REVIEW: IRON MAN 3 MARVEL LEGENDS LT. COLONEL JAMES RHODES
I'll admit that I like the larger scales of action figures, especially the 6" (or thereabouts) scale. Masters of the Universe, DC Universe, and of course, Marvel Legends. So when I discovered that there was a Marvel Legends line based around Iron Man 3, I was delighted, and determined to bring in several of the figures from this distinctive assortment.
One of these is LT. COLONEL JAMES RHODES, also known as WAR MACHINE, and in Iron Man 3, taking on the role of IRON PATRIOT.
Officially, the figure is called "Lt. Colonel James Rhodes". I can understand this. There's a distinct difference in the man in the Iron Patriot armor between the movies and the comic books. In the comics, Iron Patriot was the armored identity of Norman Osborn, formerly the Green Goblin, a Spider-Man adversary. He took on his own armored identity during the storyline that encompassed Civil War, The Initiative, Dark Reign, Secret Invasion, whatever. I didn't even try to keep track of all that.
Obviously, Osborn isn't in the Iron Patriot armor in the movie. Since Norman Osborn is considered a Spider-Man character, the cinematic rights to him are still tied in to the Spider-Man movies, which are produced by Sony. But apparently the Iron Patriot name and something akin to the armor design was more available, as long as someone else was suited up in it.
There is an Iron Patriot figure in this particular action figure line, that seems more closely based on the comics version, and it's a cool figure. But that's also probably why the figure that's based on the cinematic version of the character was officially named "Lt. Colonel James Rhodes", probably so the inventory personnel don't get -- well, any more confused than the rest of us.
All you really need to know about that particular mess is that this figure represents Iron Patriot as he appears in the Iron Man 3 movie, with James Rhodes piloting the armor. And he does a good job redeeming the character name from its rather more sinister comics counterpart. So forget Norman Osborn.
Let's have a brief look at the Iron Man 3 movie, which has certainly proven to be a box-office blockbuster, and then something of the history of James Rhodes, both from the comics and cinematic side of things, and then have a look at this superb figure.
Iron Man 3 is the third movie featuring the armored Avenger. The movie once again stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The movie was produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Shane Black, with a screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black.
In the movie, Tony Stark recalls a New Year's Eve party in 1999 with scientist Maya Hansen, the inventor of Extremis -- an experimental regenerative treatment intended to allow recovery from crippling injuries. Disabled scientist Aldrich Killian offers them a place in his company -- Advanced Idea Mechanics -- but is turned down.
In the present day, Stark's experiences during the alien invasion of New York in the Avengers movie are giving him panic attacks. Restless, he has built literally dozens of various Iron Man suits, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts.
A string of bombings by a terrorist who calls himself the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies bewildered by lack of forensic evidence. When Stark Industries' security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in one attack, Stark issues a televised threat to the Mandarin, who responds by destroying Stark's home.
Stark survives the attack and finds himself in rural Tennessee after his artificial intelligence JARVIS followed a flight plan from Stark's investigation into the Mandarin. Stark's experimental armor lacks sufficient power to return to California, and the world believes him dead.
Teaming with Harley, a local 10-year-old boy, Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the "bombings" were triggered by soldiers subjected to Extremis, which can cause some subjects to explosively reject it. After veterans started exploding, their deaths were used to cover up Extremis' flaws by manufacturing a terrorist plot.
With Harley's help, Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters. Inside he discovers the Mandarin is actually an actor, Trevor Slattery. The Mandarin is a creation of Killian, who appropriated Hansen's Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans.
After capturing Stark, Killian reveals he is the true Mandarin. He has kidnapped Potts and subjected her to Extremis in order to gain Stark's aid in fixing Extremis' flaws and thereby saving Pepper.
Killian has also manipulated American intelligence agencies regarding the Mandarin's location, luring James Rhodes -- the former War Machine, now renamed the Iron Patriot -- into a trap to steal the armor. Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One. Stark saves some surviving passengers and crew but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis. They trace Killian to an impounded oil-drilling platform where Killian intends to kill Ellis on live television. The vice-president will become a puppet leader, following Killian's orders in exchange for Extremis to cure his daughter's disability.
On the platform, Stark goes to save Potts, and Rhodes saves the president. Stark summons each of his Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by JARVIS, to provide combat support. Rhodes secures the President and leads him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure. However, a rig collapses around them and she falls to her apparent death. Stark confronts Killian and traps him in an Iron Man suit that self-destructs, but fails to kill him. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian.
After the battle, Stark orders JARVIS to destroy each Iron Man suit as a sign of his intention to devote more time to Potts. The vice president and Slattery are arrested. With Stark's help, Potts' Extremis effects are stabilized, and Stark undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart. He pitches his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea, musing he will always be Iron Man.
As to the character of James Rhodes: James Rupert "Rhodey" Rhodes first appeared in Iron Man #118 (January 1979) by David Michelinie, John Byrne, and Bob Layton. The War Machine armor, which became Rhodes' signature armored battlesuit, was designed by Len Kaminski and Kevin Hopgood.
Rhodes has been a featured character in the Iron Man animated series, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, and the animated film The Invincible Iron Man.
Initially a supporting character in Iron Man, Rhodes later assumed the mantle of Iron Man after Tony Stark's relapse into alcoholism in issue #170 (May 1983). The character would continue in a supporting role and later resume the role of Iron Man following Stark's purported death in issue #284 (Sept. 1992). After Stark's return to the role of Iron Man, Rhodes continued as the superhero War Machine and made his solo series debut in an eponymous title after being featured as a supporting character in the superhero-team series Avengers West Coast.
James Rhodes, from the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps who served tours of duty in Southeast Asia. A combat pilot, he was stranded in the jungle behind enemy lines after his helicopter was shot down by Viet Cong rocket fire. He encountered Iron Man, who had escaped from Wong-Chu's prison camp in his prototype suit of powered armor, for the first time. Defeating the Viet Cong soldiers that ambushed them, Rhodes and Iron Man discovered an enemy rocket base that was the origin of the rocket fire that grounded Rhodes in the first place. Destroying the base with a stolen Viet Cong helicopter, Rhodes and Iron Man flew the helicopter back to the American defense perimeter.
At the base hospital in Saigon, Stark arrives in person to thank Rhodes for helping Iron Man and to offer Rhodes a job as his personal pilot. After the Vietnam War was over and after taking several career paths including mercenary work, Rhodes finally took Stark's offer and became Stark's personal pilot, chief aviation engineer for Stark International, and one of Stark's closest friends.
Years later, due to Obadiah Stane's actions, Stark International was losing foreign contracts and going into heavy debt. With Stark's company and personal life in disarray, Stark relapsed into alcoholism. After an intoxicated Stark was defeated by Magma, Rhodes donned the Iron Man armor for the first time and defeated Magma. Stark asked Rhodes to take his place as Iron Man. Rhodes, along with scientist Morley Erwin, quit Stark International and sent the remaining Iron Man armors into the ocean to protect Stark's technology from Stane and S.H.I.E.L.D., who monitored the Stane takeover.
He became a charter member of the West Coast Avengers and fought in the Beyonder's "Secret Wars". Due to the armor's helmet being tailored to Stark's brainwaves, Rhodes developed headaches and grew more erratic and aggressive. Rhodes sought help from Dr. Henry Pym to cure his headaches while Stark delivered Rhodes' resignation to the Avengers and revealed his identity to Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Pym sent Rhodes to Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen (Shaman of Alpha Flight) and Rhodes cured himself of his headaches via a journey through a mystic dimension called "The Gorge" that revealed Rhodes' guilt of feeling unworthy of the armor.
Rhodes remained at Stark's side as Stark regained his personal fortune and built a new corporation, Stark Enterprises, remaining in California. Rhodes donned the red-and-gold armor once more when A.I.M. attacked the under-construction Stark space station. Rhodes continued to play a key role in assisting Stark, particularly during the first Armor Wars storyline.
When Stark was shot and left paralyzed, he needed a fill-in for the role of Iron Man. Rhodes refused, citing the history between him and the armor, "not all of it good". Stark would call upon the former Force, Clay Wilson (known as Carl Walker at this point), to fill in, wearing the modified Stealth armor, until Stark could modify his regular armor to allow him to function normally inside the suit. Rhodes would reluctantly return to the armor to fight the Mandarin at the behest of the Chinese government, in order to allow Stark to seek medical assistance in their country. In the end, Stark (using a remote-control set of armor) and Rhodes teamed up with the Mandarin to stop the larger threat of the Makulan dragons.
After Stark's apparent death in the comic book, he left Rhodes in control of Stark Enterprises as its new CEO, along with a new Variable Threat Response Battle Suit designed especially for Rhodes to continue the Iron Man legacy. As Iron Man once again, Rhodes used the armor and fought against threats such as the Living Laser, the second Spymaster, Blacklash, the Beetle, and Atom Smasher.
Upon the revelation that Stark was alive, Stark wanted Rhodes to keep the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit stating that the armor always belonged to Rhodes. Rhodes eventually kept the armor and later adopted the name of War Machine. He rejoined the West Coast Avengers as War Machine and served with the team until he resigned after an argument with Iron Man during an Avengers team meeting.
Rhodes would continue to have many armored adventures, which I won't delve into here. Ultimately, after all of the Civil War and subsequent related stories, during the so-called "Heroic Age" sequence that followed, due to a government contract between Tony Stark's "Stark Resilient" company and The Pentagon, War Machine was assigned a new position as the U.S. Military's own "Iron Man", with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, largely the same role he fills in the movies. Rhodes later appears in a new armor patterned after the Iron Patriot suit.
In the movies, Rhodes was first portrayed by actor Terrence Howard in the 2008 film Iron Man. Don Cheadle replaced Howard in the 2010 sequel Iron Man 2 and returned to the role in Iron Man 3.
The development of the War Machine armor in the movies has been fairly straightforward. It appeared as an all-silver suit of armor in the first movie, designated the "Mark II". At one point in the movie, Rhodes looks at the armor, and muses, "Someday", with a smile. In the second movie, the armor has been given its more traditional silver and metallic dark gray coloration, and is now officially known as War Machine, and is piloted by Rhodes. Now in Iron Man 3, the armor is known as Iron Patriot, and is considered the United States government's official armored super-hero.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. Comparing the Iron Patriot armor to the War Machine armor from the last movie (at least based on the action figure I have from the Iron Man 2 line), the Iron Patriot armor is somewhat sleeker and more refined in appearance. One might assume that Stark has a contract with the United States government to maintain and occasionally upgrade the armor, assuming the US government hasn't been doing that on their own.
However, the armor doesn't look quite as refined as Tony's latest developments, especially notably the Iron Man Mark 42 which sees the greatest use by Stark in the movie. But let's face it, the fact that Stark is even using an armor designated "Mark 42", given that in the Avengers movie, the last time we saw the character, he'd gotten as far as the Mark 7, is proof that Tony's been a busy little billionaire. His armor's bound to look more advanced.
Not that Rhodes' Iron Patriot armor is anything to underestimate. This is an imposing suit of armor, that isn't embarrassed to declare its allegiance to the United States of America. The bulk of the armor is a dark metallic blue. The faceplate of the helmet is silver. With narrow red lines of trim around it, and glowing yellow eyeslits. A relatively narrow arc reactor on the chest has a star emblem painted around it. Clearly someone was taking cues from Captain America, but there's worse American super-heroes you could take fashion cues from if that's the look you're going for.
The chest and shoulders are mostly blue, with some red and bright silver trim, and the abdomen is alternating plates of silver and red. The upper arms are metallic red, as are the gloves, with some silver trim and a certain amount of dark blue on the lower arms. The legs are mostly dark blue, with some silver plating on the upper legs, with red outlines, and some red detailing just below the knees.
The military loves to put little alphanumerical markings on its hardware -- just ask any of the vehicle drivers on the G.I. Joe team -- and there are a few on the Iron Patriot armor, although they're not as extensive as they were on War Machine. The left shoulder piece has the letters "FF", followed by some very tiny letters that gave me eyestrain trying to read them, but I think they say "AF D4", followed by slightly larger numbers "445".
On the lower left arm is the traditional military emblem of a circle with a star in it, and short stripes out to the sides. And on the left side of the chest is the name "Lt. Col. James Rhodes". Since this is a traditional practice of many pilots, to put their names on their planes, I thought that was a especially nice touch.
I initially thought the entire figure was painted in its various colors, but at this point I'm not so sure. Studying the figure in some above-average lighting, I am of the opinion that most of this figure was molded in metallic blue plastic. There were some otherwise inconsequential swirls on the chest that wouldn't have happened with painting, but could have happened with molding. It doesn't affect the look of the figure, fortunately, but it does give a clue about how it was made and in which colors. I think the same may be true for the red on the arms.
Overall, it's a remarkable figure. The sculpted detailing of the armor, by necessity, needs to be very precise, and it certainly is here. This isn't like sculpting a super-hero action figure who's wearing tights, and you're going for duplicating human musculature with the sculpt. These Iron Man figures need to look high-tech, and Iron Patriot here certainly does. I find myself wondering how much of the sculpt involved computer assistance -- not to malign the talents of any human sculptors.
Fortunately, the painted detailing is carried out as neatly as the sculpt. This is a good thing, considering there's some very fine color detailing on this figure, and it's all been painted very neatly, and where appropriate, "colored within the lines", for lack of a better term.
The figure stands about 6-1/2" in height, which is very slightly taller than the larger-scale figures from Iron Man 2. This is not a complaint. The Iron Man Mark 42 figure also boasts this slightly taller size, and I think it works well. If nothing else, it puts both of these major heroes on somewhat more even footing with other similarly scaled lines.
James Rhodes doesn't have any accessories to speak of, although he does have his traditional shoulder-mounted blaster cannon. This can be attached to one of two pegs on his back, and it has its own nice little bit of articulation, so that it can be positioned as either retracted, or swung up and around, ready to fire. It's molded in black, which doesn't really blend that well with the rest of the figure, but hey, if this thing is pointing in your direction, color coordination is the least of your worries.
The only other "accessory" that the figure comes with is one of the arms of the Build-A-Figure for this assortment of figures, which is a large version of Iron Monger.
Iron Patriot is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The nice thing about armored figures, whether you're talking Iron Man, Iron Patriot, Clone Trooper, Halo Spartans, or whomever, is that generally speaking, you can incorporate a lot of the articulation into the armor design, so that the figure is not only well articulated, but he looks good with it. That's certainly the case here.
So, what's my final word? Iron Man 3 was an impressive film. If I have one criticism, and I know I'm not the only one who has it, it's that there was too much Stark, not enough Iron Man. But there was still plenty of armor to be seen, and while Rhodes and his Iron Patriot armor were obviously in a supporting role, he got some chance to shine, and the very patriotic armor certainly looked good on screen.
This figure is an excellent rendition of the character, and is superbly made, nicely detailed, neatly painted, and certainly well-articulated. I'm very pleased that Hasbro chose to release a group of larger-scale figures that included the latest movie armors, including Iron Man Mark 42, and James Rhodes' Iron Patriot armor. If you enjoyed the movie, you'll enjoy these figures.
The armored, Iron Patriot figure of LT. COLONEL JAMES RHODES from the IRON MAN 3 MARVEL LEGENDS line definitely has my highest recommendation!