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Hot Toys continues its output of high end sixth-scale Star Wars action figures with the Death Star Gunner (MMS 413). Although several of its recent releases have been from The Force Awakens and Rogue One, this figure comes from the Original Trilogy proper, where this type of imperial trooper was featured in both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi; in fact, the imperial gunner is also featured in Rogue One, where the unit was not limited to the Death Star. The sinister, dark, anonymous, executioner-like appearance of the imperial gunners was appropriate for their role, which included not only manning defensive turrets and turbolaser cannons, but also the primary, planet-destroying superlaser of each Death Star.
Much has been said already about this figure elsewhere: that it does not depict a major character (although this is one type of imperial soldier that can both hit a target and destroy billions of lives!), that it does not have good articulation (which is partly accurate), and that it is not terribly exciting (which is debatable and subjective). I cannot agree with all of that, although I find the figure to have both good and bad qualities alike. As a Star Wars fan and sixth-scale collector, I was not about to pass it up, and am happy with acquiring it, although there are things about it I wish were done better. Between this and the grumblings about Hot Toys' recent Wonder Woman (where Michael's review is much more positive than others), one could almost ask whether the leading high-end sixth-scale company is beginning to slip up, perhaps overwhelmed by the sheer number of licenses and products. In particular, there are one or two aspects of this Hot Toys product that Sideshow might have done better, judging by their previous products, such as the TIE Fighter Pilot; similarly, Hot Toys' previous Original Trilogy offering, the Snowtrooper, was practically flawless, unlike the present figure. That said, Hot Toys' Death Star Gunner remains a beautifully-executed representation of at least one of the character's looks.
For a detailed coverage of the Death Star Gunner's uniform and gear, you can check HERE
(but note that, to the best of my knowledge, the "hard" armor shown there is not screen-accurate and that the "cylinders" or tools should look like THESE).
Packaging - ***
Hot Toys' Death Star Trooper comes in the familiar shoebox-style container, in the traditional two shades of black design for Star Wars sixth-scale action figures. Upon removing the lid, one encounters a colorful cover card depicting two of the product's intended looks superimposed over a background from a movie still (the original Death Star's gun bay). It is nicely done, but like the card for the Rogue One Stormtrooper, it somehow fails to exploit the potentially realistic aspect of the figure, allowing it to look like a toy. It is a type of frill I (and I suspect others) can live without, and possibly something that, if absent, could justify a lower price. Below this, there is a single black plastic tray with a transparent lid. This contains the figure and its accessories (watch out for the lightweight and fragile antenna in the upper right). Everything is pretty collector friendly as usual, except for some annoying tape on some of the plastic-baggies for smaller items. The packaging does its job of keeping everything safe, but it is nothing particularly outstanding. A little booklet taped to the box contains instructions on changing the figure's outfit.
Sculpting - ****
Overall, the sculpting on the figure is excellent, in keeping with Hot Toys' traditional strength in this area, especially where masked/helmeted head sculpts are concerned. Everything is cleanly and precisely executed on the helmet, and likewise on the belt, with its silver-like clasp and utility boxes. The same can be said about the gun. The boots are also nicely sculpted, and in some areas one can clearly detect the presence of tiny sculpted stitching. The gloves are wisely divided into two parts to allow for wrist articulation: the gloved hand proper, and what is functionally a vambrace covering the lower arm. The upper and lower edges of each "vambrace" also feature delicately-sculpted stitching. But there are possible deficiencies in the sculpting of the boots and gloves. For one thing, compared to the actual film costumes and to the Sideshow TIE Fighter Pilot (who wore the same boots and gloves), the boots and gloves on Hot Toys' Death Star Gunner lack the realistic worn look and creased detail: they are simply too pristine. This is not too bad in and in itself, but there is also a palpable difference between the gloved hands and the vambraces, but I am interpreting this as due to the paint application (see below).
Paint - ***1/2
As usual with Hot Toys, the paint job on the figure is very good. To be sure, it is not terribly complex here, but where there is a difference in colors, it is sharply and precisely executed, for example the white, blue, and red buttons on the comlink box on the upper left side of the helmet; similarly, on the communication pad on the lower left sleeve of the jumpsuit worn under the quilted top. The imperial "cog" emblem is beautifully painted in white on the front of the helmet's dome, while the same emblem appears in a more silverish color on circular patches on the upper sleeves of the quilted top. The belt buckle and utility boxes are painted in a silverish metallic color. The little metal caps on the straps attaching to the black chest armor are also silverish in color. As noted above, there is also a palpable difference between the gloved hands and the vambraces: the gloved hands look smoother and shinier, while the vambraces match the more matte surface of the boots; I am not completely certain whether the difference is due to the underlying sculpting or to the paint application, but I will assume the latter. At any rate, this should have been anticipated or noticed and corrected, as it detracts from the realistic appearance of the figure. Otherwise, I would have given this category a full four stars.
Articulation - ***
The underlying Hot Toys body is probably as poseable as any other, and in this case any limitation to the poseability is due to the outfit. In fact, the problem is in large part due to the relatively thick quilted top. If you were to remove it and display the figure in the underlying jumpsuit, the articulation of the elbows, knees, and even shoulders would be virtually unhindered. However, as we will discuss under Outfit, there are good reasons not to display your figure in the jumpsuit. There is some ab articulation, but the chest armor does get in the way a little bit. The articulation of the ankles is severely hindered by the sculpted boots. Hot Toys has made soft plastic boots that allowed for ankle articulation before (for example on the Christopher Reeve Superman), or has divided the boots into what are effectively a "shoe" and "greaves"; either would have been preferable to what we get here. Another problem with the design has to do with the wrist articulation. It is theoretically there, and dividing the gloves into the gloved hands proper and a "vambrace" ought to have allowed for decent articulation; but it does not. The problem here is caused by the multiple layers of outfit. Over the lower arm there are the jumpsuit, the quilted top, and an extra little leather-like funnel that lies directly under the "vambrace." This means there is little wrist articulation in practice, and trying to pose the wrist or even bending the arm at the elbow allows for the hand to pop off the wrist peg far too easily. This is largely avoided if you remove the leather-like funnel from under the "vambrace," but then you cannot display the lower arm in a raised position, as the "vambrace" would slide down and expose a gap between itself and the gloved hand. Given the problems with the boots and gloves, they might as well have used the same ones created by Sideshow for their TIE Fighter Pilot; they, too, get in the way of articulation, yet look right.
Accessories - **
To be honest, we never really see imperial Gunners with a whole lot of accessories in the film, and in fact we do not even see their sidearms, if any. But the scarcity of accessories with regular Hot Toys Star Wars figures is becoming a frequent disappointment. Apart from a stand and some spare parts (two extra wrist pegs, two extra silver caps for the chest armor straps, two extra pairs of hands), the sole accessory is the DH-17 blaster (also known as the "rebel" blaster). This was wielded by imperial naval guards ("Death Star troopers"), who were often seen working alongside Gunners on the Death Star, so it makes for a sensible addition. Now a turbolaser cannon would have been too large and complex to serve as an additional accessory, but there were other options that could have made for reasonable additions: a control panel, additional guns (like the standard imperial E-11 blaster rifle or the DL-44 blaster pistol), or at least cylinders or tools to be worn in the upper arm pocket of the jumpsuit (but see under Outfit below).
The Death Star Gunner comes with a pair of relaxed hands. The extra hand sculpts are a pair of fist hands and a pair of gun-grip hands, making for a total of three pairs of hands in all. The index-finger of the gun-grip hands has some trouble aligning with the gun's trigger.
Since the antenna is supposed to be attached to the helmet at all times, I am not counting it as an accessory, even if it is packed separately in the tray.
Outfit - ***
The outfit is made up of the sculpted helmet, gloved hands and "vambraces," boots, and a ribbed black collar (like that worn by Stormtroopers), as well as soft goods including the imperial belt with buckle, utility boxes, and holster, padded quilted top, and a soft, leather-like chest armor (similar in design to Sandtrooper pauldrons, which were in fact derived from motorcycle leather chest protectors).
This is a complex category where this figure is concerned, because it can be displayed in three variations of the outfit (Hot Toys' promotional images highlight two of them). One option is to display the figure as it comes, with the soft chest armor sitting atop the quilted top, itself worn over the black imperial jumpsuit (see the photo above). The chest armor is very nicely designed and stitched together, with a soft-padded leather-like feel. As far as this look is concerned, my misgivings with the gloves notwithstanding, the look is pretty much spot-on. It corresponds to the appearance of the Death Star Gunners in the gun bay of the Death Star towards the end of A New Hope (see HERE). By itself, this look of the figure comes close to a full four stars.
The second look advertised by Hot Toys is similar, but with the quilted top removed (it unzips with a frontal zipper hidden underneath the chest armor). Here, the gunner would wear the chest armor directly over the jumpsuit (see the photo below). This look corresponds to the appearance of the Death Star Gunners in the superlaser control room in both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi (the original footage was recycled for the latter film). The problem with this look is that the black imperial jumpsuit provided here is inaccurate. The bottom part (visible in the first look above) is correct, but the top part is not, unlike the screen-accurate black jumpsuit that comes with Sideshow's TIE Fighter Pilot (see especially this photo, including kitbashes using that jumpsuit). One glaring inaccuracy with the Hot Toys jumpsuit is the absence of the imperial "cog" emblem on the upper sleeves. These are always present on the black (and grey) jumpsuits worn by any imperials in the Original Trilogy, including the gunners (the only omission, probably a costume department oversight, seems to occur with one of the quilted tops, not jumpsuits, in ANH: see HERE). Yours truly noticed this omission on the prototype photos and informed Hot Toys in early April 2017, and was told that they would pass on the message to the production department. Yet, the product perpetuates the mistake of the prototype. In their defense, one might suppose that this was not long enough before production to be corrected. But one would expect better from Hot Toys, especially after Sideshow had already replicated the garment perfectly. Further, there should be an open pocket on the upper right sleeve just under the emblem, and there should be a couple of tools or cylinders placed in it (see HERE and HERE, at 2:03), but the product does not feature either pocket or tools. Otherwise, the look is pretty decent, with a nice and sharply executed communications pad on the lower left sleeve. But because of the inaccuracy discussed above, I would give this look three stars out of four.
The third look, though not one specifically advertised by Hot Toys, would be to display the Death Star Gunner without both the quilted top and the chest armor, in other words wearing only the helmet, gloves, boots, belt, and jumpsuit (see the articulation photo above). This was seen in the Death Star superlaser tunnel in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi (which recycled the older footage), albeit without gloves (probably a wardrobe oversight, HERE, at 2:05; it was corrected in the parallel scene shot for Rogue One), and also (with the gloves) at the emperor's arrival in Return of the Jedi (see HERE, at 1:11). If you attempt to achieve this look with the present product, you would be even farther from a film-accurate appearance than the second look discussed above. This is because--besides the errors noted above--the two chest pockets on the Hot Toys jumpsuit (which were obscured by the chest armor in the look above) are completely inaccurate (again, see HERE for the correct look).
I should also point out that the utility boxes on the belt should be optional (i.e., removable) or there should have been an additional alternate belt without them.
The score for this category reflect my average for the three looks. Most collectors, however, are likely to display this figure the way it comes (in part because they would not want to mess with the tiny clasps and zippers, which actually worked flawlessly in my experience), and that happens to be the most film-accurate look of the three, meriting a better score in and of itself.
Fun Factor - ***1/2
With a decent articulation and plenty of other Star Wars figures to be posed alongside (something that would be improved with the release of Hot Toys' Death Star Trooper), this figure should be plenty of fun for collectors and enthusiasts. It is a little too delicate to be a child's toy (especially its delicate antenna and easily removable hands). The only reason I am not giving this category a full four-star rating, apart from some limitations in articulation, is the inaccuracy of the two alternative looks.
Value - ***
I am divided on this rating. Retailing at $205-210, in some cases even including the shipping, this is a fairly affordable offering from Hot Toys these days. To be sure, we get little in the way of accessories, and yet we also get (in theory) multiple looks (even if two out of the three are not quite screen-accurate). Still, I would have expected better solutions or execution for the ankle and wrist articulation and greater screen-accuracy.
Things to Watch Out For -
The hands swap easily enough (in fact they fall out too easily, which gets annoying), so I don't think you need to worry about breaking a wrist peg (and if you do, there is a pair of spares supplied). I would keep a close eye on the antenna (but don't poke your eye out with it), which is difficult to attach securely, and therefore prone to snag on things (like a wristband) and catapult into the unknown; given its small size and dark color, it might be difficult to locate afterwards. The zipper and chest armor strap clasps work very well, but one should probably handle them with care.
Overall - ***
Despite my various criticisms of the several omissions or imperfect solutions present with this product, I do like the figure and am happy I added it to my collection. I would be displaying the figure in its most accurate look, where it comes quite close to perfection. I would have hoped for more poseability and accessories (and have suggested what could have been included), but then again this is considerably more affordable than some of Hot Toys' other recent offerings.
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - **
Outfit - ***
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ***
Overall - ***
Where to Buy
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Hot Toys and Sideshow have been busy producing Star Wars figures, and recent Original Trilogy imperials reviewed on this site include the Hot Toys Snowtrooper, the Sideshow Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, the Hot Toys Stormtrooper, the Hot Toys Darth Vader, the Hot Toys Jedha Patrol Stormtrooper, the Sideshow AT-AT Driver, the Hot Toys Sandtrooper, the Sideshow Biker Scout, and others. Michael's most recent Hot Toys Star Wars review is that of K-2SO, who is an imperial security droid, albeit brainwashed... err... reprogrammed.
You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.
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