Thursday, February 14, 2019

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,560: Han Solo (Force Link 2.0 Reader, Solo: A Star Wars Story line look)

HAN SOLO Default Jacket
Solo: A Star Wars Story Force Link 2.0 Pack-In
Item No.:
  No.  E0322
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster, Force Link 2.0 Band
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $29.99
Availability: April 2018
Appearances: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Bio: Bring the galaxy to life with Force Link 2.0! Wear Force Link 2.0 wearable technology to activate sounds and phrases in Force Link 2.0-activated figures, accessories, vehicles, and playsets! For even more action, activate multiple figures with Force Link 2.0 wearable technology to hear interactions and responses between iconic characters! With Force Link 2.0, kids can bring their favorite Star Wars adventures to life!  Force Link 2.0 wearable technology activates motion-controlled phrases, lights, and sounds in over 30 toys! When kids wear their Force Link 2.0 wearable technology and pick up the included 3.75-inch scale, movie-inspired Star Wars Han Solo figure, they can activate authentic figure phrases and sounds! Scan figures into the Hasbro Star Wars Force Link 2.0 app to track figure play and level up! Compatible with all figures, vehicles, playsets, and toys in the Force Link 2.0 line. Figures, vehicles, and playsets each sold separately.   (Taken from the Hasbro marketing for the item.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary:  Hasbro doomed Force Link before it even came out - the first reader hit in September 2017, with this 2.0 upgrade shipping just 6 months later - with the ability to be updated with new sounds.  This idea should have been brilliant and magical, but the locked-down first release didn't meet sales expectations and by the time Han Solo shipped with this version - which had problems receiving an update, and has several figures still not working with it - it was dead.  Also, this is the only plain/normal version of Han Solo in his main outfit for the movie that was sold at launch, and it was $30.  Other lesser costumes of Han during the theatrical release of Solo: A Star Wars Story were in a $29.99 Speeder and a $99.99 Millennium Falcon, so it wasn't exactly set up for success or affordability by the child target audience of this kind of figure.

Han is interesting.  Note I didn't say "amazing." They did a good job on the costume, with its dark brown shoulders, black shirt, and working holster, but 5 joints aren't terribly exciting. The fact a super-posable version would follow in the Fall at a lower price is not terribly wonderful, but this figure suffered from a head sculpt that doesn't seem to be based on the actor hired for the movie.  Due to the turmoil in production it's entirely possible this was  by design - there are occasions were freelance sculptors have admitted, privately, to "genericing-up" a figure's likeness due to demands from the studio or because of what the license demanded.  For example, McFarlane Toys had the clearance for Snake Plissken - but not Kurt Russel.  But I digress - no one has actually confirmed this regarding Han Solo, but between this figure and Jakks' late Big Figs line, there's no way you can say that it was modeled after Alden Ehrenreich.  It's "Young Han" but it ain't Alden.

The Vintage Han Solo [FOTD #2,538] has more color, more painted detail and more articulation, but this one is still pretty charming.  It's also notable in that his sound clips are the only Force Link 2.0 quotes built in to that Force Link band - the rest require an update from an app to even function, which is baffling. If you can get one of these now, update it as soon as you buy it because that app won't be around forever.  I'd like to know if any hackers out there know how to update the Force Link band so fans can roll their own update with real movie quotes - but I digress.  We're here to talk about the figure.  It's OK.  Get the Vintage one if it's cheaper, though.

Force Link 2.0 Notes: "They call me Han Solo."  "This better be worth it."  "I don't run from a fight."  "Hmm. I've got a really good feeling about this."   "We've got company." "Blast 'em!"  Blaster shots.  It's a soundalike doing a decent Han Solo impression.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.   Walmarts blew this set out - in my journeys - for as little as $4 in the post-Christmas 2018 clearances.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,560: February 14, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,559: Klaatu (Skiff Guard, The Vintage Collection)

KLAATU Skiff Guard
The Vintage Collection Action Figures
Item No.:
Asst. E0370  No. E4060
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #135
Includes: Staff
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $12.99
Availability: January 2019
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Klaatu was a male Kadas'sa'Nikto gambler who worked for Jabba the Hutt. He often repaired the crime lord's skiffs. Klaatu also took enjoyment in Jabba's executions by rancor in Jabba's Palace. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.  Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: As time marches on, it's weird to see how Star Wars changes.  Most of the figures we've ever received were after we had a relationship with the character or costume.  It's not like you didn't have a chance to read Shadows of the Empire before getting Dash Rendar, and you knew who Thrawn was years before that first figure shipped.  You saw Return of the Jedi before we got the first version of Klaatu (Skiff Guard) in 1984, probably unaware that this green guy was different from the 1983 green guy named Klaatu, who would later be called Wooof.  Knowing who a character is, or where a figure belongs in a playset or display, makes a huge difference for enthusiasm.  It's hard for me to get excited for any given new movie figure most of the time, mostly because I'm being handed a toy blind.  That's good for most toys and your imagination, but with Star Wars it really is largely about the relationship.  In this case, it's a relationship with a rubber mask.

The 1984 Kenner original lacked the "skirt" that we got in 1998's first modern-era version of this Klaatu, and that skirt remains in 2019.  The figure has been enhanced to a ridiculous extent, with a wipe bringing out the pleats in the outfit and so much articulation.  For a figure that mostly stands around, 28 points of articulation is a large number.  He can stand, and can even be posed to swing his legs forward - a plus, given this month's alleged release of the Sail  Barge is going to need piloting.  Thanks to separate trigger fingers and bend-and-swivel wrists, it would seem Klaatu exists mostly to remind you just how much these Vintage figures have improved since the last full line ended in 2012.  It also makes me sad to see just how few we're likely to get, because Hasbro has basically done the impossible and squeezed in more articulation and detail on a tiny figure.  It's remarkable.

The painted detail is almost better than the actual costume, with gold horns painted that we didn't really get in the movie. The hat is a separate, glued-on piece and the hands are just exquisite.    Clever articulation allows us to pose him in a number of awesome ways, and while I don't like the chest joint - it's ugly - at least they're trying something new.  Klaatu's weapon is basically the same as Boushh, just in a new color.  It's great.  You'll want two or three of him.  

A lot of the figures for the recent movies are pretty good.  It's hard to deny the quality of many Rey and Jyn figures, but there's certainly  a push back from fans that want those movies from when they were kids from now until the end of time.  I need some of each - with these as the first new original trilogy alien figures out of Hasbro in almost four years, we're reminded just how much we love their classic work and what they can do when they're provided reference from a movie that's not still in production.  I look forward to new new-movie-figures from The Force Awakens now that the secret is out, and Hasbro could make their very best work without the veil of NDAs.  It's turned out so well for the original trilogy that I can say I am still eager to see what they might do for us the next time they bring someone to today's standards,  because this is great.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.  

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,559: February 12, 2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,558: TIE Fighter Pilot (Mimban, Solo: A Star Wars Story line look)

TIE FIGHTER PILOT Mimban
Solo: A Star Wars Story Force Link 2.0 6-Figure Gift Set - Target Exclusive
Item No.:
  No. E2827 (also sold later individually as a pack-in with TIE Fighter E0327)
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster, 5 more figures
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $44.99
Availability: September 2018
Appearances: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Bio: From gleaming cities to the muddy terrain of Mimban, Imperial forces protect and serve the Empire.  Their versatile training and equipment allows for them to be employed in a wide variety of environments against Rebel forces and others disloyal to the aims of the Empire.   (Taken from the gift set's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.  Note, this one was plucked out of a E0327 box.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary:  Hasbro has given us a lot of versions of this figure, but I'm surprised to say that this TIE Fighter Pilot is significantly different from previous releases.  The Force Link 2.0 pilot - identical, so far as I can tell, in the Mimban gift set (Target) and the TIE Fighter Force Link 2.0 ship (hard-to-find retail release) - seems to share some elements with previous pilots, but Hasbro  and the Toy Gods made some significant, distinctive changes here.  Given how Hasbro used the same TIE Fighter Pilot mold with minor modifications for over a decade, I'm shocked.

He still has 5 joints, and a lot of the folds and creases are similar to the TIE Striker pack-in pilot [FOTD #2,289].  The texture is surprisingly rich, with a wonderful finish and glossy boots.  The instrument panel on the chest is decorated differently, as is the helmet - complete with aurebesh too small for me to read with the naked eye.

What's particularly amazing is the belt and back of the armor.  The belt has two silver compartments flanking the buckle, as opposed to what we usually get - a silver dot on the figure's right-hand side.  The back has the famous Stormtrooper "OII" markings, instead of the usual smooth armored plate.  The figure has no problems standing, sitting, or piloting a ship with joints that move exactly as needed for such functions, plus there's a swell new-style Imperial Blaster included.  Hasbro probably could have sold army builders these guys by the barrel, had they been sold individually  Maybe we'll see some in an upcoming repack assortment.

You have dozens of these by now, but each one has little changes - and this might be one of the most interesting modernized ones as it actually has some changes made to it.  Get one or more if you can, mostly because it's a different stage of evolution for the Empire's most expendable flight crews.

Force Link 2.0 Notes: "TIE on line, awaiting orders!" "Engaging a perimeter sweep."   "I've got enemy reinforcements on my radar."  "Agh, I'm taking heavy fire here!"  Blaster sounds. The voice is a good voice for toys - I'm assuming it's not from the movies, but Hasbro cast it well.

Collector's Notes: I got my boxed set from Target.   The TIE came from Entertainment Earth.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,558: February 7, 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,557: Saelt-Marae (Yak Face, The Vintage Collection)

SAELT-MARAE Yak Face With Joints
The Vintage Collection Action Figures
Item No.:
Asst. E0370  No. E4053
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #132
Includes: Staff, cloth robes
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $12.99
Availability: January 2019
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Saelt-Marae was a Yarkora who worked for Jabba Desilijic Tiure, a powerful Hutt crime lord. Posing as a humble merchant, the Yarkora mingled with the various denizens of Jabba's fortress on Tatooine, learning of the intrigues developing behind the Hutt's back and revealing those to his employer. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.  Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary:  I'm old.   I'm old enough to remember when finding out people were spending $60 for a Yak Face was obscenely expensive - and old enough to remember when, in 1997, Kenner made a new one and called it Saelt-Marae that it seemed silly.   A recognizable but largely obscure alien, this figure's main claim to fame is being a vexing goal for a collector in the pre-internet world.  You could get one by mail, maybe, or at an antique show.  It was unlikely you would see one in person - nobody really took Star Wars seriously as a "Collectible" until around 1990.  A few weirdoes would trade and buy stuff because they loved it - and indeed, I was one of those weirdoes that remembers tracking this stuff down in Toy Shop magazine, or at garage sales, or the occasional antique show or toy swap meet.   It's for this reason that I get a perverse pleasure from taking a Return of the Jedi-carded figure and ripping it off the cardback.  It's not an opportunity I expected to get.

Yak Face 2018 takes design cues for the movie and the original 1980s Kenner figure, largely ignoring the color decisions and some of the proportions of the 1997 figure.   The figure's coloring more closely matches the original, with a skiff staff that's the same basic model that you saw in the 1984 Nikto and Barada figures.  (Some European Yak Face figures had gaffi sticks, or no weapon at all.  It's true!)  The figure retains the hairy collar and fuzzy shirt, with blue sleeves and matching pants.  His skin has a lot more color, with a nose that has a bit of a shine on it.  Hasbro clearly decided to put more value in this one, with more paint applications on the furry parts and claws to make it better than previous releases.  The cloth robe takes some getting used to, but I like it.  I also like the wispy facial hair, black eyes, and abundant articulation.
The previous two figures had 5 and 6 joints - not a lot.   This one has a whopping 29 points of articulation, with two joints on the neck, bend-and-swivel wrists and what may well be the finest hip joints we've seen out of Hasbro in ages.  It would be conceited to say Hasbro must be reading our reviews... but it wouldn't surprise me.  You can enjoy lateral hip movement, knee joints, ankle joints, and largely unrestricted hips allowing this figure to sit at a proper 1980s vintage right angle. 

Part fancy lad or bizarre British lord caricature with a healthy dash of Joe Camel, the figure exists purely to please a certain kind of fan.  You might be getting one with your Sail Barge this year, if not you can get this version. I assume this is the more common version - but we'll have to wait and see.   I don't assume Hasbro will ever be able to give us a better Yak Face in my lifetime, unless of course we get a 6-inch figure, and I'm surely hoping that they do.  Even if you have to play a slight premium, Yak Face is worth it.   It's rare that we get remakes from the original trilogy these days, and this is one of few characters that has not had an update since the 1990s The Power of the Force days.  I don't have anything snarky to say here.  More please, Hasbro.  We missed you.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.  

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,557: February 5, 2019