Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 1,831: Obi-Wan Kenobi

OBI-WAN KENOBI  Duel on Naboo
Discover the Force Battle Packs
Item No.:
Asst. 37822 No.  37855
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, game stuff, additional figures
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $22.99
Availability: April 2012
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi battle Darth Maul during the invasion of Naboo.  The two Jedi encounter the Sith Lord in the palace hangar and fight a fierce lightsaber duel that ends in the Theed Generator Complex.   Obi-Wan becomes separated from Quik-Gon by the complex's security shield, and can only watch as his Master continues the battle alone. But when the shield lowers once more, Obi-Wan attacks Maul with grief-stricken determination. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' photo area.

Commentary:  Is it possible for a figure to be simultaneously refreshing and redundant?   This Obi-Wan Kenobi is somehow both a throwback and a flash forward.  In 2012, there are no fewer than six ways to buy an Obi-Wan Kenobi figure from The Phantom Menace, most of which are revised 2009 figures.  There's one with a light-up lightsaber, and this one is a bizarre amalgamation of the best and... oldest Hasbro has offered.   Let's kick off with the elephant in the room: articulation.  Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi has only 5 joints, a ball-jointed neck, swivel shoulders, and swivel hips with the robes split at the crotch, much like many of the figures from the 1970s and 1980s.  Rather than have a "skirt" in the way of the leg movement, the legs are split and they move pretty freely, so other than the figure's action/dueling pose this is closer to a vintage Kenner action figure than anything we've seen since, geez, maybe September 1997?  The squared-off t-crotch is so uncommon these days.  The figure has no problems standing, can sit fairly well, requires no display stand, and can hold his lightsaber just fine.  If it wasn't for the arm pose, this would be the ideal vehicle pilot action figure.  (Of these six new limited articulation figures, Luke is the best "pilot" and Vader is the most useless.)

The most remarkable thing about this figure is the exceptional head sculpt.  It's very similar to the Movie Heroes (Light-Up Lightsaber) release, but the plastic used here is unquestionably better.  The proportions are just right, the color of plastic is better, significantly better than the fleshy 2009 Legacy figure's head, and this is an odd step forward.  This Obi-Wan looks unquestionably better than any other Ewan McGregor figure I've ever bought, and the head sculpt is so good-- and the figure is so simple-- that I really think Hasbro should do more figures exactly like this.  I'd buy new figures from the other prequels done like this if Hasbro decided to crank out all-new-likeness Jangos and Padmes and so on.  (Episode II Anakin in particular could benefit from this treatment, particularly if he were designed to fit in the 2002 Speeder vehicle.)

This time around, Obi-Wan's costume has sharp textures, lots of wrinkles, and a pose that's good for a playset.  This figure is a big step toward toys, and isn't a 14-points-of-articulation, needs-a-display-stand, hands-pop-off-the-wrists release.  It's solid, it's fun, and my guess is a lot of you are going to hate it because it doesn't add to the articulation of previous releases.  A poll I ran a few weeks ago basically said about 50% of you hate these designs, about 25% of you like them, and 25% of you were on the fence.  I'll say this: if you collected toys before 1998, want Hasbro's best sculpts, or grew up during the real original Vintage Kenner days, consider tracking him down.  Of all the Obi-Wan figures thrust upon me this year so far, this is my favorite.

Collector's Notes: I write these in advance, and as I pen this one I just had this figure for about five hours.  I'm pretty sure distribution is going to be weak and I haven't yet seen them in the wild. (Update written day of posting: I still haven't seen these in retail stores.)   Oddly, the packaging illustration is wildly inaccurate-- the figures are more photoshopped than ever before, and I don't mean merely the lighting.  The figures are reshaped and posed in ways that are impossible for the figures to fit, which is really weird as "Product shown in fantasy situation" goes.

--Adam Pawlus

Day 1,831: June 20, 2012

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I fall into the "collected before 1998" crowd, so I guess I'd better get this one? Honestly, I've been considering it anyway just because the few figures I've bought in recent years, I've hated for the simple reason that they don't feel like very good toys. They work great as miniature statues, and for display purposes, yeah, the articulation's great. But I think back to how I played with my Star Wars figures growing up, and most of the stuff I've bought in the post-Power of the Jedi era just wouldn't have survived. My collecting mindset has always fallen under "these should be toys first, collectibles second," otherwise, we're not toy collectors, but rather kids are playing with collectibles.