The Vintage Collection
Wave 3 (Return of the Jedi)
The Return of the Jedi wave marks an interesting point in Star Wars action figures. The modern line has been dragging along since 1995. It's certainly had ups and downs along the way, and the interest of collectors has been right there for the roller coaster ride. The Return of the Jedi wave shows though, that Hasbro can instantly recapture the collecting community by putting out a simply solid wave of new figures. Even when it's largely made up of resculpts.
If you think the modern line's dead, than you haven't looked at the myriad of figures that truly need sculpt/articulation updates to make them simply fit in with figures post 2005!
With that said, I wanted to look at some of the ROTJ figures we got, and why not start with "Mr. It's A Trap" himself, Admiral Ackbar. This character hasn't gotten an update since his original POTF2 sculpt many years ago. Back then he rocked the typical-for-the-time articulation count of 6 points, and not all his poseability was even all that useful. He also lacked many solid accessories, and the sculpt's crispness just doesn't compare to what is available today. There's a lot to look at here though, and not everything is perfect, so let's begin.PROS
: First off, if you thought the POTF2 Ackbar was "good enough" looking, you've clearly just been proven wrong. This figure is actually lightyears ahead of the POTF2 sculpt, which at its time was pretty decent. He didn't have the buffness, he had a little character in that his hands weren't sculpted to really hold weapons as much as they were sculpted to look like he's pointing at stuff. At the time, these were unique traits in a Star Wars figure.
With the new Ackbar though, we get detail in the face and hands, showing something that's much less smooth, and much more organic and realistic. It's kind of strange, but Hasbro actually made a Mon Calamari that looks like it has some age to him. As an Admiral, you can expect that out of Ackbar I guess, but there's just something different about his headsculpt that they seemed to sculpt him to look like a just tad wrinkly lobster.
His hands are now posed to hold accessories as well with their sculpt, which is a nice plus. Sure the old hands were unique, but Ackbar's got to hold a blaster to defend himself like everyone else, rather than clip one to his forearm. It's an improvement to me then.
The costume is also a lot more wrinkly and "lived-in" looking. The pants fold and bunch at the right spots, and the sleeves are sculpted as though they're pushed up over his claw-like arms. It gives the impression the costume was made for a human, and a Mon Calamari guy is just wearing it, and that is a cool little detail. Also, with the folds and wrinkles, Hasbro has started a new trend where the pin for ball-joints is sculpted to simulate wrinkles at the elbows, knees, shoulders, etc. as well. Technically they could stick with a standard smooth round pin for all the joints, but they got the extra mile to make the joint blend in with the rest of the sculpt, and you have to appreciate those fine details.
Add in that Hasbro gave him the now fairly standard "skirt" extension of his vest, and you can clearly see a lightyear of difference between this figure's sculpt, and the POTF2 figure. These are the kinds of comparisons you really use to gauge how amazingly far the line has come in 15 years.
One minor flaw is that Ackbar's rank badge isn't accurate for the character. It's missing a small bit. However, Ackbar's rank badge is actually a separate sculpt, and plugs into a hole on his chest (I'm assuming it's glued in, though I didn't try to remove it). This implies two things to me. A) it's more realistic looking because it sits off the figure's chest, and B) it may mean that Hasbro intends to give us the "Mon Calamari Officer" someday using this sculpt and a new deco. The interchangeable rank badges started with the Imperials, and it may be carrying over to the Alliance now. Only time will tell though.
: The POTF2 Ackbar's deco actually wasn't attrocious, but this figure's got some stand out paint applications. The skin has a certain sheen to it, for instance, which only highlights his lobstery look. It also contrasts the duller look to the costume, as it should, and shows that Hasbro was thinking about the paint aps some. Lately deco has gotten the shaft in Pawtucket, so it's nice to see some figures still get a nice effort.
The skin has a dark wash on it to highlight the recesses in the sculpt, from the wrinkles on his chin and neck, to the separation of his fingers/claws. Tack on some lobster spotting, and he's pretty slick looking (no pun... well, a little bit of a pun).
The costume's deco isn't elaborate, but Hasbro got the details it needed to. The rank badge has a little color detailing to it, the yellow stripes down his sides, the tan vest, the belt boxes... Hasbro got a lot of little things right on a fairly bland costume. Even the shoe soles, something they don't always do anymore, got the simple grey tread deco which makes a much more realistic look to the figure.
And the golden shiney fish-eyes... Very cool. You have to love it.
[/u]: My biggest complaint with any figure is, generally, where articulation falls flat. Hasbro's upped their game in this department though, and almost all figures come with what I consider adequate articulation. For me, Ackbar even goes a notch above adequate, even without ankle joints! Hasbro knocked him out of the park though as far as I'm concerned, and here's his articulation breakdown:
- 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
- 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
- 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
- 2 Cut Hip Joints
- 2 Cut Wrist Joints
- 1 Cut Waist Joint
- 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
Which comes to a total of 10 points of articulation. Generally this figure would even have ankle joints, however Ackbar's pantlegs extending over his shoes makes adding ball/socket ankles a little trickier in the sculpting and molding process. This probably added significantly to a figure like Ackbar not getting the poseable feet.
That said, Hasbro sculpted the feet plain and flat. Nothing bent like he's walking or running, nothing weird. This means the ball/socket knee joints basically let you pose the figure's lower legs just fine, and just as if the ankles were there more or less. I've had Ackbar running around shooting people, smacking people with his laser pointer, line dancing, walking, sitting, standing... He does it all.
It also bears mentioning that the "skirt" extension of Ackbar's vest is pretty pliable as well, and allows his legs to pose nicely at the hip.
It double bears mentioning though, that Hasbro's designer/sculptor of this figure took time to know the character and what he did in the film. Did anyone else notice that his neck articulation allows for some pretty drastic range of motion, and that the design of the head sitting down in the concave vest sculpt and resting on the neckpeg, actually lets you pose Ackbar in his classic "look down in relief" moment from Return of the Jedi, when the <i>Executor</i> is sent crashing into the Death Star II's surface? That's flipping awesome in every way, and you can't tell me it wasn't intentional. Few Star Wars figures have the ability to look down that sharply, but this one certainly does, and Hasbro almost certainly intended this.
: How can you not love this line's packaging? Even as a non-carded collector, I'm tempted to buy figures and leave them packaged. I've always opened and pitched, it's been how I've done things since some years ago I realized carded collecting was a virtually futile effort, reinforced by Hasbro's love of repacking virtually everything they ever make. The Vintage Collection gets even the most stalwart opener to take a second thought about opening that toy though.
So far I've not kept anything carded except a Rocket Firing Fett, but I am on an effort to save the cardbacks of every figure I buy. It's a work in progress to try and preserve them, but I'm trying. At least they're flat and don't take up a lot of room.
Still though, there's something about the Vintage packaging that was really special. It's colorful, it's bold, it's uniformed, it's diverse, it's iconic, and it's expanding with this line to encompass the prequals. There is a lot to love and Hasbro knows it.
The obvious drawback is the space on the blister to add extra gear. We were given so many great characters wth great gear for the last 5 years. Changing to a small coffin-style blister meant less cool pack-ins. Hasbro has kept up somehow and given us decent gear with some figures, but others are getting the shaft and it becomes somewhat noticeable. Other figures seem like they've come with quite a bit though.
They have to get high marks all around for what they're doing with this line's packaging designs though.CONS
: Didn't we just leave this party? Yeah, we did, and sadly Admiral Ackbar falls prey to the lack of accessories. I think one thing a lot of people clamored for, before the Vintage Collection was announced, was a chair accessory to come with an Admiral Ackbar resculpt. I can't blame them, and I'm sure I probably mumbled somewhere along the way that I too wanted a chair for him.
There's not much you can give to Ackbar though, that isn't a big accessory. Hasbro gave you two smaller items, neither of which he was wandering around with in the movie. He has a laser pointer stick thing, which is an homage to the stick his original vintage figure came with. I give Hasbro props for adding props to him, that he really doesn't use in the film (I think?), and tying it to a vintage homage as well. That's pretty cool and fits with the Vintage theme.
The other accessory he sports is a weird computer screen... on a stick... without a screen. I don't know what it is, actually. It could be a computer screen, or a humidifier for his species, or who knows. It looks like something that should be attached to his chair/console, but who knows what it ultimately is. It's got some deco though... a little silver here, a little grey there. It's kind of uninteresting though, ultimately.
People really are hoping to someday get the Admiral's swiveling and swirling command chair. The only other thing I can imagine them giving to him is a big holographic table to display a holo Endor and Death Star on. That'd be pretty cool, and I could totally see Hasbro doing some kind of Rebel Briefing Battlepack with pilots and Ackbar getting a proper chest badge someday. At least I think it should happen. Could is maybe a little too much wishful thinking on my part. It's a sharp way to get us a Nik Sant Rebel Commando though, Hasbro. A couple more Rebel Pilots or a General Han or something could slip into the mix too... I'm just sayin'.
: What's a good review without a good major gripe, and with this line (and lately, the line in general), the price is pretty out there. $7.99 is the base price for The Vintage Collection. That's a good bit of money for a little bit of action figure, generally. The lack of accessories, and the easy comparison with figures right on the pegs beside any Vintage Collection figure really makes you question some purchases.
When compared to Legends and Clone Wars figures, which are all to be $6.99, and then the fact that they come with their Galactic Battles card, stand, and dice, and that Legends figures feature a mix of extra weapons as well... well how can you not compare? They're all Star Wars figures obviously, so you really can't help but look and think that the Vintage Collection is at least $1 overpriced.
Since prices jumped above $5.99 though, I've been pretty focused on doing my army building and custom fodder buying when there are sales. Sales don't always hit when you want them to though, so you're stuck shelling out quite a bit or cutting back. Myself, I've largely cut back. Figures I'd have not thought twice about buying 2 of in the past, I now put one back. Army builders I'd have bought 20 of (I'm, sadly, serious about that) I now only buy a couple of, or wait for sales all together. It's a rough time out there to afford the hobby, so price factors into the review I'm afraid.OVERALL
Sure $8's a lot of money. Sure he doesn't have his chair...
But Ackbar's a pretty great figure, in a definitely great wave. It's as simple as that really. The sculpt is night and day to his previous incarnation of the great admiral, and the paint applications are downright elaborate for a figure these days. His gear leaves a little to be desired, but you have to give props to them for the little pointer thing as a vintage homage. The articulation is everything you need to be content with him too, and the fact he does his relieved head nod down? That's worth it to me ultimately.
The Vintage Collection has, to me, been very good. The future of it will depend on what Hasbro does with it, but waves like this Return of the Jedi wave make me have a lot of hope for what could be coming down the line. Sure, 2011's first wave images weren't too sharp, but I think things are going to be fantastic for most of 2011's line-up. Ackbar's probably not the most exciting character, but fan demand for a resculpt was there. Hasbro delivered something pretty special for our collections, and that's what keeps guys like me in the hobby for 20 years and counting.