Rebel Pilots come and go… Along with the Rebel Fleet Troopers, the Rebel Pilots are almost to Star Wars what the “red shirts” are to Star Trek. They drop off like flies in combat, and even the heartiest of young recruits can die as inconsequential laser fodder to any TIE or AT-AT's blaster cannons.
Hasbro dabbles in Rebel Pilots every whipstitch, right up to even making us a 3-pack of them back at the tail-end of the Cinema Scene line around 1999, or so. These figures often translate into moans and groans from some who find the characters dull, to sounds of elation from many who want to have full fighter wings of pilots available for their dioramas. (I'd argue more the latter though!)
Hasbro's attempt at the Gold Leader pilot (Jon “Dutch” Vander) in the new “Yavin wave” of figures turned out to be a figure a lot of people were impressed with, even if they didn't care much for pilot figures. From an astonishingly detailed decoration to the ingeniously hidden articulation, “Dutch” is flying into, and out of stores almost as quickly as he flew down the Death Star trench.
Read on for all the juice on this orange thing of beauty!
Sculpt: You simply cannot beat this with a stick. It's really a dead-on accurate sculpt, and while Hasbro has become increasingly accurate in most of their sculpts in recent years, this Gold Leader really stands out among the sea of plastic.
From intricate folds and creases in his uniform, to a separately sculpted set of leg-straps, chest-box, and life-support hose, this “Dutch” figure really looks life-like, even in this tiny scale. The uniform seems to hang off him flawlessly, like he's really in a worn uniform, and it looks incredibly realistic.
The figure's sculpt on the body is nice, but details like the flares, rods in the shoulder sleeves, the chest box's buttons, belt-buckle/texture, and other smaller details really do stand out on the figure and help him come to life when compared to some of the previous Rebel Pilot figures.
Of all the great details, the headsculpt stands out the most, as this is one of the most accurate sculpts I think I've seen of a human character in the Star Wars line. While seeing “Dutch” without his helmet on is but a brief moment in A New Hope, he can be also be spotted earlier in the Rebel briefing sequence asking General Dodonna “What good are Snubfighters going to be against that!?”, in disbelief to the attack plan. Hasbro was able to capture the exact look of the actor, and it really is an impressive looking figure hitting the pegs.
Accessories: He doesn't come with much, but like some other recent figures, his accessories are very nicely done.
Sporting a helmet with working chinstrap, and a blaster pistol (the apology Fleet Trooper Blaster), Gold Leader's going into combat armed and armored. The inclusion of a blaster was particularly nice because, while he wasn't seen on-screen with one, it makes you feel better seeing it in the package and knowing you're getting a little something extra.
The stand-out accessory is the helmet, and it's an impressive piece. The Yavin wave shows Hasbro's true foray into helmets with functional chinstraps. They'd accomplished the feat earlier on with the Episode 1 Naboo Royal Guard, but have since skipped the concept over on some additional figures where it would've been appropriate as well… ‘Til now.
The helmet's strap fits securely under Gold Leader's chin, and is really well sculpted and scaled. The very snug fit makes getting the helmet on a bit tougher than with past pilots and other figures who had removable head gear with chinstraps, but since it does go on and off without breaking I think it's a major improvement.
Hasbro also went to the effort of casting the helmet in a translucent green-ish plastic and painting the outside of the helmet so that the visor is still see-through, like past Rebel Pilot helmets. Good work there Hasbro. And let's not overlook the helmet's paintjob, which is INCREDIBLY ACCURATE. This is the best Rebel Pilot helmet deco ever, if I do say so, and I believe I do. It's very sharp, and amazingly intricate. Another good job there Hasbro.
Of course, Gold Leader also comes with the now standard rectangular Star Wars stand. It's nothing special, but with Hasbro improving them so that they interlock properly, they're sort of neat. It's nice to get at least (though more articulation should be a priority over stands, but I digress).
Articulation: Is it perfect? Well, not really… But the articulation's not terrible by any stretch, and some of it is actually so nicely done that I'd praise it as the single best articulation point on a Star Wars figure ever.
“Dutch” sports articulation points of:
-2 standard shoulder joints
-1 ball/socket style neck joint
-2 standard hip joints
-2 ball/socket knee joints
-1 left wrist joint
-1 right elbow swivel joint
With a total of 9 points, it would seem that “Dutch” is in no short supply of articulation. Unfortunately, he falls prey to Hasbro's recent trend of omitting some articulation in favor of other articulation or features, and he also suffers from the current trend of “unbalanced articulation”, where for example Hasbro gives one arm a joint but not the other one. That's gonna get some negative attention for a figure that shouldn't have it, but we'll get to that later.
You can get Gold Leader into some cool running, sitting/briefing room, climbing ladders, standing around talking, and even fighting/shooting his gun kinda poses. He's basically a fairly poseable figure, and the neck articulation (not a true ball/socket joint) allows for him even to look around for “fighters on your six!”, as the pilots would say. J That's not too bad for a Rebel Pilot figure, which we've yet to see well articulated until now.
Features: One feature of “Dutch” that I really love, and that a lot of people don't even know exists, is that his leg-straps, chest box, and life-support hose are all separate pieces stuck onto the figure. There's something about the leg-straps though… They actually hide the ball/socket knee articulation! Hasbro's first attempt ever at these separate (and amazingly realistic looking) leg-straps is pulled off flawlessly.
This is a really small feature, but the way the straps work so perfectly, it's worth mentioning, if but briefly. They make this figure really stand out compared to others that are similar to him.
Decoration: I've picked up a couple Gold Leader figures in the past few months since his wave started to ship. He's not been particularly tough to find really. Unfortunately, finding one with a perfect paint job hasn't been so easy. Most every figure I've seen has some of the white vest area either over-sprayed onto the orange, or it even sometimes has large drops spread onto the body.
The bleeding of the paint is kept to a minimum though, and the headsculpt's paint appears to be cleaner than the padded white vest area. Unfortunately, the large white spots on the orange jumpsuit tend to stick out to me, even through the packaging, so that's a definite negative for this figure. So I encourage you to look through several “Dutch” figures if you get the chance, and pick the best paint job of the bunch.
Selective Articulation? This one is the biggest detractor to this figure in my eyes, and one that I just find to be silly/lazy on Hasbro's part.
While “Dutch” sports a nice swivel joint at his right elbow (which helps him neatly tuck his helmet underneath), he doesn't sport any similar articulation on his left arm. This is somewhat disappointing, but since Gold Leader's left arm is more or less straight, it's not terrible. Similarly, the left arm's glove is articulated to swivel at the top of the arm, but the right glove (on the articulated arm) is not. This makes Gold Leader's right hand awkwardly angled at times, making it a place that would've been ideal for Hasbro to put a spot of articulation at, especially so he could hold his blaster in a combat pose a little better.
Also, Hasbro has chosen to entirely omit the (seemingly) standard waist articulation that Star Wars figures have been coming with since the inception of the modern line. This joint is important for getting a variety of realistic poses out of figures, and it's usually easily hidden at the figure's waistline/belt area. Perhaps Hasbro chose to not include this articulation because of the leg straps or whatnot, but to me it's a major detractor from the figure's poseability, and as toys, this is an area Hasbro SHOULD be focusing in on at all times.
Still, even with these several flaws, the figure's overall look is quite sharp.
Not too shabby a figure at all, and yet another figure from the famed “Yavin wave” that really stands out. This is, to me, one of the top waves of figures to come out since the latter waves of the POTJ line.
I highly recommend grabbing a Gold Leader, or even two or three. Fill up your pilot ranks, or perhaps even make some custom figures with him. He's as good of custom fodder as he is a stand-alone figure. With his wave seemingly shipping in decent numbers, “Dutch” has been an easy enough figure to nab on the pegs of your local stores. Don't sit on your wallet with this one though.
As the best pilot figure out there, I think you'll be happy to have him in your collection at least once over, if not in multiples!