Over the last several months, Hot Toys has released several new Original Trilogy figures, including Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader from Empire Strikes Back, and now the emperor's Royal Guard from Return of the Jedi. I have my issues with what I consider the last fully canonical Star Wars film (particularly the cartoonish villains and the idiotically easy and speedy resolution, but I will save my bile for the review of the emperor figure), but it was difficult to resist another high-end sixth-scale rendition of iconic characters from the film/trilogy. The emperor's Royal Guards were not particularly fun or exciting, but they were as cool as bad guys could possibly be, and that just standing there; I suppose since they were dismissed ahead of the decisive action, they alone of the bad guys have not been shown defeated by the protagonists.
This is the second iteration of the iconic characters in high-end sixth-scale; the first was part of Medicom's Real Action Heroes series (unless we also count the much less sophisticated Kenner or Hasbro 12" figures -- which can still easily make do in a pinch).
Standing about 11.75 inches (about 29.8 cm), the Medicom Royal Guards were a decent addition in scenes with Hot Toys and Sideshow figures (which is unusual, as Medicom's figures tended to be relatively underscaled compared to other sixth scale figures). However, the new Hot Toys Royal Guards tower over the others, with a height of about 12.25 inches (about 31.1 cm). Moreover, they appear to capture the appearance (and proportions) of the film characters even more convincingly.
Packaging - 4/4 stars
I should start out by saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with the packaging. It is just what we are so very used to, without any particular complexity or originality. I do realize they are constrained by both tradition and the Star Wars license where the outside design is concerned.
It is a traditional shoebox-type container, with the usual stylish Star Wars two shades of black design, including an image of the figure, the Star Wars logo and product label on the front, and more information and warnings on the bottom. A color card showing two Royal Guards brandishing their weapons is inserted atop the box's contents under the box lid. The figure and its accessories is held in single transparent plastic trey with its own transparent plastic lid. Everything is safe and collector-friendly.
Sculpting - 4/4 stars
The sculpting is up to its usual level of Hot Toys excellence. The sculpted parts of the product are actually relatively few, including the signature helmet, the hand sculpts, and the force pike weapon. Everything is done cleanly and precisely, which is of course critical when it comes to weapons technology and the sleek, clean, shiny helmet. The helmet is the most striking piece, and it looks just as it should, with the right proportions, just barely plausible (which is how it was designed by Lucasfilm's costume department). The hand sculpts are supposed to convey tight leather gloves, and they appear pretty successful in that.
Paint - 3.5/4 stars
The paint work is not particularly complex (the most complicated parts are the dark visor on the helmet and the black parts of the otherwise silverish force pike weapon), but it is clean and consistent as we have come to expect from Hot Toys. Then there is the question of accuracy. I compared the product in hand with what we see in the films and with the relevant entry in the Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy book by B. Alinger (San Francisco, 2014). The color of the helmet appears to be spot on, a perfect or virtually perfect match for the "candy apple red" used in Return of the Jedi. The color of the outer cloak is a close but not perfect match. Some of this may well be due to the difference in materials, but the film cloak matched with the helmet. Even allowing for differences in screen color settings and in the color fidelity of printed photographs, this is a clear and unfortunate inconsistency. The garments underneath the outer cloak are in a darker, maroon color. This is film-accurate, at least in principle, as the published photographs seem to show a slightly lighter and warmer shade of color, a little less different from the cloak than the one we get with this product; but again, I cannot be sure of the color fidelity of the publication. Generally, the paint work on the sculpted elements is perfect or near perfect, while the coloring on the garments is a little off in terms of accuracy. There is no weathering on the painted or dyed materials, but this makes sense given the elite and dress uniform character of the Royal Guards.
Articulation - 4/4 stars
This actually came as something of a surprise to me. Hot Toys' figures have appeared to prioritize appearance over range of articulation lately, with restrictive padding under clothing, restrictive footwear, and tight pants. Considering that the emperor's Royal Guards just stand there, or glide to or from a position, if there were ever an action figure that arguably (arguably!) didn't need much articulation, it would be this one. And yet, here Hot Toys has reminded us of how they came to be considered the best (super-realistic head sculpts aside). Despite padding and some layers of clothing, the Royal Guard can achieve pretty much all the articulation you might possibly want: the cloth boots do not impede the ankles (if anything, they could have been a tad stiffer), the pants allow the legs to bend to assume a natural sitting position, the arms can flex at the biceps naturally, there is a moderate ab crunch, and with some effort, the arm can go up above the body fairly successfully. The hands swap easily enough, and Hot Toys provided a couple of extra wrist pegs. The one area where the articulation is super-limited is the neck. You can adjust it up and down and sideways only slightly; any more than that and the helmet pops off. This should not be held against the product, however, as it matches the restrictions of the actual costume in the film.
Accessories - 3/4 stars
I am divided on this category. Technically speaking, given what we see in Return of the Jedi, the accessories we get with this product are perfectly adequate. On the other hand, given the price of the figure, they are quite underwhelming. What we get are four extra hands (weapon-grip right and left, thumb-out weapon-grip right, spread-finger left, besides the ball-grip right and relaxed left that come on the figure in the box), the action figure stand (featuring a Death Star-like ground surface), and the force pike weapon (which is arguably the only true accessory). The weapon is realistically scaled and screen-accurate. (I am not counting the instruction sheet as an accessory; the force pike weapon was omitted in this particular photo, but you see plenty of it elsewhere.)
So, if this is all we see with the Royal Guards in the film, why do I not give this category a full four stars? Because it falls short of what Hot Toys has been providing with recent releases (compare the bases on the Luke and Vader figures), and we still pay a high price for the product (even if not as high as for the others). The least they could have done is provide some sort of appropriate printed background (for example, of the throne room window or elevator). Or they could have done what they did with their excellent Snowtroopers (see my review HERE), and incorporate some external material. With the Snowtroopers they added items and equipment from Star Wars Battlefront video game. With the Royal Guards they could have what Hasbro did with their 3.75" royal guard figure (Vintage Collection #105, 2012) and add the extra elements associated with them in the Crimson Empire comic book series (see HERE for that figure). Admittedly, the comic book series probably had much less impact than the video game and may have been relegated to "legends" status, but it certainly would have made a cool figure far more exciting.
Outfit - 4/4 stars
The outfit seems done very well, although only the outer cloak is easy to check against the film. The cloak drapes and hangs naturally enough, much more so than on the Medicom version, which had a bothersome wire along the side and bottom edges. I should note that this appears to be the only sixth-scale version of the character in which the cloak reproduces the characteristic concave-shaped folds below the bottom edge of the helmet. The cloak does come a bit wrinkled out of the box, but even without any special treatment it looks pretty good. Below the cloak is a suede long-sleeved tunic, belted with a broad belt made of the same material. The tunic has long slits on the sides, which allow for the legs to assume broad stances. Unlike the Medicom version, the tunic does not include a bothersome wire and hangs naturally. Below the tunic there are pants made of the same suede material, and you can feel a padded top. There is a pair of pointy tall boots on the feet, which do not restrict the ankle articulation, as their upper portion is made of a type of fabric. I can only verify the sleeves as accurate from the film and costume book. As mentioned above, I have my suspicion that the color on the cloth goods is a little bit off, but I have already taken this into account in the Paint category.
Fun Factor - 3.5/4 stars
That's always difficult to judge, because it is so subjective. In this instance, there is also a divide between an excellent figure and a very static film character. Admittedly, we get a hint of action in a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, in which Vader force chokes the Death Star commander who refuses to admit him into the throne room, and two Royal Guards threaten Vader with their weapons (HERE, starting at 7:05). As much as I would have loved to see more of the imperials on the screen, the scene is quite silly and I am glad it was deleted (like the Snowtroopers and Wampa deleted scene from Empire Strikes Back). I have reproduced it in a couple of the photos (the last two in this review), which look just as silly as the deleted scene.
Had they gone creative and given this product the Snowtrooper treatment by imitating Hasbro's 2012 Royal Guard (for example), I would have easily given this a full four stars. Although the Royal Guard(s) will just stand there, it helps that we have the matching Luke figure, and the Emperor (with or without the throne) and Vader are supposed to follow soon. This is not something you should give to a child, but I feel a child is likely to have more fun with it. That said, with the excellent articulation, you can get pretty creative.
Value - 2/4 stars
This is another difficult score to determine. The product is excellent in quality and appearance, apart from my concern about possible minor color mismatching compared to the film version. But there is very little in the way of accessories included in the box, and while the look demanded a precise and clean work, it did not involve the complexities of an actor-accurate head sculpt. The figure retails for about $205 (USD) or more (not counting shipping). This is not as high as some other recent Hot Toy releases (Luke was $240 or more), but it is not exactly a low price either, especially as many diehard collectors might want to pick up two Royal Guards (I doubt many would be ambitious enough to get a full set of six). While it is relatively low for Hot Toys, the price affects this score negatively.
Things to watch out for
Nothing really. This is not a child's toy, but any reasonable handling should not cause any problems. Although the hands swap easily enough, you can never go wrong heating them up a bit to soften the plastic before doing so. Make sure you have posed the figure securely, as the ankles can sometimes move too easily.
Overall - 3.5 stars
Despite my misgivings over the price (especially considering the limited accessories), I consider this an excellent product. It should be a welcome addition to the collection of anyone who appreciates the Star Wars Original Trilogy as a whole, or more particularly its military, and the Galactic Empire. I am surprised that Sideshow did not beat Hot Toys in producing this figure (or the Imperial Gunner, for that matter), which they might have done quite well and at a somewhat lower price. All the same, Hot Toys did a beautiful job and I very much doubt I will ever feel the need to buy another sixth-scale Royal Guard from Return of the Jedi.
I hope this review has been helpful. What do you think?
Where to Buy
Big Bad Toy Store - $205
Cotswold Collectibles - $205
Timewalker Toys - $205 (wait list)
#hottoys #starwars #returnofthejedi #royalguard #male #scifi