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Review of Bard - The Hobbit sixth scale action figure

Asmus Toys
Date Published:
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Overall Average Rating: 2.5 out of 4

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The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Introduction

While the Hobbit trilogy introduced some new characters both to the film world of Middle Earth and even to the readers of the books, none were quite as well done as Bard. His father had failed at killing Smaug, and now he had the chance to redeem the family name. Could he do that and keep them safe?

Played by Luke Evans, Bard the Bowman was a highlight in the films for most fans. With that reception, it wasn't a huge surprise when Asmus Toys selected him for their sixth scale series of collectible action figures.

Asmus Toys has been producing Lord of the Ring/Hobbit themed figures for awhile, but haven't yet hit one out of the park. Their evil Gothmog and Guritz were the best, but once they started working with the 'humans', things got dicey, and neither Gandalf or Eowyn were at the level I'd hoped for. But I'm a believer, a man of hope, and Asmus has shown real signs of listening to their customers. I pre-ordered Bard without hesitation.

This guy has just started shipping, and you can pick him up for around $180 or so depending on the retailer. There's no exclusives or limited versions.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Packaging - ***1/2
I really like the earthy tones and colors here, even if they have gone in a different direction from earlier boxes.  This is just a shoe box style, but the outer lid has a terrific shot of the real Bard, and there is an inner slip as well.  Rather than going with the hard plastic trays, Asmus is using cut foam, and that's a big plus. It gives a higher end look and feel to the interior of the package. Instructions are also included (in reasonably accurate English), and of course, everything is collector friendly.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Sculpting - ***1/2
The biggest issue for their first human, Gandalf, was the weirdly stretched and deformed head sculpt. No such problem here, and the realism and lifelike attributes are both very, very good.

They've given him a nice skin texture, which in hand is much more subtle than it will appear in macro photos. The eyebrows and facial hair has a soft touch, and the stranding on the hair is nicely detailed.  No tootsie rolls here, and going with a sculpted hair style - rather than rooted - was the right choice for this character.

The longer extensions on the hair are a little obvious, although in hand it's not too bad.  And while this sculpt is very lifelike thanks to a slightly stern but not excessive expression, and very realistic thanks to the fine detailing on the texture and hair, it's not as screen accurate as I'd like.  Looking at photos of the character like this one, or this one, or checking out the actor Luke Evans, you'll see there are a number of issues. Calling it the love child of Bard and Legolas would not be too far off.

The biggest issue is the nose. It seems that there's a standard nose size and shape that sculptors use for every male figure, and they sometimes tweak it...sometimes not. This was a not. And Evans doesn't have a standard nose, making this one look too thin, straight and tiny.

The other big issue is with the shape of the head itself. This one is fairly long from chin to brow, and pretty consistent in width from jaw to temple. Again, that's pretty generic (and much more like Legolas), but not how Evans looks in character. He had a wider forehead than a jaw line, giving him a more triangular face.

To recap, when it comes to my three point assessment of a human portrait, this one is aces in realism and lifelike attributes, but falls a little short in accuracy.  In any case, it's a huge improvement over Asmus' past attempts at humans.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Paint - ***1/2
While the paint quality here isn't quite spooky real, it's still well above what we've seen from them so far, and certainly well above most figures in the sub $200 range.

There's a very subtle shading to the eyebrows and facial hair, and a reasonably subtle transition from the hair to the face itself. The skin tone is a little dark, but even and consistent, with a nice depth and fleshiness. There's a little bleed in the whites of the eyes, but the pupils are very straight and even, giving him a piercing stare.

The paint work on the accessories is solid as well, with plenty of detail where appropriate.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Articulation - *
Gah! Just when I thought Asmus had hit this one out of the park...

I worked with the figure for about a half hour, posing for the majority of the shots in the review.  The body was tight, and most of the joints had a good range of movement and seemed solid. As you'd expect, the neck was particularly helpful, but the two piece 'boots' also allow for some nice ankle posing.

But as I was trying to get something good with the bow and arrow, I ran into some issues, minor at first. As you might expect, there's no way you'll ever get his right hand near his ear for a proper shooting pose with the heavy coat on.  If he weren't wearing the coat, it'd be better, but the thick material restricts the shoulders and elbows, making it tough to get them high enough.

Still, I felt it was really the hands that were causing most of my issues.  He comes wearing a pair of medium grip hands wearing the bulky gloves (more on those in the outfit section), and there are a couple hands  better designed to work with the bow and arrow. I figured switching them out would improve the shooting pose.

And so I tried to remove the left hand. It's important for you to understand that the body Asmus uses is not designed for the wrist pegs themselves to be removed.  The post is designed not to pop out - don't even try it.  To swap hands, the hand itself must pop off the smaller post. And this was not a success.

The reason is quite simple - the peg that holds the two halves of the wrist ball together is simply too soft.  Pulling on the hand results in popping the joint apart, and there starts the problems. Trying to remove the left hand, the wrist ball came apart. Trying to reassemble it is frustrating, because the ball is fairly deep in the forearm, and as I said, is not designed to come out, even slightly. I tried the right hand, being very careful not to pull too hard...but still hard enough to get the hand off...and got the exact same result. I managed to get the right hand reassembled, but it was floppy and loose after, and my luck with the left was even worse when the post holding the halves together bent and broke. That meant any additional photos were with the left hand held in place with poster tack, and no potential improvement in any shooting poses.

Ah, but it got worse!  As I was working with the right hand - the one I did manage to get back together, albeit at less than 100% - the forearm and elbow joint came out of the bicep. Fine, it's just a matter of snapping it back in...until the bicep itself fell apart! It looks like the heat seal or glue they are using to hold these halves together was poorly done on the left bicep, and I had to get out the super glue and put it back together. It was repairable of course, but a frustrating annoyance right out of the box.

Since Asmus is going with a body that doesn't allow you to easily replace the wrists (you have to crack the forearm, assuming it's sealed like it's supposed to be), they've created a much bigger worry with those joints. In the Things To Watch Out For section I have a suggestion on how to swap hands that should keep you safe, but it's still a crap shoot.  I've contacted the dealer and Asmus to see if I can get a replacement figure or body - or at least new forearms with new wrist pegs - and I'll update the review when I know more.

I tried using a TrueType for a swap, but found getting the right neck post with the right size body was a huge problem. And then I hit on the easy solution - I removed the forearms from an older hard plastic TT body (medium buid), and they popped right on the elbow joints here, easy as pie.  The forearms were *slightly* longer, but the sleeves of the shirt are already supposed to be a little short, and the combination of the long coat and long gloves cover the extra space as well. With the new forearms in place, I was able to put on the proper hands, and without the coat or gloves on...voila, below is a much better bow shooting pose.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Accessories - ***
While the body was a disappointment, the accessories were not.  You get a nice assortment, and all of them make perfect sense.

He comes with five additional hands, but swapping them is, well, you know the story. He also has a second set of gloves, although why I'm not quite sure. Are they anticipating a lot of damage to the gloves?

There are six large, nicely sculpted arrows, and these can be placed in either of two quivers. Both quivers have leather straps, although these are different designs. One is solid and thick, and is braided. The other is a two piece affair, thinner and with a buckle.  Both work fine, and are tightly attached to the quiver itself.  One of these quivers was Bard's standard, while the other was worn during the battle with Smaug (if I'm remembering correctly).

There is also a bow, with a terrific rubbery string. I had no worries about breaking it when I was working with the bow, and it draws back the top and bottom in a very realistic way. In fact, you'll want to be careful when putting the arrow in place, because if the string slips you'll shoot the arrow across the room.

Speaking of arrows, he also has the much larger Black Arrow designed to kill Smaug, or any other dragon. While this was a bit of a contrivance for the movie, I think using a much larger, more impressive arrow gave a better visual.  At first, I thought this sixth scale version was on the small side, relatively speaking, but after looking at a variety of photos (including this one of the United Cutlery prop replica) I think it's fairly accurate.

Finally, there's a basic crotch support displays stand. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Outfit - ***
While my biggest disappointment with Gandalf was the portrait, my biggest issue with Eowyn was the poor quality of the costume. Thankfully, they've done a much better job in this category as well.

It's not identical to the prototype, although that's not going to be a huge surprise to any seasoned collector.  The leg wraps are darker with less 'fur', the outer coat is thicker with a less impressive collar, and the overall weathering and wear is almost non-existent.

The lack of weathering was my biggest issue with Mad Eye Moody's costume, and it's my biggest issue here. This is a character that's seen lots of hardship, but his clothing is a little too clean. It's not as pristine as it looks in photos, and when I removed the outer coat I realized it is stained and dirty, but it's not super obvious. Likewise, the inner tunic has some dirt and staining, but again - not super obvious.

The tailoring and material quality is top notch.  There's a soft shirt, a burlap tunic, soft belt, pants, furry shoes and leg wraps, and a thick overcoat. Ah, and then there's the fingerless gloves. Can't forget those.

The underlying shirt, pants and tunic are great, and the tunic even has some nice wear in the form of loose threads and fraying. There's not a lot of dirt or staining, but at least the material is allowed to ravel a bit at the edge.

Fur is used in a number of places (the fake variety, of course), but this works best on the boots.  I really do like the final look on these, and they ended up my favorite aspect of the costume.

The heavy outer coat is quite thick, and I think it really is hide. That means no water treatment! It doesn't lay as smooth as what we saw with the prototype, but I think that you can work with it a bit and get it where you want it eventually. There's some flaring outward at the thick seam at the waist, but I suspect that if you remove the jacket and lay it flat between some heavy objects for awhile, it will straighten and stay that way.

The only real disappointment is the funky gloves. They are simple tubes of the same type of furred material as the coat, but with a hole for the thumb.  You slip them on over the hand and turn back the edge to show the fur.  They are very bulky, and make it hard for the figure to hold any accessories. While I appreciate the addition of the gloves (they are pretty important to his look), I think they needed to spend a little more time on researching the best way to re-create them.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Fun Factor - *1/2
If you don't have any issues with the body, you're going to be able to have a lot more fun with this figure.  Had I not, I would have jumped this score to at least ***, maybe even ***1/2. With a working under carriage, he would have been great at posing and re-posing on the shelf, and hopefully I can correct the situation eventually.

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Value - *1/2
Here's another score seriously impacted by my issues with the body. Give me a working body under all those clothes, and I would have boosted this score to *** or even ***1/2. 

Why? Because $180 is a very, very good price for the portrait, accessories and outfit.  The quality is solid, certainly better than what the price would indicate.  But you can't cheap out so heavily on such a critical aspect as the underlying body.

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Things to Watch Out For -
Obviously, this is all about those wrists. Swapping hands will be a fear inducing situation, since you won't simply be able to swap out a broken wrist peg.

My suggestion is pretty simple. Since the biggest fear is popping the ball joint apart, as both did on mine, you wan't to secure that area before trying to remove the hand.  I'd pull the glove off to get it out of the way, then take a pair of needle nose pliers and gently squeeze the sides of the ball, ensuring that you won't pop it apart. Then gently pull on the hand until it pops off. This has the added benefit of protecting the post that's firmly planted inside the forearm as well.

Of course, you still risk breaking the short peg that goes into the hand (try not to rock the hand side to side too much when removing it), but that's the price you pay with this particular body.

If you do have a wrist issue, I suggest swapping out the forearms with a TrueType, as I did. I messed around trying to swap the head onto another body and wasted a lot of time, but once I tried the forearms, it was a quick and easy fix.

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Overall - **1/2
This review was a real bummer to write. Total buzz kill. Harshed my mellow. When I first had the figure out of the box, posing and shooting, I was a happy camper. There were a few issues, but Asmus had corrected many of the serious ones from past releases. The head sculpt and paint job were a step up from both Gandalf and Eowyn, and the costuming was a major improvement from Eowyn as well (Gandalf was quite good in that area, minus some screen accuracy issues). I thought that after giving Asmus a hard time over several reviews, I was going to be able to rightly commend them on listening to their collector base and stepping things up, all for a great price. This was going to be an easy three stars, maybe even three and a half.

And then things started to literally fall apart. This base body has been a problem for them all along, but in the past it was more of an issue with loose joints. The issues I had here with the wrists are totally unacceptable because they are not easy to fix.  A broken wrist on a Hot Toys figure? No prob, just swap in a new one.  Here, it's a major conundrum that will cost you time and money.

I haven't lost hope.  Asmus has really improved on the head sculpt, paint, and costume categories. They are doing all that and maintaining an fantastic price point. And the body is an easy fix...for them. It's more complicated for you, but either requiring a higher quality with this current body (and finding a solution for any wrist joint problems) or swapping to a new body are both options they can take without too much pain and only minimal additional cost. I have my fingers crossed that by the time we get their Aragorn, they'll be hitting in every category.

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - *
Accessories - ***
Outfit - ***
Fun Factor - *1/2
Value - *1/2
Overall - **1/2

The Hobbit Bard sixth scale figure by Asmus

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Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- Sideshow has him at just $180.

- has him in stock for $195.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
I've also covered Eowyn, Nazgul Steed, the Morgul Lord, Gandalf, Gothmog and Guritz.

Other sixth scale LOTR figures include these by Sideshow - Gandalf, Sam and FrodoAragorn, Faramir, Boromir and Legolas.

And don't forget the Aragorn from ACI.

You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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