#2765: Jar Jar Binks

JAR JAR BINKS

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“As an outcast, Jar Jar spends much of his time in the Naboo swampland. It’s there that the hapless Gungan encounters a pair of Jedi as they elude enemy forces.”

In the over two decades since the Star Wars prequel trilogy began, the opinions on it have shifted somewhat.  In general, it does seem to at least owe to the fact that Star Wars fans just like to hate the newest thing, and there’s the new era of movies to hate on, so I guess that helps?  We’ve come so far from the hatred of the prequels, that even the most hated element of the prequels, Jar Jar friggin’ Binks, isn’t even all that hated any more.  I know.  I’m shocked too.  Even more shocking?  There’s an honest to god deluxe release Black Series Jar Jar, like, actually available to buy.  Like, from real stores.  I know.  And now I’m reviewing it.  Again, I know.  Weird, right?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Jar Jar Binks is figure 01 in the Phantom Menace sub-set of Star Wars: The Black Series‘ fourth phase.  So far, we know of no more TPM figures, at least in the main line, but Jar Jar’s presence suggests there will probably be more.  It’s thus-far the least explored entry in terms of Black Series, so it makes sense to do some more.  Jar Jar is at the deluxe price point, which makes him the second such figure since the line’s re-branding under the new phase.  There’s been a little bit of discussion about whether it was wise to put him at the higher price, and if he truly warranted it.  Whatever the case, the figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 27 points of articulation.  Jar Jar’s articulation isn’t *quite* up to the standards of other Phase IV figures, but it’s certainly on par with a lot of the better Phase III figures, suggesting that he was possibly designed a little earlier and then held onto?  There’s certainly a lot of good posing to be had with the articulation he’s got, and he’s a far cry from the line’s earliest entries.  The sculpt is a pretty strong recreation of Jar Jar’s 1999 animation model.  The proportions are definitely there, and there’s plenty of smaller detail work that’s gone into him.  The head’s get the best work, which isn’t terribly surprising, I suppose, since his TPM design was largely pretty unimpressive apart from the design of the head.  The head sculpt gets all of the important details, and presents a far more reserved Jar Jar than we see for most of the movie.  It’s certainly a different choice.  Honestly, it’s probably the right choice.  The figure’s paint work is actually pretty solid for the most part.  The patterns on his skin are definitely impressive, as is the work on the face, which makes use of the printing technique.  There’s a lot of rather subtle work on the skin, and I definitely like to see that.  The only thing I’m not too crazy about is the wrist joints, which are molded in the off-white of his under arms, a color which is exposed when his hands are posed.  It’s kind of a necessary evil, and generally pretty minor, though.  Jar Jar’s accessory selection includes a staff, shield, and Atlatl weapon (the ball on a stick thing).  The shield and staff are pretty sizable, and are presumably meant to aid in justifying the cost.  Personally, I’d have liked to see some more character specific stuff, like maybe some extra heads with different expressions, or maybe even an extended tongue.  I mean, the Gungan battle stuff it cool too, and will certainly have more re-use potential if they decide to do other Gungans, but it feels sort of out of place with Jar Jar himself.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Alright, time for my crazy, controversial opinion: I’ve never really hated Jar Jar.  In fact, when the movie first came out, I kinda liked him.  Don’t get me wrong, I get some of the complaints about the character, and there are certainly some discussions to be had about some of the potential stereotypes present and the negative connotations they might carry.  But, on his own, I don’t find him quite as monumentally bad as some people did.  I mostly went along with it, because it felt like a bit of an uphill battle.  Fortunately, time, as well as his appearances in The Clone Wars have at least quieted down the hatred a bit, so, hey, he’s gotten another toy.  Cool.  I knew this guy was coming before he was officially announced, and I knew he’d be deluxe, but I didn’t quite know what that would entail.  I wasn’t really expecting the extra weaponry, and I question whether it was the right choice.  Jar Jar is, even in these slightly more Jar Jar-tolerant times, a harder sell than other characters, so adding the extra $10 to his retail might be an iffy prospect.  That said, the core figure is pretty nice, and the extras aren’t the worst thing.  I’m overall happy with my purchase, and I think most people who are willing to pick him up will be, too.

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure for review.  If you’re looking for Black Series, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2130: Darth Maul

DARTH MAUL

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES ARCHIVE (HASBRO)

“The evil Sith apprentice Darth Maul engages in a fierce lightsaber duel with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

Star Wars: The Black Series‘ debut line-up was an interesting assortment.  Though everything included was instantly recognizable and a distinctive Star Wars element, everything was sort of adjacent to top tier.  The Luke included wasn’t his main look from any of the movies, the trooper included wasn’t a standard Stormtrooper, and the Sith lord included wasn’t Darth Vader.  It was Hasbro’s bid at trying out the line without potentially sacrificing any truly pivotal figures to possible early-line production issues.  Given the slightly more middling line-up, the first series was a much smaller run compared to later in the line, and some of its figures became quite tricky to track down as the line progressed.  In order to give new fans a chance to catch up, Hasbro instituted a new sub-line, dubbed “Archive” as an easy way to re-pop in-demand figures from older assortments.  While the first series was completely focussed on the Original Trilogy, the second line-up adds in some of the Prequel characters, including by far the most marketable character to come out of the Prequels, Darth Maul!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Darth Maul is one of the four figures in the second Archive line-up, and the second of the original Black Series figures to be featured (the third to get a re-release, counting the 35th R2; only the Sandtrooper remains without a reissue).  Rather fittingly, this assortment arrived at roughly the same time as the latest series of the main line, so Maul and Obi-Wan hit shelves together.  Maul stands just under 6 inches tall and he has 27 points of articulation.  Compared to more recent releases, Maul’s articulation is slightly more rudimentary, and a little less fluid; essentially it’s just the Legends articulation of 2013 applied to another line.  It’s most noticeable on the neck joint, as that’s an area where the two lines have most clearly diverged.  At the very least he has the ball-jointed torso to mix things up, which ends up being a pretty major saving grace of the figure’s articulation.  That said, it’s entirely workable even in its current state, and honestly a little better than some of the mid-line figures that would follow it.  Maul’s sculpt was always really the star offering of the initial line-up, being a solid recreation of his on-screen appearance with well-integrated articulation, and a decent level of detailing.  While it’s not all quite as sharp, it’s still a solid selection of work.  Maul’s paintwork isn’t too involved for the most part, with the body just being variants of matte and shiny black.  The real star work is on the face, and it’s also the only place where there’s a change from the original release, since he uses the new face printing for his eyes.  It’s not a super noticeable difference, but it helps him fit in better with the more recent figures.  The original pitch for the line was as close to one-and-done as possible, and Maul’s accessories were designed with that in mind.  He’s got an extra head with robes attached, his binoculars, and his double-bladed lightsaber, which has removable blades and can be split in the movie.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Like a fool, I passed on the original release of Maul when the first assortment was out, because I was trying to stick to the “no prequels” rule, which I hadn’t yet abandoned.  By the time I’d rethought it, he had jumped considerably in price, and so I had to play the waiting game.  While the Archive line-ups so far haven’t been for me, Maul was on my list as soon as his name was floated for the line.  He’s definitely a strong figure, and probably one of the best from early in the line.  He also pairs really nicely with Obi-Wan, which is a huge plus.

Maul was purchased from my friends at All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for Star Wars, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2110: Obi-Wan Kenobi

OBI-WAN KENOBI

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

So, since the last time I discussed The Phantom Menace on this here site (just shy of 1800 reviews ago), public perceptions of the film have slightly shifted.  To be fair, last time around, the film’s 3D re-release had reinvigorated the fanbase’s hatred.  Now, it’s cool to like it, since the hate has shifted either to the new films, or to the portion of the fanbase who hates the new films.  Whatever the case, I’ve always liked Phantom Menace the most of the prequels, and that’s not changed.  As a kid, my favorite part of the movie was Ewan McGreggor as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The Black Series has placed the majority of its focus on the original trilogy and the new trilogy, so the prequels have been sort of pushed to the side, and Obi-Wan’s “debut” appearance had a little bit of a wait.  Fortunately, it’s finally here, and now I’m gonna review it!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Obi-Wan is figure 85 in the Black Series line-up.  He arrived in stores in a mostly non-movie assortment, making him the a bit of an odd-man out.  It’s our fourth version of Obi-Wan in the line, and he’s the final of the three main Phantom Menace Jedi to be added to the line.  The figure stands 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  Obi-Wan’s sculpt is all-new, and it’s another strong piece.  It’s another step forward in working the articulation into the sculpt without things looking too weird.  The arms are a touch long and seem to bend a little too far down, but beyond that the joints are well-implemented and he has an impressive range of mobility.  The head is sporting a solid likeness of Ewan McGreggor, certainly an improvement over the head from the Revenge of the Sith Obi-Wan.  The torso is constructed via layering, which has done a nice job of creating depth on the figure, as well as preserving the articulation.  His robes are nicely textured, and do a suitable job of looking lifelike.  Obi-Wan’s paintwork is pretty solid.  He’s the first of the Phantom Menace figures to released post-face-printing, and it does him a lot of favors.  He’s definitely a really lively looking guy, and it does the sculpt all sorts of favors.  The more basic paintwork isn’t quite as strong, with some noticeable slop on the edges of the boots in particular.  That said, it’s not as bad as some of the others we’ve seen in this line.  Obi-Wan’s only accessory is his lightsaber, which, following the trend of others in the line, has a removable blade and can be hung from his belt.  It’s a shame they couldn’t throw anything else in with him; even a cloth robe would have been nice.  As it stands, he does feel a tad light.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When the Black Series first launched, I had one firm rule: no prequel figures.  Even before I broke it to get in on some Clone Trooper goodness, this guy was the one exception to that self-imposed rule.  I was definitely playing a mean waiting game with both Maul and Qui-Gon out already, so I was very excited when this guy was finally shown off.  He was at the top of my list for this assortment, and I gotta say, he’s a really satisfying figure.

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

 

#0335: Pit Droids

PIT DROIDS

STAR WARS 30th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION

PitDroids1

So, umm… run down on the Star Wars stuff I mentioned before. Prequels bad. Originals good. Toys for both. There, up to speed?

Amazingly enough, I actually don’t hate The Phantom Menace as much as the other two. It’s still not great, but I can find things to enjoy about it. The lack of a certain Hayden Christiansen really helps. Anyway, the wonders of CGI meant that we got to see some pretty decent designs that wouldn’t have otherwise been brought to life. One such design was that of the Pit Droids, the little droids that worked in Watto’s shop and on the Pod Race track (incidentally, two of my least favorite places/sequences in the movie, but not at the fault of the Pit Droids). Today, I’ll be looking at a pair of those droids.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

PitDriodsWilsonThe Pit Droids were released in the Fan’s Choice assortment of the 2007 series of the Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection. The figures are about 2 ½ inches in height and the each feature 5 points of articulation. Both Pit Droids in the set make use of the same sculpt, so I’ll just be examining it once. They are a total re-use of the Bonus Pit Droids that were released in place of the comm-tech cards included with Phantom Menace figures in countries that weren’t carrying the comm-tech reader. The figures never saw a domestic release, so it was nice for Hasbro to get them out to those that missed out. It’s a pretty decent sculpt, and seems to accurately translate the Droid design to the toy form. They seem to be a little on the large side based on the scale in the movie, but it isn’t too far off. The Pit Droids were available in three different color schemes. I got the orange/white scheme, which is the one I preferred and coincidentally the one I found. The paintwork is pretty decent. It’s cleanly applied and there aren’t any noticeable instances of bleed over or slop. Like the different color schemes, there were also different accessories offered with the figures. This particular set included a silver power converter, as well as metal coin with a Phantom Menace related design on it, denoting these figures as Fan’s Choice.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I like the Pit Droids, but given their absence from The Phantom Menace toyline, by the time they were actually released I was mostly out of collecting prequel figures. My ability to resist figures severely lowers when the figures are on sale, so when my local comicbook store, Cosmic Comix, marked all of their Star Wars figures down to $3.99, I was kinda roped in. It’s a nice little set, and if you like the Pit Droids, you’ll like these.

PitDroids2

#0111: Obi Wan Kenobi

OBI WAN KENOBI

STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE

Ah, yes, The Phantom Menace.  What a thing that was.  Has any other movie simultaneously brought back and killed a beloved franchise?  Oddly enough, even though I don’t particularly care for it, it’s the only of the prequel trilogy that I can stand at all these days.  Sure, it’s total crap, but it didn’t put me to sleep or make my brain hurt too much like the other two.  Plus, it did actually have some pretty good performances by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGreggor.  So, it wasn’t all bad I suppose. Just mostly…

Regardless of opinions of the film itself, the toys were a pretty big hit, and they aren’t terrible.  So, today I’ll be looking at the basic figure of Ewan McGreggor’s young Obi Wan Kenobi.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Obi-Wan was released as part of the initial wave of figures released by Hasbro to coincide with the release of the movie.  Obi Wan is based on his look during his and Qui Gon’s final battle with Darth Maul.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and features 10 points of articulation.  The articulation is important to note, as this was probably the most articulation ever to be seen on a Star Wars figure at the time.  Until Revenge of the Sith came along, this was the new standard.  The sculpt on the figure is pretty decent, not perfect, but a nice approximation of what Obi Wan looked like in the movie.  While I understand the decision to sculpt the arms bent to hold the lightsaber two-handed, it does leave the sculpt looking a bit odd if he isn’t holding the saber.  The torso also suffers from being a bit boxy, even for the time.  The paint is serviceable.  Nothing spectacular, but pretty good in general.  The lines on the boots are a bit fuzzy, but everything else is pretty clean.  Mine have long since been lost, but when he was new, Obi Wan included his lightsaber and a “comm-tech” display stand that would play some of Obi Wan’s dialogue from the movie when hooked into the big comm-tech player you could buy.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

While Phantom Menace is far from one of my favorite movies, I was 7 at the time of its release, and I was willing to overlook most of its flaws because it was a new Star Wars movie.  I rushed right from the theatre to get an Obi Wan figure (Which was $2.99, by the way.  That’d cost you $10 now…), and I was very happy to have him.