Thirteen years ago saw the official decline, if not end, of Star Wars with the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The current rage of 3D post-conversion of movies mixed with the Midas-like insatiable greed of George Lucas has lead to all of the SW films being re-released, one per annum, theatrically. This kicked off last Friday, February the 10th, with the re-release of Episode I now in 3D far better than the film deserves. While I was surprised at how much I do like the movie visually it is, in fact, far worse of a film than I remembered (I might even go so far as to say "Mr. Plinkett" is kind in his brilliant review). This, however, in no way deters me from reveling in the onslaught of new toy releases!
AMC Theaters - 3D Glasses
I saw the film Saturday morning and managed to snag a pair of these goggle-themed glasses, which is awesome cause I had thought they were some sort of mailaway. I had previously gotten some neat, film-specific glasses with Captain America which were identical to the standard Real-D glasses but with colored plastic for the frames and some printed text for the film. Indeed, I understand most theaters have standard glasses cast in black and red to allude to the ever-profitable Darth Maul. In essence these are no different than the standard glasses, using the same parts for the ears though cast in yellow, however they have all new frame holders. That part is sculpted to emulate Annakin's podracer helmet and does a good job of it. Plus, the goggles are bigger than the regular glasses so they have a better "viewing range," if you well. I really dig these and would love to see more films roll out exclusive or themed things like this!
Hasbro - Fighter Pods: Clone Trooper
As if the glasses weren't enough, when handing back my stub the Ticket Taker asked, "would you like a sticker or toy?" Cue stunned silence followed quickly by, "toy!" Thus it I got this blind bagged sample from the new "Fighter Pods" line. It was pretty confusing and unimpressive when revealed so I had pretty much written it off, though I like the figures more in person. It's a simple, tiny sculpt and comes with a two-part translucent ball that it can fit in. On the underside is a peghole that can fit on the wider peg on the apex of one of the ball halves, making a neat little stand. Based on the "Collect Them All" pamphlet this appears to be a "marbles" like game where you're supposed to stand up all the figures, then roll the ball to knock them over... Oh what terrible fun...
Hasbro - Fighter Pods: Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker
Many thanks to my dear friend Boyd for contributing his figure to this review! He scored a much cooler Luke figure which has primarily sold me on possibly collecting this line. It's a very cool, stylized sculpt not too much different than the "super deformed" style formerly imported from Japan, though more angular, and thus more interesting looking. He has simple but equal anime-esque paint that does a decent job of being eye-catching. The figures are cast is a soft plastic and I thought they might even be erasers at first. There's definitely risk of warping out-stretched extremities while within the ball, but I think few people would really be keeping them in those things. It's a fun little thing, but the undoubtedly comparable-to-the-figure high cost of the ball and confusing blandness of the "game" are certain to make this a pretty shortlived line, much like Attacktix.
Hasbro - Star Wars: AAT
I've always liked Doug Chiang's vehicle designs for The Phantom Menace though it was a long road to being able to accept that (they are so very not Star Wars). One of my favorites has been the Trade Federation Tank, or AAT, but not really being a vehicle collector I had never got around to picking one up and by the time I was ready they were only releasing in it the very silly Clone Wars decos. Fortunately it has come back and even features a newly sculpted upper cockpit area. Previously it was an action feature that flipped between regular and battle damaged Battle Droids but is now a secondary "chair." Likewise they've removed the other spring-loaded action features for pop-off canopy and turret. In general that's a welcome loss though it does mean there is a pointless button on the flatbed of the base and that the turret comes off easily. The paint is nice and as film accurate as possible while the sculpt is surprisingly detailed for being 13 years old. I managed to snag this just before the official February 1st release date and thus only paid $25 rather than the now standard $30. For the price I paid I'm very happy with it and even moreso excited to be able to have it flank the recently revealed MTT large scale vehicle!
Hasbro: Star Wars - Ben Quadrinaros
One of the very last few Podracers yet done, though I have little affinity for them they are certainly the Prequel equivalent to the Cantina Aliens (or would that equivalent be the Jedis with the Podracers being more akin to Jabba's Palace Denizens?) so it's fun to collect them. Unlike the rip-off ewoks, these guys come with a pseudo second figure of a droid! Ben gets one of the googly lookin' ones which is the same sculpt from a decade ago but with a nice "weathered" wash. Ben himself, the least likeable Podracer creature design, is jam-packed with balljoints at practically every joint, so that's cool. Obviously there is no head, neck or body articulation. He's fun scene filler on the shelf and a far better toy than he deserves.
Hasbro: Star Wars - Darth Maul
So far Johnny Awesome Villain is proving to be the hardest to find figure and with just cause. All new sculpt with tons of articulation, including balljointed hips! He also gets an unignited lightsaber, ignited lightsaber in two parts (spoiler!?) and binoculars plus a removable plastic hood and softgoods cloak. You really get your money's worth here! The hood is cool, but hovers as a result of the horns. I'd love to see a proper Tatooine Maul done with sculpted-on hood and sleeves/cloak done more similar to Daulty Dofine. At any rate this is just a super cool toy and if you get one of these it should be this.
Hasbro: Star Wars - Darth Sidious
This is a pretty weird figure. I know many people were none too impressed by the original from '99 but I love it. This one is just far too much a toy for a character that only stands around for 66% of the time and then sits for the other 33%. I dig the sculpted hood, and indeed you can pose the head to have all but nosetip and mouth obscured, but why is the head, or at least hair coloring, younger than any Palpatine we've seen? He comes with his lightsaber in both hilt and ignited versions, which is cute. It's a decent execution of softgoods and bodes well for a proper RotJ Emperor down the road.
Hasbro: Star Wars - Daulty Dofine
Ever since the Nute Gunray and Rune Haako figures from the first two
waves series of original Episode figures I've had a pretty soft spot for Nemoidians. I just dig their alien-ness and elaborate costumes - they just make for far better collectibles than film characters. This dude is the Captain of the Trade Federation ship at the beginning of the film. In fact he get's a couple lines then is chastised by Gunray and isn't really noticed later. This is a really cool toy with a great sculpt and the best incorporation of softgoods I think I've ever seen. A really good execution on the sleeves and skirt and fairly seamless transitions to the plastic parts. He also gets a cool Battle Droid blaster, of which it's always nice to have extras. This is a cool figure and I certainly hope means we'll see more Neimoidians down the road, especially the weirdo Communications chick!
Hasbro: Star Wars - Naboo Royal Gaurd
I love these costumes. They're a perfect blend of my beloved Rebel Blockade Troopers and my even more beloved Vlad Dracul's Armor from Bram Stoker's Dracula. There was one figure released back in 2000 but it was in a very pre-posed sculpt so there was little to do with it. This time around he gets a full compliment of articulation with balljoints galore. He gets a blaster and a removable helmet which tries to capture the iridescent gleam of the metal through a blue and yellow "rainbow." It's a decent idea but not a very convincing execution and ends up being a little odd. I'm sure we'll see this guy again in the future with a new head (perhaps even with a likeness of the brilliant Roman Coppola who "camoed" as one of these troops) so hopefully they'll try a different paint scheme then.
Hasbro: Queen Amidala
The last of Padme's Episode I costumes arrives bringing fans one step closer to completing their Padme collection... It's phenomenal sculpt with lots of detail, texturing and very clean, tight paint apps. Articulation is limited, for instance she doesn't even get wrist articulation. However, she does have cool, interesting balljoints at the elbows. Like most of this
wave series it appeals to only the more hardcore collectors but that doesn't mean Hasbro didn't make a great figure, cause they did. Now, if only we could get a new sculpt of the "Theed Invasion" outfit complete with light-up beads I'll be truly happy.
Hasbro: Star Wars - Quinlan Vos
Huh? Who? Whatever, he technically appears in the film, and in the Mos Espa sequence, so he's fair game for my collection. In essence that's purely the only reason I got him (well, that and Toys R Us was having a sale). Apparently he has a Jedi-enough costume that the Expanded Universe retconned him into a Jedi, the only gun-slingin' Jedi as it were, which is cool enough. I'm just not too crazy about his design. A good sculpt and figure he even get's balljointed hips! I'm sure that's just a product of the high-reuse quotient on prequel Jedis though. He gets a saber hilt, ignited saber and gun plus his giant dreadlocks are cast in soft plastic so you get a reasonable amount of articulation range considering its size. If you're one of the many Vos fans out there, you will be pleased.
Hasbro: Star Wars - Ratts Tryell
Another new Podracer - wizard! Oh man, and speaking of "wizard," how about those two times when frikken baby Darth Vader exclaims "Yippeeeee" in Phantom Menace. Groan. Another great sculpt but sadly limited articulation, especially compared to Quadrinaros and the other figures. But, in all honesty one's not really after these guys for getting them in dynamic poses. He comes with a gun, removable goggles/visor and a Pit Droid. Like Ben he's just a fun alien to add to the collection and display and novel in a "Oooooh, Episode I, you so crazy" way.
Lego - Polybags: Anakin's Podracer
Prior to 2010 the only Lego line I fully collected was the old micro-scale Star Wars vehicles which ran over 2002 and '03, so these kinds of polybags will always have a very soft-spot in my heart. Lego relaunched that line this year and the first
wave series included Sebulba's Pod Racer, to which this is undoubtedly a companion piece. It's a great build that captures the, daresay, iconic look of Anakin's Podracer well. I like the translucent pink energy connector between the engines and especially the use of 1x1 slopes to create the curvature of his "cockpit," which is ingeniously built off of a film camera brick. I do wish they had used the short stud-rope-stud piece common to boats and ships to do the tethers from engine to cockpit which would have 100% completed the look, but it's good enough as it. Most importantly, though, is that it has the clear rod with two studs on one end and one of the other (which first came with the original Podracer set in '02). This piece has become the standard for customizers to support many flying characters, vehicles and elements. In fact I bought four of these solely to get extra of those bricks and I imagine many others will do the same.