Monday, February 20, 2012

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 1,744: Jar Jar Binks

JAR JAR BINKS Bowcaster Fires Booma!
Discover the Force Movie Heroes Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. 36563 No. 37754
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #MH13
Includes: Stand, card, die, projectile, crossbow
Action Feature: Firing rocket
Retail: $8.99
Availability: February 2012
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Jar Jar Binks uses a bowcaster to fire boomas at battle droids. The Gungans fight the battle droid army on Naboo. Gungan soldiers use weapons that fire exploding energy balls called boomas, which short-circuit the droids. Jar Jar may not be the most skilled warrior, but he is not afraid to fight, and takes out a number of droids during the battle. (Taken from the figure's box.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' photo area.

Commentary: A figure like Jar Jar Binks serves as a stern reminder of just how long we've been in this hobby-- not only do I remember when the first Jar Jar came out, but I remember that the last one based on the movies came out in 2002. 10 years ago. And that was an awful figure. This one is a better sculpt, but the deco in 1999 is, arguably, more authentic. There's a distinctive skin pattern that looks like a series of pink and off-white mazes on his arms and neck, which you can plainly see on pretty much every Hasbro release of the character and most Gungans up until 2009, at which point (I'm guessing) Hasbro assumed nobody noticed or cared and dropped it to cut costs. My guess is most collectors won't notice unless they already own a lot of Jar Jar merchandise, and let's face it-- some of us do. I should also note that in every shot I looked at from the movie for reference, Jar Jar's vest is actually lighter than his undershirt. On this figure, the vest is darker. So while this is a fun toy with a great sculpt, Hasbro and Lucasfilm apparently don't much care if the deco is accurate. I also suspect many fans won't notice or care, due to the nature of the character-- this will probably be something kids notice as they get older, and when they post on forums their discoveries will be shouted down by people demanding the Tonnika Sisters, Sail Barges, and the 2027 rumor of Mattel getting the license from Hasbro. (It's coming.)

The figure itself is actually quite good-- while getting the deco wrong in 1999 is not only excusable but, as the movie wasn't finished, it's expected, in 2012 anything less than B+ work may as well be a failure. Thankfully, this figure was engineered as a toy and as such can do things. The best Jar Jar in terms of articulation before this release was about 6 joints. And this one has 10 joints, an improvement but obviously not super-articulated. This figure, and this entire wave, feels like it was designed out of my playbook-- articulation isn't everything, but the sculpts are good and the figures are largely fun to play with. Jar Jar has ball-jointed knees and ankles, plus a new joint in his neck which increases the range of movement without letting his head pop off easily. His hands are well-suited to both carrying his large, delightfully goofy bowcaster as well as gesturing and pointing. I would argue few figures can gain more personality from their added articulation, but this is one of them-- you can make all sorts of wacky clumsy poses. The sculpt is similar to previous figures, but refined slightly-- so it's better, but not like it's from another planet. The head is also good, the face isn't goofy (unfortunately) but he does have a bit of a cross-eyed problem on my sample which I would say makes it better. He should be a little goofy or confused, and this helps bring that out in his face. (While an alternate grinning head would have been a nice bonus accessory here, it seems it would be difficult to pop it off.)

If you want a good figure to play with, put on your desk, and enjoy, this is it. But as far as accuracy, well, no. If Hasbro got Luke's boots or Qui-Gon's lightsaber wrong, I don't know that we'd let that slide-- yet with Jar Jar, I guess after a decade it's easy to accept less than Hasbro's best, even if it is really good. A repaint of this figure would be really fantastic, as the sculpt is certainly very nice. I like this figure as a toy, but there's enough Hasbro left off-- the skin tone and the goofy grin-- that I could see a good reason to do another, better figure later.

Collector's Notes: This figure is new as of last week basically, and comes at only one per case in this one case so far. Hasbro alluded to a vintage Jar Jar Binks later in the year, but now I'm wondering if they meant the Carbonite one announced at Toy Fair. (In case you missed the announcement, Jar Jar Binks in Carbonite is part of a Comic-Con Exclusive in July.) Anyway. This is the best Jar Jar Binks sculpt to date, so keep that in mind when you see him in the stores-- if you want to upgrade, this is it!

Wave Notes: This is a great wave-- it's a crying shame that Jar Jar Binks and his 5 all-new mold companions weren't part of the debut wave, as these are some of the best toys Hasbro has done since the Hasbro brand appeared on the packaging. The articulation isn't what it usually is, but the sculpts are great and the designs show more than a little thought was put in to how they will function as toys. Jar Jar Binks is the obvious first must-buy, but it's worth noting that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Maul are both excellent, and Queen Amidala is also quite good. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn both feel like real 1980s Vintage figures, as designed in 2012. If you pop off the lower part of their robes, they can sit in vehicles. Even at $9 a pop, this batch feels worth it-- get all 6. If you liked the 2004 OTC Dagobah wave, this is-- in my opinion-- another fantastic themed batch of figures you shouldn't miss. Yes, even if you hate The Phantom Menace, these are fun figures.

--Adam Pawlus

Day 1,744: February 20, 2012


Rogue Leader said...

Agree with you about Jar Jar. As much as the character is reviled in SW fan circles, the figure is probably the best released to date.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have had better sculpts, though so they were misses for me. And considering the price point, you might as well hold out for a better Anakin (hate the ugly knee joints).

About Queen Amidala being quite good: you're kidding right? Sculpt and paint-wise (the face especially), it seems a step back from the original Phantom Menace figure. Awful glossy paint on the skin, dead eyes and poor articulation kill it for me.

But thanks for continuing to review day in and day out.

The Busy Jedi said...

The SDCC Jar Jar in carbonite block will be the Jar Jar from the vintage collection, but encapsulated in the block.

Rogue Leader, are you serious about the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan? Those face sculpts are the best we've seen from TPM. Those blow the currently popular vintage head sculpts out of the water.