I’m less than impressed with Hasbro’s latest take on the Star Wars franchise. The Black Series is fantastic—or so I assume based solely on my Fett/Han Carbonite SDCC exclusive, as my Toys R Us preorder still hasn’t shipped. The lower price point of the most basic figures is welcome, too, but the overarching line is disappointing.
The team that worked on this year’s packaging and design style guide did little to flatter the waning SW image. Harsh yellows and oranges may hearken back to volcanic Mustafar but Darth Vader looks, well, like a bad cartoon. I wasn’t impressed with the last wave of packaging either, which placed heavy bets on Yoda’s popularity. Not being much of a Yoda fan, it fell flat with me.
Having offered all of that criticism, though, I suspect I know how we ended up in this position. Working in the Creative Division at Hallmark for nearly 5 years now, I’ve learned that product lines run on a schedule set roughly light years ahead of what one would expect. Planning (and probably even execution) was no doubt well under way before “The Mouse” cut his check to Uncle George.
The Yoda-centric design was almost certainly set to coincide with the now-defunct 3-D release of Attack of the Clones, as the Darth Maul theme had been last year for The Phantom Menace 3-D. This new look—wretched though it is—would have complemented the 3-D release of Revenge of the Sith. I may be the only person on earth to admit this, but I would’ve enjoyed seeing it on the big screen once more.
Lack of shelf appeal notwithstanding, it’s awfully nice seeing new Star Wars toys in the marketplace. Their presence alone is enough to have me stalking the toy aisles again…which is exactly what I did Friday night.
Walmart’s lackluster merchandising touted a slew of $5.99 basic figures and about as many of the $9.99 two-figure packs. No Black Series to be found, so my interest dwindled. Where ships or larger format toys normally live, I saw it: a sad, pasty-looking Anakin nestled four ugly boxes deep.
“2 Figures In 1” touted the editorial, promising a color-changing lightsaber. With a dejected sigh, I prepared to leave empty-handed while Severus played with the figure’s ‘try me’ feature. After a number of utterly predictable phrases, the toy spewed my single favorite line of the entire Star Wars saga.
I’m not the Jedi I should be.
Why have people not utilized this quote more frequently? It’s catchy and wonderful and perfect. But was it worth the $25 price-point for a goofy plastic figure? Ordinarily, no. But this was no ordinary day; it was my half-birthday. One turns 30.5 only once in one’s lifetime.
And so, Anakin came into my possession. I tore into the package when we got to the car, and thus began a wild ride of emotions courtesy of our friends at Hasbro.
“What a piece of junk!”
This thing has a whopping 4 points of articulation. 4. On a 12.5″ figure. Head turns, one hand kinda-sorta turns, one elbow rotates a little, and you can move the arms up and down via shoulder rotators. He can’t sit down, he can’t walk, he can’t kneel before the Emperor or flex his biceps. It’s pretty pathetic.
I figured it couldn’t get much worse, so I set to ‘transforming’ Anakin into Darth Vader. I snapped on the breastplate and worked the cape/shoulder armor over his whiny, otherwise expressionless face. (Side note: The cape is felt and ever-so-slightly weighted in the corners to keep it from curling up too badly.) And then I snapped on the front plate of the mask.
“Thank the maker!”
The mask is just dang cool. Connect the helmet and…what was that?! That, friends, was the little squealing sound of the helmet being sealed on Anakin’s head (roughly 2:21 on video). With this revelation, I had a giddy fangirl geek-out moment. There will be no dramatized reenactment, lest I lose what little pride I have left.
The gimmicky color-changing lightsaber trick is surprisingly rad. It’s not hard to figure out the mechanics of it, but it’s fun to just pretend and revel in the “magic” that Vader is in command. AND the Vader movie lines are good selections with nice quality. AND it doesn’t just look like Anakin has some pieces of the suit strapped on. AND if you decided to take off the Vader armor—which I can’t imagine you would do unless you wanted to hear my favorite quote—there’s a sound effect for helmet removal as well.
I also discovered that the lack of articulation actually has a significant upside: the figure stands unassisted. For roughly the first time in the history of ever, the height and weight of this guy are perfectly proportioned so there’s zero wavering. In fact, you’d have to throw a pretty decent Sith tantrum to knock him over if he’s just chilling out, occupying shelf space.
Plunking down a Jackson and Lincoln for this one might be a bit steep for most people. But if it happens to be your half-birthday and you’ve got the money to spare, you might be pleasantly surprised like I was. This is a case where you have to be hands-on to truly appreciate it.
The moral of the story is don’t judge a toy by its box!