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Never Forget - The ICMG Petition

Brian's Toys

Evolutions:
Anakin Skywalker
to Darth Vader

When Hasbro busted out the Evolutions Assortment to fans at Celebration 3, this reviewer was tickled at the thought of a line devoted to “ultimate” incarnations of any given character represented in a figure 3-pack that showed how the character changed throughout the story as well. The sets looked great, the figures looked like they were going to easily rival the Vintage Original Trilogy Collection in quality, and the price was definitely an improvement over VOTC’s line.

Flash to the release of the first Evolutions set, and the Anakin to Darth Vader is an instant classic that is still hard to find at retail at this very moment. From the ornate packaging that displays amazingly well, to the quality of the figures inside, the Evolutions Assortment is a hit with the fans if they are fortunate enough to find the sets. Each set has its own highlights and lowlights though, and as with everything in the modern Star Wars line, nothing is ever perfect. As a matter of fact, the Evolutions sets are so frustratingly close to perfect that you really can only pick little details here and there that you just have to think, “Well this could have been done better”, when you notice them. Anakin suffers these same little flaws, but the end result is you get the 3 best representations of Anakin that the modern line has ever seen, and that’s collecting gold in my opinion.

In an effort to narrow the confusion, I’m going to refer to each figure throughout the review as either “E2 Anakin/Ani”, “E3 Anakin/Ani”, or “Vader”. This is the best way I figure I can cover all 3 figures nicely and I assume we all can link which figure I’m talking about with each reference. Read on and see where Hasbro could’ve delivered a little extra for their devoted fans with this set, but if you have this one in your collection I say give it a hug because it really deserves the love.

PROS

-Sculpt: For the sculpt of the 3 figures, 2 of them are obviously incredibly similar while the 3rd is completely different. With the Clone set there was distinct similarity but with Anakin there’s a lot of diversity for the sculptor(s) to branch out and show their talent.

On the E2 and E3 Anakin figures, the costume is obviously similar, but don’t let that fool you if this is a set you haven’t seen yet. The two Anakin figures don’t utilize any of the same parts, and are both completely new sculpts. This is actually a little odd if you ask me since Hasbro really could’ve saved a buck by simply using the same sculpt. People maybe would’ve complained, but if they’d have done one super articulated figure with 2 unique heads, that would’ve sufficed really, and in some ways it would’ve been better.

E2 and E3 Anakin’s costumes are superbly done though irregardless, however E2 Anakin has a fault with his headsculpt that will be commented on later. Both Anakin figures have fantastic detail throughout their costumes though, such as the fantastic fine fabric texturing sculpted to make the outfits really stand out with realism. Also the way the sculptor layered the various robes when he sculpted them is really nice and realistic. The E3 Anakin has a slight edge here as well though, as the sculpted robes just stand out amazingly well and look as though they’re really separate layers, whereas the E2 Anakin’s robes feature a single softgoods robe on the outermost layer of the tunic. The softgoods layer is really nice, and it lends itself to poseability, but the E3 Anakin’s sculpted robe really is much nicer.

E3 and E2 Anakin both feature incredibly sculpted footwear and fashion accessories as well, and that’s to be expected anymore with Jedi figures. Hasbro’s sculptors made sure to nail every detail to the boots on both figures, such as the buckles, leather straps, and the pads on the shins as well. The belts on both figures are full of detail as noted, and E2 Anakin’s is a separate sculpt (not removable unfortunately) that holds the softgoods robe down on the figure. The belts feature all the pouches for the Jedi gear these figures would carry, all the buckles and plates, and my personal favorite feature is that both have the lightsaber clip sculpted on the left hip with a hole for a lightsaber hilt accessory to plug into. That should be standard on all Jedi Knight Figures throughout the line, and I’m happy as a clam to see it included here on Anakin’s 2 Jedi figures.

The headsculpts and hands on both figures are, obviously, unique to each character. The hands are different because there are actually 2 unique hands for each figure. On E3 Anakin he comes with a metal hand with a billowy right sleeve, but he also has a gloved/wrapped hand for his duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar. The gloved hand is sculpted with all the wrappings and details you’d want, and the metallic hand is equally detailed with wiring and electronic looking details. The E2 Anakin’s hands are more similar to each other, and he includes Anakin’s flesh & blood hand prior to amputation, and his earlier version of the gold prosthetic hand he received care of Count Dooku. Appendages on both figures pop off and on very easily, and look just great on both.

The heads of E2 and E3 Anakin are like night and day in quality though, unfortunately. While I find the E2 headsculpt passable, I have to say it’s not Hasbro’s best work capturing Hayden’s likeness, and we’ll be talking about this in the “Cons” portion. The E3 Anakin though is fantastic, and definitely deserves the “Pro” nod. The likeness is probably the best Hayden Christensen I have ever seen in the modern line. The way the eyes are an almost evil stare, which Christensen held throughout a large portion of Episode 3, is just the classic look of the character. It’s appreciated that a neutral, stoic, non-expressive face is the way Hasbro went, though I would have liked a 2nd head even that I’ll mention later. The head they included for E3 Anakin is just the perfect one though, and works for the duel just great. The hair on E3 Ani is sculpted with many wavy details, and unlike some other ROTS Anakins he looks less like he’s got a receding hairline and more like his hair’s just combed back as it was. Anakin’s hair also acts nicely to hide the articulation at his neck, which is a major plus.

The last figure in the set is Vader, and he doesn’t disappoint in his sculpt either. The costume of Darth Vader’s been done to death in this line, but Hasbro’s topped what I even thought was the best Darth Vader figure ever in the VOTC Vader when they made this Evolutions figure. The figure seemingly has more bulk, more detail, and the removable helmet really alone would have set it far above the VOTC Vader, let alone the articulation this sculpt gets!

Vader’s sculpt utilizes softgoods items like the E2 Anakin sculpt. The inner robes Vader wears are all cloth, and again are held down by a separately sculpted belt (and unfortunately this one’s not removable either). The costume’s details are impressive even beyond the two Anakin figures as well. The ribbing and padding of Vader’s costume is done in incredible detail on the legs and arms. The way the suit has wrinkles and folds sculpted into it though really makes it look like it’s a cloth suit on a bulky character underneath.

Vader’s gloves, boots, belt, and chest box on his costume are all very nicely done and stand out on the figure. The boots, like both Anakin figures, have lots of little details that Vader fans will love. The straps to hold the shin guards on, the raised and flat surfaces of the armor, and other details just stand out. The gloves are nicely sculpted too because they feature a little “character” sculpted into them. The hands are perfect for Vader reaching out to Luke on Bespin, or choking your favorite Imperial Officer to death, but they also hold the saber accessory nicely as well. Vader’s belt and chestbox both feature every specific little detail you could want I think. The belt’s buckle even has little designs sculpted into it that I never would have noticed watching the film, and the two control boxes on the belt have raised buttons that all look accurate to me as near as I can tell. Vader’s chestbox is just as nice, and looks to match up to the film perfectly.

Vader’s headsculpt is actually 3 separately sculpted pieces. The helmet is removable which marks the first time a Removable Helmet Vader like this has been done since about 1998 I guess it was. The headsculpt (the fleshy part anyway) captures Sebastian Shaw’s look quite nicely, and all the scarring detail is right there where it should be. Hasbro actually sculpted Shaw’s head/face separately of the lower neck/mouth piece of the Vader mask and this created a unique effect when you have the helmet off. The result of this technique was that the head really does look separate of the mask, so it looks as though the rest of Vader’s face is just hiding underneath the mouthpiece. The helmet then fits nicely on top of the head, and appears to be more of a Return of the Jedi sculpt to me (I’m not a Vader costume expert by any means though), which seems appropriate given the removable helmet feature.

All in all, that’s 3 nicely done figures, and with them all 3 having well hidden articulation, even the most discerning collectors will be pretty much happy with these figures. The E2 Anakin’s headsculpt, well it has problems, but definitely kudos to Hasbro for a job mostly well done.

-Articulation: All 3 figures are once again unique in their articulation. There’s actually a little bit of a complaint about articulation in that Hasbro wasn’t consistent at all, and only the Darth Vader figure came out “perfect” in my opinion. E2 and E3 Anakin aren’t shoddy efforts though, and they easily are the most poseable versions of Anakin Skywalker ever done, but neither is “Super Articulated” really. Will cover the articulation flaws shortly though.

E2 Anakin features articulation at:

- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 ball/socket elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket knee joints
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
- 1 standard waist joint

E2 Anakin racks up a total of 12 points of articulation, and his upper body’s articulation is as super articulated as it gets. This figure can hold his saber in 2 hands for dueling action, stand neutrally with his Jedi Master for some instruction, sit around pretending he’s on the council, or fly a ship or speeder quite well. I find the lack of ankle joints a little frustrating but minor in the grand scheme of articulation. I’d much rather they had no ankles and tons of arm articulation if that’s what you had to cut to get the arm articulation.

E3 Anakin features articulation at:

- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 angle-cut elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket knee joints
- 2 ball/socket ankle joints
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
- 1 standard waist joint

E3 Anakin chimes in then with 14 points of articulation, and he easily edges past his predecessor. The great thing about E3 Anakin then is that he is really poseable for dueling, at least his lower body is, but Anakin gives up the versatility of the ball/socket elbow joint for angle-cut elbows. Hasbro’s reasoning on this is tough to figure out. It perhaps was to accommodate the interchangeable arms for this figure, but I like to think Hasbro designers could’ve incorporated ball/socket elbows on him irregardless. The angle-cut elbow joint doesn’t lend itself well to poseability, so I have to say that I feel this is a step down from E2 Anakin’s articulation even though it’s a higher total. I’d have done without ankle joints if it meant I got the ball/socket elbow (and retained the interchangeable arms). Another thing to note though is that E3 Anakin’s neck joint is also a little restricted because the neck’s sculpt slightly restricts it... another thing to nitpick later.

Darth Vader features articulation at:

- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 ball/socket elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket knee joints
- 2 ball/socket ankle joints
- 1 standard neck joint
- 1 standard waist joint

So Vader wins the articulation contest with a total of 14 points of articulation, and most of them ball/socket joints. This level of articulation works for me since Vader’s probably my favorite figure out of the bunch, and definitely worth having kneeling before your favorite Emperor figure in evil obedience! The Evolutions Vader easily trumps his VOTC predecessor figure, and really all other Vader figs, for the poseability you get. That’s almost worth buying the set alone just for this figure.

So the articulation on the Anakin to Vader Evolution set is pretty great. I’ve found that all 3 figures pose very nicely. All 3 can hold a lightsaber with 2 hands which, while you should expect this, it’s worth mentioning because it’s really not always all that common that it happens! The E2 Anakin and Vader figures are my favorites for poseability, but the E3 Anakin’s not too bad either. The angle-cut joints hurt him unfortunately, and when compared to the others in the set, the E3 Ani falls noticeably short. Overall though, the figures take saber combat poses, neutral poses, action poses, and can fit into fighters/speeders quite nicely too. That’s what all figures should be able to do!

-Paint Aps/Deco: All around the paint applications on the Anakin figures is just where it should be. You really can’t say the same for the basic Anakin figures, but that’s neither here nor there. With the Evolutions set you get the paint aps you deserve I believe, with only minor critiques.

The E2 Anakin is probably the weakest of the lot, but not terribly so. The headsculpt’s partly to blame for the oddness, but Hasbro I think was trying to paint the figure so he had a younger face. The main flaw is the lips though which look like he’s wearing lipstick. Beyond that gripe though, the figure’s paint applications are doing what they should. The hair appears to be the right light brown color, matching Ani’s short Jedi Padawn do… There’s even the painted tie in his braid, and a light wash.

The paint applications on E2 Ani’s eyes and brows are even as well, and he features the classic 3-layers of paint to the eyeball to make it fairly lifelike in this scale. The rest of the paint aps are minor really on the figure, as the colors the E2 Ani is cast in are pretty much the dominant decoration. The shirt and neck of the figure are painted and contrast the brown robes nicely as well as the flesh of the neck matching the head well. The figure’s boots feature a nice brown wash on them to make them look leathery and “worn”, while the figure’s belt has some similar paint to make the belt shine a little. Small details like the equipment pouches, buckle, saber clip, and other details are all highlighted with nice even paint details that don’t stray from their lines. It’s a nice piece of work.

E3 Anakin is much the same in quality overall, however he features less detail on his boots. The belt got equal attention overall though with nice details like the pouches, buckle, and saber clip being painted nicely. The paintjob on E3 Anakin’s head seems to have a bit more effort than the E2 figure’s paintjob I believe. The hair’s a nice brown, not overdone with washes or anything to highlight color differences but there is a little wash just to give the hair some life. The eyes seem a little more detailed to me on the E3 Anakin but the differences between the two Anakin’s are very minor. The lips are a much more realistic color on E3 Anakin than his E2 counterpart and that’s a plus. I like the scar painted on E3 Anakin’s face as well, as it really is nice applied and not overdone at all. Much better than the basic figure’s were.

It should be noted as well that E3 Anakin featured multiple shades of brown to the various layers of his Jedi robes. The colors are subtle and the leather outer tunic of his robes features a wash that does make it look much more realistic. The costume got a bit more detail in paint aps than the E2 figure because the E2 figure featured the softgoods outer tunic to vary it in color.

The Vader figure’s paintjob is probably the most detailed. The boots and gloves are really the right level of glossy and stand out against the cloth and duller colored plastic of the costume. The shoulder armor is perfectly mixed with glossy black bits and gunmetal colored bits, and the differences between the two colors just looks fantastic. They even made sure to incorporate the shoulder pin into the black/gunmetal “striping” of the armor by casting the pin in black so it matches where it is placed.

The Vader’s only detail paintwork is on the “control boxes” of his belt and chest, as well as the headsculpt. The helmet has a couple little paint details as well that are nice, such as the lenses being gloss while the face of the helmet is slightly less shiny, the silver dots at the tip of the face and such. The inside of the helmet even has the mouth control doo-dads painted with nice little bronze details. The control boxes on Vader’s belt and chest though are where colors catch your eye on the figure overall. The red, green, grey, and silver button details are all nicely applied and don’t stray onto the black boxes at all. The same can be said for the silver belt buckle on Vader’s belt, and it really makes you wish there was a place on him to clip his lightsaber (if Vader has a “clip” even?).

Vader’s head is painted a nice dead looking grey color and has a really nice wash of paint on it as well that gives the skin color a real contrast and life-like quality. It’s perhaps becoming cliché’ to say it again, but the figure really does look incredibly realistic. The eyes are nicely painted on Vader as well, and I really like how the eye is cut somewhat at the top so it appears his eyelids are drooped down some. The look is a figure/character that appears withered, old, and “tired”, just as Vader appeared when the helmet was off. The final details on Vader are the scars, and once again a subtle and realistic application of red paint was placed.

All 3 figures in the set are nicely painted, everything you should expect for the higher price of course, and you shouldn’t unhappy with these at all. You may have to look around (if you have the option) and I always recommend doing so if you can, just so you get the perfect paintjob, but overall I think quality is probably a standard with these sets.

-Softgoods/Cloth Features: All 3 figures have the benefit of softgoods/cloth features. While some aren’t fans of using cloth in this scale, I am, so I appreciate things like Hasbro trying to make E2 Anakin’s outer robe out of a fake leather material. It looks nice I think, and the benefit it has in allowing the figure its full range of motion is important to me. E2 Anakin also features a softgoods “skirt” piece allowing his legs to move freely, and poseability is what these heavily articulated figures are all about.

The E3 Anakin features less softgoods overall, as part of his “skirt” is sculpted plastic. The plastic moves well enough though and what cloth is used of course moves with the figure’s legs. The E3 figure came packaged with the softgoods robe accessory as well, and the robe’s material is a nice limp fabric with a good texture to it that looks believable in this scale. The robe works well with either of the Anakin figures and even looks good on your Pilot Obi-Wan figure if you wanted to put it on him for when he’s flying your Jedi Starfighter. It’s too bad Pilot Obi didn’t come with one of these same robes actually.

The Vader figure uses the most softgoods overall I believe, out of the three figures. The inner robes of Vader’s costume are a thin black cloth that covers the figure from his shoulders to his ankles. It looks great and the lack of stitching in the softgoods robe gives it no bulk to speak of. The robes are held down by the figure’s shoulder armor and the belt so they don’t come off, but that’s ok. They look good and allow full poseability and that’s making for the single Vader you’d ever really need to put into any diorama with any other figure.

Vader’s cape is also softgoods, while the thinness of the fabric is a little awkward when light shines through it, the look isn’t bad at all. The silver “string” chain for the cape is neat, and doesn’t puff up as much as it did on the VOTC figure. It’d be nice if the cape was removable perhaps but not necessary. Again, the cape’s made of the same thin, nicely draping fabric as the inner-robe and it can be made to look very realistic hanging on the figure.

My opinion about softgoods/fabric being used on Star Wars figures is that the more of it, the happier I am. It generally is a sign of a nicely articulated figure, and I like seeing Hasbro use cloth more liberally with figures so that they’re more fun to play with. Star Wars figures shouldn’t be statues. The vintage figures used cloth, and I like seeing it make a comeback in this line.

-Price: The sets are nice buys when you break it down. They’re in the $20 range, and 3 nicely articulated, nicely sculpted, nicely painted figures with a (generally) nice pile of accessories for $20 is a bit of a deal. On top of that the packaging is pretty sweet and worth keeping so you have a pretty nice value there when you break it down since the figures come to about what you’d pay for them if you bought them individually. It’s a minor thing to mention overall but I have to say that I love getting figures in sets like this for this low price. I feel like I really got something substantial for the cost, and that makes me only want to buy more.

Hasbro, are you listening? Perceived value is conducive to spending! At least for me it is.

-Packaging: I’m the last guy to praise a package, and as you’ve maybe noticed over the time I’ve been doing reviews here at Jedi Defender, I don’t really critique it too much at all. To me, packaging is just a means to an end. It’s a cost necessity to prevent people from stealing stuff in stores, and ultimately I’d buy a good figure if it was sold in a plastic bag on a chunk of uncolored cardboard. I really don’t care what something looks like in a box.

That said though, I have to give a nod to good packaging when I see it, and with the Evolutions Assortment I have seen it. The box is very colorful and clearly features the characters you get inside. The windows on the front show the full figures, and really looks like you’re about to buy something “special” compared to the basic figures hanging on the pegs. The little flip-up card covering the accessories features great artwork on the cover and underneath describing the figures you’re going to buy, and it’s a nice surprise when you flip it up and see all the “extras” you get when you buy this $20 set.

The artwork is fantastic, and shows clearly the characters you are getting, and on the back the explanation of how the 3 figures represent an Evolution of one character is quite unique and well done. I could easily see this getting a permanent spot on the shelves of retailers, and a long future for these sets utilizing all the different colors for future collections of figures. It’s a great box/package and worth hanging onto for displaying I believe, much like the VOTC cardbacks/clamshells we got last year.

CONS


-Accessories: The set’s major point that turned up as a flaw, and it’s a bit of a surprise, is the lack of accessories. That’s not to say that the set doesn’t have a lot of stuff, but there’s a lack of key parts that really are frustrating, and show a certain lack of effort on Hasbro’s part.

The set included an extra hand for E2 Anakin, an extra arm/hand for E3 Anakin, a single-piece lit Darth Vader lightsaber (red blade of course), a single blue lightsaber blade, two Anakin Skywalker lightsaber hilts (with pegs for hooking to belt holes), a softgoods robe, and an Episode 2 chain/binders combo from the Geonosian Arena sequence was included in the set. Not a bad tally, but room for improvement I think.

First, my main gripe with accessories was that Hasbro shorted us one blue saber blade. Why would they put two Saber hilts in with only one blade? Simply cutting a corner they never should have. You can’t display both Anakin’s with their sabers ignited, and that’s a crime in this hobby. Hasbro really should have packed in equal sabers and hilts.

And in that same vein, why would Hasbro not include a removable blade/hilt for the Vader figure (and make the hilt clip to the belt, of course)? This is again a level of cheap corner-cutting on Hasbro’s part. They have a Vader saber hilt available, pack it in and put a hole in the belt. No big deal, no excuse not to do this.

And speaking of uneven packing of accessories, it is slightly disappointing (not as much as the sabers though) that a 2nd softgoods robe was not packed in. Why only one, when Anakin wore robes in both his E2 and E3 costumes. Hell I’d buy these Jedi robes in a 10-pack if Hasbro sold it, just to outfit all my Jedi with this really nicely done Jedi robe. Hasbro’s cheapness in omitting a 2nd robe is a littler more understandable, but in a $20 set I think they could’ve unclenched their fingers from the penny they were pinching and let us have a 2nd robe.

One last gripe about accessories, though more understandable I believe. I counted the hands/limb as accessories, and they’re nice ones for certain. I love interchangeable parts of course. But my gripe is that a 2nd E3 Anakin head would’ve been great. One with Sith Eyes in particular, since Anakin did spend a portion of his time kicking ass with those spooky red fireballs. This is more just something I’m sneaking in as a complaint though.

-Availability: While the VOTC line was a pretty easy to pick up overall if you looked hard enough, the Evolutions assortments have been a little bit of a problem to find out there at retail. I’ve never seen the Anakin or Sith sets at retail, and only saw the Clone sets once out there. These are the kinds of items that Hasbro shouldn’t be cutting short at retail and deserve to be out there in force for us all to find. The high quality, collector-oriented figures are must-haves, and its’ a shame they’ve not been easier to get at retail. Online sales seem to be the only convenient way to pick these up I guess.

The price makes them pretty good sales/buys so people aren’t stopping at just one or two here, and the lack of them on the shelves is nothing short of frustrating, especially to army builders with the Clone set, but also to the one-of-everything crowd as well. The Anakin set and Sith set I wanted at least two of each, and they have so far been even harder to track down for me than the Clones! This is just wrong for such nicely done figure sets, I’m sorry.

OVERALL

Chalk up another victory to Hasbro in 2005. The Evolutions concept is a fantastic one. While some tweaking here and there could really make the sets perfect, there isn’t too much to complain about really. Hasbro has a home-run idea here with much potential for growth.

The Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader Evolutions set is one of my favorites because it had a great classic trilogy figure in it with Darth Vader, and both Anakin figures really fill the void of having truly great versions of this character in his two core “looks” from the prequals. Hasbro could’ve done better on the accessories, and that’s my only complaint. It’s even minor since I bought a 2nd Anakin set from a friend and easily outfitted both Anakin figures with full gear.

If you can find this set at all, I recommend it. If you can’t find it, start networking to track one down. You need that Episode 3 Anakin to duel your Pilot Obi-Wan. You need the Episode 2 Anakin to kick some Separatist ass. And you need that Darth Vader figure to duel your Bespin Luke, or duel your Jedi Luke, or die in Luke’s arms with his helmet off… whatever. You just need that figure, and you maybe even need three of him, I don’t know. Thumbs up to Hasbro for another nice set, and the Evolutions assortments are money in the bank for you guys, so keep them coming please!

 

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