I‘ve expounded poetically here before about the surprising perfection of The Force Awakens and how it compelled me to once again spend ridiculous money on various Jedi goodies (read: crap). Given the relative scarcity of Hasbro’s 1/12 scale Black Series figures and my overall “meh” opinion towards Funko Pops, there wasn’t much readily available, especially at brick and mortar retail, around the film’s release to satiate my need to waste money. Luckily Hot Toys came to the rescue shortly after TFA’s launch with a cadre of armored and masked new villains, with fresh faced heroes like Finn and Rey obviously requiring more R&D to produce and coming later.
I had originally planned to slowly amass a collection of the various Stormtrooper variants HT was offering, but once Kylo Ren arrived I decided that he looked really lonely all by himself and needed at least two friends to hang out with until the Resistance started to show up. Hot Toys, heroes that they are, saves the day again, offering a two pack release of their standard vanilla trooper and the heavy gunner variation for a fraction of what buying the two separately would cost, allowing collectors to raise a small “First Order” of their own in “one swift stroke”.
This duo of “Snoke”-sters comes to us in one of Hot Toys’ fancy pants double wide shoe boxes. I usually take a more “conservative” (read: poor) approach to collecting, cherry picking single releases and slotting them into my budget when I can, so going full crazy and with the premium HT experience here was a treat in and of itself. Housed neatly and securely inside are the two figures, their stands, about 15 different hands, and their weapons: two pistols, a rifle, and the heavy gunner’s fully articulated and transformable “megablaster”.
That giant BFG/gun turret/uh… thing is one of this set’s main selling points and also one of its major flaws, as these troopers’ heavily armored chests and forearms prohibit them from two handing the gun in any realistic, believable fashion. Even Hot Toys own promo shots, notorious in the collecting community for showing poses their figures just can’t do (without risking serious breakage to your multi hundred dollar investment, anyway), fake the pose by resting the handle end on one of the figure’s relaxed pose hands and not even attempting an actual trigger grip. Your mileage may vary, but I chose to just place the gun, which is an extremely cool piece otherwise, with a folding, telescoping stand and articulated legs, next to my figure on the shelf, rather than risk him dropping it and it becoming an incredibly expensive and rare dog toy. Now I’m even more likely to pick up HT’s TFA TIE Pilot figure to join these guys, a cool new design in and of itself but also with less restrictive armor that may allow him to manhandle the BFG more convincingly.
Speaking of design, many have bemoaned the “iTrooper” look these guys have, with Lucas’ concept artists even admitting that during pre-production they took a look at the old 70’s SW armors and said “What would Apple do?” But I’ve loved these streamlined, modern takes on the classic Stormie ever since the first TFA teasers dropped and I love them even more now that I have these expertly realized sixth scale versions on my shelf. The heavy gloss white armor and underlying rubber under suit are uncannily screen accurate, with the different patterned and glossy finishes of the helmet represented just as effortlessly perfect as you’d expect from HT. The heavy gunner also features a well-tailored set of extra webgear and what I assume are removable plastic explosives, to differentiate himself from the pack, and in an extra cool little feature on both figures, the pistols can connect to the thigh armor magnetically. That slavish devotion to one to one prop replication leads to another slight downside with these figures though: the articulation.
Just like I’m sure it isn’t easy to move around when wearing one of these armors in real life, these figures are incredibly stiff, and getting these guys into convincing two handed gun toting poses, even with the smaller pistol and rifle, requires a little bit of work, positioning the forearm guards, wrist pegs and hands just right to achieve the pose you’re happy with. From the waist down they’re a little more manageable, with largely unrestricted hips and a decent near 90 degree knee bend. Another cool feature: The feet are made from bendable rubber, a more practical and versatile replacement for the old half-bent foot sculpts that used to come with the Sideshow Troopers, and those feet are on the typical HT double barbell ball joint that offers glorious freedom in the way of stable back, forward and side to side movement. A kneeling pose is possible, but I wouldn’t risk leaving the figure like that for too long and damaging his rubber jammies. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t annoying, and that I wasn’t frustrated every time a forearm guard would slip down and pop a hand off of its peg, rolling it across the hardwood floor on a wacky adventure that would put BB-8 itself to shame, but I am very happy with the end result of how this set looks once it’s all put together and up on the shelf.
Is this set worth the “portions”? That depends. If you loved the film, are going all in with Hot Toys’ line and are looking to army build, then, as previously stated, this is a great place to start. But if you think the vanilla trooper is too plain and it bothers you too much that the heavy gunner can’t properly hold his heavy gun, then you may want to hold out for the shoulder pauldron sporting Officers, or the Flame and/or Snow Troopers. The famous Riot Trooper (a.k.a. TR-8R) is also on the way, in a special two pack with his buddy Finn, and the aforementioned black clad TIE Pilot is already in stores. These guys aren’t perfect but I can safely say, with more than my fair share of Medicom and Sideshow Troopers at home, that they’re overall the best ever made, and I’m looking forward to growing my own personal First Order ranks just as Episodes 8 and 9 strengthen the villains’ resolve in theaters.
Review and Photos by Kevin Hawkey