In preparation for this review, I initiated a research project to try and find out exactly why George Lucas, Ralph McQuarrie and the other designers behind the original Star Wars chose to make the stormtroopers white. Since they’re obviously bad guys, and Star Wars was obviously not trying to explore any moral ambiguities, there’s no real subversiveness in having the bad guys be white, and besides – the main bad guy was dressed in black (Darth Vader) and the main good guy was dressed in white (Luke Skywalker). So why white for the stormtroopers? Why not black, or hell, any other color?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any documentation as to why white was chosen for the stormtroopers. The white armor shows up in early McQuarrie artwork (so early that everyone, including stormtroopers, are still carrying lightsabers), so this wasn’t a decision made during the production process due to concerns about materials, weather conditions, or cinematography issues.
So why white armor? I’m sure there’s an answer somewhere, but in its absence I have only two theories to proffer. One is that it’s a part of a lingering holdover effect from THX-1138, Lucas’s previous science fiction film which featured a lot of white in its production design. The other is even more speculative. Lucas spent a lot of time talking to McQuarrie about his influences and ideas for the film before McQuarrie started painting. One of those influences, which Lucas may have remembered by name or perhaps just described from some vague memories, was a 1938 Republic action serial called The Fighting Devil Dogs. The serial featured a villain called The Lightning who stalked around in black leather suit, with a cape and a big helmet. His troops, however, were dressed in white (or gray, or whatever – hard to tell with a black-and-white film).
Make of that what you will.
Wherever the color came from, there’s no denying that the stormtrooper armor, particularly the helmet, was some excellent design work. Even today, nearly forty years later, it looks modern and innovative. It resembles a skull crossed with a gas mask, but somehow ends up looking more inhuman than either. It delivers an emotional expression without seeming goofy.
As cool as stormtroopers were in Star Wars, the “sandtroopers” who ran things on the desert planet of Tatooine were somehow even cooler. The asymmetric pauldrons made them more interesting than the standard stormtroopers, and they tended to carry bigger weapons. They seemed like the Imperial version of the Special Forces.
Oddly enough, the sandtrooper design was never made into an action figure in the 1980s, even though it would only have required adding a pauldron and a new weapon or two. However there have been more than a few sandtroopers since the 3.75″ line was relaunched in the mid-1990s, and it’s since become one of the more popular designs for collectors. It also has the bonus of sharing parts with the regular stormtroopers, which makes it an appealing figure to produce. Hasbro has already announced a regular stormtrooper for Star Wars Black Series 3, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sandtrooper variant down the line, with a black or gray pauldron (preferably both) and an RT-97C blaster rifle.
I’ve been impressed with the sculpting on the Star Wars Black 6″ (SWB6″) line, and the Sandtrooper has possibly the best sculpt in the first wave. All the details on the armor are there. It’s not a complicated sculpt – stormtroopers are mostly clean, straight lines – but there are some nice touches, like the way the clasp on the pauldron creates folds in the orange material.
The “two twinkies and a donut” details can be found on the back, with the hole of the “donut” cleverly used as the peg-hole for the trooper’s backpack.
The attention to accuracy here, particularly in comparison to the prototype of the regular stormtrooper, is commendable. There are a number of differences in the design of the sandtrooper and the stormtrooper, and the SWB6″ design team has gotten them all right. (At least on the sandtrooper; the regular stormtrooper will require close inspect to be certain.)
For example, sandtroopers and stormtroopers have different armor just above the knee; sandtroopers have a diamond-shaped left knee plate, while the regular stormtrooper’s knee plate is less outlined and has a ridge around the upper calf. Both the sandtrooper and the prototype of the stormtrooper have the correct knee plates.
I have but one major criticism of the sculpt: the left hand. It’s design as a second weapon-holding hand, complete with a trigger finger. This works for two of the blasters, but not the T-21 (the big round one), which can’t be held properly in two hands without bending the figures out. It’s a bit of a bummer, and one solution would be to add a single hinge joint at the base of the fingers à la many Marvel Legends figures.
The paint applications aren’t quite worthy of the sculpt, but they’re close. The figure is produced mostly in glossy white plastic, which works perfectly for the design. The plastic, as noted in some other reviews, is a bit rubbery or gummy, which can cause some of the articulation joints to stick somewhat. That said, I haven’t found the plastic quality nearly as bothersome as some other reviewers have.
The detail work on the figure itself is quite good, especially on the helmet – look closely at the parallel blue lines along the side of the jaw, and the blue bits around the temples – all well-executed. The orange used for the pauldron is a bit thick and lacks a wash or dry-bush to match the rest of the figure, but that may be because it’s more of an accessory than an official part of the figure, as I’ll discuss in a minute.
The reaction to the “sand” paints on the figure have been mixed. Some think they look terrible, other think it looks fine; some think it’s the wrong color; some think there’s too much or too little. Personally, I think the color and amount of “sand” looks fine. It’s a bit unevenly applied in certain spots, but I’m quite happy with it.
Like every SWB6″ figure so far, the sandtrooper comes loaded with accessories:
- BlasTech E-11 blaster rifle (the standard stormtrooper rifle, retooled from a Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun)
- DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle (the really long rifle, a barely-changed World War II German MG34 machine gun)
- T-21 Light Repeating Blaster (the thing that looks like a grenade launcher, made from a modified British Lewis light machine gun)
- SD-48 Survival Pack
Of the weapons, the DLT-19 is the best, as it has a subtle silver dry-brush to give it a realistic look. The T-21 and the Survival Pack have a few paint applications but they’re thick and lack a wash, giving them a very toy-ish look. The lack of weathering on the pack is particularly egregious because, like the pauldron, it just looks off compared to the great sand weathering on the figure itself.
The backpack has a removable “shoulder pouch” that appeared on some sandtroopers in Star Wars. It comes over the shoulder, and you have to fiddle with it a bit before it looks good. Personally I think the figure looks better without it, but it’s yet another example of Hasbro’s fine attention to detail (which, it should be noted, is often found on the 3.75″ line as well).
The sandtrooper has the best articulation of any SWB6″ figure yet. He features all the same articulation as Luke Skywalker, but with some important additional joints.
The head is ball-jointed and on a peg with a back-and-forth hinge connected to the neck. The shoulders are ball-hinge, as are the hips. The wrists are ball-hinge, but the right hand has an up-and-down hinge while the left has a right-and-left hinge. The alternate wrist directions are great for posing a figure with swords, but they also work pretty well with rifles.
There are also swivels at the thighs, double-hinged knees, and hinged ankles which have that odd joint where there’s a peg plugged in to the front of the foot, allowing for spread-legged poses. Unfortunately, the usefulness of the double-jointed knees for kneeling/crouching poses is severely hampered by the thigh armor. In addition, due to the rubbery plastic, the right thigh swivel on one of my three sandtroopers is stuck.
However, I mentioned that there were some key extra points of articulation compared to Luke. The first is the addition of biceps swivels. These are crucial for good two-handed rifle poses, although they really should be standard on any SWB6″ figure.
The other improvement over Luke is double-jointed elbows. I love this joint for gun-toting characters in particular, as it allows them to hold weapons in fantastic action poses.
I mean, come on. That’s badass.
The sandtrooper is noticeably taller than Luke, and as large or maybe a bit larger than a Mattel Movie Masters Batman. It seems Hasbro is making an effort to keep the SWB6″ in actual scale with one another, although we’ll know more once we can compare them with Han and Leia.
My reviews of Darth Maul, R2D2 and Boba Fett are still coming, but with the possible exception of Fett, I don’t see any of them toppling the sandtrooper as the best of the initial wave of Star Wars Black 6″. While he has some minor issues, his accurate sculpt, extra articulation and great accessories – not to mention the fun of any troop-building figure – make him a must-own for fans of the line.
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