Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens Black Series Figures Almost Live Up to the Hype [Review]
Prior to the release of the remastered classic trilogy, the only place to get Star Wars toys was at a garage sale or flea market. That is, unless you wanted to pay a premium for classic figures from the '80s. When the new movies were announced twenty years ago, it allowed for an influx of Star Wars collectibles that had been sorely missed from the marketplace. In fact, the desire for Star Wars figures was so large that once Hasbro started putting out new figures in the '90s, it never stopped. Through various series and incarnations, Hasbro's Star Wars figures have been a steady sight on store shelves for two decades.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens due to arrive in theaters this winter, it presented companies like Hasbro with the chance to bring the first truly new characters to life in figure form. For months, Hasbro teased the lead-up to Force Friday, a global event that saw the simultaneous launch of every single manufacturer's first Force Awakens merchandise. While Hasbro has numerous versions of these characters available, the company's signature Black Series line is undeniably the cream of the crop. After a tumultuous Force Friday (a story for another day) which saw sellouts and shortages nationwide, I managed to procure a set of the first wave. I wasn't disappointed with the results, but I had certainly hoped for more from the big reveal.
The First Order Stormtrooper is both the best and worst of the new Star Wars Black Series figures. The Stormtrooper design update is clean and beautiful, and iterates on the original aesthetic is all the right ways. The body plating is sleeker, yet the silhouette is unmistakable at first glance. The helmets also pay homage to the iconic version from 1977, while offering some modernization that owes at least some inspiration to modern sports cars. For the most part, Hasbro executes this new trooper with accuracy and enough articulation to put the Stormtrooper through the motions. However, the simplistic design does cause imperfections to stand out even more, and that's a problem for a mass-produced line like this.
The paint app is all over the place. When using solid blocks of colored plastic, either in white or black, the figure looks great. In any areas where white is used as a paint overlay on black or vice versa, things quickly take a turn for the sloppy. This is particularly true in the belt and emergency oxygen tank on his back. The white there is splotchy at best, and it's fortunate this is located on the back of the figure out of plain sight. Additionally, anywhere there's a thin line of black detail, there's some smudging. These soldier outfits are meant to be crisp and pristine, but the detailing here makes these look like budget cosplayers rather than the real deal.
The former Stormtrooper Finn fares a bit better in his very first action figure, and his sculpt is rife with detail. The Black Series has done well to recreate many of the familiar characters from Star Wars canon accurately and with impressive rendering, at least where clothing and costuming is concerned. Finn's Jakku outfit looks appropriately worn, and the sculpt does a nice job capturing the tailoring of his jacket, the texture of his undershirt and the wrinkling of his pants. Even at a standstill, Finn has so much going on that he looks to be in motion. I don't know what's up with his velcro grandpa shoes, but that's a Lucasfilm thing.
The head sculpt is strong in the foundation, but like many of the Black Series figures, is found lacking in the eyes. The slight smirk does well to give him a bit of personality, which is nice as some of the older figures in the line were a bit stonefaced. Articulation is solid, though there's very little movement in his ankles, but it's made up for a bit in his thigh swivel. I assume the blaster he comes with will play a part in the film, but without knowing much about it, I can't really say how cool it is that Finn comes with it. There's no lightsaber included, but there are rumors another version will be available later this year based on that brief clip from the snowy forest.
BB-8, the darling of the Star Wars world at the moment, doesn't get his own standalone release, but he's a tiny bit more than a standard accessory. Bundled with Rey, BB-8 is a hefty little piece of plastic. There's a lot of fine detail in his manufacturing, and that could have led to some slippage in the paint application. Surprisingly, BB-8 comes away relatively unscathed (a few insignificant smudges), and is a really faithful recreation of the actual droid.
While BB-8 doesn't roll around in this incarnation like he does in the trailers, he does have a small bit of articulation beneath his head. He's also got a weighted counter-balance in the large ball below, which helps him keep steady instead of rolling to one side. There is no flat point to hold him still. You will have to tinker with the head a bit to get him in a good pose, but it's simple enough, and allows you to display BB-8 with little issue.
Poor, poor Rey. As just the third female figure in the Black Series (behind Slave Leia and Leia Boushh), I had hoped this figure would come out a bit better. She's definitely got more clothing, so she's got that going for her. Unfortunately, that's about the end of the positives.
That's not entirely true; I suppose. Rey's got good articulation, though she suffers from the same scrawny arm syndrome many of Hasbro's six-inch figures have. They just never feel solid enough in the joints, and I constantly feel like they're the tiniest bit of pressure away from snapping. Her outfit is nicely realized, too, but I sincerely hope she gets another outfit that's a bit more appropriate for space travel down the line.
Where Rey falls apart is in the face and paint app, and that's kind of a major part. Her head sculpt is so plain, it's tough to even say that Rey is who Hasbro says it is. It's certainly not helped by the lackluster paint job, which not only gives her an unnecessary widow's peak that bleeds past her hairline, but inexplicably adds rosy cheeks for reasons. I'm just going to pretend it's sunburn from the hot Jakku sun, and not an application of make-up on a character who, for all intents and purposes, appears to be wearing none in any footage we've seen so far.
Arguably as vital as BB-8 to the marketing for The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren is the most impressive figure of the first bunch. I love it when Hasbro uses mixed media for its figures, and like the cape for Black Series Darth Vader, Kylo Ren uses fabric for his flowing robe. The result is an impressive silhouette on the shelf compared to the rest of the line. There's still plenty of detail in there, from the strapping of his boots to the weathering of his mask. While the comparisons to Darth Revan were immediate based on Kylo Ren's helm, the character does actually share even more with Darth Vader than we first thought.
Underneath the hood, Ren's helmet shares a similar flare to Vader's at the base of the rear. Given that we've heard tell Ren has a bit of an obsession with the former Sith, it's a cool little homage to see. We've already known his lightsaber would be red, but unlike the rest of the released lightsabers that have come previously, this one is sculpted to show the raw power of the (seemingly) poorly fabricated weapon. The blade isn't smooth, and instead features ripples of that extra energy right up through the tip. You'll have to be wary of the weapon though, as they are easily warped by the packaging, and you could end up with a crooked lightsaber like I did. Such is the fate of thin plastic accessories.
While at first glance Chewbacca might look identical to the version released not that long ago in the classic Black Series, there are some differences in this figure that make it a worthwhile addition to your collection if you passed up the original release. If you already have a Chewbacca, the only significant changes are in the head sculpt. The first Chewie had a roaring head pose, while this version is content to keep his mouth shut. There are some slight variances in the paint application; it's less shiny and features more dark spots, perhaps to indicate Chewbacca's aging over the last 30 years.
He's a giant of a figure, which makes sense given that the Black Series has been to scale to this point. Chewie has a lot of sculpted detail in his fur, and it hides some of the articulation well enough. You can still see knee joints if you bend far enough, and there's a lack of 90 degree motion in the elbows, but you should be able to pose him rather well. The only place Chewbacca's hair truly gets in the way is with his head. It has the subtlest of movement, and limits you in posing him staring straight on exclusively.
Out of the first five figures released, there are really only two must have characters in the Stormtrooper and Kylo Ren. Finn's figure is nice, but the eventual Stormtrooper version will likely be the more sought after iteration. Chewbacca is a strong figure, but since he just got a release earlier this year, it's not a necessity to add him just yet. He's also the figure I've seen most leftover at retail for that very same fact. Rey misses the mark almost entirely, but the addition of BB-8 in her package is a saving grace. I can only hope the final version of Sabine Wren and Ahsoka Tano come out much better to bring some needed stability to the female portion of the Black Series.
If, like me, you are a completist kind of person, the first batch of figures does offer the most diversity and quality of choice in characters. Everyone in this batch is going to be a major player, so there's little worry of getting Jar Jar'd on this set. I can't speak to future waves, but there's something about Constable Zuvio that just screams peg warmer to me. At least Captain Phasma and Poe Dameron will offer some new blood in the next batch.
These figures were purchased for review. You can find the Hasbro Star Wars: The Force Awakens Black Series at many retailers for ~$20 (if you're lucky).
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