When I was a kid, my favorite Star Wars movie was Return of the Jedi. My father let me skip kindergarten that opening Friday to see the movie. I distinctly remember how deep Jabba’s voice sounded in that big theater. Of course, Jedi was the most kid-friendly of the original trilogy, featuring tons of action, monsters, puppets, and yes, lovable(?) Ewoks. I still love a lot about ROTJ (particularly the space battle and the Millennium Falcon‘s race through the Death Star at the end), but when I became a teenager and got to college, I came to understand why many adults considered The Empire Strikes Back as the best of the films. Dark, moody, and with a lot more dialogue and character development than any of the other films, it’s easy to see why ESB deserves its reputation.
And yet, today my favorite is unquestionably Star Wars. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is because unlike the sequels and (especially) the prequels, Star Wars isn’t bogged down by continuity, borderline pretentious attempts at mythological underpinnings, or any of the other baggage the franchise has accumulated over the years. Watch Star Wars now – the original version, not the Special Edition – and if you can forget the sequels, you can really see just how wide-open that world could have been. Lucas originally intended it more as a segment of an ongoing story in the manner of the 1930s and 1940s action serial rather than a mythological cycle (the mythology came in later, when the father/son angle was introduced). There’s a breathless spirit of fun and adventure in the first film that no other Star Wars film has quite managed to recapture.
Another thing I loved about Star Wars, and this does extend to the sequels somewhat, is the “lived in” universe Lucas created. There are a lot of factors that contributed to that design, but a big part of it was the way that all the props and costumes weren’t designed from scratch but rather cobbled together from existing objects. Lightsabers were made from camera flash tubes; blasters were regular guns with tank scopes and other parts screwed on; and the iconic orange Rebel flight suit was based on existing suits with a few extra parts added here and there.
According to Wookieepedia:
Rebel flight suits were based on standard off-the-shelf racing coveralls available at the time. The X-wing suit’s telltale orange color was chosen to be reminiscent of the “international orange” U.S. Navy flight suits used from 1957 to 1969. The flight helmet was based on an experimental helmet the military didn’t use. Among the items added to this base were pistol flares around the knee reminiscent of those worn by the Luftwaffe, and webbing that originally belonged to parachute rigs.
I suspect the haphazard way in which so much of Star Wars was slapped together irked George Lucas, who I suspect had some very specific things in mind but no budget to do it with. When he finally did have the budget, he abandoned almost all of that “lived in” look for shiny digital effects that looked far more fake than the original films. Put more succinctly, I’ll take the slapdash Millennium Falcon over the sleek, shiny Royal Naboo Starship any day.
One of the cool things about Star Wars figures – and particularly the highly-detailed Star Wars Black 6″ (SWB6″) figures – is the way they take the found-object nature of stuff like the lightsabers and the outfits and presents them as a concrete whole in 3D form. The lightsaber that comes with SWB6″ Luke Skywalker is a lightsaber, yes, but it’s also a miniature combination of “the flash attachment of a Graflex 3 cell flash unit, a flash tube attachment used on forties-era press cameras, with the ridged grip made by gluing portions of hard plastic ‘T’ track used for the sliding doors of display cabinets […] onto the bare cylinder, and the switch plate […] from the LED display of a 1974 calculator.” It’s a bit hard to explain why, but I just find that really cool.
The SWB6″ figures were sculpted by Gentle Giant under supervision of Dave Vennemeyer. To many, “Gentle Giant” often means “digital sculpting,” and judging from the in-progress materials we were shown with Greedo, I suspect the figures are being sculpted digitally. Of course, there’s often a lot of post-digital touch-ups and fabrication by human sculptors for figures like these.
This is Hasbro’s first real attempt at a middle-scale Star Wars line (the closest they’ve come in the past is the “Unleashed” line, which had little or not articulation). In size and design, SWB6″ is less like Mattel’s own Marvel Legends and more like Mattel’s Movie Masters and Ghostbusters. I think SWB6″ is at least on par with Movie Masters and is superior to Ghostbusters for many reasons (not the least of which being it already features more than one unique sculpt).
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It’s clear the toy designers are working closely with Lucasfilm to ensure these figures are as screen-accurate as possible (as shown in the Greedo behind-the-scenes photos from Entertainment Earth). There’s a lot of detail here, from the folds on the suit to the buttons on the computer, or whatever that thing is, on the chest. One smart bit of design is that the tube going from the computer to the torso is attached to the same upper part of the torso, so there’s no danger of tearing the tube when moving the abdomen joint around.
Some of the other photos I’ve seen online make it look like the figure doesn’t have a wash, but it actually does. It’s subtle, though, and tends to get washed out (ironic) in photos. It looks much better in person.
One thing I appreciated about this figure the moment I opened it up was the articulation. There’s a lot of great joints here. 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 elbows and 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. It may seem like an odd choice to have two different hinge directions for the wrists, but it’s ideal for great sword poses.
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. The webbing doesn’t restrict the legs for any realistic poses, though I suppose if you tried to make him do the splits you might risk tearing it.
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The helmet was molded in clear, rubbery yellow plastic and then painted. The paint and tampo work on the helmet is very good (it might look a bit off in the photos, but remember they’re magnified many times larger than they look in person). The helmet can be taken on and off easily and I don’t think it gives him too much of a “bobblehead” look, as many removable helmets tend to do in this scale.
I won’t equivocate here – I love the accessories. Luke comes with a lightsaber with a removable blade, his helmet, and a DL-44 heavy blaster. The removable blade on the lightsaber is a nice feature, and the lightsaber can be hung from a peg on the figure’s torso (though this doesn’t really work all that well, due to the small size of both peg and hook).
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As I’ve often discussed on this blog, I don’t usually go in for what I consider to be “non-iconic” variants. It’s perhaps more accurate to say I don’t go in for situation-specific variants that I don’t imagine the character would use on his “normal” adventures. For example, Batman’s not going to go everywhere in his Arctic outfit all the time, and Luke Skywalker only needs to wear his flight suit when he’s flying his X-Wing or Snowspeeder. (For the record, I consider two of Luke’s outfits as sufficiently iconic – his white Tatooine outfit and his black ROTJ outfit).
But even with that bias, I found it impossible not to like this figure. I will say that the impressions I got from photos did not convey the figure’s charm when you have it in hand. I actually felt a little of the magic I experienced when I got my first Star Wars action figure in the early ’80s.
A SWB6″-scale X-Wing would be 3½’ long, which seems unlikely unless SWB6″ really takes off. But an in-scale Snowspeeder would only be about 15″ long…
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