Monday, July 7, 2014

Toy Review – Masters of the Universe Classics Blade from Mattel

Who doesn’t have a soft spot for 1987’s Masters of the Universe? And what can be said about it that I haven’t already said here?

I don’t feel like the characters from Masters of the Universe are necessary to the Classics line. I understand that figures were released of Blade, Saurod, and Gwildor back in the day. But I don’t want a Gwildor and I am perfectly happy forgoing Blade and Saurod if it means I don’t have to receive that gross little troll (apologies to Billy Barty, who I would be more than happy to see in a UHF toy line).

What I would like is a Movie Masters style line from the live action movie. I know I’m probably in the minority and most collectors would prefer that the characters integrate with the Classics line, but I think it would be awesome to have a full line of figures with more realistic proportions and looks. Obviously that’s never going to happen. We can’t even get a figure of Cosmic God Armor Skeletor (or whatever).

Having said all of that, I’ll take a Blade figure. He has a great character design and despite not existing prior to the Masters movie is a great example of the style of the toy line. His name is Blade and he’s all sharp edges and… well… blades. I particularly like the design of his chain mail tunic. 
 
And now it’s time to discuss something that you guys may or may not have noticed – my waning enthusiasm for the Masters of the Universe Classics line.

This is not a new topic for a toy blogger to be discussing. Some made a point of discontinuing their coverage of the line some time ago, others have simply stopped or moved onto other lines. I’m going to address it because I was aware it was happening but didn’t fully realize it until I saw the stack of unopened MOTUC boxes on my shelf. I simply did not care about opening and reviewing these figures.

I still enjoy the figures and like having them on the shelf, but I definitely have review fatigue. As different as each figure within the line is, most of them are based on the same buck and quite frankly it’s not very exciting to write about anymore.

I went almost four years, you guys. Give me a break.

I’m going to review Blade because I already started this one and took pictures and everything, but I think from here on out I’m going to leave the MOTUC reviews to Mr. Beau Brown. He has a couple of older ones waiting to go, but he is even busier than I am, so I’m not sure how many more of these there will be. If there’s a figure that’s special or particularly different I might still post about it, but I just cannot work up review-level enthusiasm for these guys anymore.

FIRST GLANCE

If any Masters of the Universe Classics figure was going to get me excited at this point, it was going to be Blade.

This is a distinctive figure. The color scheme is different from most other MOTUC releases and the abdominal armor doesn’t add five inches to the circumference of the figure. Also, we just don’t see a whole heck of a lot of regular humans in this line.

PACKAGING

I love that this line has maintained the same, exact oversized blister cards for the duration of its run. They look good, are easy to open, and all have bios on the back!:

Although he failed in his mission, his deadly mastery of the sword has left his mark, becoming one of the most wanted men in Eternian history!”

That sentence is a fucking disaster. How do you release a product to actual consumers with that mess on it? I’ve seen EFF with better grammar.

Blade uses his duel swords to battle heroic warriors…”

Now, it’s possible that Scott Nietlich (who writes all of these bios and has actually created a compelling narrative regardless of his difficulties with grammar) intended for that to mean “duel” as in “an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with
matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules”. I suppose that Blade’s swords could reasonably be referred to as “duel swords”. But since he has two of them I’m inclined to believe this should be “dual swords”. But I dunno. I’ll give ol’ Toy Guru the benefit of the doubt on this one.

LOOKS

I was going to comment on Blade being the first figure in the line to sport a likeness based on an actual person, but there are all kinds of reasons that that statement is incorrect.
First there are the “tribute” figures that have been sculpted to look like Scott Nietlich or various other members of the Matty staff. That’s fine and doesn’t bother me one bit. I would absolutely do the same thing were I in charge of a toy line. However, unlike Blade those figures did not have to look like a specific individual and beyond that if the sculpt wasn’t a perfect likeness the public at large would never know anyway. Blade was the first figure that had to feature an accurate likeness.

Except that he wasn’t because before Blade was released Mattel produced a Stan Lee action figure. Which I’m pretty sure nobody could have seen coming. So poor ol’ Blade didn’t get the one distinction he should have been guaranteed – he would have been the one figure in the entire line to feature a human’s likeness. He isn’t even the first.

So how is that likeness? It’s pretty good. They couldn’t very well have just plopped a photo-realistic head on a MOTUC body. That would have looked absurd. Well, a different kind of absurd. So the 4 Horsemen beefed up Anthony De Longis’ head and did a pretty good job of it. The facial expression is a nice combination of disdain and determination. All of the weird gear on his head looks nice – the wacky bladed headphones and the eyepatch have a ton of sculpted detail and solid paint jobs. Blade’s facial features – his one visible eye and eyebrow – have nice paint apps as well.

That goes for the whole figure, really. Since Blade’s costume existed in the real world the Horsemen had a different level of sculpted detail to work with. The links of chain mail on the tabard are distinctive and deeply sculpted. These aren’t just a bunch of circles on the surface. The paint effect really brings them out. The dark base with silver dry-brushing looks amazing. The tabard is, of course, two pieces – an abdominal piece and a waist piece. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt the best job that Matty has done with this sort of thing. The front lines up perfectly and all but eliminates any sort of belly shirt effect. But most important is the fact that the closures for the top piece are located towards the figure’s back. This means that Blade doesn’t suffer from Maggie Simpson syndrome like most of the other MOTUC figures that have armor or abdominal clothing of some sort. His arms can actually hang normally by his sides. Well, as normally as is possible for somebody with this insane physique.

The skull crest on Blade’s chest is interesting, as it’s just a skull. It isn’t Skeletor and it isn’t Hordak and those two have pretty much cornered the market on skull-related merchandise in this universe. It’s an interesting design and the sculpt has a nice depth to it. I love how shiny all of the silver on this figure turned out.

Blade’s shoulder pad/suspender/belt rig is unlike any other MOTUC character. It’s part of the tabard on the figure but it’s distinctive enough to be a separate paragraph. I like the design of the belts on his abdomen and how they hang down on his sides to the loops where he can store his swords. To me, those shoulder pads suggest that Blade always has an answer because if he were ever to shrug he would slice his ears to ribbons.

Actually, maybe that’s why he has his crazy headgear. Maybe back when he first got those ludicrous shoulder pads at Oroku Saki’s Estate Sale (and yes – Shredder does predate Blade by a couple of years) he learned the lesson the hard way.

Blade has new forearms. The right is an intricate gauntlet, the left is the same but with a crossbow mounted on it. They both have great sculpts, but I would have liked a little paint on the crossbow. Even just some color on the shafts of the bolts would have made a big difference.

There are two details below the waist that I am impressed to be seeing. The daggers on Blade’s thighs and the sculpted trim on his boot-tops. The daggers would have looked much better as separate pieces. As they are they conform to the figure’s lines too much and look odd.

The trim on his boots does look good and I am surprised that it’s sculpted and not simply painted on. Matty could have gotten away with skipping both the daggers and the trim, so I think it’s pretty cool they were included, even if the daggers are a little sub-par.

ACCESSORIES

Blade comes with two swords and a laser whip.

One sword is an unpainted saber that honestly looks pretty cheap.

The other sword is more of a standard straight sword that manages to still look cheap despite being fairly distinctive and even having red paint on the crossbar. I just cannot be satisfied with swords in a collector-oriented line where the hilt wrapping is the same color as the blade. And yes – I know that all of the Power Swords are like that, but they have always been depicted that way. And Matty even added the highlight of paint on the blades. This figure’s swords just don’t look great.

Both swords fit quite well into either of Blade’s hands or the loops on his belts.

The laser whip is okay, but it would have been so much better is the whip part had been a translucent rubber. Or at least a good bit longer. As is it’s kind of useless and doesn’t look all that good in Blade’s hand. He’d need to be within a couple of feet of his victim to hit them and that totally defeats the purpose of a whip.

All three of these pieces feature the shitty “China” stamp.

FUN

Blade is a fun figure. Because of the smart decisions made with his armor he can make better use of the solid MOTUC articulation than a lot of other figures in the line. Having three accessories to interact with is also good, especially with spots to store two of those weapons.

I enjoyed posing him for a while. That’s probably part of the reason I went ahead and reviewed this one despite my MOTUC fatigue. The figure looks good and plays well.
None of the joints are loose or stuck and Blade can be posed pretty much any way you might have seen in the movie.

OVERALL

The figure itself is great. The thigh daggers could be better, but with Matty’s budgetary complaints I realize that removable daggers and a separately sculpted pair of thigh… uh… dagger holsters? are unrealistic expectations. So the figure itself is about as good as it could possibly be.

The accessories are another story and are definitely part of why I am considering not subscribing in 2015. I cannot accept accessories with minimal or no paint from a line charging almost thirty dollars apiece for its action figures. More if you count shipping, which I do. I still remember the disgust with which I first beheld Stinkor’s unpainted accessories. I knew at the time that that might be the beginning of the end. It was a bad standard to set.

4 out of 5

Cheap swords aside, this is a very good Masters of the Universe Classics figure. I actually do recommend it. It’s different enough to pop on the shelf and has a lot of character for a human amongst monsters.


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