The low down:
Figure: Stromtrooper (Original Trilogy)
Franchise: Star Wars Line: Elite Series
Made by: Disney
Swooping in on the hype leading us in to Star Wars The Force Awakens, is Disney’s “Elite” figure series. These figures fall roughly into the 6” figure category, although are mostly just bigger than the main-stay, Black Series from Hasbro and normally chalk up around 6.5-7” in height.
The 6” Star Wars figure market seems more densely populated each week at the moment and the Stormtrooper in particular is ubiquitous. The Elite series however, distinguishes itself by being made of metal (die-cast) rather than the typical plastics. But is this different use of material enough to give the line a defined place in the market? And beyond this novel use of die-casting, what are these Stormtrooper figures like to pose, look at, and even play with? Are they truly the elites of the collectors market?
Picking up the box, I’m presented with the standard packaging that houses all figures in the line thus far. It’s a light grey, brushed/scratched metal design which has kind of an industrial look, and I guess, references the fact that the figures themselves are indeed made of metal. The packaging is lined by a foil-finished, red border, which tries to give the feeling that you’re buying an elite figure in more than just it’s name. There’s a nice big window which allows full view of the figure and the accessories from the front and sides. Overall, it’s a tidy, nice feeling package but I can’t say that it strikes me as being particularly “Star Warsy” and it does little to grab my attention or excite me. One other negative here (and this is perhaps just a personal peeve) is that the figure is posed within the box in an odd way that doesn't make him appealing. This is something particularly relevant to any MIB collectors, as your Stormtrooper will for ever be in that rather flat T-pose position.
Getting your figure out can be a bit of a palaver. Due to the weight of it, because it’s metal, it has to be very firmly strapped in to secure it during transit. It’s good that they’ve tied him in so well, he’s nicely protected and this isn’t a complaint. But it does take a while to release him; I ended up using scissors. Once he’s free however, and in your hands, the first thing you’ll notice is the weight. He is solid and weighty. It feels good holding him, and the nice glossy paint also feels good and of high quality in the hand. The gloss of the paintwork is one of the real positives about this figure. When we see the Stormtroopers burst onto our screens for the first time, they are clean, white, glossy. That’s a finish that we all recognise in the character of the stormtrooper but is rarely seen on an action figure. This is slightly at odds in my head though, as I don’t imagine the Stormtroopers’ helmets to actually be painted metal… But rather a special kind of polymer.
With the gloss finish looking so good and well suited for a Stormtrooper, it becomes twice as painful to swallow the fact that the articulation on this figure is rubbish. The more I explore him, the more disappointed I feel. There is no sideways/outwards movement in the arms at all. This means no holding the blaster with two hands (one at trigger and one supporting the barrel) which is essentially THE basic stormtrooper pose everyone will try to adopt. So surprised was I at this lack of articulation that I spent a long time looking at it and thinking “it must just be me…” - and I still expect readers to comment that this is the case. This problem runs through the whole figure, with the “seat” part of the armour blocking outwards movement of the legs at the hip joint. This means that the annoying “knock kneed” look he has in the box is difficult to pose out and the legs can essentially only swing forward and bend straight at the knee.
Also, all parts are painted. Not like a plastic figure where the base can be cast in the correct colour plastic and then the details painted. This has lead to a problem with this particular figure, and while I can’t speak for the whole line or all the Stormtrooper figures from it, with my one, as I bent the arm at the elbow, the moving joint caught on the paint and peeled it away. If this were to be an ongoing issue, then repeated play/posing would soon leave you with a figure with exposed, metal joints.
But how’s that sculpt? That’s what we collectors tend to pore over these days. Well, it’s good. The helmet is good and looks like a Stormtrooper. It’s well proportioned and shaped and all the details you expect to be there are. However the combination of the metal material and the die-casting process means edges in some of the detailing is soft and at times almost play-doh looking - this doesn’t actually hurt the figure too much as, if you look at the movie prop helmets and the way they are made, they have an almost vacuum formed smoothness to some of the shapes.
Standing straight, from the front and side views he looks pretty good. The back view however… well anyone that’s been following the Elite Series releases knows that a lot of people complain about the back view. And for good reason. It’s pretty ugly looking. There are screws everywhere, bolting him together. I kind of think this is unavoidable with this type of manufacturing process at this price point (obviously characters without capes suffer the worst) so you just have to make a decision on whether or not it is an issue for you. The figures come with a stand and are honestly more designed for display than play, so if you’re happy to display it with it’s back to the wall you can pretty much ignore it.
He only comes with one accessory, the standard issues imperial E11 blaster. And, he can’t really hold it. It’s loose in his hand and falls out easily. It looks like chewed liquorice. He has an open holster on his belt, and the gun doesn’t fit in. Needless to say, the “accessories” with this figure aren’t going to win any favours with collectors. Paint-wise, simple and obvious things like the “head band” on the front of his helmet not meeting up properly add to a list of careless, sloppy oversights that let this figure down.
It feels kind of painful to give this figure a bad rap as to be honest, the overall paint is good, the sculpt is good, it looks good. But when compared to some of the other options on the market, and the quality therein, it becomes difficult to love this figure and/or to recommend it. I realise I mention the fact that it’s metal a lot. And that’s because that has to be it’s selling point. Because it isn’t detail, it isn’t articulation, it isn’t accessories. But the problem with that is, in about 1978 we realised that metal wasn’t as good a material for making action figures as plastic. So while it makes for a nice curiosity, and earlier figures like Finn and Rey worked well and looks good, I can’t see the line having any lasting impact. It feels antiquated, almost oblivious to the advancements that have happened to the action figure craft over the last 10 (37?) years and as such I unfortunately feel that this Stormtrooper misses his mark.