Updated: Nov 26, 2018
Review : Elite Praetorian Guard (The Last Jedi) Star Wars Black Series (Hasbro) Wave/Series : Wave 13 (Phase 3) Released : October 2017
Pros : Armour is well done, and the engineering on the shoulder armour to aid articulation is brilliant Cons : Very red, with no break in colour - makes it look a little cheap. The fact we will have to multi buy these for different versions is frustrating
After updating Stormtroopers and Snowtroopers in The Force Awakens, the First Order are putting their spin on the Imperial Royal Guards in The Last Jedi. This brand new design of guard are employed as the personal guard of Supreme Leader Snoke, and have courted controversy since their reveal. While some fans love the design, others see it as a poor marketing ploy to sell more action figures - something that giving each guard a varying head seems to support. We take a look at the first release of one of these Praetorian Guards, the standard release from Wave 2 of The Last Jedi figures (Wave 13 of Phase 3).
The Elite Praetorian arrives in the standard Phase 3 packaging, and that in itself is a problem as the red card back eats up the figure and in the packaging the figure is a little lost.
The packaging carries the usual grayscale artwork that is consistent in the helmet style to the figure. The name is interesting being given as the "Elite" Praetorian Guard, apparently indicating ranks within the Guards.
The side spine remains a bright gloss red and the Elite Praetorian Guard is a bit of a landmark, being #50 in the 3rd phase of Black Series releases.
The card back text reveals very little about the Praetorian Guard other than they flank the Supreme Leader and defend him from threat. Under this text is the same grayscale artwork from the front box - but it is blown up so much it is no longer really visible and looks more like a background than an illustration.
The figure slides out via the top or bottom flap, and is presented in the usual inner plastic tray. There are no twisty ties, the figure is held in purely by the moulding of the tray. His bladed staff weapon sits to one side.
Hasbro have always executed armoured figures really well from a sculptural basis, and the Praetorian Guard is no exception. The head is a three piece design with a front grill which comes together in a point at the front. We then have a rear segment and an overhead crown. The helmet will be a point of difference with the varying releases of Praetorian Guard.
The chest armour is reminiscent of a First Order Stormtrooper, but not a direct reuse from that sculpt. Under this is a ribbed undersuit, visible at the neck on the figure. The arms are segmented armour pieces, very much inspired by Feudal Japan and the Samurai warrior armour.
The shirt section is a textured soft rubbery plastic which has some movement to it. Under the skirt we have fully sculpted legs with armoured knee pads and boots.
The legs are the only detail on the figure that is not gloss red in colour - these are painted black from the knees upwards. The armour on the figure is a very high gloss red, but there is contrast with the skirt and neck sections which are textured and a flatter finish. There is one paint app detail on the chest piece - a black spot which may indicate rank or similar? While the colouring is accurate to what we know about the guards - on a figure of this size it would benefit from some more definition detail, as it stands it looks a little cheap. If you look at the press images there are lots of shadows cast on the armour and I wonder what some shaded darker red would look like strategically applied?
While armoured figure sculpting is done well, articulation can often suffer. The Praetorian Guard gets off to a good start in articulation with a very mobile neck joint that can swivel the head but also has a huge range of motion vertically, he can just about rest the chin of the helmet onto his chest. The shoulders are also very well done. These are on ball joints, but the clever articulation is in the two shoulder piece which are on a ball joint of their own. As the arms move up the shoulder pads move with them, the shoulder panels can even be posed in a raised position while the arms are down. Marvel Legends fans may recognise this as how Hasbro have done the Iron-Man shoulders in recent years.
The first articulation issue appears comes with the elbows, a key joint considering this figure is a Samurai inspired Elite warrior. There is an initial thought of the figure not having any elbow articulation at all as the arms are so straight and there is no obvious joint.
There is a joint however and it sits under the 5th armoured panel down from the shoulder. Some heat from a hairdryer will loosen it for you, and with some maneuvering you can get a pretty decent bend out of the arm - not quite 90 degrees but good enough to help weapon posing a little later. The arm articulation ends with a jointed wrist. This both swivels and pivots within the constraints of the armour.
Further enhancement to action poses is built into the torso with another ball joint that is hidden under the chest armour. This allows the torso to be rotated and leaned forward and backwards.
The legs are locked in by the skirt section, but are fully articulated with a ball joint hip, thigh swivel, double jointed knees and an ankle rocker. The skirt will splay out being in four segments and this will allow wider stances and a kneeling pose at a push - although this doesn't look too natural. The ankle rockers do feel a bit loose and while the Guard stands pretty well, these will be a weak spot if you over-reach the figure with his weapon.
The weapon, like the helmet, is going to be a differentiating factor between the various Guards that Hasbro are releasing. This version comes with a bladed staff which is cast in red plastic and then has the blade and sections of the handle painted in silver.
The weapon fits nicely into both hands and can be wielded into a number of action poses with some work using those shoulder, elbow and torso joints. You won't get bored of playing and posing with the Elite Praetorian Guard. And there is no doubt he will look even better in a group with the other releases.
I didn't expect to like the Elite Praetorian Guard as much a I do. As a reboot of the Imperial Guards they don't carry the nostalgia as the ones I grew up with, but I respect the tribute they pay in terms of the colouring and robes. Don't be too worried about articulation as the elbows work better than you may expect, and the shoulders work so well with those articulated shoulder armour pads. While some shading might have improved the look on the figure, I can see how this would be difficult on a glossy armoured figure.
So the main issue with this figure for me is the fact it will be churned out over and over again in various sets and packs (three announced already including this one). The original Black Series goal was to give us one release packed full of accessories to allow us to define which version we wanted to display. This would have worked well here with alternative helmets and weapons rather than making us buy exclusives from Amazon or a set of 4 figures from Gamestop.
You will love your Praetorian Guard, you may however (like me) be frustrated at the hoops you will need to jump through to get the different versions rather than pack it all together and let us buy multiple figures. I therefore score him a 4 out of 5.