First off, I would like to say a word about the packaging. It's truly excellent. The basic design is highly respectful to the original Star Wars packaging from the 1970's, in that the package card is mostly black, with a silver-like STAR WARS logo on it. Nice and straightforward. The figures are packed in the center of the card on a curved bubble that is an excellent design, with the name of the figure and a photograph along the bottom and side.
Most helpful is the upper left corner of the card, which is color coded depending on which movie the figure comes from. Since, for the most part, the assortments coming out are broken down by movie, this is especially useful. All six movies are represented in this series, as well as two additional designations: "Expanded Universe", for characters that appeared in some source other than the movies, such as the comic books, novels, or video games, and "Clone Wars", for characters that appeared in the animated series (although it should be noted that such characters have been given a realistic design, and not a cartoonish image).
Five figures caught my eye recently, over about the past month and a half prior to writing this, and one of them I was extremely fortunate to even find. Let's consider them in the order that I found them, shall we?
Now, certainly there have been AT-AT Drivers in the Star Wars toy line over the years, so what's the big deal about another one? Well, I've always felt it was one of the cooler designs among the Imperial troopers. Sort of somewhere between a Stormtrooper and a TIE Fighter Pilot. And no one can deny that the massive AT-ATs were impressive vehicles as they stomped their way across the frozen plains of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.
It's just as true that Hasbro has been upping the detail and, more significantly, the articulation level on their Star Wars figures over the past few years, certainly since there was last an AT-AT Driver figure, so I decided to pick him up and see if it was a good figure.
The AT-AT Driver is an excellent figure. The helmet looks a little big, but no one can deny the detail level. This is a figure that not only seems to have managed to elude the hand-painted detailing that has afflicted a fair amount of Hasbro product these days, but truly has an amazing amount of properly painted detail, especially on the helmet, chest piece, and back. They might have been able to do this because there really isn't a lot of painted detail on the rest of the uniform, but whatever the case, it looks great. I suspect assembly of this figure took a few extra steps, as well. There are hoses running from the chestpiece to the helmet, and a harness running from the front and back of the torso to circlets around the legs.
Articulation is excellent, for the most part. The head is ball-jointed. The arms move forward, backward, and outward. The elbows have that weird "diagonal cut" articulation that I honestly sort of wish they'd do away with and just go with a proper elbow joint across the board. Wrists pivot, the legs are articulated, and so are the knees.
The AT-AT Driver isn't heavily armed, but then why would he need to be? He's driving one of those massive machines most of the time. But he does come with a blaster pistol.
The description on the back of the card reads as follows:
Mission: Ground Assault on Rebel Base
Work In: Teams of Two
Must Destroy: Rebel Power Generators
AT-AT Drivers have all the skills necessary to propel the massive AT-AT walkers into battle. Working efficiently in teams of two, the drivers operate the walker's laser cannons to take down Rebel snowspeeders and destroy Echo Base's shield and power generators.
Teams of two, huh? Guess I'll have to consider buying another one at some point. Meanwhile, it's certainly a very cool figure.
(UTAPAU) CLONE TROOPER
I added the "Utapau" up there. Certainly there's been no shortage of Clone Trooper figures, either for Episode II or, as this one represents, Episode III. But given the various colored armor that started turning up in Episode III, it helps to know where the Clone Troopers are serving.
This one's orange trim denotes him as being part of the Clone Trooper squad that headed to Utapau, under orders from General Obi-Wan Kenobi to drive the Separatists off the planet, and try to deal with General Grievous. Kenobi managed to deal with Grievous, but it was during this particular mission that the Emperor issued Order 66, which turned the Clone Army against the Jedi.
The figure, not surprisingly, is based on previous Clone Trooper molds. That's not really a problem, since the Clone Troopers have some of the best design and articulation of any of the modern Star Wars figures. The figure has an excess of "battle damage" applied to him, and as much as I despise this practice, it only makes it worse when it's not even applied very well. It appears to have been printed on somehow, with a method similar to a newspaper. The "dots" that a newspaper uses to print its pictures are painfully evident here. I've seen this happen on toys before on occasion, and I have to say it makes a needless detail look that much cheaper.
Apart from this, though, the figure is excellent. I see no sign of hand- painted detailing, which is always a good sign, and anyone who, like me, has made it a practice to round up as many of the different types of Clone Troopers as possible, will certainly want to add this distinctive edition to their collection.
The information on the back of his card reads as follows:
Mission: Capture General Grievous
Fights Against: The Separatist Droid Army
As the droid armies descend upon Utapau, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Commander Cody lead a team of clone troopers into battle. Their mission is to protect Obi-Wan and help capture General Grievous at all costs. These troopers fight bravely for Master Kenobi until their allegiances change after the execution of Order Sixty-Six.
REPUBLIC COMMANDO SCORCH
This is one of the Expanded Universe figures, in fact from the video game Republic Commando. The events of this game take place between Episodes II and III. The figure looks more or less like an Episode II Clone Trooper, but with a lot more detail to his uniform, and a slightly different helmet.
Having not played the video game, I really don't know all that much about it, to be perfectly honest. But I do know this about the figure - he's one of the hardest to find. Put in at one per case, I honestly didn't expect to see him, until one day when he turned up at a Walgreens (of all places), when I was actually looking for a different toy. But I wasn't about to be silly enough to pass up a figure that I did have some interest in, and that I knew darn well I didn't stand much chance of ever seeing again - at least not at retail.
The figure is excellent, although one look tells you that this is no meager Clone Trooper. Even setting aside the significantly different color scheme, the armor itself has aspects to it that don't match any established Clone Troopers. Clearly, these Republic Commandos were a special breed. The figure comes with a very interesting weapon, and what I'm assuming is a jet pack that looks vaguely Boba Fett-like in design, but more utilitarian and "squared off".
The articulation is - strange. The head is ball-jointed, the arms move forward and backward but are pointed out to the side a little bit. The elbows move forward and pivot. The wrists also pivot. There's a nice mid- torso articulation, and the figure moves at the legs. But that's it. There is no articulation at the knees or ankles, and the legs are somewhat preposed. It's very strange.
Then there's the paint job. While decent for the most part, the black detailing on the legs, which include unarmored areas near the hips and knees, as well as two black leg straps, are inexcusably sloppy. They're hand-painted. You can practically see the brush strokes. Hasbro needs to put a stop to this, whether they've approved it or whether this is just what the factories in China are doing or something, it needs to stop.
Scorch's package card information reads as follows:
Earned Nickname: Accidentally Torching his Eyebrows
Skill: Explosives Technician
Known As: Delta's Resident Wiseacre
When the battle begins on Geonosis, clone trooper Scorch is ordered to engage the Separatist droid army. Scorch's Delta number is Six-Two, but he is well known for his humorous mishaps. Although he is a competent soldier and an excellent explosives technician, "Scorch" earned his nickname after an ordnance accident that left him without eyebrows for a short time.
Sounds like somebody that might've been taken out of the Kamino cloning factory juuust a little too early. Still, if you can get past some of the sloppy paint, the very weird articulation, and can even find one of these guys, he's certainly worth adding to your Star Wars collection.
CLONE COMMANDER CODY
Boy, was this guy overdue. If any character deserved to be a part of the Episode III lineup that wasn't, it'd have to be Commander Cody. He was the only Clone Trooper that had any significant speaking lines in the movie (although Gree got a few), and was just about the only opportunity for actor Temuera Morrison, the actor who played Jango Fett in Episode II and who was the genetic basis for all of the clones, to show his face in Episode III.
And yet we had to wait until the Episode III action figure line had run its course and the new Saga line had started for us to get this guy? Clones just don't get any respect.
The figure is actually very good, and doesn't appear to use any previous parts from any previous Clone Troopers or Commanders. For one thing, it's a lot more dinged up even in the sculpt. I don't normally approve of this, but sometimes Star Wars can get away with it, and certainly Cody is an experienced officer who's seen no shortage of battle.
Now, I've tended to be persuaded by watching Episode III several times, that the trim color on Cody's uniform is closer to yellow, or at least yellow-orange, and certainly lighter than that of his Troopers, than it is a straight orange. However, I suppose I could be slightly mistaken about that. The trim on the figure is definitely orange. I'm prepared to let this slide just for the sake of finally getting this fairly significant character from the movie.
Commander Cody features a very distinctive helmet, even moreso than most Clone Commanders, and in this instance, it's removable, with the "Jango" head underneath, although this, too, is a new sculpt, with several large scars. What, he went into a fight and forgot his helmet one time? Between this and the bashed up armor, this seems to be a pretty accident- prone Clone Commander...
The paint work on the figure is an odd mixture of precision detail, and sloppy hand-painting. The helmet and the left shoulder pad both have several intricate white lines on them. The small device on the upper left of the chestplate is very precisely painted, complete with colored buttons. The overall work on the helmet is excellent, as are most of the orange detail lines on the uniform.
But then you've got this sloppy work with the black and sometimes the orange paint around the shoulders, elbows, and knees, and the copper arm band, and I'll admit I bring this up a lot, and I'll admit I'm picky, but there's no good reason for this to be happening. Does it completely ruin the figure for me? No. But it doesn't help my overall opinion of it to see this sort of thing.
I could also have done without the dry-brushed dirt on the boots.
Cody's articulation is good, but not as good as some clones. His head is ball jointed. Arms move forward and backward but not outwards. Elbows bend and pivot. Wrists pivot. There's mid-torso articulation, but not at the waist. Legs move. Knees bend and pivot. Somewhat surprisingly, the ankles don't move. And unfortunately, I think partially as a result of this and the positioning of the sculpt, he doesn't stand up all that well on his own. It is possible, but not easy, and it's even worse if you want him to be holding his weapon and not look like he's using it for a walking stick. And be careful of the backpack device, whatever it is. It doesn't like to stay put. I recommend a couple of drops of glue.
Overall, it's a good figure, even if it's also yet another victim of a painting policy that could be much better. Still, it's good to see Commander Cody at long last. The information on the back of his package card reads as follows:
Weapon: Blaster Rifle
Mission: Protect Obi-Wan Kenobi
Programmed: To Execute Secret Order 66
Armed and ready for battle, Commander Cody orders his forces to mark their posts and maintain their positions at all costs. They're in for a real firefight with the Separatist droid armies who are protecting General Grievous on Utapau. Although his current mission is to protect Obi-Wan Kenobi, this commander and his troops will later change allegiances.
You know, I'm not sure that "change allegiances" is really a fair description. They were never the Army of the Jedi. They were the Army of the Republic. Okay, the Republic became an Empire, but really, these guys are just following their programming.
Blink and you'll almost miss them. I was pleased when I learned that Hasbro had in mind a figure of these guys, even if we never got to see much of them in the movie except from the cockpits of their vehicles. So, where were they in Episode III?
Remember when Anakin flew that burning hulk of Grievous' ship down to Coruscant to try to land the think without killing himself, Obi-Wan, and Chancellor Palpatine in the process? Well, somebody had to put out that burning wreckage and keep it from exploding and likely do some serious harm to property in the area. That's where the Firespeeder Pilots came in.
Now, it's not certain just who these guys are. Are they clones? Are they some sort of civilian firefighting detachment that was assigned to the spaceport? Unknown. But, they do make for a fairly cool figure.
The design isn't particularly clone-like. The Firespeeder Pilot is wearing a one-piece beige jumpsuit, an extremely detailed helmet, a brown harness, brown gloves and boots, and is equipped with a large backpack from which a hose runs to a gun-like device that shoots fire retardant.
The suit is fairly simplistic in design, but effective. It looks like something a firefighter might wear. The design of this character is amazingly plausible, given some of the less than plausible elements elsewhere in the Star Wars universe. The helmet is very highly detailed. The backpack is "weathered" in such a way as to make it look slightly singed.
I'm pleased to report, after all my griping about it on Cody and Scorch, that there's no sign of hand-painted details on this figure. Granted also, except for the helmet, there's not a lot of details to be painted. But I'm sure it would've been easy, not to mention rather typical, if the harness straps had been hand-painted. But they're not.
The figure has excellent articulation for a character wearing this bulky an outfit. The head is ball-jointed. The arms move forward, backward, and outward. The elbows have the "diagonal cut" articulation. He turns at the waist. The legs move, and the knees bend and pivot.
I've heard that the Firespeeder Pilot is relatively scarce. I was extremely fortunate with him and Cody, another hard-to-find, in that I was in Wal-Mart one morning right after they'd unloaded several cases of Star Wars figures after a distinct lack of supply in recent times.
The Firespeeder Pilot's information reads as follows:
Skill: Extinguishing Fires on Disabled Ships
Mission: Put out Fire on Grievous' Flagship
Helps: Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Palpatine land
As the massive serial battle over Coruscant comes to an end, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Analin Skywalker pilot General Grievous' disabled flagship to a dreamatic crash landing. A raging fire breaks out once the ship hits Coruscant's atmosphere, but lucky for the Jedi heroes, this brave Firespeeder Pilot and his crew are ready to put out the flames and help the ship land.
So, admittedly the character is not a major player in the Star Wars saga. But he certainly had an important, if brief, role, and the figure is definitely a cool design and a worthwhile addition to any Star Wars collection.
One interesting note about all of these figures. They all come with a very nice display base. Each one measures 2-1/2" x 1-1/2", and bears the figure's name painted in silver on the front. The base is sculpted with the logo of whichever movie the character is from (or in the case of Scorch, with just the basic Star Wars logo). You can't really see these bases in the stores, when the figure is on card, because they're tucked at the very bottom of the package.
As I said at the start of this review, I am not a Star Wars completist. There are already over 30 figures that have been released as part of the Star Wars Saga Collection, representing all six movies and the two side categories "Expanded Universe" and "Clone Wars". I have reviewed five of them. I suspect there will be others over the course of the year that I'll review, but I really don't see much need in picking up another Han Solo, another Anakin Skywalker, etc.
However, let me say this in conclusion. The Star Wars line, a few quality control problems aside that are plaguing several product lines, remains a highly impressive and generally very well-made action figure line, representing one of the most notable science-fiction concepts ever created. To that end, I not only recommend the five figures that I have just reviewed above, but really any of the Star Wars Saga Collection that might be to your liking, and they should be available at most major, and a number of minor, retailers.
May the Force be with you!