With the recent release of the Return of the Jedi (ROTJ) stormtroopers by Hot Toys (HT), it became apparent that the new product required additional sculpting and molding, partly intended to reflect the subtle changes in appearance between films and partly to improve any imperfections with earlier (especially A New Hope (ANH) ) versions of their stormtrooper. All this lends itself to comparison and, having promised that in my review of the HT ROTJ Stormtrooper, here it is.

At this point, HT has released three different versions of the basic imperial stormtroopers, not counting the slightly different Spacetrooper, Sandtrooper, etc. The three versions, in order of production, are those from ANH, Rogue One (RO), and ROTJ. Why a character type from the same franchise featured in films set in the same fictional era should exist in so many versions should be a mystery, but it is not: the appearance of the basic stormtroopers was altered between films. Some of this had to do with improving the actors' experience and was not intended to alter the overall look, some of it was intended to cause minor "improvements" to the appearance. A dubious rationale from the point of view of continuity, for sure, but it was done, and it gave HT the opportunity (or excuse) to produce several versions.

In the comparison photos below, the stormtroopers are arranged according to the chronology of the Star Wars fictional universe: RO - ANH - ROTJ. I realize that RO is not technically part of the Original Trilogy, but since it is set mere days (or minutes?) before ANH, and since it is intended to portray the same character type from the same era, I am including it here.

First, a side-by-side comparison of the all-important stormtrooper helmets made for each film:

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Then, a side-by-side comparison of HT's stormtrooper figures; front view:

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HT's first basic stormtrooper depicted the character type's appearance from ANH. It was a sharply executed, beautifully sculpted and painted figure, and an improvement on any that existed among higher-end sixth-scale models. The one serious departure from a correct reproduction of the appearance of the stormtrooper was HT perpetuating a mistake already present in the earlier Marmit and Sideshow versions. This was making the space along the nasal ridge larger between the toothed "frown" and the "mouth" than between the "mouth" and the lower edge of the integral "goggles." It should have been the reverse. Perhaps in part due to this error, the helmet also became too "snouty," extending too far down and forward. The result was a striking and attractive sculpt, but ultimately an inaccurate one. I should point out that the stormtrooper helmet is nearly impossible to get right due to its complexity, its variety (there were two slightly different types, "hero" and "stunt," from the start), and due to the fact that the original molds were based on a hand-sculpted and unintentionally asymmetrical sculpt. That smaller-scale toys and collectibles should "correct" this to a streamlined, symmetrical version (which might even be logically better grounded) is probably unavoidable. Even so, the basic error in proportions should have been spotted and avoided.

Side-by-side comparison of HT's stormtrooper figures; side view:

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For Empire Strikes Back (ESB) and ROTJ, the stormtrooper helmets, though still based on molds from the original film, were altered by Lucasfilm (Mk II). The most obvious difference was the repainting of the "frown" from gray to black, and a less extensive black paint application on the sculpted "mouth" area. Because of the way the molds were produced, the helmets also assumed a slightly thinner, taller, aspect. Note that although the Mk 2 helmets were produced for ESB, they were barely used in it (most scenes were already shot, using slightly altered ANH helmets), and were mostly used in ROTJ. HT's recently produced ROTJ Stormtrooper feature a new helmet sculpt that reflected the changes in appearance fairly well, and undid the earlier mistake in the ratio above and below the "frown" along the nasal ridge -- now the length above is longer than the length below. In fact, they seem to have over-corrected, making the difference a little too large, and still ending up with a slightly too "snouty," if generally more accurate, helmet.

Decades after the Original Trilogy had been filmed and released, the stormtrooper helmet was altered once again for RO. In this instance, it was streamlined by computer design, although some of the original asymmetry was allegedly preserved. The RO helmets naturally attempted to recreate something closer to the ANH look (e.g., the gray toothed "frown"), but the slightly larger and uniformly bubble lenses did alter the appearance a little bit. HT's RO figure appears to have captured the on-screen appearance perfectly in the helmet, with a correct ratio along the nasal ridge above and below the "frown."

Side-by-side comparison of HT's stormtrooper figures; rear view:

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In terms of the rest of the stormtrooper armor, changes undertaken during the filming of the Original Trilogy were largely minute and mostly undetectable, being mostly related to the way the armor was designed to fit onto the underlying body suit. The most visible external changes included adding a narrow trim along the edges of the torso armor elements -- chest and upper-back plates, abdomen and lowe-back plates, cod and butt plates -- and also inverting the small rectangular button plate in the middle of the abdomen. Both of these changes are featured correctly in the HT ROTJ Stormtrooper figures.

The RO armor design made larger departures. Generally speaking, the edges of the armor pieces receded to allow for better articulation, and also the lengths of the body armor pieces changed, presumably for the same reasons. The chest and upper-back plates became narrower but longer. All this is most easily spotted when looking at the troopers from behind. In the same area, the upper-back plate now features a long groove running along the upper edge of the integral "backpack" area, and a little circular hole just above it on the right. The cod piece, belt, and thermal detonator all received minor redesign. The small rectangular button plate in the middle of the abdomen returned to its ANH look, except that the one "stray" button was now made rectangular; also, all the buttons became recessed. All this is correctly reproduced in the HT RO Stormtrooper figure.

Finally, there is the question of holsters. In ANH Stormtroopers were usually portrayed with them (on their left hip), in ESB with them (on their right hip) and ROTJ sometimes with (on their right hip, Death Star scenes) and sometimes without (Endor scenes). Except for that last variation, HT's ANH and ROTJ Stormtroopers are correctly equipped, with the holsters on the correct sides, respectively. HT's RO Stormtrooper comes without a holster, which is also correct. Although this is not illustrated here, HT's ANH Stormtroopers came with two weapons each (or three, if you got the two-pack), but the ROTJ and RO Stormtroopers came with only one, the E-11 standard blaster rifle.

Overall, I would say HT was most successful in recreating the RO stormtrooper appearance; if you get that belt unstuck from the abdomen plate, it would also be the best-articulated of the three stormtrooper figures. The ANH and ROTJ figures are also very well designed and executed, but somewhat undermined by the errors in helmet design (especially ANH, less so ROTJ).

You can find detailed reviews on the HT stormtroopers below:
ANH Stormtrooper (HERE, by Michael Crawford)
RO Stormtrooper (HERE)
ROTJ Stormtrooper (HERE)

I hope this has been useful. What do you think?

#starwars #hottoys #imperial #stormtrooper #galactic #empire #review #comparison #fiction #scifi
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