.

For a start, she doesn't have a waist - the sternum swivel is her only torso joint, though on the plus side that does allow the hip segment of her torso to cover and hide the tops of her hip peg joints. Aside from said hip joints, she has balljointed ankles... and that's it. No below-hip swivel, no shin swivel, no knees - you can widen and narrow her stance a bit (her left leg is naturally angled, so she can never stand straight upright), and that's all she's capable of. This can only be a cost-cutting measure, to economize by keeping the number of separate pieces in the figure low - with all the joints in her arms, the bean counters have evidently shaken their heads at the added expense of leg articulation, so we're left with a half-mobile Jedi. Know what that is? A big disappointment.

She's another one of those Jedi who just have to be different from everyone else. Her twin sabers are modelled after tonfas, the Okinawan fighting sticks that served as the model for the police nightstick. There's two huge problems with this - one of them is the in-universe aspect, by which it'd be extraordinarily difficult to take advantage of the optimal fighting style of the tonfa shape without killing yourself with the added lightsaber blade, but that can be explained away by saying she's a Jedi who's trained a lot with these things. The other problem is that whoever made the action figure put the lightsaber blades on the wrong end of the shafts, which means it really doesn't matter how good Maris is, she would definitely kill herself with these things, unless she just held the long end and used them like regular sabers, which defeats the whole point. Most of the art of Maris depicts her holding her sabers in the traditional tonfa manner, with the long (saber) end of the shaft sitting against her forearm - if she tried that with the backwards versions her action figure has, it'd be raw saber blade resting on her forearm instead of the hilt, and she'd cut her own elbows off.

Ignoring their suicidal design, the weapons are molded in dull silver plastic, with clear pink blades - I wouldn't have minded a darker red on the blades, and I still don't like the sculpted "flare" around the base which just doesn't occur in the movies at all, but the weapons still look pretty good.

At the end of the day, she's a flawed figure - but still a good one. Find a nice pose for her that looks cool even though she can't bend her knees, position the sabers in such a way that it doesn't look too much like she's going to hurt herself with them, and she's a striking, fairly unique figure, especially if you like collecting Jedi. But she could have been so much better, if her face was painted properly, and her legs were as articulated as her arms, and her own lightsabers weren't her worst enemy. I like the end result in spite of its flaws, but it's not a credit to Hasbro.

(By the way, in the insane belief that it'll tempt people who wouldn't otherwise buy the figure, they've included a random cheat code for the game inside the packaging. I got MANDALORE, and it unlocks a character called Kota. I just wanted to let you all know, because I'm irked that they tried to make a computer game cheat code a selling point for an action figure, when anyone with a brain should know every code in the game will be plastered all over the internet five minutes after it's released anyway.)

-- 08/09/08

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