As 2011 comes to a close, I’ve decided to review the new Clone Wars vehicles I’ve acquired over the past year. Hasbro continues to produce an exciting array of action figures and accessories for this latest line of Star Wars products, and their figures remain as consistent in quality and scale as ever. Unfortunately (given the compromises necessary to maintain such a large and varied toy line in an ever-changing market), their vehicle line is constantly hampered by gross inconsistencies in scale and proportion. To my frustration, the five new vehicles presented here (while all intended for use with their line of 1:18 action figures) were each produced at a uniquely different scale.
The only one accurately to scale with their action figures is the “Republic Swamp Speeder,” or ISP (that’s Infantry Support Platform), not to be confused with Kenner’s ridiculous ISP-6 (nor your Internet Service Provider, for that matter). Among the various automobiles in Star Wars — or speeders, to use the in-universe nomenclature — this one’s one of my favorites, even though it can only barely be glimpsed in Revenge of the Sith, and doesn’t appear in The Clone Wars TV series at all. The best reference image I could find comes from Star Wars: Complete Cross-Sections (one of the only images in the book that isn’t, in fact, a cross-section):
Illustrated by either Hans Jenssen or Richard Chasemore (or John Mullaney, or Jon Hall); DK Publishing is not clear on this point.
It appears more frequently in movie tie-in video games, and its single Clone Wars appearance comes from a comic book.
The toy is lovingly detailed, with appropriately weathered paint applications, and includes a design feature entirely unique to Star Wars vehicles: seat belts!
However, despite being made of soft, flexible rubber, actually fitting them over a figure in Clone Trooper armor requires the patience and dexterity of a Jedi.
I somehow managed to get the starboard driver belted in without incident, but the port seat belt wouldn’t stay in its housing and eventually needed to be glued down.
The figure’s hands kept popping out of his forearms, too, since the control sticks on the seats are just a little too far forward for the figure to comfortably reach. Again, Krazy glue provided a permanent (if problematic) solution, and my Clone Troopers look right at home at the controls.
There are pegs molded into the platform on either side of the craft, so other figures can be mounted standing on the vehicle. Of course, unless there’s some kind of “anti-gravity plating” or “acceleration compensators” built into the floor, there’s no way anyone could remain standing while the craft is in motion… and if they could, then seat belts for the drivers hardly seem necessary, do they?
Those pegs are perfectly adequate for keeping figures firmly attached, even when the vehicle is in motion. Wheels concealed on the underside of the toy allow it to roll smooth and easily across the floor.
The package even comes with this gorgeous cardboard backdrop depicting Felucia… although for some reason, mine didn’t.
The other speeder I picked up this year also came with an impressive cardboard display diorama, this one beautifully depicting a vast industrial sector of Coruscant:
The painting accurately recreates a setting featured in the Clone Wars episode “Lethal Trackdown.”
In the episode, Plo Koon and Ahsoka take a Praxis Mk. I down into the seedy underworld of Coruscant.
It’s a huge speeder (larger than even most of the fighter craft seen in Star Wars), and its sleek, manta ray profile suggests great speed. The open-air cockpit looks awfully dangerous — no seat belts here! — and the windshield’s not quite high enough to cover the top of Plo Koon’s head.
Maybe that’s how he lost his hair.
The toy version, as you can see, is considerably under-scaled; about 1:24, I estimate. Two figures can sit in the cockpit (provided they’re of frail Clone Wars proportions), but the windscreen’s reduced to little more than a dashboard cover.
Behind the cockpit there’s an astrodroid socket, and putting an R2 unit back there makes the scale discrepancy even more apparent… but without a droid there’s just a gaping hole in the fuselage, which is equally unattractive.
Still, the dashboard’s nicely detailed, including instrument panel stickers, and even the floor of the craft has sculpted detail!
Unfortunately, there are unsightly holes in the engine pods for loading and firing spring-loaded missiles.
More missile launchers are concealed in the front of the speeder (retractable sections pull out from either side), and the rear section opens to reveal further guns facing fore and aft, with pegs to attach gunners. Jedi don’t carry guns, of course — as Yoda famously tells Luke, “a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack” — so naturally, Hasbro’s “Jedi Turbo Speeder” is armed to the teeth.
Another toyetic compromise to appeal to gun-loving American boys, perhaps? Or is this part of a larger Hasbro agenda to fuel the military-industrial complex? (Hey, what blog is complete without wild conspiracy theories?)
Despite its abundant play features, however, this one does not have wheels concealed in the undercarriage; it may look fast, but it won’t move an inch.
The graceful backswept wings are made of soft PVC plastic, and don’t hold their shape well; they also have hinges attached at their base, for no apparent reason. In order to keep the engine pods properly aligned, I needed to pull the ends of the wings out of their housings in the fuselage. They have to sit at an angle facing forward in order to hold the engine pods parallel to the plane of the speeder. A minor design flaw, but it does further detract from the sleek lines of the vehicle (even with all the weaponry concealed).
The engine pods, the wings, the clean lines and symmetry of the design, and the total lack of weathering all give a distinctly Star Trek feel to the craft, and I’m sure it would look at home in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie series.
Next up is the HMP (Heavy Missile Platform), a flying battle droid seen over the skies of Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith:
At about 1:32 scale, the HMP toy (known simply as “Droid Gunship”) is considerably smaller than it ought to be… although its actual size is difficult to determine onscreen, since they only appear briefly in a few aerial shots. The scale of the toy is largely irrelevant.
This craft also has a Star Trek flavor to it, reminiscent of Klingon or Romulan starship design. It’s appropriately bristling with weaponry, most of which can be rotated, aimed, and fired. Unfortunately, these play features require large, round buttons for launching missiles and dropping bombs, protruding from the surface of the craft both on the sides and on top.
They might’ve been less obtrusive, if the sculpted detail on the hull had been painted to stand out a little more, but the two-tone blue color scheme is so bland that the HMP almost looks like an unpainted model kit.
As with the Octuptarra Droid and the Corporate Alliance Tank Droid toys, Hasbro has seen fit to include a cockpit to accommodate a Battle Droid pilot. Why a droid needs a droid to pilot it remains a mystery to me, but I imagine Hasbro sells more action figures this way…
Again, the intricately sculpted detail cries out for a decent paint job.
Props to the Hasbro design team for the practical addition of a retractable landing leg. Without it, the only viable display option would be to hang it from the ceiling (which is what I’m going to do anyway)…
This next vehicle, the AV-7 Mobile Cannon, actually makes a couple of significant appearances in The Clone Wars, first in the dismal pilot film and again in the second-season episode “Weapons Factory.”
The Hasbro toy is well-proportioned (with the possible exception of the legs), and appears to closely match the CGI model.
The gunner seat fits Clone Trooper figures, and looks appropriately scaled…
…until you attach it to the cannon.
See the scale discrepancy?
It looks even more pathetically small when posed with troopers on the ground.
In the aforementioned episode, Clone Troopers can be seen walking under these cannons — that’s how big they’re supposed to be — and if the legs of the toy were better articulated, the base of the cannon could at least be raised a little higher off the ground; alas, the legs only hinge upwards, the ankle joint is severely limited, and the knee joint is fake.
To add insult to injury, Hasbro has seen fit to include half-assed play features, such as a flimsy flip-down platform to mount additional figures on the left side. There are pegs for three figures, but it can barely handle the weight of one, much less three; see the precarious angle these two are leaning at?
Fold up the back legs, and spring-loaded tank treads swing down from the undercarriage. There’s no mechanism to lock them in place, however, and they collapse back into their housing with even the slightest downward pressure. What’s more, the treads are as fake as the knees, merely a single plastic piece painted black on the outside edge. The whole thing is even more awkward and unstable than it appears.
If only they’d spent those tooling costs on properly-articulated legs instead, this vehicle might not be a total write-off… but being so pathetically small to begin with (not even 1:35 scale, I reckon), it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference.
I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money on this one. It’s a big disappointment.
Even more ridiculously under-scaled, however, is the improbably-named Republic Attack Shuttle, seen early in the first season of The Clone Wars. Being a big fan of the Imperial Shuttle from the original trilogy, I fell in love with this ship as soon as it appeared in “Rookies”:
Hasbro’s toy version is reasonably well-proportioned (all things considered), and looks almost as cool.
This elegant design is both aggressive and graceful at the same time.
The cobalt-blue engines and gunmetal grey housings have a distinctly Gundam vibe, and from the rear it looks more like a Bandai toy than a Hasbro one.
The triangular folding wings, the shape of the fuselage, and the overall dimensions of the ship are clearly derived from the Return of the Jedi shuttle design, another nice touch of visual continuity bridging the gap between the original trilogy and The Clone Wars. As the wings fold up and the shuttle lands, the pilots are visible through the cockpit canopy:
That’s Captain Rex and Commander Cody in the two-man cockpit.
The toy cockpit actually seats two figures — well, perhaps “seats” isn’t the right word, since they’re in more of a standing position — but only one is visible through the cockpit cover.
The included Clone Pilot figure features an entirely new helmet sculpt, and isn’t merely a repack of 2008′s “Odd Ball” figure. It’s an extremely well-articulated figure, by necessity: you’ve got to get him into a pretty funky pose for him to fit in that cockpit, after all!
In the show, troops are seen exiting the ship from the front ramp. Cody and Rex walk down the ramp side-by-side.
The shape and inclination of the ramp is more apparent in this image from “Lair of Grievous”:
The engineers at Hasbro even managed to get the height of the landing gear correct (something they failed to do with either the Imperial Shuttle or any of their various iterations of the Millennium Falcon).
There’s just one problem:
Obviously, a shuttle properly scaled to the action figures would be ridiculously large and prohibitively expensive — making it impossible to market as a toy — so why make this half-hearted attempt to accommodate 1:18 figures in a 1:48 scale vehicle? The inclusion of a couple 1:48 figures would’ve made a lot more sense, and the ship wouldn’t look so absurdly small by comparison; the interiors could’ve been reproduced as accurately as the exterior, providing much more authentic play value.
Instead, we get intricately detailed interiors that look terrific empty…
…but are much too small to suit the action figures they’re designed for.
How are these guys supposed to get out?
A child-like “Kubrick” figure, at least, would likely fit through that door…
…but even Kubricks are too tall to get though here.
I did, however, manage to find one appropriate Hasbro figure suited to the interior proportions.
Regardless of the scale issues, this vehicle is packed with electronics and play features. Flip up the wings, pull up the top of the fuselage, and pop out the side panels, and suddenly the ship is transformed into an “attack base” with “recon fighter.” It’s completely apocryphal, of course (having no basis in Star Wars fiction whatsoever), but it’s the perfect playset for kids who care more for cannons than canon.
Figures can be pegged in all over the place, manning consoles, pillboxes, and rotating gunner stations; it could easily be marketed as Hasbro’s first Star Wars/G.I. Joe crossover.
Figures can even be mounted on the lookout tower, although it doesn’t look like a particularly safe place to stand…
This guy appears to be in the firing path of his own guns!
Even the recon fighter has a slot on top to accommodate a gunner for the built-in cannon.
The weapon racks molded into the panels on both wings are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The white rifle is included with the vehicle, and appears to be the same ABS plastic as the hull; the black guns are PVC plastic accessories sold with individual figures.
Criticizing the accuracy of Hasbro’s Star Wars toy line is becoming increasingly time-consuming, and preparing this latest post has clarified the reasons why this blog was neglected for such a long time: it takes too much damn time! I’d much rather be painting model kits and customizing Transformers than writing weblogs, after all. While the continued attention and feedback this blog receives is encouraging, I lack the motivation to keep this up on a regular basis.
Thanks to anybody who’s actually read this far, and Season’s Greetings for 2012! I’ve got some awesome new Transformers acquisitions to share, but I doubt I’ll get around to it before Christmas… -_-