Updated: Nov 26, 2018
Review : Kylo Ren & Throne Room Star Wars Black Series (Hasbro) Wave/Series : Walmart (US) Exclusive Released : October 2017
Pros : wonderful Kylo Ren head sculpt with battle injuries and scar Cons : the word "Premium" for the figure is not accurate. The soft good cloak has flaws. The diecast adds no real value as a feature.
Force Friday II (Sep 2017) saw the largest volume of figures and exclusives announced in the Black Series since its inception in 2013. Among the exclusives were three packs that were termed Figure & Environment. These took an existing figure and packed it with a diorama themed base from the movie - a similar concept the Kmart exclusives in 2015 and 2016 for The Force Awakens and Rogue One. These 2017 packs were also going to enhance the figure with added detailing, soft goods and even metal diecast accessories. Of the three announced - Luke was a Target exclusive, Rey a Toys R Us exclusive and the one we will unpack and look at today, Kylo Ren, was a Walmart exclusive.
The release mimics the usual design styling of the Back Series, but also takes inspiration from more exclusive releases to date like the 2015 unmasked Kylo Ren (Celebration) and the Obi-Wan release with FX (SDCC).
The box is black in design and the whole front is turned over to the Gregory Titus artwork of Kylo, unmasked and standing on the floor panelling of the Throne Room. Kylo's helmet is superimposed and faded into the background. The Star Wars Black Series logo sits top left, while bottom left we get the character name in red text and then a red flash detailing the inclusion of the Throne Room in this set.
The left hand spine remains gloss red. There is no numbering with this being an exclusive. The Kylo Ren name and Throne Room subtitle is repeated here. It is also repeated on the other spine which is black but with the words Kylo Ren very faintly visible in the background as blown up text.
Unusually for the Black Series, there is an image of the figure and the diorama piece on the box reverse. This is in the place we'd usually see the Gregory Titus artwork. The bio text sits to the left hand side of this. This bio talks about a "stinging defeat by the Scavenger Rey" (we assume this is a Force Awakens reference) and how Kylo has now "refocused his efforts to destroy the Resistance". It also talks about Kylo having to prove himself to Snoke? It is good to see this is a brand new set of bio text and not a re-use of the one used on the basic release (#45).
While the packaging doesn't have a window box immediately visible, the pack actually opens up by means of a front flap that is secured in place by a Velcro tab. Once open the figure and diorama is now revealed behind the usual window.
The reverse of the spine shows another image of the figure with further inserts showing the head sculpt, diorama base and Kylo's helmet and saber accessories. Each of these are numbered 1-4 and text to the left confirms the enhancements on each of these such as "Premium Character Detail" against the head sculpt and "Diecast Accessories" against the helmet and saber hilt.
The packaging is opened in the usual fashion by the top or bottom flap. Kylo slides out in a four side inner tray in deep red. The environment piece sits behind the main tray. The main tray then contains the figure and the accessories. There is a spacer piece sitting behind the figure to keep the cape in one position.
The head sculpt is much nice that any Kylo Ren figure we've had to date - although still a way off what we know Hasbro have coming with the face print technology. He is painted to look battle damaged with the scar much more exaggerated in deep blood red and further paint around the jaw to imitate damage and bruising. There is also a reddening around the eyes, and these are then painted as normal with black outline, white eye and brown pupil. The hair is a flat sculpt with no paint detail or washes / dry brushing.
The other "premium" addition is the soft goods cape. This looks impressive as it comes out of the box and is of a similar material and texture to the one used on Palpatine or more recently on the Imperial Royal Guard. While tailored, there is no real definition towards the shoulders and there is a knack to get it tucked in behind the hairline and let it simply sit over the shoulders.
The differences are easier to see when we line up the basic Kylo with this "Premium" version. While similar, the head sculpts are different - particularly noticeable around the hair lines and the chin area. The basic release also seems to have been self-tanning and has a much more bronzed complexion vs the paler and more accurate "Premium" version. You can also see the scar is more pronounced and the hair a darker more black colour vs the darker brown of the basic figure. Soft goods vs Rubber clothing will always split collectors. And here we see one facing off against the other. When I see it like this on the same figure, it is easier to see the pro's and con's of each. The rubber cloak sits better on Kylo's shoulders, and carries much more detail like the paneling. It is however bulky and once the cloak is in place it has the effect of pushing the neck forward and giving Kylo a hunched back. The soft goods cloak is trickier to pose around the shoulders, but it does flow nicely enough - but looks quite sterile and plain.
After the head and cloak, the body is the same one we get in the standard release. The look is more formal than his tattered Force Awakens robes with a textured tunic tied off with a gloss belt - the belt being glossier on this figure. The trousers are bunched and folded into the knee high boots and there is some good sculptural detail to capture the folds and creases. The boots are very shiny, again glossier than the standard release.
Articulation is also identical to the basic release. The head is ball jointed and can turn full circle and when facing forward it can be leaned forward and backward. The shoulders are ball jointed and the elbows are a rotating joint that will bend beyond 90 degrees. The arm articulation finishes with the pivot wrists which allow the hands to rotate and pivot in and out.
A further ball joint is placed neatly in the torso and hidden by the belt. This gives Kylo some upward body movement in terms of being able to rotate the top half of the body, and to lean the torso back or forth.
The legs are a little held back by the bottom section of the tunic, but this is cast in a softer plastic so will move somewhat when the ball jointed hips are moved. The legs also have a thigh swivel, thankfully hidden by the tunic. We then get double jointed knees which allow Kylo to kneel - something I expect to see him do in Snoke's presence in the movie. The legs end with ankle rockers. These are not as stiff as I would like them, but there is no immediate issue with standing Kylo.
We now get to the first of the accessories, and this is the diecast lightsaber hilt. Sculpt wise this is pretty much the same as the other unlit sabers we've had to date - but being diecast it is crisper and there is no distortion. It doesn't feel that much difference, it's not really big enough to feel the weight difference. Paint apps are good with a silver base colour, blackened ends and red highlights - particularly on that wire than runs the length of the hilt.
It fits well enough into Kylo's right hand, and can be put into a two-handed pose thanks to the arm articulation. It can also be hung on Kylo's belt by slotting the rectangular piece on the saber hilt into the corresponding slot on the belt.
The other saber accessory is NOT diecast. It seems that getting a diecast hilt to work with a transparent saber blade was not too easy. This is the same sculpt as the one from the single release, There may be some minor paint variations from the different production runs, and it may well have a slightly darker blade colouration.
Again it fits easily into the right hand of Kylo and a number of pretty decent poses are possible so you can have Kylo fighting or perhaps just taking out his frustration on a wall or computer terminal again.
The most intriguing inclusion for me when I read about this set was the diecast helmet. This is listed in the blurb as "damaged". Here you can feel the weight difference and being metal there is a crisper feel to the lines and front mask piece. The whole thing is painted gloss black and then there is silver detailing. The damaged element is simply paint application with more silver paint dappled here and there - this doesn't look particularly good or effective.
The diecast head is designed to be swapped out with the regular Kylo head. In practice this is pretty tough to do - far harder than it should be for a head swap option. Initially the standard head doesn't pop off easily at all - you need excessive force, or to heat the head up. Once off the diecast piece also needs a significant amount of force to push it onto the neck peg - as the neck peg is pivoted it has a habit of pushing the joint down and out of the way. Again the best bet is to heat the neck peg first. If you get your diecast mask in place, be careful not to turn it to aggressively as it is such a tight fit it can rip the neck joint if you turn the head. If you want Kylo looking to the side you need to pop it off and reposition from scratch.
All of this is far to complicated and potentially figure ruining and if Hasbro are going to put in head swap options in the sets it needs to be engineered much better. Once worn the helmet looks "ok" but you can see a lot of exposed flesh coloured neck. The metal helmet also makes the figure top heavy and prone to overbalancing. So while the helmet is a nice idea, the execution in terms of paint and its difficulty in swapping with the standard head is not up to scratch.
As well as the "Premium" figure, the other added value to this set is the environment piece. With the Kylo release this is a three piece floor section which clips together to form the floor of Snoke's Throne Room. Each section is cast in a hard glossy grey plastic and where you see the inserts these have a clear blue transparent plastic section fitted underneath to make them appear like glass.
Slotting them together is easy and once connected you have a semi circle piece that measures about 11 inches across. Each section carries one or two foot pegs, so it can be used as a stand for Kylo who connects securely into the peg - and it can also be used for other figures.
The set is designed so that this connects up to the exclusive Snoke's Throne (exclusive to Gamestop). While this is great forward thinking, it does mean to really realise the beauty of this floor you need to go out and pay over the odds for a further exclusive to make it complete - something the other two sets for Luke and Rey don't make you do.
I have thought long and hard about how to summarise this set and how I would rate it. The first thing to consider is that while this is a Walmart exclusive, it has not got a wide UK release through Asda - instead you will need to order via an independent such as our good friends Kapow and that means paying a higher price. £25 is now the going rate for a figure, so at the average £40 price tag in UK - you are adding a further £15 for a plastic stand and two small diecast accessories - I don't subscribe to paying more for the figure in this case.
This word "Premium" which I have put used sarcastically in inverted commas through the review. For me there is nothing Premium about this set - it is actually how Kylo should have come in the standard release, with the one decision being around whether the cloth or rubber cloak is better? I would have much rather seen (and this is my opinion) the same figure released twice and the collector then making the choice as to which set to buy - either standard if you aren't bothered about dioramas or the exclusive. This is how Snoke has been done and that is great, but here you are almost forced to double dip and then combine both releases for the definitive Kylo.
The diecast is also not a great selling point. While slightly crisper, it does not look or feel premium and at a distance you'd be hard pressed to pick out the diecast against a standard accessory. The fact the helmet can't be swapped out without a lot of fuss (more than you should have to do) is also a bit of a kick.
I will score this release an average 3 out of 5 purely on that Kylo head sculpt.