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REVIEW:
STAR WARS EPISODE II ACTION FIGURES!

Thanks to a good friend of mine , I actually acquired a handful of the 3-3/4" Star Wars Episode II action figures prior to their official release date of April 23, and reviewed them here for MASTER COLLECTOR. Fortunately, on April 23 itself, and on subsequent dates, I picked up a good number more, and most economically at Wal-Mart. I had specifically set aside a bit of money for this endeavor, fortunately, as Hasbro has generally done a superb job
with their newest assortments of figures based on one of the most popular sci-fi concepts of all time.

The 3-3/4" figures listed are not a complete set, and you'll notice the distinct absence of most of the lead characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala, etc., although I did pick up the more Jedi-like (and distinctly scarcer) of the two currently available Anakin Skywalker figures. But otherwise, the lead characters are very heavily packed from an overall ratio standpoint, I can pick them up at my convenience and frankly, I'm hoping for some slightly less pre-posed versions.

The stores that I have visited to investigate their Star Wars displays have included Targets, Wal-Marts, Toys "R" Us, K*B Toys, and K-Mart. In short, pretty much all the leading toy carriers. The displays are massive, but perhaps not quite on the scale of Episode I. Both Target and Wal-Mart have allocated the better part of one side of an aisle in their respective toy departments for Star Wars products. However, they are not exclusively limited to Hasbro's action figures. Vehicles, lightsabers, trading card games, electronic gizmos, Lego sets, Playskool preschool sets (which are downright cute), jigsaw puzzles, keychains, and other various items can be found in this specific area. Not everything, though. There's a separate area for the Star Wars Episode II breakfast cereal, which is competing for shelf space right along side the Spider-Man breakfast cereal. I can't say as either looks
very appetizing (little sweetened web shapes?! Clone Trooper
marshmallows?!).

The K-Mart I visited had set up an entirely separate display for Star Wars items, and had a decidedly smaller amount than either Wal-Mart or Target. K*B Toys had a generous supply of Star Wars toys in a special display at the front of the store, but given their higher prices, I wasn't inclined to shop there. The Toys "R" Us I visited had a massive display area at the front of the store, easily the largest of anybody's, and in fact I found a few figures
there that I hadn't seen anywhere else. This display has since been scaled back, but is still considerable.

Wal-Mart has also used this influx of Star Wars merchandise to release a very cool store exclusive, which is still in the green-toned "Power of the Jedi" packaging. This is the TIE Bomber vehicle. It's a very cool vehicle, highly detailed, and it comes complete with a newly-sculpted TIE Fighter Pilot that bends at the knees so he can properly sit in the cockpit. It retails for $29.96 -- a little pricey in my opinion but it's still a very cool ship and I certainly recommend it.

Now, let's have a look at the 3-3/4" Star Wars figures from Episode II. I should mention that a number of the character descriptions do give away certain plot elements of the movie. Nothing too major in my opinion, although some online postings have been very critical of this. As such, I warn you to read ahead advisedly if you haven't seen the movie.

 

BATTLE DROID: Not too different from the Episode I version, but still a cool design. One of the new gimmicks for Star Wars toys is an attachable transparent plastic "blast effect" that can be used with blasters, jet backpacks, lightsabers, or whatever. I think it's kind of a nice touch, personally, and it's certainly better than that Comm-Tech Chip they tried with Episode I. However, reaction online has been mixed.

BOBA FETT: The young son of the infamous bounty hunter Jango Fett. The figure looks pretty cool, although the skin is a little pale in comparison to the darker-skinned actor Daniel Logan who plays Boba. Star Wars figures are also using RealScan technology, initially utilized by Jakks Pacific for their World Wrestling toys, to get better likenesses. This is one of the few faces where you can really tell it. And it does work, although the air looks matted down. Of course, the figure is listed as "Kamino Escape", and that's a particularly rainy planet. I worry a bit about the fact that this figure of a child is packaged holding two blaster guns. I think that sends a poor message, but overall, it's a decent figure.

SHAAK TI: This is a new Jedi Master we're being introduced to. A rather colorful individual, this character has a mostly red face and striped horns or tentacles or something emerging from her head. It's a very intricate pattern, and Hasbro has done an excellent job of painting them. The figure is a little too pre-posed for my taste, really only capable of holding a lightsaber and looking ready to fight, which I suspect they'll have to do in this movie.

PLO KOON: Another Jedi Master who has seen figure form before. This one is minus the long, flowing robes of most Jedis, and is dressed in a shorter tunic. Again he is somewhat pre-posed, and clearly ready for battle. But he's one of the more interesting-looking aliens. There are quite a few Jedi Masters in the current line-up of Star Wars action figures, and I didn't even get all of them. But then they also do a lot more than just sit around the Council chambers this time around.

CAPTAIN TYPHO: This character is listed as Padme's head of Security. He's basically human, with what looks like a cybernetic eye. He's a decent figure. Unfortunately, there's nothing all that special about him, and I have a sinking feeling that this figure may become Episode II's version of Episode I's Ric Olie, a perfectly good figure who got relegated to the clearance bins for not being interesting or significant enough. If toys had lives of their own like "Toy Story", I think Ric would've needed therapy.

FEMALE TUSKEN RAIDER: This is a weird one. Far more ornate than the male Tusken Raiders we've seen to date, the figure looks vaguely Egyptian to me somehow. The figure also comes with a tiny Tusken Child who can fit into a pouch on the back of the adult. This female Tusken Raider comes with a Gaffi Stick, so she's ready to fight.

C-3PO: One of the more interesting entries in the Episode II collection. C-3PO finally gets some "coverings" in this movie, and with the toy, you get to put them on him. The basic figure looks much as it did in Episode I, but he comes with various attachments that can make him look far more complete. He's still a long way from being the shiny golden robot from the classic Star Wars Trilogy, however. Most of his cover-parts are a sort of pewter grey, and a few others are rusted brown. Maybe we'll get a golden upgrade in Episode III -- as well as find out why C-3PO doesn't remember that he was built by Darth Vader...

TAUN WE: Clearly we are going to be seeing a lot more computer-generated characters interacting with the human actors in this movie, as some of these critters would be just impossible to pull off even with costumes. One of them is Taun We, a tall, impossibly slender alien with a long neck. She is part of the group working at the cloning facility in Tipoca City on the planet Kamino. I don't think that's giving away any major plotlines, since the movie is called "Attack of the Clones".

KIT FISTO: I almost wondered when I first heard this name if it was an altered version of Kitster, best friend to young Anakin in Episode I. Well, unless Kitster had a really horrible accident, I don't think this is the same person. Kit Fisto is a Jedi Master, a green-skinned, large-eyed alien with multiple tentacles emerging from his head. He's otherwise quite humanoid, so I'm inclined to think that this was an actor in make-up in the movie, although I have no idea how he could see what he was doing. Overall, it's an impressive and different sort of figure. Clearly alien, but not outside the realm of more-or-less human.

GEONOSIAN WARRIOR: These things probably take the prize for being the most scary-ugly critters George Lucas has ever thrown into a Star Wars movie. They look like one part dragonfly, one part those big ugly Aliens that Sigourney Weaver used to fight, with just a little bit of Watto thrown in. They're a sort of slimy greenish in color, with brown and grey splotches, and they look nasty as all get out. I'd call 'em rejects from Starship Troopers more than anything, and they look exceedingly unpleasant as well as dangerous. No surprise they work for the major bad guy in this film.

R2-D2: How can you make R2-D2, who's had plenty of previous versions, an interesting figure once again? Simple. You make it so that when you press a panel on his fireplug-like torso, his main eye blinks a very bright red and he chatters away in a random stream of his electronic blips and beeps. And it's pretty random every time you hit the button. Hasbro's had this technology for a while, and used it in 1993 on a G.I.Joe Hall of Fame Electronic Duke. Frankly, it works better here, the sounds are very authentic, and the result is a very amusing figure that has gotten a very positive reaction from anyone I've spoken to about it. R2-D2 gets an especially high recommendation from me.

DEXTER JETTSTER: Despite a name that sounds like it comes out of a cheap 1950's serial (then again, what does "Attack of the Clones" sound like...), this is actually a pretty interesting figure. He's a cook who works on Coruscant, who's also a wealth of information and a longtime friend of Obi-Wan Kenobi's. Think of Dexter as the Star Wars universe's version of Quark from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Except Dexter is a bit pleasanter, as
well as larger, uglier, sloppier, and he has four arms. One interesting note: The prototype of the figure on the back of the card shows him either smoking or chewing on something. This has been removed on the final figure, and you can see where it was removed. Dexter's accessories come with food preparation utensils of a size and viciousness that I don't even want to think what they'd be used on.

SUPER BATTLE DROID: Despite a slightly silly name, this figure is one of the coolest from the new collection, especially if you're into robots and droids. This dark metallic blue droid is large, mean-looking, looks to be superbly well-articulated (okay, so as of this writing I haven't opened any of them yet), and is not in the least pre-posed as far as I can tell. He's got an "exploding battle damage" feature, but this seems be mostly spring activated
and extra parts. He also has a cannon arm and other features. People who liked the original Battle Droid and picked up enough to build an army will likely be doing the same with this. Wouldn't mind a few extras myself.

LUMINARA UNDULI: Another Jedi Master, and unfortunately the most egregious example of the Todd McFarlane school of "sculpting-is-better-than-articulation" in the entire line. Luminara comes outfitted with ornate, flowing robes that are unfortunately flowing all over the place. The figure is massively pre-posed and frankly if this figure can move any of her limbs more than a couple of millimeters I'm going to be astonished. The worst aspect of this figure is trying to find one that has a decent paint-job done on the facial features. The only reason I bought her was that after searching over a dozen versions of her at Toys "R" Us, I finally found one that was well-painted, and decided to get it since I figured I'd never see the likes of one this well done again, and would probably kick myself later.

ROYAL GUARD: Okay, here's the shape of things to come getting an early start. Remember those blue-garbed Senate Guards from Episode I -- how those helmets and long robes looked faintly like the red-garbed Imperial Guards from Return of the Jedi? Well, somebody hasn't wasted any time modifying those outfits into a sinisterly familiar form. Here are the red-suited Imperial Guards, currently called Royal Guards. But this figure is vastly superior to the virtually non-articulated version made a number of years ago. There is clearly a complete articulated body beneath the crimson robes of this figure, and it doesn't look especially pre-posed. This figure is one of the most visually obvious connections between the current and classic movies.

CLONE TROOPER: Quite different from the "Sneak Preview" Clone Trooper released a while back, this figure is less pre-posed, more articulated, and doesn't have his boots splattered with dirt. He's also got some bright red trim on his uniform, the purpose of which I am not certain. But he's an excellent figure, and based on my observations, a rather hard to find one. Well, that makes sense. I mean, they're clones. You sort of have to have
more than one, don't you?

COUNT DOOKU: The main bad guy of the movie, and predictably one of the harder figures to find. And unfortunately, he's one of those few figures that falls into the category of it being darn near impossible to find a decent paint-job on the face of, especially around the eyes and eyebrows. With the last movie it was Anakin Skywalker, but at least that character was readily available, so you could sooner or later find one that didn't look like he was scared out of his wits, cross-eyed, or on too much caffeine. This time around the challenge is finding a Count Dooku that doesn't look like he's half-asleep or has that "deer in the headlights" stare -- neither being agreeable qualities for a villain. Apart from this it's a decent figure, not especially pre-posed and with a decently sculpted outfit, but if you're picky about paint-jobs on the face, you may be in for a long search.

ANAKIN SKYWALKER: This is the second, and scarcer version of this figure, sub-titled "Hangar Duel". The first version is called "Peasant Disguise" and it's not only pre-posed, he looks like he's wearing an oversized bib or smock. Can't tell if he's planning on doing some finger-painting or going out for seafood. Anyway, the "Hangar Duel" version is Anakin in his somewhat darker-than-most Jedi outfit, with a somewhat ticked-off expression on his
face. He's also brandishing two lightsabers, and there's a reasonably hidden button in the figure's back (although frankly I really hate articulation-affecting gadgets) that lets him manipulate the lightsabers. To say anymore would be to give away some fairly crucial plotlines. Suffice to say if you want only one Anakin Skywalker figure from the Episode II collection, I'd recommend the "Hangar Duel" version.

ZAM WESELL: This figure is a vast improvement over the rather scrawny and pre-posed "Sneak Preview" version, and is almost as well articulated as a G.I.Joe figure. In fact, it bears some very strong resemblances to current 3-3/4" G.I.Joe figure construction. This design may be debatable for G.I.Joe, but within the Star Wars line, which tends top have somewhat more variable articulation and has never been built along the same lines as G.I.Joe, the end result is a pretty interesting action figure. Zam Wesell is a bounty hunter with an obviously prominent role in the movie. The figure has a special feature that's a little gross and again, I can't really report it without blowing a plotline. I can see why some people who are trying to avoid any clues about the movie are upset about some of what's on these cards. Heck, with Episode I, they didn't even give away the fact that Padme and Amidala were the same person! Anyway, this Zam Wesell figure may well be one of the highlights of the line. Very nicely sculpted, carefully painted, especially in the face, and very well articulated and not too pre-posed.

JANGO FETT: There are several versions of Jango available, and I went for the one that wasn't quite as pre-posed and which had his helmet already in place. This is the Jango Fett listed as "Final Battle". It's an excellent figure overall, with extra articulation in the legs, and a huge fireball accessory that fires out of the left gauntlet like a flamethrower, which in fact it is in the movie. Jango had a fair role in the movie, but Hasbro seems convinced that Jango may eclipse his son Boba for overall popularity, and they've been pulling out all the stops. They may have a point. Certainly Jango got more film time, and lines, than Boba ever did, but Boba -- the adult, anyway -- is part of that legendary classic trilogy whose characters have had twenty-to-twenty-five years to etch themselves into the popular culture mindset. Anyway, I will say that Jango's uniform, while identical in basic structure to Boba's, is both more uniform in appearance (no pun intended) and cleaner-looking. I admire both of those traits.

YODA: Allegedly the scarcest of the current crop of Star Wars figures to find, I finally found one at Wal-Mart on the day the movie opened. To compensate for Yoda's small size and to justify the price, Hasbro has included an abundance of accessories, including a platform that Yoda can be attached to that makes him look like he's "levitating", even though in the movie he never actually does this. He rides in some sort of hovering chair,
and bounces all over the place in a lightsaber duel with Count Dooku (and I would've loved to have seen the choreography sketches for that one!) The figure is well articulated, especially in the arms, in order to better wield the sort of two-thirds-size lightsaber he comes with.

MASSIFF: The Massiff is an animal native to Geonosis, and it's an ugly varmint that looks like a cross between a crocodile and a warthog. As far as I can tell from the package (I haven't opened very many of these as lack of display space is a consideration as always), its only articulation point is its mouth -- not that is especially needs much else. The critter comes with a Geonosian Warrior handler, and a nicely sculpted harness and chain. The
Geonosian seems to be decently articulated, but strangely isn't even mentioned on the package. One feels just a little sorry for him. Not only does the animal you're handling get top billing, you don't even get any billing. Hardly seems fair...

ORN FREE TAA: This individual is a Rutian Twi'lek, and a member of the Senate. He has the two head-tentacles or whatever they are typical of his race, first seen in the form of Bib Fortuna, Jabba the Hutt's right-hand man, and blue skin. He's also apparently taking the absent Boss Nass' place as "fattest politician in a Star Wars movie". It's probably just as well
that he doesn't have any built in action features, since I doubt they'd include more than waddling for this triple-chinned blue-boy. It is, however, a nicely designed figure with a fairly ornate robe, although I do wonder how many youngsters are going to be interested in him. As with many Star Wars character names, one can only guess where "Orn Free Taa" comes from -- but rumor in the Senate is that it's based on the sound he makes after he's
had a few too many bean burritos.

MACE WINDU: I didn't actually buy this one, and it was getting terrible reviews online before I finally encountered one, and then I could see why it was getting terrible reviews. The basic Mace Windu figure has the most ridiculous expression I've ever seen on the face of a 3-3/4" basically human action figure. I'm not sure if Hasbro was trying to test the limits of the Real Scan technology or what, but this Jedi Master has his eyes clenched shut and his mouth wide open. I can't tell if he's supposed to be screaming,
yawning, yelling, or of the RealScan device caught Samuel L. Jackson in mid-sneeze and Hasbro decided to go with it. If there's one turkey in the line, Mace Windu is it. Let me add a word about the packaging. I like the new color scheme and design. There's also a few added features that are very useful. The name
of the figure is printed on the side of the package, along the insert card inside the bubble. This makes it handy to check out the majority of a display without (hopefully) knocking them all over the place. Overall, I feel Hasbro has done a good job here. Some of the figures are way too pre-posed, but there will be sufficient opportunity in the next few years leading up to Episode III to give us better versions. It's worth noting that the vehicle boxes all say "Will hold most Star Wars figures". I defy anybody to get Luminara into any of these.

I didn't buy any of the vehicles, although the small Speeders and the Jedi Starfighter are tempting. Perhaps as such time as my finances improve -- or there's a sale or a clearance. And I do wish I could have presented more pictures, but I didn't want to force MasterCollector to have to take over the entirety of cyberspace.

So let us now turn to the 12" figures currently available for Star Wars Episode II:

ANAKIN SKYWALKER: Likely the most ornate of the 12" figures in this first assortment, Anakin, now grown into a Jedi Padawan being instructed by Obi-Wan Kenobi, has a complex multi-layered robe uniform with an admittedly somewhat sinister-looking black trim piece to it. Nothing like a little wardrobe foreshadowing. I don't know if the RealScan technology was used on the 12"
figures as well as the 3-3/4", but the likeness to actor Hayden
Christensen is quite remarkable. The figure has rooted hair braid and ponytail, and comes complete with a lightsaber.

OBI-WAN KENOBI: A superbly done figure, slightly less complex in wardrobe than Anakin, but still very nicely done. The outfit appears to be more complex than those seen in Episode I. The likeness is not quite as good as Anakin's. If actor Ewan MacGregor was scanned for this likeness, then he squinted when the scanner passed across his face, because the eyes aren't
quite big enough in my opinion. Overall, though, a superb figure of an older, hopefully more mature Obi-Wan.

CLONE TROOPER: An excellent overall figure, with only a few gaffes. I would have preferred that they not speckle the leg armor sections to make them appear dirty. I will never understand why this sort of nonsense is necessary. Still, it's an excellent figure, deliberately reminiscent of the Imperial Stormtroopers, and the figure is designed along much the same lines, with a black fabric undersuit with white body armor.

There's also a Toys "R" Us exclusive 12" MACE WINDU. I finally saw this toy myself, after it had gotten horrible reviews online. Unfortunately, they're well-deserved. Mace just can't seem to catch a break this time around. It's -- odd, especially in the comparison shot to the Episode I 12" Mace Windu. The head sculpt clearly uses the RealScan technology, so technically it
should be more detailed than its predecessor. It's the facial expression that's weird. Mace (played by Samuel L. Jackson, whom I feel I should mention since he obviously sat through the scanning process) has a weird sort of grin or grimace, as if he's trying to look determined or something and wasn't quite sure how to. There's also a very odd squint to the eyes. In any case, it's a peculiar expression for a generally stoic Jedi. Some have
commented that the head looks too bulbous and the neck too long, and this is also unfortunately accurate.

Some people have complained that these figures are not well-articulated. They tend to utilize body molds first seen in the G.I.Joe Hall of Fame line in the mid-90's, with some Action Man parts thrown in at times. And certainly, Hasbro has surpassed that design over the years with various 12" G.I.Joe figures. So why not use those body molds?

I think there's a couple of reasons why they don't, and one why they shouldn't. In my opinion, the reason they shouldn't is because the limbs to 12" G.I.Joe figures have, in some respects, looked a little on the scrawny side. To implement that body format now would not make current figures look very good next to their predecessors. Unfortunately, they have used this body mold on one 12" Star Wars figure -- see below -- and there's rumors that they may be doing so more often.

Technically, the existing figures are fully articulated. Granted the range of motion in the elbows and knees especially is not that impressive, and can sometimes be difficult to move. But it does exist, and is certainly preferable to a single-piece arm or leg that has no mid-point articulation whatsoever. I'm all for great articulation over ornate sculpting, but to me, that particular debate doesn't enter here. The figures are fully articulated. Perhaps not as fully as some believe they should be, but if they were, we might lose some of the superb work on the wardrobe, and with these toys, the final appearance counts for a lot as well.

There is also one "Deluxe" 12" Star Wars Episode II figure which I found at K-Mart in the very same day I actually went to the movie. This was a 12" JANGO FETT. Now, the only 12" Jango Fett I had been aware of was a plastic-costumed Electronic Jango Fett, which I have yet to see in the stores. With regard to this, I would have hoped that Hasbro would've learned how poorly that sort of thing performs with Episode I, when they had to clearance a bunch of plastic-molded Electronic Darth Mauls, arguably the most popular character from that movie. The only time a 12" scale figure with plastic costuming worked was with Small Soldiers, and in that instance, the figures of Chip Hazard and Archer were virtually "life-size" and were supposed to have plastic costumes! But this 12" Jango Fett did have a cloth outfit -- for the most part. His helmet and armor pieces were snap-ons (or Velcro-ons in the case of the leg pads). The figure looked decent enough to purchase, and I had the money for it, so I got him.

The end result is -- interesting, and I do find that I have to question some of Hasbro's decisions. For one thing, they use a modern 12" G.I. Joe body for this figure. This is a first within the Star Wars line as far as I know. Previously, as I've said, they've used bodies that, unless an entirely custom-made body is required (Battle Droid, Boss Nass, etc.) have been assembled from Action Man or G.I. Joe Hall of Fame components. They're sturdy and work well. Fortunately, there's enough outfitting on Jango so you can't
really tell that the limbs are much more slender. And the facial likeness is truly excellent. But there is a major problem, one that has afflicted 12" G.I. Joes for years -- a horribly loose neck. Also, whoever decided that attaching plastic armor parts to fabric with tiny strips of Velcro should try effectively assembling this figure himself. There should either be several areas of Velcro, or the figure should have had these pieces permanently attached.

Overall, this 12" Jango Fett makes a very impressive package display. And if you can actually get all the parts in place, it doesn't look too bad, although I doubt it would stand up to substantial play without leaving parts all over the place. But trying to actually put the figure together was a mild fiasco, and if I had trouble with it, then I hate to think what some kid or parent with limited toy assembly skills is going to go through. This 12" Jango Fett is ultimately a victim of over-engineering and excessive gimmickry. It might have been better if they had overhauled one of their classic trilogy 12" Boba Fetts, preferably the cloth-costumed electronic one with the decent-sized head.

Speaking of Boba Fett, I hope Hasbro has in mind to get one more use out of the Episode I Anakin Skywalker 12" scale molds and give us a 12" scale figure of Jango Fett's young clone/son Boba.

I believe that 12" figures of the Super Battle Droid and Count Dooku are in the works, both of which would make sense. I wouldn't mind seeing a 12" Zam Wesell added to the mix at some point. There are so few females in the Star Wars universe.

It's worth noting that it doesn't appear as if any of the four "Sneak Preview" figures have been carried over into the Episode II line. This isn't terribly surprising. The Episode I "Sneak Preview" Mace Windu figure from three years ago was not the same figure as the general-release Mace Windu. This could make these four figures somewhat scarce and potentially valuable in the long run, especially in one instance. Although Jango Fett, Zam Wesell,
and the Clone Trooper already have different Episode II figures available, the same might not be said of the droid R3-T7. It's entirely possible that he may remain unique to the Episode II Sneak Preview set.

Overall, I am impressed with the job Hasbro has done on their Star Wars toys. There's a few glitches here and there. Some weathering where I wish there wasn't, some excessive pre-posing in a number of instances, but by and large, I feel they've done a good job. The toys are well designed, nicely sculpted, acceptably articulated, have interesting features, and there's a good range and variety. I'd also add that I suspect this line has a load of potential for growth. Based on what news I've gathered to date, the overall cast for this movie is much larger than Episode I, or possibly any previous Star Wars movie.

How well will they sell? We'll see. Certainly I've seen no shortage of both kids and collectors in the Star Wars aisle in any toy department I visit. The figures are being well-received. Here's hoping that Episode II will mean a substantial resurgence for the world of Star Wars toys!