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Review of First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper - Force Awakens
Star Wars sixth scale action figure

Hot Toys
Date Published:
Written By:
Overall Average Rating: 3 out of 4

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First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Introduction

"It's beginning to look a lot like...Star Wars...everywhere I go...." Ah, tis the season, and all the good little boy and girl geeks have visions of Stormtroopers dancing in their heads. J.J. Abrams, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher...they've all been making the talk show rounds, and it seems like a new preview, sneak peek or trailer pops up every day. This might be the most massive hype machine ever created, and it all leads up to December 17th.

Hot Toys is doing a wide variety of figures based on the new movie, and have put up a number of First Order Troopers for pre-order.  The first one to hit my door is this Sideshow exclusive of a 'Squad Leader' FO Stormtrooper, with the white pauldron.

This guy is available only through Sideshow in the States, and will run you $220.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Packaging - ***
Pretty much a standard shoe box with a basic plastic clam shell tray inside. I do like the interior art card, although the 'winter' look seemed better suited to one of the Snowtroopers. Everything is collector friendly of course, although you will have to cut or rip off the tightly taped plastic 'booties' that are in place to protect the paint.  There's also a plastic wrap underneath the belt, and you'll need to tear that out. The belt is NOT designed to be removed, although that will be your first inclination when you see the plastic wrap underneath. There are instructions included that make it clear that none of the armor is intended for removal.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Sculpting - ***
I'm cutting this guy a little slack here, largely because I think that with some futzing I'll be able to get him looking a bit better.  Still, this score is always based on out of the box, not what he can look like with work, and there is one big issue that's bugging me.

First, the good stuff.  He helmet looks terrific, as does the majority of the thick, heavy armor.  It is much more restrictive here than with the OT designs, and the figure will take a pretty significant hit in the Articulation section because of it, but from a pure sculpting perspective, it's a sweet looking suit.

I also really love the detail work on the helmet. It looks like the real thing in photos, and the fine detail in the black grill area, along with the sharp edges on the various other cuts and details, give it a tremendous amount of realism at this scale.

This is a chunkier Trooper, especially in the legs, which makes him seem shorter. He's not, coming in a just over 12" tall in a basic stance.  He is stockier though, and will stand out nicely with the others on the shelf.

But that damn pauldron - it really bugs me. First, it's too flat right out of the box.  Now, I didn't see anything in the instructions on bending or wrapping it, but it is possible. I bent mine slightly (it was even flatter than that!) by hand, and with a little heat I think you can get the shape about right.  The photo on the front of the box cheats a bit, since it's from a downward angle, and I always shoot from a direct angle, or slightly below. This is a pretty minor nit, overall.

The bigger problem is that it is also too far out.  I flipped back and forth between the photo on the box and the figure in hand, and it became obvious that the pauldron is sitting too far to the outside on mine. How bad it looks depends on the angle of course, as well as pose. It's permanently attached to the torso armor, so there's no ability to shift it further in. Even if I could slide it in further, the placement is making the neck look short, something else that wasn't as obvious in the marketing shots. Not being able to remove it hurts in another way, since I'd be happier with this figure if I could simply skip this piece.

That's good news for the upcoming figures without pauldrons, not so good news for this particular figure.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Paint - ****
The paint work is flawless - there's not a thing on the overall figure or accessories I could find to whine about. The white is bright, shiny and clean, although that perfection might not be to everyone's liking, particularly if they prefer some form of wear or battle damage.  This guy is clearly a new recruit.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Articulation - **1/2
I mentioned the restrictive armor earlier, and here is where that really raises its ugly head.  But it's not just the armor causing the problem. The underlying bodysuit is also quite tight, and restricts many of the more critical joints.

The neck is fine, but the shoulders and elbows are victims of the bodysuit. The rubbery, tight material makes both areas very difficult to work with.  The same is true with the hips and knees, where you can only get half the bend (or less) than you might expect.

Other joints, like the wrists, waist, and chest, are more effected by the armor itself, which covers some (or all) of the joint and hinders movement.

The final area is also the best - the ankles.  They have plenty of rocker and forward/backward movement, and you can easily get the feet flat on the ground in any pose, even poses that the hips or knees would never allow.

There's a weird addition here that you will find in the instructions. The half foot is also jointed inside the soft rubber shoe, and you can supposedly get about a 20% bend.  I didn't get quite that much, but you can get some, which is useful with walking poses.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Accessories - ***
The figure isn't over accessorized, but does have the most critical elements.

There's 7 hands in total, including the pair of relaxed pose he comes wearing. There's a pair of fists and a pair of gun grips as well, along with one additional splayed left.  There's a couple extra wrists pegs, just in case.  Swapping the hands was easy, but a bit too easy. The vambrance is a tight fit over the rubbery body suit, and tends to push downward on the hands. As I mentioned, this interferes with hand poses, and it causes them to pop off when trying to work with them. It's those short wrist pegs - they just aren't designed for this sort of situation.

The hands pop on and off easily, but they are a very hard rubber, making it tough to get the blasters in place properly. There are two guns, short and long. The longer version has a terrific folding stock, as well as an exceptional paint job and sculpt overall. In fact, both blasters look amazing, and include a nifty magnet feature that holds them tightly to the right hip in lieu of any holster.

The blaster design itself is a little unusual, looking more retro than what we saw in the Original Trilogy, but it's not an issue for me. I like the designs, even if they are a bit 1950's sci-fi.

The final accessory is the display base, with a basic crotch support. The base is attractive, with the new logo and the FO Trooper nameplate, but there's no indication this poor guy is a Squad Leader on the name. He just can't get no respect.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Outfit - ***
I've already said quite a bit about the armor in the other categories, pointing out the great looks and excellent paint but highly restrictive nature.  With this category I'll focus on something largely unseen but also there: the bodysuit.

They went with a rubbery, stiff material this time around, and I understand why. It allowed them to get the proper ribbed look at the elbows and knees, something much more difficult with a completely cloth material. However, this makes the bodysuit more rigid and inflexible, which hurts the Articulation and Fun Factor.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Fun Factor - **1/2
The highly restrictive nature of the armor and body suit makes this a less fun figure for collectors and fans. Remember, a big part of enjoying a highly articulated figure like this is posing him, and then coming up with a new pose every other day. This isn't going to be one of those figures, and while you can find a decent pose or two, he's much more limited than you'd expect.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Value - **
This guy is a Sideshow exclusive in the U.S., and the $220 price point isn't too far off average. He isn't decked out with much however, and there will be plenty of re-use of this armor, making it a bit of a tougher sell. It also doesn't help that the standard FO Troopers run around $205, which makes it clear you're paying a premium for the 'exclusivity'.

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Things to Watch Out For -
It's very difficult to fit the blasters in the gripping hands. Be particularly careful when putting pressure on the larger gun, as there are lots of tiny details you could damage.

Overall - ***
On the plus side, the sculpt and paint work are excellent, as you'd expect from Hot Toys. On the negative side, there's the lack of posability, a surprise considering the work they've done with much more complex (i.e. Ironman) figures in this scale.

Still, if that were the only problem, he probably would have snagged another half star overall. It's the placement and shape of the pauldron on mine that's dragging him down a bit, and based on photos I've seen of others, it looks like it's a hit or miss situation. Some appear to be positioned deeper under the helmet, others seem as bad as mine.  Your mileage will clearly vary.

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

First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- Sideshow has the exclusive for $220.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
This is the first of the sixth scale First Order figures I've received, but Hot Toys has recently done several Original Trilogy characters, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Stormtroopers and Blackhole Troopers.

Sideshow has done a number of Star Wars figures in this scale, including the recent X-Wing Luke, Speeder Bike and Scout Trooper.

You should also hit the Search Reviews page to find a ton more Star Wars in this scale from Sideshow and other companies, and in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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First Order Squad Leader Stormtrooper action figure by Hot Toys

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

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