Peter Jackson’s cinematic return to Middle Earth has been long awaited, especially by beardy ale-drinking weirdos like myself, who became all too obsessed with the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it began its cinematic release in 2001. Yeah, I know, makes me feel old too. Toy Biz covered the toy licence for those movies, and did an epic job of filling out the vast cast of heroes, villains and beasties. I obsessively collected those figures, and still have many on display, so with the news of the new movies came the desire to own loads of new action figures! The Bridge Direct made the 6″ collectors’ line, which are, more or less, in scale to the LOTR series figures, and a 3¾” inch line aimed more at kids.
Yazneg is from the 6″ collectors’ line (although considering the limited number of collectors’ series figures available, I’m sure I’ll snap up all the 3¾” figures too, considering that the smaller line has Wargs, the Goblin King and will, eventually, have the Dragon Smaug). There is no character description of Yazneg on the package, unlike the other figures in the 6″ line. The only description of the character online merchandise-wise is for the Lego Yazneg figure:
“A brute Orc who has perfected all the wits and charms that come with that title. Red-eyed and mean as a devil, Yazneg pummels all creatures great and small that have the misfortune to cross his path.”
That’s great and all, but doesn’t really tell us anything more than “Ooooooohhh, scary bad guy!” Having seen The Hobbit (a number of times…) I would describe him as:
“A savage orc commander and leader of a band of Warg scouts from Gundabad, Yazneg is a chief enforcer of the dark will of Azog the Defiler, most hated mortal enemy of Thorin Oakenshield and all the dwarves of Middle Earth.”
Better? Although it does make you ask why there isn’t a Warg for him to ride on.
Packaging: The packaging for both the 6″ and 3¾” inch figure lines are the same, various earthen shades with an image of the Misty Mountains at the top and a twisted old tree down the right-hand side. This is the multilingual packaging for Europe, so we get far less copy to read, although we do find out that the French translation for “Let the journey begin” is “En route pour l’aventure”! En route for adventure is far more exciting than “let the journey begin”! Come on, say it with me, kids, “EN ROUTE POUR L’AVENTURE!”
On the back of the card is a brief summary of the movie in three different languages and a line up of the other figures in the series, including Legolas and Tauriel, who do not appear in An Unexpected Journey due to the change from two movies to three. I am just a little gutted that I can’t get Dwalin or Balin or Fili and Kili in scale with these figures, and that no new releases will be available until summer of 2013. Hence my growing interest in the 3¾” range…
Design & Sculpt: The design of the figure is fantastic. He has armour down his arms and back made of bone, and a belt and coat made from defeated enemy dwarven faces! You have to hate your enemies a LOT to make their hairy little mugs into a waistcoat! The incredibly talented staff at Weta Workshop who do all of the armour, prosthetics and design work for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, (not to mention King Kong and all Peter Jackson’s epic movie projects) have again made amazingly believable characters and creatures to grace our cinema screens.
I love this design unreservedly — as I do all the inhabitants of Middle Earth, although the orcs are by far my favourites. The design of Yazneg has changed from when the action figure was sculpted to when the movie was released; the costume is much the same, but his face has changed shape a bit and is much more of a mottled brownish than tan flesh. I do wish the sculpting was more crisp on the entire figure. I know all these figures are full-body scans by Gentle Giant, and that the way they print out their digital sculpts reduces the detail quite a bit. If you look at the photo of Yazneg on the front of the package, his features are far more wrinkly and textured than the figures’ — there could be a lot more detail in his face, and his bone armour and clothing all feel a little soft, too. It’s not a deal breaker, but I really hope the next series of 6″ collectors’ figures have sharper facial features.
Plastic & Paint: The figure is mostly cast in a semi-flexible plastic (apart from his torso), so there is a little give to his limbs and the bone armour on his back. Most of the figure is molded in the appropriate colour, with painted details, although the torso is cast in a flesh tone and the head is painted. The torso has a darker flesh tone wash on it that the head does not, which does make for a bit of unnatural separation between the head and body. The bone armour and his axe have a fantastic brown wash over them, giving all the armour excellent definition. His belt and jacket details, namely the torn faces of his dwarven enemies, are painted in a very basic chestnut brown, which is not correct; it should be a much more earthy, lighter tone, of sun-bleached and weathered skin. There is very little slop, and his eyes have been painted well (unlike the Thorin figure who looks like he’s just been kicked in the Arkenstones). Overall good, but not excellent on the paint front.
Articulation: The 6″ figures do get a good deal on articulation. Better articulated than the first releases of Toy Biz figures from the Fellowship of the Ring, on a par with the figures from The Two Towers, but nowhere near the articulation of the figures from the Return of the King. A double ball-jointed head, swivel waist, disc swivel shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles and swivel wrists. His shoulders are inhibited quite a bit from his shoulder armour, which is understandable, but his head is just poorly thought-out. He can look down really well, but can not look much further up than his natural straightforward eye level (something many of us have witnessed before with the G.I. Joe Pursuit of Cobra Recondo figure).
His hip articulation is a bit of an oddity too. The pegs for his swivel disc hips go vertically upwards into his pelvis (as opposed to horizontally, as with every other action figure line I have ever seen). This means that to put him in a seated position, you must rotate his thighs 45° to move them forwards. This is a very strange bit of design, and the only reason I can think of for it is to save money on plastic — i.e., casting the pelvis as one piece in a softer plastic, instead of as two pieces that meet front to back and are welded together once the legs are in place. This is not that much of a problem, as the fur/armour/face skin skirt that he wears restricts all of his leg movement to an almost redundant level. To get him to sit on a Warg in the pictures below I had to make four cuts in his skirt to allow any movement. I also had to carve a bit off the back of his neck to make him look up a bit more.
Accessories: Yazneg has one accessory, his axe. Made of the same bone material as his armour, this double-bladed weapon is a pretty nasty-looking bit of kit. Molded of the same softer plastic and painted in the same way as his shoulder armour, it fits quite well in either hand, although is a little loose and can flop about a bit.
Quality Control: Oooooh-kay, he ain’t gonna score well, here, folks. First off, there is a big honkin’ fingerprint in the paint on the left side of his face – seriously, it’s enough for me to ID someone through Interpol. Second, and far worse, his right knee is fused together. The swivel joint was literally melded into one. The peg swiveled into the upper thigh no problem, but the disc is absolutely solid. I tried boiling water, a hot air gun, all the tricks that us collectors can try to move a part of an action figure normally stuck by paint gluing together in the factory, but to no avail. I eventually had to cut the knee apart, re-sculpt the knee joint, mold and cast it, and then replace it.
I could have got a replacement through Toys R Us or from Vivid Imaginations, the importers, but considering how insanely rare this figure is, I figured I would rather fix him than send this one back to be landfill and deprive some other collector or kid from the coolest and rarest figure in the 6″ line. Of my Toy Biz figures there were a few breakages straight out of the pack, and I’m sure other people who picked up this figure didn’t have this issue, so it is kinda forgivable.
Overall: Even with the somewhat soft sculpt and the serious quality control issues, I still really like this figure. It could just be my love of all things orcish, and the joy at getting a new orc for my collection after so many years, but the good does outweigh the bad. He has good articulation and a cool design, pretty decent paint work and is a vital figure to the line unless you don’t want any adversaries for Thorin and company to fight. I know how difficult it is to find this figure for the international fan base, as at the moment he is only available in the U.K. For once being in England actually allowed me to get a hard-to-find figure. Usually I have to get everything through eBay at a mark up, although TRU marked it up themselves, selling this guy for 15 quid instead of the 10 that all the other figures are in the line. So hold on, international fans of Middle Earth – it will be worth the wait when you finally can get this figure added into your collection.