Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Custom 'The Hurt Locker' Sgt William James 12" Figure

As Luke and I have learnt over the last year, collecting Hot Toys is a dangerous business. You're dropping $200+ here there and everywhere in frenzied excitement to get tiny replicas of your favourite characters. There's a sense of overwhelming euphoria every time one of those chunky boxes turns up in the mail. And then...the buzz starts to wear off. You see custom dolls that other people have made. Some are bad, but some are very good. You start to think 'Huh, how good would it be to have something that unique?' You may have already seen Luke's post about his custom casual Tony Stark, now it's time to join me on MY journey as I piece together my very own custom; Sgt William James from 2008's The Hurt Locker.

More under the cut!

Before we start, let's have a look at a couple of reference images to see what we're aiming for.

The one on the bottom was for a skit, and isn't movie accurate, but it gives a better idea of the whole outfit. Fortunately, there's a fairly big market for military dolls, so I didn't think it would be too much of a problem finding the basics. Oh how wrong I was. Did you know that just about every doll has a different camouflage pattern depending on what job they were representing? I SURE DIDN'T. In 2010 Dragon Models released their version of an Army EOD called Sgt James William (I see what you did there).

It appeared like it was the best option available seeing as it was looking pretty expensive to try and cobble together the individual bits and pieces I needed, but it just wasn't sitting right with me. I knew I could get another head, so that wasn't a problem, but underneath the clothes the body looked pretty crappy, and I knew I wasn't going to display him in the full bomb suit so the price tag of ~$150 wasn't very appealing. Luckily, my crippling procrastination actually paid off and I stumbled upon something better!

Very Hot Toys somehow knew exactly what I wanted and packaged it up in a little box for me. You only get the basic uniform and a few accessories, so no body and no bulky bomb suit. Perfect. Unfortunately, actually trying to buy it through the Very Hot website was like trying to get blood from a stone, so I was lucky to grab one of the very few boxes available on ebay, paying ~$80 shipped.

Simple cardboard box with a little bit of padding, absolutely crammed full of stuff. Pulling it all out and photographing it sounded incredibly unappealing, so here's a stock image!

Really great range of stuff, and I was particularly impressed that they bothered to recreate the water bottles that he drinks out of in one scene. Seriously, he was holding the bottle for about ten seconds. The set of tiny tools is also a fantastic example of their attention to detail. The only thing that is was missing was the 'US ARMY' and name patches, so I was able to buy the patch set from the Dragon figure for ~$12 to fill in the gaps.

I umm-ed and ahh-ed over which of the Hot Toys True Type bodies to get, as I'd heard the Hawkeye figure was the 'muscular' build, but the muscular True Type looked quite bulky in the photos, and it was more expensive. I decided to get the regular and chance it. You can check out Luke's review of the body here. In short, it's great. Depending on where you get it you'd probably be looking at between $70 to $90 for the body alone. Next step, the head.

I had initially planned on getting the authentic Hot Toys Jeremy Renner Hawkeye sculpt, but they were going for crazy amounts on ebay, so I had to rethink. As much as I obviously don't SUPPORT copyright infringement, there's some great bootleg sculpts out there which are almost as good and far more affordable. I was lucky enough to find one that had been given a paintjob to make the figure look a little bit more rough-and-ready with a bit of a three day growth going on. Obviously the hair isn't really very accurate to the character I'm trying to build, but there's not a lot I can do about that. This one cost about $60.

My first moment of 'Oh god, I've made a horrible mistake!' was when I put that shirt on. It's huge. I know it's not supposed to be tight, but it took a lot of adjusting to make it look like he wasn't swimming in it. Should I have bought the muscular body to fill out this shirt better? Gah! He wears his sleeves rolled up most of the time in the movie, so I wanted to display the figure in the same way. It probably goes without saying that rolling up the sleeves on a tiny doll shirt with no elasticity isn't exactly a fun time. The inside of the shirt is white (which I didn't want showing), so I had to roll the sleeve up and then fold the cuff over so it would cover the white parts. It took...a while. The pants and boots were no problem, but I decided to take the feet off the figure and just jam the legs into the boots to make things easier. It looks fine, but the figure loses a little bit of height and looks like a bit of a shortarse when I put him with my other Hot Toys. If it starts to bother me I might revisit it and try it with his feet on, but at the moment it's ok.

The patches were supposedly velcro, but they weren't sticking overly well. I ended up using the Dragon name patches and the Very Hot flag and EOD patches (which I had to cut out. Eek!).

The pockets that the patches sit on are pretty big and bulky. Given the amount of storage packs that come with this figure I doubt many people would use the pockets to actually put anything in. They could have definitely been made smaller, which would have made rolling the sleeves up quite a bit easier too.

The gun looks great. I have no idea as to how accurate it is compared to the movie, but as long as it's a black rifle, it's fine with me. The one main gripe I have with this figure is the hands. If you're going to go to the trouble of making water bottles and tiny tools and little explosive devices, why not make hands with movie accurate gloves? He clearly wears brown/tan fingerless gloves during the whole movie, so choosing to produce green full gloves seems a strange choice. There's not a great deal of options out there if I wanted to swap the hands out either. The closest I think I can probably get is the Marcus Wright handwraps from the newest Terminator movie. I hope to get them eventually, but at the moment they're going for $20+ on ebay and that seems a bit steep for two tiny scraps of fabric.

After putting on the vest I was VERY glad I didn't end up getting the bigger body. It was extremely snug. I removed the 'crotch protector' from the vest because he didn't wear one in the movie and frankly it looked pretty silly. I took the patches off the chest because you weren't going to see them once the vest was on, so they ended up being a slight waste of money, but $12 is no big deal.

So there we go, finished product. In these photos the head does look quite a bit darker than the rest of him, and while there definitely is a difference in tone, it's not actually that bad in real life. I knew from the ebay listing it was likely to be a bit darker, but I preferred this version to the paler Hawkeye head bootleg.

I'm choosing not to display him with all his packs and straps and stuff, partially because I prefer a cleaner figure and partially because there was no instructions as to where these millions of packs were supposed to go and how I was supposed to fasten them.

All up, the custom cost me about $210 which is comparable to one of the lower-end Avengers figures. It could have been cheaper if I'd gone with a poorer quality body, but it also could have been more expensive if I'd bought the genuine Hoy Toys head, so I'm quite happy with sitting in the middle as far as pricing goes. I'm extremely happy with it, though the success means I'm starting to look for other custom projects to start. A Steve Rogers of some description looks likely, but it probably won't be for a while.

A LONG while.

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