The boys are back in town, and by "the boys" I mean the Imperial Stormtroopers from the Original Trilogy (or, as I like to think of them, "real Stormtroopers"). More specifically, the Imperial Stormtroopers as seen in Return of the Jedi. Excluding the "Sandtroopers" and "Space Troopers" (which are very similar and, especially in the second instance, differ mainly in sporting extra gear), the dubiously canonical "Shock Troopers" and "Shadow Troopers" (AKA "Blackhole Stormtroopers"), and the strange chrome and porcelain versions (what a waste!), Hot Toys has now produced three different versions of the basic, classic look of the Star Wars Original Trilogy-era Stormtroopers: those from Rogue One, those from A New Hope, and now those from Return of the Jedi, reviewed here. Hot Toys is releasing these in two versions, standard and deluxe. This review covers the standard version (MMS 514). I have a deluxe version on order and will post an addendum (Part II -- see Post 21 below) to cover the extra features after it arrives. While I will be making occasional reference to Hot Toys' other classic Stormtroopers (from Rogue One and A New Hope), I will reserve a detailed comparison for its own separate thread, coming shortly.
Packaging: 3.5/4 stars
The Hot Toys Return of the Jedi Stormtrooper comes in the long familiar two-shades-of-black shoebox container with removable lid, featuring a fine image of the collectible on its top cover, credits and warning on the back/bottom, and decorated by a cigar band running along near the bottom edge of the lid. This cigar band seems to be more elaborate than ever, featuring color photography of a couple of cut out images of the Stormtrooper figure (one of them is out of view in the photo below) and of the Death Star II docking bay where numerous real and painted-in Stormtroopers had assembled to greet the arriving emperor. It is nicely done and more elaborate than before, although the basic concept is familiar and unexciting. Below the lid lies one of the now standard color cards with an image of the product among others, photoshopped to look like they are firing volleys of blaster bolts at the enemy. As I have written before, the card is a nice, though perfectly unnecessary item. Below that lies a mercifully single black plastic trey with its transparent plastic lid, in which you can find the figure and all of its accessories. Everything is safe and collector-friendly.
Sculpting: 3/4 stars
We are treated to the usual excellence of Hot Toys sculpting, and they certainly have accumulated a great deal of expertise sculpting Stormtrooper armor over the years. While there is not human face or other biological features to get right and realistic here, there is plenty of detail on the armor and weaponry that needs to be right. As far as I can tell, Hot Toys succeeded in this, and spotted the differences specific to Return of the Jedi armor, like the trim (or lip) on the edges of the torso armor (the chest and upper back plates, the abdomen and lower back plates, the crotch and buttocks plates); the sculpt of the armor is also a little softer than before. These were changes introduced in the Mk II Stormtrooper sets designed but barely used for Empire Strikes Back and produced in large quantities for Return of the Jedi. Another obvious difference is the configuration of buttons on the central panel of the abdominal armor, which is rotated 180 degrees from its original look in A New Hope. The figure stands about 11.75 inches (29.8 cm) and looks to be just a little shorter than the one from Rogue One. Except perhaps for the height, so far, so good.
The problem is that, like George Lucas himself, Hot Toys couldn't leave well enough alone. I refer to what they did with the helmet, which has been historically the most difficult part of the Stormtrooper's appearance to replicate correctly or convincingly. Like Marmit and Sideshow before it, Hot Toys got the proportions on their first Stormtrooper helmet (from A New Hope) wrong: the helmet protruded a bit too far down in the front (so to speak, it was too "snouty"), and the distance along the "nose" ridge between the lower edge of the sunken goggles and the upper edge of the toothed "frown" was smaller than the distance between the lower edge of the "frown" and the upper edge of the sunken "mouth" (it should have been the reverse). This error (which still allowed for an attractive, if inaccurate helmet sculpt) was then carried over to the Space Troopers, Shock Troopers, Shadow Troopers (Blackhole Stormtroopers), and the various other derivative products. Then Hot Toys fixed the problem, getting the Sandtrooper about right in 2015 (though unfortunately replicating an exceptional costume oversight with the twisted up brow), and getting the Rogue One Stromtrooper right in 2017: the distance between the sunken goggles and the "frown" was now correctly a little longer than the distance between the "frown" and the "mouth." But today, another two years later, we are treated to another Stormtrooper with a problematic helmet. This time Hot Toys has over-corrected their initial mistake (though they had already fixed it since then!) by making the distance between the sunken goggles and the "frown" just a little too long and the distance between the "frown" and the "mouth" a little too short, resulting once again a helmet that is not quite right in its facial proportions and is a bit too "snouty." It is not horrid looking, but you cannot unsee it once you have spotted it (it is more pronounced from some angles than others), and it is quite disappointing, especially as the hurdle seemed to have been surmounted. There are other, less obvious issues with all of these helmets, which are symmetrical, whereas the originals (apparently even the streamlined Rogue One originals) are famously asymmetrical; the molding process for Return of the Jedi produced a narrower and taller-looking helmet, something of which is in fact conveyed in the Hot Toys product. So we are left with a nice but ultimately inaccurate recreation of the characters' appearance in the film; at this price point we might expect better.
Paint: 4/4 stars
The paint scheme of the set is fairly simple. Stormtroopers have glossy white, black, and grey armor, with a couple of blue buttons among the black ones on the abdomen armor. The paint correctly reflects differences between the characters' appearance in Return of the Jedi (and to some extent Empire Strikes Back) and in A New Hope; for example, the toothed "frown" is now painted black as opposed to grey. The paint application is very precise, and some light weathering has been applied. It is most obvious on the boots and the belt, with some finer or subtler touches on the rest of the armor, all the way to the helmet. The Stormtrooper's blaster rifle is given a very good amount of weathering, perhaps more so than usual with Hot Toys. The helmet is fitted with screen-accurate translucent green bubble lenses, and you can catch a glint of green more readily in this product than the previous iteration (see also the photo under "Value' below).
Articulation: 3/4 stars
While the underlying body surely allows for virtually unlimited articulation, unrestricted poseability is hampered by a combination of factors. First, Hot Toys continues to supply its products with padding undergarments even where that is unnecessary, as here. Second, although the body armor ought to be virtually identical in shape and size to what was used for A New Hope (both on screen and in the action figures), it is often impeded from a fuller range of poseability when bending at the knees and hips, as different armor pieces run into each other. It would be exceedingly difficult or impossible to get this Stormtrooper figure to sit properly or take a knee; its A New Hope and certainly (with some minor modification) Rogue One predecessors were a bit more poseable, if memory serves me well. This is another disappointment, and I wonder whether the problem might have been mitigated or avoided if only the figure were designed a little taller (with longer limbs, especially legs); it is just a little on the short side anyway. Removing the padding helps, both by freeing up the joints and by maing the overlying pieces of armor more movable. Additionally, perhaps one could transfer the armor onto a taller body or at least remove the unnecessary padding. While I realize that Stormtrooper armor was pretty limiting even in 1:1 scale, a less restricted articulation (without necessitating any modifications) would have been welcome.
Accessories: 3/4 stars
This is difficult category for evaluation, as the set technically contains everything you see a Stormtrooper wielding in Return of the Jedi (in other words, a blaster rifle), yet it contains so very little. The accessories (really everything that does not come already attached on the body) include: the nicely weathered E-11 blaster rifle, the thermal detonator that attached to the back of the belt, several spare or alternate parts (a couple of spare wrist pegs, a total of seven hands: pair of relaxed hands, pair of fist hands, pair of gun-grip hands, and a single left outstretched fingers hand), a little instruction booklet (telling you how to put the gun into its holster and how to attach the thermal detonator to the belt) mercifully unencumbered by messy tape, and an action figure stand with grey Death Star floor surface and the label "Sith Trooper" on the little sign. Yes, "Sith Trooper." Not that I really care about it, but Quality Control seems to be slipping. I'd be curious to know if anyone else encounters the same oversight. That's it for the standard version, whereas the deluxe version comes with a cool light-up function background (more on that in the forthcoming update).
Outfit: 3.5/4 stars
Another difficult category to evaluate, as the set features little visible outfit besides the armor already covered above. Underneath the armor, the body is clothed in a stretchy black bodysuit with a back zipper; nothing fancy, but perfectly usable and articulation-friendly; the same cannot be said for the partial padding (like the padded shorts). The covering for the neck (which includes a ribbed collar) seems sloppier than before, although admittedly you are not very likely to see that part of the figure exposed, unless perhaps you took off the helmet to replace it with a head of your choice. Of course, Hot Toys does not really take customizing and kitbashing into account, and there are multiple warnings that the armor and outfit are not designed to be removable, and might be damaged if you do it. That is not entirely true, but proceed at your own risk. The belt and its holster come attached (the belt can be undone with velcro on the back) and the holster can close, even when the weapon is inside it, with a magnetic strap.
Fun Factor: 3.5/4 stars
Alone or in groups, combined with others from their own line or earlier releases, classic Stormtroopers lend themselves to any Original Trilogy Star Wars environment (in the case of these, especially Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and so much beyond. While they could be better articulated (some of which can be fixed) and proportioned, they are still very good figures and offer plenty of possibilities. Of course, ideally, you would need a bunch, and there the price point becomes a serious issue.
Value: 3/4 stars (standard); 2/4 stars (deluxe)
The standard version retails for about $190 (USD), the deluxe version for about $243 (USD), not including shipping. Even the lower price is an issue for an army builder character, an issue compounded by the fact that there are aspects to this nice set that ought to have been better (proportions, articulation). That said, I have to admit that at $190 the regular version costs about the same as the Rogue One version from a couple of years ago, and palpably less than a number of other trooper figures we have seen since; while it is not a low price for an army builder, that is something to be appreciated. I cannot quite fathom how what seems like a fairly simple light up display option (3 AAA batteries not included) for the deluxe version would merit a cost difference of $53, and that is all the more disappointing as these background panels are all but useless on their own; you would need two, three, or four next to each other to set up a nice backdrop to one or two figures.
Things to watch out for
Not much. As always, be gentle with the relatively delicate wrist pegs, and ideally warm up the hands before swapping (that is why I own a hair dryer). The thermal detonator is of the type that can slip off and fall with annoying ease while handling, and since it is not big, it might be easy to misplace. I would keep an eye on the magnetic closure for the holster, just in case some magnet becomes unglued. Be careful with the foldable stock on the blaster rifle -- this is a delicate articulated part. The figure stands and balances pretty well, but take the appropriate precautions against it tumbling down.
Overall: 3.3/4 stars
The Hot Toys Return of the Jedi Stormtrooper is a very nice set that could easily have been perfect, with but a little more attention to proportion (helmet, height) and articulation (less padding); then the only negative would have been the price, and even that was relatively decent, considering what it might have been. In other respects, like the painting and weathering, as well as most of the sculpting, the set is remarkably well done. If you love Stormtroopers and are looking to build up your ranks, the new product is a good addition to the bunch.
Where to buy
As always, you can check out various offerings on eBay, or visit the online stores below, among others, but they seem to be selling out fast:
Alter Ego comics for $243 (deluxe )
Big Bad Toy Store for $190 (standard ) or $243 (deluxe )
Cotswold Collectibles for $243 (deluxe )
Timewalker Toys all sold out
Hope this has been useful. As always, what do you think?
Update: For the addendum on the Deluxe version, please see Post 21 below.
#hottoys #returnofthejedi #rotj #starwars #stormtrooper #male #scifi #military