Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: The "Final" Wave of Star Wars Vintage Action Figures, Part 1: Return of the Jedi.

The fabled/frustrating Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar may have wrapped up, but there's still plenty of new thrilling/sometimes confusing Star Wars content to be had, especially if you're a jaded old skool afficienado desperately seeking a kick to the old nostalgia balls.

A year or two ago Hasbro put their 3 3/4 inch figures back on classic silver and black cards but, sadly, all good things come to an end and the last wave of 2012 is actually the last wave (at least for now) of the "vintage" styled line. And to pile even more salt into your teary wound, this last wave is available from online retailers only - no doubt because most brick and mortar stores are still drowning under stacks of unsold Phantom Menace figures from the 3D re-release.

But let's sweep all that negativity under the wampa rug. The good news is that this is a super solid wave of twelve new action figures, including some awesome re-dos of classic trilogy characters. If this image doesn't get those aforementioned nostalgia balls throbbing then I would recommend checking your connection between your brain and your nostalgia balls...

Man, that card art takes me right back to 1983! POW! If you feel anything at all looking at that image then you better join me after the jump! Hurry before Disney adds mouse ears and fairy wings!

For the sake of your sanity, and mine, I'm splitting these reviews into parts because nobody wants to trawl through twelve figures at once. This part will cover the five Return of the Jedi figures starting, of course, with the...

Emperor's Royal Guard.

The red felt, the slitted helmet Even as a stupid seven-year-old I knew this guy was totally badass. There is something incredibly iconic and powerful about this design that kick-started our young imaginations. You know, before our teenage years when we re-allocated 90% of our imaginations to imagining boobs.

Like Boba Fett before him, the Royal Guard is a hooded man of mystery who didn't actually do anything on screen, allowing us to make up his entire life. I figured he must spend his days fly-kicking good guys, smoking cigars secretly inside his helmet, macking on ladies, and being really good at playing pool. And Lucas kept that mystery too, unlike Boba Fett who was revealed to be a whiny, long-haired Kiwi kid.

But wait... then along comes the Expanded Universe to destroy the mystery of the Royal Guard for us. Now, I know the films far, far better than I know the novels and comics, but I do know that this kinda sucks...

This is an additional helmet, shoulder-guard and training staff doohickey? That totally spoils it by revealing his eyes and making him look like a G.I. Joe. Now don't get me wrong though - I think it's totally cool that Hasbro have included this option for the three fans of the Expanded Universe, but for me it pales in comparison to the classic guard. A nice value add though and it's no surprise that this has become the most sought after figure in the wave, especially as its an army builder.

But I know what you're thinking. You want to know what's underneath that helmet and robe. A total badass, right? All scars and stubble and lipstick kiss marks? Maybe an eye-patch? Maybe robot eyes? Titanium teeth? Laser moustache?

Nope. It's this guy...

Heloooo laaadies! It's a suave seventies soap opera star in a red leisure suit. Now every time I watch Return of the Jedi I'm going to think of this asshole hiding away under there enjoying the aroma of his potent aftershave. THANKS HASBRO!

Wait... I guess I didn't really actually review this figure. It's a great figure! Lots of accessories and all the articulation you could ever hope for. Even his crotch is articulated. It's a must have!

Speaking of "must haves", hands up who loves...

Nien Nunb

It's high-time Hasbro gave us an updated, super accurate version of everyone's favourite jug-eared, catfish-looking co-pilot. Lando didn't understand a single word this crazy, chuckling bastard said but it didn't stop the two of them having the time of their lives thrashing the shit out of the Millenium Falcon. Nien Nunb is a total blast to be around, but watch out if he gets too many drinks into him.

We got an updated Admiral Ackbar a year or so ago and I feel like this guy is the missing piece of the puzzle, even though I don't think they ever share the screen together. But I'm pretty sure they're married. Might have to check Wookieepedia on that one. Actually don't. Just take my word for it.

No overload of accessories with this guy, but honestly what does he need? I even think that giant rifle is a bit of overkill - I would have been happy with just his signature blaster that tucks into his hip holster. This guy is inside the ship, not on the frontlines. If they wanted to give him a second accessory it should have been one of those giant cups of space-soda, or a magazine.

I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves on these basic ones. He's far more screen accurate than his predecessors and he has more articulation than you could ever need. I'm a big fan of both the character and this rendition of him. So much so that I might evict Han and Chewie from my giant Hasbro Millenium Falcon and let Lando and Nien trash the place for a while. Maybe even invite some ladies over. Shit, you know I don't think I ever bought the Lando they made where he's wearing Han's clothes. What at opportunist! I can picture Lando strolling around the Falcon, opening up a wardrobe and crooning, "Well what have we got here!"

At least it's not...

Prune Face

Some call him Orrimaarko, but you and I know him as Prune Face. In fact I think he looks a little bit like Oprah without her wig, but each to their own. I don't know where they found this card art because if you blink you'll miss this guy in the film. In fact even if you don't blink and open your eyes wide and remain alert and attentive, you'll STILL probably miss this guy in the film. He's in the rebel briefing scene before the attack on the Death Star II, sitting in the audience in the background. Even if you do get a rare glimpse of him you probably won't recognise him as a character. You'll wrongly assume that the guy sitting behind him has his testicles out.

Still, it's a pretty great looking figure, and an update of one that we had as kids so that always helps with the bonding process. Hasbro have given him the full treatment, despite his obscurity, and it's a nice detailed sculpt with a couple of unique accessories (his guns are more like a shotgun and a rifle than the regular blasters). Soft goods are very hit and miss on this small scale and his cape and hood ballons out all over the place but it's certainly not the worst we'll see before this series of reviews is over. And you'd want a hood too if the back of your head looked like this.

The back of his head is so frigging long he needs two straps on his eye-patch! He looks like E.T.'s secret dad. Actually I can relate to his elongated head somewhat. I was a forceps baby. Represent.

And if there's not much to say about Prune Face, then what can be said about...


Except that he's another classic character who was in dire need of a screen accurate update. This leathery menace was one of Jabba's many, many skiff guards and features reasonably prominently in those scenes so he should be easy to spot, providing you can keep your eyes of the giant, fanged sand vagina that dominates the bottom of the screen. Hasbro has released a ton of these skiff and sail barge crew in the last few years which makes me very suspicious that they're eventually going to release a giant sail barge. They keep saying they won't but they are notorious tricksters. Like Loki.

Again, this is a very straight forward release with the emphasis being (rightly) on sculpt and articulation rather than gimmicks or accessories. He's a perfect, versatile redo who's going to look great in any scene. So much so that your older guards are all going to look pretty crappy by comparison. And check out this great head sculpt:

You could lose yourself in those dusty nooks and crannies! And that neck has to be one of the grossest things I have ever seen. All the classic trilogy aliens are so frigging weird and gross. All the prequel trilogy aliens are shiny and squishy. Dear Disney, please make the sequel trilogy all weird and gross again. Put a lot of butts and testicles near the designers while they work.

And finally (for this round)...


Just when you thought our chance had passed, I go and save the best for last!

I love ewoks and I don't care who knows it. If you're one of those sissy crybabies that thinks that they are the "teddy bears" that spoiled Return of the Jedi, and are crass merchandise fodder then you need to be cooked and eaten by one. Ewoks were ALWAYS scary and badass. From their lifeless black eyes to cruel lips, sharp teeth and gross probing tongues. They bash in heads with rocks and stab people with sharpened sticks. And they worship false gods. And they wear hats but they don't wear any pants.

This is Lumat, another figure originally released in the eighties who has never had a modern redo. Or is Lumat a she? Who can tell with ewoks. I like the amount of movement they get out of these tiny figures but they've perhaps gone a little TOO overboard with the articulation. Does an ewok really need a giant cut across it's belly so that it can turn to the side? Ewok's don't need to turn - they have no peripheral vision. They just keep running forward, screaming, until they bump into/eat something.

Nice job on the accessories though...

There's an obligatory spear but also Lumat's trademark bow. And the arrow is a separate piece that clips into a notch on the bow, and there's two additional arrows that slide into the quiver on the hip:

I am totally obsessed with archery right now. The whole world is obsessed with archery. Lumat is the Hawkeye/Green Arrow/Katniss Everdeen/That Chick from Brave/That Dwarf from The Hobbit, of the ewoks!

In Conclusion
If you're an original trilogy fan and collector then I would recommend all five of these as the definitive modern versions of the characters. It's a shame that Hasbro hasn't been able to pump more figures out (and make them readily available) because they do some damn fine work at the moment - there just isn't enough of it. It's very rare that I'll be lured into buying a complete wave (mostly due to spotty character choices) but this line up was one of the strongest yet. And there's still seven more you haven't seen!

Part 2 sometime soon. Unless nobody reads this. And then I will play video games instead. It's the holidays!

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