Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Toy Review – Disney Store Exclusive Star Wars Die-Cast Elite Series Finn

I’m behind on my Masters of the Universe Classics reviews right now, but I’m pretty excited by the Exclusives that the Disney Store has for The Force Awakens and wanted to go ahead and cover this guy. Partly because of the excitement of actually caring about new Star Wars toys, but also because I think there’s some confusion as to what, exactly, these die-cast figures are supposed to be.

First let me direct you to this post. In it I discuss the current Star Wars toy launch and how there’s nothing for me. I collect the 3.75” figures with modern articulation (more than 5 joints). I’ve got hundreds of them and a ton of vehicles. To me, the wide array of vehicles is a critical component of Star Wars toy collecting, so the 6” line is never going to cut it for me. I like the newer 3.75” figures with 5 points of articulation, but they don’t look right on the shelf with the figures I collect.

Aside from Micro Machine and other niche collections, that’s all that’s being offered to the mass market now. The figures I collect are continuing, but only at Walmart and they are over twelve bucks each. I haven’t set foot in a Walmart in seven months and I won’t pay more than ten bucks for a standard release 3.75” scale figure.

What I’m saying is that I’m basically done with Star Wars; at least, in the way that I have collected for the past twenty years. There simply isn’t a regular product that I want.

The Monday after Dragon Con I took the family out for a good, old-fashioned toy hunting day. The goal wasn’t so much to buy stuff as to just look around and see what all of the new Star Wars stuff looked like. I had yet to see any of it in person and I definitely wanted to give my son the opportunity to pick up a couple of things if he wanted to.

We went to multiple Targets and Toys R Us stores (because that’s pretty much all there is if you’re boycotting Walmart) and it was the same scene everywhere – the stores were out of product, but there wasn’t much we were interested in, anyway. I’m sure my son would’ve wanted some of the new style 3.75” figures if any had been available, but all we saw was a Dagobah Luke.

And then we went to the Disney Store because I had a hunch they might have some neat Exclusives.

Right after we walked in, my son came running up with this Finn figure. I wasn’t too interested because it just looked like a 6” Black Series figure, but then he handed it to me and it was heavy as crap. I realized it was die-cast – a sort of throwback to the days when figures were made of metal rather than plastic – and I had to have it. Not because I wanted to start a collection of metal figures, but because it made for a cool and different collectible to put on the shelf as a memento of Episode VII’s imminent release.

All they had on the shelf was Finn. I asked a clerk if there were more and she gave a me a catalog of currently released and upcoming figures. I’m not buying all of these, but I will get Boba Fett and Darth Vader; as well as Captain Phasma because I decided then and there that Finn and Phasma are the characters I’m latching onto. At least until the movie comes out.

These figures are not meant to compete with or be compatible with Hasbro’s 6” Black Series. These are an entirely different kind of collectible – something a little more special and unique than just a plastic action figure (and I’m not poo-pooing plastic action figures – I own thousands of them). These are items that will stand out on your shelf and are meant more as collectibles than toys. I like them for that.

The Disney Store is also carrying a range of large die-cast vehicles that look fantastic. They are not necessarily in scale with each other and are several times larger than Hot Wheels. They’re probably close to the same size as Hasbro’s wonderful Action Fleet line. While the action figures are pretty steep at $24.95, the vehicles are mostly $9.99, which I think is a steal. There are larger vehicles like Kylo Ren’s shuttle that cost more, but overall this seems like a very cool and affordable line.

Regardless of price I bought Finn because it was the first thing that felt right as my first Force Awakens purchase.

FIRST GLANCE

Once you get a look at the figure it’s obvious that it is styled differently from the Black Series and also that it’s larger. The sculpt looks great, but I could tell that the joints were very limited. I didn’t care, though, because like I said – this isn’t part of the Black Series. It’s a collectible, not an action figure. I’m mostly curious about how they came up with the somewhat odd idea of doing articulated, die-cast, 6”(ish) scale figures.

PACKAGING

The Elite Series (which is strange to write when not talking about WWE action figures) come in these fancy window boxes that almost look like gift boxes. This is the sort of packaging that you don’t really send to mass market because it would get all jacked up, but it can survive at specialty stores. The colors are light and eye-catching and that red metallic trim is classy. The only negative is all of those twist ties, but this is a heavy figure. It needs them.

The back of the box puts over the line as being something special. Below that we have the only vague bits of information we have about Finn. I have avoided reading about The Force Awakens as much as I’ve been able to. I don’t want to know anything beyond trailers and toy bios. Until I read this I had imagined that maybe Finn was a deep cover Jedi that Luke had dispatched to infiltrate the First Order, but it looks like what we saw in the trailer was pretty straightforward given the “desperate to escape his past” line. While I don’t necessarily want another “learning to be a Jedi” story, I trust the people in charge of the franchise until they prove me wrong. I just thought it would be much more interesting if – for instance – that scene in the forest with Kylo Ren leads to the reveal that Finn is a trained Jedi and an epic duel ensues.

But again – I trust that plenty of surprises await us on December 18th.

The box is completely resealable. The figure can be put right back in after being removed and look the same as when you bought it. As such, I might display Finn boxed.

LOOKS

The head sculpt is very good, especially the profile. They captured John Boyega’s likeness quite nicely without giving the figure the perpetual “I can’t believe that just happened” expression he has throughout the trailer. I don’t know why, but I’m surprised to see detail represented as nicely in metal as it is in plastic.

Side Note: A major advantage that die-cast toys have is that you’re not going to unbox them to discover warped appendages.

I was slightly disappointed to discover that some parts of the figure are plastic. The jacket, hands, and feet (and probably joint pieces) are not die-cast metal. Visually it doesn’t really matter and I don’t care that much, especially considering that those trigger fingers would absolutely break off is they were metal. My only real concern is that the plastic feet and ankles might not support the weight of the rest of the figure over time.

I suppose I need to address the painfully visible screws on this figure. If you’ve been reading Needless Things for any amount of time, you know how picky I am about the aesthetics of action figures and how important a streamlined profile is. Obviously these screws are terrible. Or at least, they would be terrible if I were judging this figure by regular action figure standards. But I’m not. I’m judging this as a die-cast collectible. What that means is that, by necessity, it is constructed differently from plastic figures. There’s no other way to join die-cast pieces securely. If you’re buying a die-cast action figure, you’re getting these screws, so it would be absurd to criticize them. I feel like they were placed as smartly as they could be. Again – this is not meant to be part of Hasbro’s Black Series, though some will inevitably relate this line to that one.

The jacket has a great sculpt and fantastic texture paint. I love how worn it looks. The detail paint is thick and vibrant, but isn’t placed all that well. The red portions are off-center and don’t cover all that they should. The silver parts and straps are, however, just fine. Also, I quite like this jacket and would totally wear it. I’m sure prop replicas will only run around $500.

The sleeves match the jacket nicely, though in these pictures they look a bit lighter. There’s piping down the sides and straps on the cuffs that give it a little more definition. The hands are both posed to hold blasters and look good.

Under the jacket Finn is super dull. While I appreciate that the guy just has clothes on and the wardrobe doesn’t go too far in being outlandish, it does result in Finn seeming to lack personality. I’m picturing a closet full of grey shirts and trousers. Even some cargo pockets would be nice. But the sculpts are well done and the joints have a lower profile than I expected from metal. All of the folds and wrinkles in the shirt and trousers look good, once again surprising me that metal can hold as much detail as plastic. The torso seems a bit wide. I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s a necessity of the materials used.

Finn has weird space shoes. These are easily the strangest and most “not from this galaxy” thing about him. They sort of look like golden croissants. The light color is a bit odd as well. In person it almost looks like he has white shoes on and that’s weird. I mean, obviously they don’t have Labor Day in a galaxy far, far away, but I think good fashion sense transcends federal holidays. The paint on the soles is a bit rough, but if it weren’t for that Finn’s footwear would look even more bizarre, so I’ll take it.

You might notice a rough spot of paint on the outside of the right calf. It’s not very noticeable in person, but it’s definitely something that shouldn’t be there.

ACCESSORIES

Finn comes with a very cool blaster that, depending upon its prevalence in The Force Awakens (and successive films), could replace Han’s DL-44 as my favorite from the franchise. I know that sounds like heresy, but I’ve always really liked guns that were just a bit too big to seem like one-handed weapons.

I was disappointed that this, too, was plastic. The sculpt is excellent and there are spots of darker metallic paint that look very nice. Visually, this is a great accessory.

These figures also include a stand. I’m not normally a fan of stands as accessories, but again – this is not just a line of action figures. They’re collectibles. I like the wide circumference of the stand and the design is nice and simple. The “Star Wars” logo in the middle of riveted plates looks good. I do wish there were two pegs, though. I get that the one peg is supposed to allow for greater variety in posing, but Id’ feel a little better about stability with two pegs. I’ve got tons of 25th Anniversary GI Joe figures that are posed in a very strange manner because one peg stands don’t get the job done.

FUN

This is probably the category where how you define this figure comes into play the most. As a collectible its articulation far exceeds expectations. As an action figure – well, it’s still pretty good, though nowhere near what the plastic Black Series provides.

Since this is a new style of thing here on Needless Things, I’ll run down the joints:

Head – ball joint
Shoulders – swivel/pivot
Elbows – pivot
Wrists – swivel
Waist – swivel
Hips – ball joint
Knees – pivot
Ankles – pivot

That’s fourteen points of articulation, which is not bad by any means. These could have been statues or limited to five points of articulation, which would have made them significantly less interesting to me. Again – I’m very curious about the process that led to these being produced as they are.

The usefulness of some of those joints is debatable. While the hips look good, Finn can’t sit down. And the arms have a decent range of movement, but he can’t hold his blaster with two hands. Otherwise the figure can achieve most poses within a basic range of human movement. Even though I’m just going to stand it on a shelf in a relatively neutral pose (if not just put it back in the box), it was fun to play with the figure and discover the limits of its poseability.

OVERALL

Finn is more fun than a statue and less fun than a super-articulated action figure. But the significance of the figure as a collectible is the strong point for me. I like knowing that this is a special, new style of thing that represents a sort of rebirth of one of my favorite franchises of all time. Plus, in the midst of a massively underwhelming (for me) toy launch, this line of die-cast stands out as something cool and different.

The $24.99 price tag is high. I would probably collect this line at twenty bucks apiece, but for twenty-five I’m going to be pretty picky. The good/bad is that since I am essentially not collecting any other Star Wars toys, this will be all that I am spending my money on. Although the die-cast vehicles are pretty tempting. Heck, I’d even be buying the Micro Machines if the playsets weren’t so expensive.

If you want a cool and different collectible, then these figures will make you happy. If you want something to stand alongside your Hasbro Black Series figures, you need to wait for more Hasbro Black Series figures. This is a different thing. Either way, I suggest you pay a visit to your local Disney Store and see if anything catches your eye.


4 out of 5

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