#2357: Knight of Ren

KNIGHT OF REN

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“An enclave of masked warriors wielding distinct weapons for ranged and close quarters combat, the Knights of Ren are elite, fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren.”

First mentioned and briefly glimpsed during The Force Awakens, the Knights of Ren were the source of much fan speculation.  After their more proper appearance in The Rise of Skywalker….well, people are still kinda speculating, I guess.  Like the Praetorian Guard in The Last Jedi, the Knights of Ren had a cool look and did at least get one cool fight scene, so they weren’t quite as pointless as, say, the Sith Troopers.  Of course, they all had unique appearances, so they aren’t quite army builders, either.  We got one of them as a Vintage Collection figure at the Force Friday launch, and now we’ve gotten another as a Black Series release.  So, let’s have a look at this guy.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Knight of Ren is figure 105 in the Black Series line-up.  Thought the package just lists him as “Knight of Ren,” this guy is actually meant to be “Vicrul”, since all of the Knights were actually named.  He’s also the Knight named “Grenade Head” by the production crew, because his…head…looks like…a grenade.  Yeah, I guess that one’s pretty cut and dry.  The figure stands just shy of 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  His articulation has its ups and downs; the range on the arms is pretty nice, but I found the movement on the legs to be a little bit awkward, especially at the knee.  He’s not really restricted, just the style of movement is a little weird and not as smooth as a lot of the line’s more recent figures.  The sculpt on Vicrul is an all-new affair, and it’s pretty decent.  It’s not quite as close a recreation as some of the other figures in this assortment.  His body definitely seems  a little more squat than in the film, and the helmet’s design has a few elements slightly out of place.  The faceplate is a little bit on the long-side, especially compared to the other details.  It’s still a pretty sharply detailed piece, and the rest of the outfit’s got some decent texture detailing mixed in.  Vicrul’s paintwork is actually pretty nice.  While most of the Kylo’s have just stuck with the clean black look, this guy actually gets some decent grime and dirt on he gear.  It’s the heaviest on his feet, but there’s some spots of it on the jacket as well.  It does a respectable job of getting that worn-in appearance that the character really had in the movie.  Vicrul is armed with a Phrick-Schythe (the pointy thing) and a blaster pistol.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The smaller-scale Knight figure didn’t really pique my interest, so I ended up skipping him.  The announcement of this guy didn’t do a lot to excite me either, but I was on board for the others from the set, and I did like the look of this particular figure a little bit more, so I ended up grabbing him.  Of the four figures I picked up from this assortment, I expected to like this one the least, and ultimately that proved true.  However, I did end up liking him more than I’d anticipated.

The Knight of Ren was purchased from my friends at All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for Black Series, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2354: Zorii Bliss

ZORII BLISS

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“It is difficult for scoundrels to remain neutral in the war between First Order and Resistance, and Zorii Bliss and the Spice Runners of Kijimi must soon take a side.”

Though her screen time was a little more on the brief side, I was nevertheless quite a fan of Zorii Bliss’s appearance in The Rise of Skywalker.  She had a cool look, served a designated purpose in the plot, gave us a little more development for Poe, and was just a rather intriguing character.  Prior to the film, I had purchased her Vintage Collection figure on something of an impulse, but after opening I wasn’t wowed.  So, after the movie, I was definitely jonesing for a slightly better version of the character. Black Series to the rescue!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Zorii Bliss is figure 103 in the Star Wars: The Black Series line-up, making her numerically the first of the most recent assortment of figures (and placing her directly after the last assortment’s Wedge Antilles figure).  She’s one of three Rise figures in the latest assortment, and the only actually named character of those three.  The figure stands just under 6 inches tall and she has 31 points of articulation.  The smaller Zorii’s articulation was one of my biggest issues with the figure.  There was a lot of it, but not much of it was very practical.  This figure’s articulation works out far better, and is on par with the best of the more recent Black Series offerings in terms of poseability.  In particular, there’s a ton of range on the neck and the arms, which makes her a lot of fun to get into various action poses.  The joints are well-toleranced, so she can hold stances well.  She’s also a good deal more stable on her feet than the smaller figure.  While the figure still does fall over in more extreme poses, I had a lot less trouble keeping her up for the photos for this review.  The sculpt was really the one thing the smaller Zorii had going for her, but this figure nevertheless builds on that further, taking advantage of the larger canvas to add even more detail, and to also sharpen up the details.  The helmet in particular really turns out much nicer on this version, with a more film-accurate design, cleaner lines, and the one feature missing from the smaller figure: a removable visor!  In the film, Zorii never removes her helmet outright, but she does slide the visor back a few times, giving us a glimpse of her eyes and some of the helmet’s internal structure.  The visor on this figure can be popped out, revealing a fully detailed pair of eyes, as well as some more of the helmet.  It’s a really cool feature, and I was happy it didn’t get overlooked here.  Paintwork is again an area where the smaller figure did okay, but again this one does better.  The base detailing is all clean, and the metal sections get some decent weathering to match the real world items.  The eyes use the face printing tech, so they look nice and realistic as well.  Zorii is only packed with her two blaster pistols, which is slightly light, bt the removable visor does at least off set that a bit.  It probably would have made more sense to include Babu here, but then they wouldn’t have the hook for that 3PO figure, so it’s really a catch-22.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was hopeful for this figure when it was shown off, because it looked a bit better than the smaller one, but I was a little apprehensive.  That lessened a bit when Hasbro confirmed the removable visor, and after getting the figure in hand she’s just genuinely a really nice figure.  She’s got one really good figure giving her a run for her money on best figure of her assortment, but it’s neck and neck, let me tell you.  Definitely the best Sequel Trilogy figure in the line, though.

I picked up Zorii from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2299: First Order Jet Trooper

JET TROOPER

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“Specialized Stormtroopers of the First Order, Jet Troopers soar into battle equipped with agile rocket packs”

Alright, let’s keep this Black Series ball rolling.  Heck, let’s trek down that Rise of Skywalker path again while we’re at it.  Rise added the usual bank of new troopers, as each film tends to do.  While the Sith Troopers got a lot of the marketing focus, the coolest new additions for me were the Jet Trooper.  A Jet-equipped Stormtrooper isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s a cool one nevertheless, and I was quite a fan of the new design they were sporting.  Lucky for me, that design is one of the earlier Rise of Skywalker designs to get covered by The Black Series.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Jet Trooper is figure 99 in the Black Series line-up, the second of the two Rise figures in this second post-Triple Force Friday assortment.  He was also one of the figures to receive a “Carbonized” variant on the Force Friday launch, which is the same mold, but with a different finish.  Also, a little fun fact: aside from Rey, the Jet Trooper is the only design to be available across the three styles Hasbro is producing.  Not even Kylo gets that honor.  The figure stands 6 inches tall and has 29 points of articulation.  The Jet Trooper is probably the most impressed I’ve been with a Trooper’s articulation at this scale, with a respectable range of elbow motion right out of the gate, hips that aren’t terribly restricted, and an amazingly improved range of motion on the neck joints, especially when compared to the Sith Trooper from the last assortment.  He’s not quite as stable on his feet as his GoA counterpart, but he’s better than the Vintage Collection version, and I only had one fall during photos.  Like both of his smaller-scale counterparts, the details on his armor are nice and crisp, and his design means that the sculpt is largely unimpeded by the articulation.  Unlike both smaller Jet Troopers, he’s got a little bit of extra posability on the jet pack itself, which adds movement to the two thrusters.  It’s a nice little touch to be sure.  And, though real-world inspired, this figure maintains a lot of that same sleekness that I enjoyed so much in the GoA figure.  Perhaps the only moderately baffling element to this figure’s sculpt for me is the presence of a holster spot on his right thigh, despite the fact that his included gun doesn’t include a matching tab.  I can only guess this was in order to facilitate a straight re-use of the mold for the upcoming Sith Jet Trooper, who will presumably be including the same armaments as the standard Sith Trooper.  The paint work on this figure more or less matches the GoA figure.  It’s basic, but that’s what you expect from one of these troopers.  He does get a few more black spots, but curiously loses the outlining of his faceplate from the prior figure, despite that outline being present on other versions of the design.  There’s still a sculpted element to it, so it’s not totally gone, but it’s much easier to miss.  The Jet Trooper is on the lighter side for accessories, including only his unique blaster rifle.  The regular troopers don’t have anything else in the movie, but it’s still a little light.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I liked the Jet Trooper design as soon as I saw it, but I was admittedly unsure I’d need him in every style, and wasn’t sure what role, if any, he’d play in the final film.  After seeing the movie, and finding the Jet Trooper to actually be the best utilized of the new troopers, I was very happy to have picked him up across the board.  In a similar fashion to Jannah, I opened him up after the movie, already with heightened expectations, only to discover that he was even better than I’d been anticipating.  I’d go so far as to say that the Jet Trooper is the best designed and implemented trooper of the sequel trilogy Black Series offerings, if not possibly the best Black Series trooper as a whole.

The Jet Trooper was picked up from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2298: Jannah

JANNAH

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES

“From an oceanic moon, Jannah leads a band of warriors, ready to charge against the forces of the First Order.”

Okay, I’ve got just a ton of stuff piling up for review here at the FiQ offices (aka the spare room in my house where I take all my photos), and I’m trying to make it through the backlog as best I can.  For right now, “as best I can” is gonna translate into a lot of theme weeks.  I just made my way through an entire series of Marvel Legends, and now I’m switching over to a week with Hasbro’s other big collectors line, Star Wars: The Black Series.  While prior movies under the Disney banner have more or less gotten several entire assortments of figures devoted to them, Rise of Skywalker is having to share, meaning that it’s a slightly slower role-out for them on the movie’s new characters and looks.  The second assortment did get us our first new character, former First Order operative Jannah, who I’ll be looking at today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Jannah is figure 98 in the Black Series line-up, the first numerically in the second post-Triple Force Friday assortment, as well as the first of two Rise of Skywalker-based figures in the line-up.  The figure stands right at 6 inches and she has 27 points of articulation.  She’s an all-new sculpt. In terms of the articulation work-in, there are some pluses and minuses.  There’s some really good range on the elbows, which does cause them to look a little off when in extreme poses, but I really don’t mind that. The hips are a bit more restricted, it would seem in an effort to preserve the sculpt.  Again, I don’t mind, but it can be a little limiting.  I had a very hard time getting much posability out of the ankles on my figure, which I’m not sure is an intended design thing; it felt like they were stuck.  Whatever the case, it made keeping my figure standing rather tricky, which got frustrating during the photo session for this review.  The sculpt is based on the only design she gets in the movie.  It’s a fairly decent design, sort of pairing off well against Rey’s initial scavenger look, but with a slightly more almost post-apocalyptic feel, denoting her move to a more backwater life after leaving the First Order.  Plus, it’s got goggles, and goggles are always cool.  The face sports a passable likeness of Naomi Ackie; it’s perhaps not the best the line has produced, but it’s far from the worst, especially when it comes to the sequel characters.  Some of that’s coming from the hair, which is more of a solid chunk than it is in the film.  In their defense, there’s not a lot that can be done about that; the translation to plastic is always going to make such things look a little bit off.  The body is a solid sculpt as well, with a lot of really nice detailing on her various elements of clothing, especially in the wrinkles on the pants.  She’s got a cape piece, which is removable in theory (you’ll need to take the head off to get it off of her), and despite being a little bit floaty when posing, it’s a pretty nice piece. Jannah’s paint work is pretty decent overall.  It tends to be more on the brown side of things (true to her movie design), but there’s enough of a mix of colors to keep her visually interesting.  She’s again got the printed face, which works pretty well for this figure.  There are some spots of slight misalignment on the base paint, especially on the shoes, but it ultimately doesn’t prove too distracting on the final product.  Jannah makes out quite well on the accessories front, especially for a Black Series figure.  She’s got her bow, a single arrow, a bundle of arrows, a quiver, and a small blaster pistol.  I definitely dig the bow, and after how many Hawkeye figures with no arrows, the selection is certainly refreshing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I actually got Jannah (and the rest of her assortment) just prior to the movie’s release.  I didn’t think much of her at the time (and in fact didn’t open her until after seeing the movie), but after seeing the movie, I don’t mind having her so much.  After opening the figure up and playing around with it a bit, I like it even more than I’d expected to, with the accessories in particular being the real highlight of the figure.  All that said, the figure does seem a little lonely at the moment.

Jannah was purchased from my friends All Time Toys, and is still available here.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2284: Kylo Ren vs Rey

SUPREME LEADER KYLO REN VS REY

STAR WARS: GALAXY OF ADVENTURES (HASBRO)

At the tail-end of last year, I covered the first chunk of figures offered in Hasbro’s recently-launched Galaxy of Advetures line.  There were a pretty sizable amount of figures available at the line’s launch, along with an exclusive Luke figure fairly shortly after.  Then it was time to move into the line’s real second round of product, made up of three new pieces.  I’ll be covering all three items this week, starting things off with the least “new” of the three, a Reylo-themed two-pack.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Kylo and Rey are the line’s second multi-pack, following the Droids release from launch.  They’re a Target-exclusive item, which appears to have been a slightly later in the game decision, since there wasn’t really much promotion of that fact.  They started hitting shelves in late November of last year.  Both figures included are slight tweaks of their single releases.

KYLO REN

Definitely the selling point of the set for most, Kylo’s the figure that has the most noticeable changes, the most visible of which is the brand-new unmasked head.  It’s a decent piece, matching with the rest of the human heads in terms of styling and character vs actor likeness.  The paint seems like a slight toning down compared to some of the single releases, with less color throughout the face.  I like this a little more, so I’m glad to see them pulling it back a bit.  From the neck down, he’s the same as the single release, which is fine by me, as I liked that release a lot.  In terms of accessories, he loses the hooded cloak, which is a little sad, but gets to keep his helmeted head and lightsaber, so he ends up with the same number of extras.  The helmeted head is ever so slightly different from the regular in terms of paint, but it could honestly be a case by case thing.  Something that I certainly hope is more a case by case thing is how tight the neck joint is on my figure.  When I swapped the heads and went to swap back to the unmasked, the ball joint came out of the helmet the wrong way, and it took quite a bit of work to get them properly swapped back.  I’ve got both Kylos, so I’m fine with leaving this one unmasked, but that would be a very different situation for someone who only has this release.

REY

The core Rey figure here is far less changed from her single release than Kylo.  The only real differences are mostly superficial.  The face paint is again toned down a bit, and the joints seem a touch tighter on this Rey than my single.  Beyond that, they’re the same figure.  She does get one additional accessory this time: her bag, present on both the Vintage Collection and Black Series figures, but missing from the GoA release.  It’s nothing major, but it’s cool that they gave her a little something extra.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had contemplated holding off on the single Rey until this set was released, but ultimately didn’t, so then I wasn’t sure I was going to grab this set at all.  After falling in love with this line, though, I had a hard time saying no to another figure, especially when I had literally everything else they’d released.  The neck joint issue on Kylo is annoying, but I’m otherwise pretty happy with this set, and was even able to set Max up with the extra Rey figure.  Ultimately, I think most people will chose either the set or the singles for these, and if I’m honest, the set’s a slightly better value.

#2275: C-3PO & Babu Frik

C-3PO & BABU FRIK

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

C-3PO longs for more peaceful times, but his continued service to the Resistance keeps him on the frontiers of galactic conflict.

A tiny, well-regarded droidsmith, Babu Frik can modify virtually any droid, regardless of the security measure protecting its systems.”

Since his later than others entry into the line, C-3PO has been steadily racking up quite an assortment of Black Series figures for himself.  Though his look may not change all that drastically throughout the majority of the films, Hasbro has nevertheless seen fit to give us as many of the character’s minor tweaks as they can.  He wound up getting at least one figure for all three of the sequel trilogy films (though the Last Jedi figure was only available through Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge park expansion), with his appearance in Rise of Skywalker providing his latest offering, alongside the minuscule droidsmith Babu Frik.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

C-3PO and Babu Frik are a Target-exclusive Black Series offering, which started hitting about a week or two before the movie arrived in theaters last year.  The set depicts 3PO as we saw him in much of the promotional material before the film, carrying Chewbacca’s bandolier and bowcaster, and sporting red eyes, as opposed to his usual gold tones.  These two things don’t happen at the same time in the final film, but then again, the figure doesn’t require him to be doing everything at once either, making his more of an all-encompassing Rise of Skywalker 3PO.  The figure stands 5 1/2 inches tall and has 23 points of articulation.  This 3PO is a combination of the first 3PO and the improved protocol droid arms from 4-LOM, meaning he can bend his arms.  This same change was also seen on 000 and the Galaxy’s Edge 3PO, so it was really just expected here.  He gets a new head, sporting a removable backing, allowing for his internals to be revealed, just like in the movie.  I’m always skeptical of features like this, lest they not fit properly when popped back into place, but 3PO’s head remains together fairly securely, and I must admit the feature looks pretty darn cool.  Beyond that, the construction on 3PO is the same as the first figure, which means it’s a very nice looking sculpt, and was very posable even before the addition of the improved arms.  The paintwork on 3PO is pretty decent all around.  He is again a flat gold, rather than vac metalized, which I still don’t mind all that much.  The gold isn’t quite as bright as the first 3PO, which seems more accurate.  He also gets some small silver piping on the arm joints, which we’ve not seen before, as well as the expected extra detailing on the back of the head.  The most notable change, though, are the eyes.  Like Dryden Vos, they’re therno-sensitive. At room temperature, they’re a standard gold, but when cold, they turn a bright red, like his eyes do briefly in the film.  It’s a nifty effect, even if I don’t see myself getting a ton of use out of it.  3PO is packed with Chewbacca’s bandolier and bowcaster, both borrowed from previous figures, as well as a whole nother figure, Babu Frik.  Okay, I say he’s a whole figure.  That’s perhaps a slight stretch.  Babu is certainly more of a figure than I had anticipated; I fully expected an unarticulated mini-figure, but to my surprise, Babu sports ball joints at the shoulders and waist.  He’s also got a moving visor, so he can properly work on the back of 3PO’s head. Certainly he is far more impressive figure than I’d initially expected.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This pair was another gift to me from my in-laws.  I’d expressed a moderate interest in the pair prior to the film’s release, but wasn’t sure what to expect.  After seeing the movie and quite enjoying Babu’s sequence, I was quite happy to open these two up Christmas morning.  I was even happier when I actually took them out of their box and discovered just how playable Babu was.  Definitely a fun little offering, and a great choice of exclusive.

The Rise of Skywalker: A Movie Review

Six movie reviews in, I believe I can no longer start these things with “I don’t write movie reviews,” because clearly I do.  I will, however, cop to not writing them very frequently, especially emphasized by the fact that I haven’t written one since May  June of 2018.  Don’t blame me; blame the gap between Star Wars movies.  Yes, for whatever reason, the Star Wars films really getting my film review juices flowing.  If I had to wager a guess, I’d say it’s got something to do with the franchise’s undeniable connection to its own toyline.

I guess that makes my first comment about this movie a rather melancholy one about how The Rise of Skywalker was seriously under-merchandised.  Based on very little in the movie itself, the experience this time around felt very different, mostly because I couldn’t just run out and buy all the things I had just seen up on the big screen.  For someone who grew up in the midst of the prequel hype where *literally everything* got a toy, it feels really off to me.  Of course, I could just be a little bitter that there are no figures of Poe sporting that snazzy scarf announced at this time…  Whatever the case, I can’t help but feel the toys really got left out of this installment, and that makes me sad.  None of this has to do with the actual film, I suppose, though, so how about I move onto…

THE ACTUAL REVIEW

In my review of Solo, I remarked that it was decidedly *not* an epic, an interesting beast in a franchise of epics.  The Rise of Skywalker, on the other hand, aims to be the most epic of the epics, perhaps even the epic to end the epics.  Had it not been released in the same year as Endgame, it certainly would have been the most epic film of the year, at least in terms of pure scope.  Supposedly, the original cut of the film was 4 hours in length, and having seen the final, far more svelte 2 hour and 22 minute cut, I can easily see where those 4 hours came from.

Picking up a year after the end of The Last JediThe Rise of Skywalker gives us our first real taste of progression of time in the sequel trilogy, following the rather tight nit pace of the prior two films.  Emperor Palpatine has returned (a fact delivered to us in the film’s opening crawl) and Kylo Ren, now Supreme Leader of the First Order, has sought him out, hoping to quash any contest to Kylo’s (admittedly shaky) rule of the First Order forces.  Instead, Palpatine offers Kylo the some spot his grandfather Vader held in the Empire in his new endeavor, The Final Order, and order seemingly built on controlling the galaxy by reducing it considerably in size, or at the very least reducing the volume of living creatures contained within it.  Kylo, like the Vader fanboy he’s always been, accepts.

Over on the Resistance side, we are reintroduced to Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca first, as they take the Millennium Falcon on a run to retrieve intel from a First Order spy.  They run afoul of the First Order and are forced to make a daring escape, with Poe jumping in and out of lightspeed seemingly at random, delivering a serious beating to the Falcon.  They make their way to the jungle moon Ajan Kloss, where the Resistance have set up their new base following their losses in The Last Jedi.  There we are reintroduced to Rey, who has been continuing her Jedi training, now under the tutelage of Leia.  Through the intel, the Resistance learns of Palpatine’s plans for the Final Order, and a clock is set for our heroes to find Palpatine’s location and end his second reign before it begins.  So, our main trio, plus Chewy, 3PO, and BB-8, set out on the Falcon to find an artifact that will lead them to Palpatine.

That’s just the first 20 minutes of the movie, and if I’m entirely honest, it’s not the film’s strongest part.  The pacing at the beginning is a bit frantic and jarring, as they cut back and forth between Kylo and the Resistance.  Once the trio heads out on their mission, things start clicking into place a bit better, and the film more securely finds its footing, with a fairly steady ramp up to the movie’s galactic-level conclusion.  A lot has to happen in this film, and it does its best to balance all of it.

Our returning leads each get a compelling arc of their own.  Rey continues to struggle with who she is, and what her significance is to both the Jedi and the Resistance, eventually finding peace by the film’s conclusion.  Finn finally manages to shake off that cowardly streak the he had in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and holds onto full-fledged hero for the entirety of this film, even finding some more kindred spirits along the way.  Poe faces down both his past and his future, as he must come to grips with taking over as a leader of the Resistance, while calling back on his past as a spice runner to help complete our heroes’ mission.  Perhaps my favorite thing about the movie is that all three of them go through these arcs together, as for the first time in the sequel trilogy, the main trio spends most of the movie in the same place.  They have great chemistry, and I really enjoyed seeing the whole trio interact.

For Kylo’s part, he and Rey continue to have their star-crossed conversations, which eventually turn into star-crossed fights.  Though he seemingly turned fully to the dark side at the climax of the last film, his troubled motivations from that film are still at the forefront of his mind, as he continues to wrestle with whether he wants to be “good” or “bad.”  Unlike the others, he is mostly isolated, not just from the heroes, but even from those on his own side, giving Driver a lot of time to brood on his own.

There are a ton of returning supporting players, each of whom get something of note to do, but most of whom are in rather reduced roles from their prior appearances, mostly due to the timing constraints of the film.  Of the old guard, we get to see both Billy Dee Williams as Lando and Dennis Lawson Wedge again, which was a lot of fun, even in somewhat reduced capacities.  Carrie Fischer as Leia has significant, albeit small, part, due to the constraints of how they got her into the movie.  I was impressed by how well they worked her in, and happy to see her get a proper send-off.  Of the new films’ characters, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose is hit the hardest by the time constraints, going from just shy of a main character to memorable background character.  I’m glad she was still there, but it’s a shame she didn’t get quite as much to do.

We also meet a handful of new characters along the way.  My personal favorites were Kerri Russell’s Zorri Bliss and Shirley Henderson’s Babu Frick, two former allies of Poe, but Naomi Ackie’s former First Order trooper Jannah and Richard E Grant’s current First Order Allegiant General Pryde both fulfill important roles.

The Rise of Skywalker endeavors to do a lot of things.  It’s the end of the current set of movies and it’s being promoted as the end of the “Skywalker Saga.”  It does one of those things a bit better than the other, and that’s ending the current trilogy.  It also raises the stakes higher than we’ve seen them before, which certainly takes some doing.  From a real world stand-point, it’s also trying win back the crowd that departed with The Last Jedi, while still being appealing to those who stuck around the whole time.  I think this is the area where the film is most successful, as it, more than the other two films, aims to have a little something for everyone.  The end result is one that I don’t think is going to be anyone’s favorite Star Wars movie, but is consequently unlikely to get the ranking of “worst Star Wars movie” (despite what some early reviews indicated).

#2253: First Order Stormtrooper

FIRST ORDER STORMTROOPER

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

The backbone of the First Order and Imperial forces, and really the Star Wars universe as a whole, the Stormtroopers are a prominent fixture of the toys from the galaxy far, far away.  That being said, given their general unchanging appearance within each trilogy, keeping them fresh can be a little difficult.  We got our first standard First Order Stormtrooper in The Black Series back with the Force Awakens product launch, with a few exclusive derivations since then.  The Trooper is returning to the main line for the trilogy’s conclusion Rise of Skywalker.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The First Order Stormtrooper is figure 97 in the Black Series line-up, the final of the Force Friday launch figures numerically.  Given the grouping of the other three Rise tie-in figures, plus his general level of repeat, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that he was a late addition to the line-up to fill out the case.  The figure is a little over 6 inches tall and he has 24 points of articulation.  The majority of this figure’s sculpt is re-used.  He shares all but the had and arms with the initial First Order Trooper from 2015.  The parts that are kept are actually the best parts of that release, being not only accurate to the source material, but also quite nicely articulated, especially at the mid-torso and the ankles.  The head was first introduced on the two Last Jedi troopers, representing the slightly more angular trooper helmet that was used in the second film.  It’s different from the original helmet, but I can’t really say that one of them is better than the other.  The arms are the new parts for this figure, and they’re notable for fixing the one major flaw of the original release: the poor range of motion on the elbows.  For the first time, a FO Trooper can get more than 90 degrees of motion, meaning he’s also the first Trooper that can properly hold a blaster rifle.  That’s gonna be fun to talk about in a moment.  The paint work on this figure follows the trend of all of the FO troopers I’ve grabbed, in that he’s okay, but not without a few noticeable flaws.  My figure has some slop on the helmet, but just in general the change overs from black to white are kind of fuzzy.  This release of the FO Trooper is packed with the riot trooper gear, meaning he’s got the shield, the improved TLJ version of the baton, and a small blaster pistol.  What’s not listed there?  That’s right, a blaster rifle.  Yep, the first FO Trooper that can properly hold a rifle doesn’t have one.  Irony of ironies.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up the standard and riot troopers during the TFA run, so I haven’t really felt the need to pick up any of the subsequent figures.  I didn’t think much of this figure, but I’d already decided to pick up the whole assortment when he was announced, so he was along for the ride.  After Kylo, he’s a pleasant surprise.  Sure, it’s frustrating and almost baffling that there’s no rifle included, but the core figure is a solid improvement on the prior releases, making this the best version of the design out there.

#2252: Sith Trooper

SITH TROOPER

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“Sith troopers were a stormtrooper variant that served the First Order during its war against the Resistance. Named after the Sith, an ancient order of Force-users devoted to the dark side of the Force, these troopers were the next evolution of Imperial/First Order stormtroopers. They wore red-colored stormtrooper armor and wielded a type of black and red blaster rifle.”

Hey, new Star Wars movie!  You know what that means: new trooper variants created to sell new toys!  Ain’t no stopping the merchandising juggernaut…unless, you know, you stop it…the way that the market has come increasingly close to stopping the Star Wars merchandising juggernaut in the last few years.  But that’s kind of sad and bleak, so maybe I shouldn’t talk about that.  Where was I?  Toys!  Always toys!  So, for the new Star Wars, there’s a cool new trooper called the Sith Trooper, Kylo Ren’s new elite force.  I’m looking at one of those guys today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Sith Trooper is figure 92 in the Black Series line-up, the third figure from the Force Friday product launch.  The Sith Trooper was previously released as this year’s SDCC-exclusive preview figure, which included some additional weapons to differentiate it from the basic release.  The core figures are the same between the two releases, however.  The figure stands 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  Perhaps the most impressive bits of articulation on this figure are the butterfly shoulders, which I believe are a first for Black Series.  Given the design of the various trooper armor, it’s actually a little surprising that we’ve never seen this type of joint implemented, since it’s so nicely hidden.  However, while there’s great movement in the shoulders, the neck joint is surprisingly limited for one of these figures; they’ve been doing the double ball joints a lot recently, and the range has been pretty solid, but for this guy, it’s little more than a cut joint.  Maybe it’s just my figure, but I was rather disappointed by that.  Plusses and minuses of the articulation aside, how’s the actual sculpt?  Overall, it’s pretty strong.  I definitely dig the Stormtrooper/Clonetrooper/Praetorian Guard hybrid that’s going on with these guys, and I look forward to seeing the design in action in the movie.  The sculpt is quite sharply rendered, and I really dig all of the texturing, both on the armor and on the underlying jumpsuit.  The sculpt also does a really nice job of making those two elements feel like separate pieces as well, which is an improvement on a lot of the earlier troopers.  The Sith Trooper’s paint is decent enough, though not overly involved.  Most of the red is molded, and most of the black is painted.  The application is overall pretty clean, but there’s a little bit of fuzziness on the helmet.  Beyond that, it’s pretty clean and striking.  This Sith Trooper is quite packed with the impressive armory of the SDCC release, but he does still get two styles of blaster, matching the ones included with the smaller Sith Jet Trooper.  They’re decent weapons, but are also the source o my biggest complaint about the figure.  He’s got a holster much like the First Order Troopers, meaning there’s a spot for a gun the plug into his right thigh.  Unfortunately, the hole is too large and the pegs on both guns too small, meaning that the blasters just fall right out at the slightest touch.  The fact that there are two blasters and he can only hold one really exacerbates this issue.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Sith Trooper was one of the earliest designs we saw from Rise, and I knew I wanted the figure pretty much right away.  I didn’t even try with the SDCC release, because those have always been a barren source of amusement in the past, and the Troopers always get the standard release.  This figure was the one I opened right after Kylo, and that may have slightly colored my opinion, as I found myself a bit underwhelmed with him at first.  Playing around with him for the review, I did find myself enjoying him a bit more.  That said, there are still a few issues that keep this figure from being “great.”

I picked up this guy from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2251: Rey & D-0

REY & D-0

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“Rey continues to study the Jedi ways, but she grows concerned about what the future — and the Force — may hold in store for her.”

For the Rise of Skywalker product launch, there’s only one character available in all of Hasbro’s primary styles.  It’s Rey, who, as the main character, I suppose has the most business being included across the board.  Since she’s also wearing the same attire for all three of her figures, it also gives me a nice chance to more closely compare the three styles of figures currently available.  I’ve already taken a look at the Vintage Collection Rey and the Galaxy of Adventures Rey, so now I’ll be taking a look at the Black Series Rey, as well as her pack-mate D-0.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Rey and D-0 are number 91 in the Black Series line-up, numerically the second of the eight Force Friday figures.  Fun Fact, Rey is the only character to be part of the initial Black Series line-up for all five of the Disney-era product launches (Kylo narrowly missed it thanks to being absent from the Solo product launch).  Again, as the main character, I guess it adds up.  This figure gives us Rey in her newest attire from Rise, which is a pretty solid look for the character.  The figure stands 5 3/4 inches tall and she has 27 points of articulation.  This Rey figure is an all-new sculpt, which I guess isn’t a huge shock, since her Black Series figures have as of yet all been completely unique from each other.  Poor Kylo must be very jealous.  It’s a solid sculpt.  The articulation is certainly more practical than what we got from the VC figure, and is also much more smoothly worked into the final product.  It’s still not quite as easily posed or anywhere near as stable on its feet as the GoA release, but they are very differently styled items.  She’s pretty solid for a Black Series release in both posability and stability.  The sculpt is also a nicely balanced affair, with rather realistic proportions and some solid texture work.  The head sports one of Hasbro’s best attempts at a Daisy Ridley likeness, rivaled only by the Island Journey Rey in my eyes.  She’s got a touch more expression in her face than any of the other Reys, with just a little smile going on.  I like that a fair bit more than the usual bland appearance.  The paintwork on this Rey is fortunately a lot better than my VC Rey was, by virtue of her face actually being applied correctly.  That said, I’ve seen far worse samples than this out in the wild, so I still worry about the figures as a whole.  On mine, the paint is very lifelike and aids in selling the likeness.  Were it not as well applied, that would be a rather different story.  Rey is pretty well accessorized.  The most prominent inclusion is, of course D-0, who though he may be listed on the package is really just an accessory.  He’s not wildly different from his GoA incarnation, but some parts are a little smaller and more refined, with a little more detailing in a few spots.  There’s a small stand included for him this time to aid in keeping him standing.  It doesn’t *really* do a whole lot, since it just shapes under his wheel, without any sort of peg or anything, but it keeps him more reliably standing that his is without it.  In addition to D-0, this Rey gets the same selection as her smaller VC counterpart: lightsaber, staff, blaster, and back pack.  They’re all pretty nicely rendered, and the staff is by far the best version of the item we’ve gotten included with any of these Rey figures.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I opened my Rey figure before Kylo, which was probably the right call for my sanity, but perhaps didn’t do so well by Kylo.  She’s a much better figure, and I’d probably rank her as my second favorite in this assortment, behind the Mando.  She’s certainly an improvement over the VC release.  Though she’s not as dwarfed by her GoA figure in my eyes as Kylo, I will admit that while I was taking the photos for this review, the number of times she faceplanted in the middle of a shot did not go unnoticed.  Still, if you’re into the Black Series thing, then this is a solid figure, and probably the best Rey in the line (though I still really like that Island Journey figure).

I picked up Rey from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.