Some folks believe they are the greatest movies of all time - others say they are at least the greatest in recent history. Of course, we're all geeks and nerds, but we're all having our revenge.
Yes, I'm referring to the Lord of the Rings. And with these films has been no shortage of licensed product. In the action figure area alone, we've have 6" figures, 12" figures, and 18" figures, with NECA doing 7 - 8" figures next year.
EDIT - I lied. The rumor that NECA is doing a larger scale set of
figures for LOTR is just that - a rumor. I thought it had been
confirmed recently but I was mistaken. I just wanted to point it out
so that folks would see the rumor rebuked in print.
Art Asylum added to that mix last year with their release of the 3" mini-mates figures.
The first series did well enough to get a second series released, and these are now just shipping. They include Twilight Frodo and Gollum from the first series (originally available as part of the Toys R Us exclusive four packs), along with Merry, Sam, Pippen, Amon Hen Aragorn (with new sculpt and paint), Boromir, Orc Scout, Grishnakh and a crossbow
Once again, these are packed as two packs, retailing for around $8 - $9 each. There are some places though were you can get them cheaper, and I have some suggestions at the end of the review. There is also an exclusive two pack of Elven Warriors available only through
Packaging - **1/2
The packaging is graphically adequate, and included a shot of each of the two packs in the series in the back. It's not the most sturdy though (one of the packs came to me with the bubble literally falling off the cardback), and don't show off the figures and accessories as well as they could.
Sculpting - Grishnak, Orc Scout, Crossbow Uruk-Hai, Aragorn ***1/2; Boromir, Frodo, Merry, Pippen ***; Twilight Frodo, Gollum **1/2
As is usual with mini-figures, the majority of sculpting is in the costumes and hair. And in this wave, there's plenty of both.
The general work on Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippen is very similar, yet different enough to make it clear that these are unique individuals. Each costume is slightly different, and the hair styles do an excellent job of reminding you of the actual character. While the capes on Merry and Pippen are identical, the cape on Sam has the backpack contraption glued in place.
The sculpt on Gollum is the plainest of the bunch, with most of the detail done with paint. He's very similar to the first, with only paint ops to distinguish them easily.
But while both he and Twilight Frodo got the lowest scores in this category,
it's not so much that the sculpting is weak, as that we've already seen it
Boromir and Aragorn are both excellent, but Aragorn stands out. There's the additional
cape, and more detail work on his overall costume. The wild hair works perfectly with the
expression (although it's the same hair as the first version), and an additional non-removable knife has been sculpted and glued beneath his cape, almost hidden from view.
Boromir is no slouch though, with another well done hair sculpt, and a fairly accurate outfit. Again, much of the detail here is done through the paint, but there's enough sculpting detail to make him
Finally, there's the three winners in the sculpt department - Grishnakh, the Uruk-Hai and the Orc Scout. It's always the bad guys who get the cool costumes, and there's quite a bit more detail than usual in all three of their outfits. The helmets on the Uruk-hai and Orc Scout are spiff, while Grishnakh actually has hair and ears sculpted on the basic head, a first for the mini-mates line I believe.
Paint - Twilight Frodo, Gollum **1/2; the rest ***1/2
To be successful with mini-figures, the paint ops have to be dead on. Thankfully, that's the case with this entire wave.
There's not a ton of detail paint work on the bodies, outfits and armor - it's simply not they style. What is here though is perfectly clean, with neat lines and very little slop. It looks like silver gives them the most trouble, especially some of the belt buckles, but in general, the work is clean, neat, and consistent.
The face expressions are also done extremely well, and match the characters great. The villains win in the coolest expression category again, but even the Gollum face work is better than the original. They've used small touches to make the four Hobbits appear unique, like the spacing of the eyes and nose on Sam, along with the addition of some chin detail. They actually manage to make his face look slightly fatter than the other Hobbits, although all three are identical in size.
This style of painted face works the worst for Gollum though, and he ends
up looking like a little wrinkled up but pissed off old man.
BTW, while Gollum is once again going commando, it's not nearly as visually disturbing as the lack of any undergarments on the Orc Scout. Stare at him sans tunic for too long, and you may find yourself in need of some specialized therapy.
And while it's not technically paint application, it's worth mentioning
here that this Twilight Frodo is NOT identical to the first. The first
release was had a bluish tint, while this one is simply clear.
Articulation - ***
The articulation matches up with any other mini-mate, and has become the de-facto industry standard - neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles.
While all the joints worked fine, I had more trouble this time with legs dropping off at the waist (perhaps due to the belts on Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippen), and the smaller feet on the Hobbits made it tougher for them to stand. While some of the figures have restrictive clothing, that's really to be expected.
Accessories - Boromir, Merry, Grishnak, Orc Scout ***1/2; Pippen, Crossbow Uruk-Hai, Aragorn ***; Gollum **
One of the shortcomings of many mini-figure lines (Palz being an exception to the rule) is that they lack accessories. Considering how perfect these toys are for accessories, it's always a disappointment.
Not so with the LOTR mini-mates, particularly this series. Everyone has several accessories, and they all make great sense.
Boromir comes with a shield (pop off a gauntlet, and it fits nicely on his arm), sword and scabbard, and horn just like in the film. The horn is particularly cool, and includes a string that can be used to wear it around his neck, shoulder or arm.
His only problem is with the scabbard. The pin to hold it to his side is slightly too big for the hole, making it tough to get it in place. However, once it is, it tends to stay.
I wish the same were true with Merry. He comes with a small sword and scabbard as well, but the pin on his scabbard was too small, so the sword tends to fall off his body. It's one of those minor annoyances that becomes major if you play with him enough.
He also has a bed roll/pack with can be placed around his body and worn on his back. I have it over one shoulder and other the other arm, but you can also fit it over both shoulders and it works great. It's a bit of a tight fit either way, but once it's on it works fine.
Pippen is traveling lighter with just the sword and scabbard, but I had nary a single issue with his pin fitting in the proper hole on his belt. His peg partner, the Crossbow Urak-Hai, is also a little light, with just the obvious crossbow, but he also included the nifty helmet. I really like the overall look of his armor, but I've already discussed that in the sculpting section. It would have been nice though if the crossbow had a handle coming down so that he could hold it in a more appropriate manner.
While Aragorn had a new paint job and outfit, he does not have a new accessory. The sword and scabbard are the same as the original version, and now with the cloak, you'll have a tougher time keeping the very long scabbard attached.
Twilight Frodo has his exact same accessories - the clear Sting and scabbard. His fit fine on his belt, and look pretty damn nifty.
Gollum is the lightest of the bunch, only coming with one accessory, and that being a reuse of his fish. Sam Gamgee, who is imprisoned in plastic with him, does better, with a sword, scabbard and extra hand that holds the Phial of Galadriel, in which there is the light of Earendil. Remember that in Shelob's lair? This is easily the coolest accessory of the entire wave.
The final pair again are Grishnakh and the Orc Scout. Both come with a nice set of accessories, especially the Scout. He has his well done helmet, along with the bow, arrow and big ass knife. I'm not sure how to use or display the arrow, but he's got it. Grishnakh doesn't do quite as well, with just a cruel looking sword and rough hewn shield (which
attaches to the arm), but both his accessories are also very well done.
It's worth noting that each of the swords and scabbards for the Hobbits is in some way unique, which is a really nice touch. They could have easily cheaped out, but instead went the extra mile.
There are also some display stands. I say some, because their number doesn't match up with the figures, and I have no idea as to the
rhyme or reason for including them. Three of the five sets - Merry and Boromir, Pippen and the Uruk-Hai, Twilight Frodo and Aragorn - include just one stand. The bubble is also only formed to hold one, so I assumed that's because the hobbits, with their smaller feet, are the ones that really need them. That theory then went out the window when I opened up the other two sets. The Gollum/Sam set, both characters in which really need a stand, have none. And the Grishnakh/Orc pair, who neither really need one, has two. Perhaps someone consulted their astrologer when deciding on the base pack ins.
Fun Factor - ***1/2
How can you spell "fun" without an "n"? And aren't there TWO n's in "minimate"?. Oh wait, that's m...whatever. What I'm trying to say is that these are big time fun, in the theme of Kubrick's, Lego and Playmobil. Scale issues makes it a bit tough for them to fit in with C3 or Marvel mini-mates, but they fit in just fine with most other 2.5" - 3" mini-figures. I have a bunch of these on my table in the office, and whenever someone sits down, they invariable start playing with them. It's just a natural reaction!
I did have a few issues with the legs dropping off the Hobbits which might be a bit frustrating for kids, and that holds these back from the coveted four stars.
Value - **
I'm assuming you end up paying between $8 and $9 for a pair of these, which is clearly on the high side. The TRU four packs were just ten bucks for four figures, a much better value. However, I have some suggestions in the Where to Buy section where you can get these at a much more reasonable price.
Overall - Grishnak, Orc Scout, Boromir, Crossbow Uruk-Hai ***1/2; Frodo, Merry, Pippen, Aragorn ***; Twilight Frodo, Gollum **1/2
These fit in great with the first wave, and fill in several key members of the Fellowship. The additional Aragorn is a nice touch, but both Frodo and Gollum were fairly unnecessary. At the end of the day, if you only pick up one set, make it the Grishnakh and Orc Scout These two are the winners of this series, although I've yet to see the Elven Warriors in person.
The biggest issue here is price, and I almost knocked another half star off
the overalls due to the cost. But there seems to be enough places out
there were you can get these for $7 and under that I let them slide a tad this
Things to Watch Out For -
Zippo - I had no issues with breakage, assembly or oddities.
Where to Buy -
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - Grishnak, Orc Scout, Crossbow Uruk-Hai, Aragorn ***1/2; Boromir,
Frodo, Merry, Pippen ***; Twilight Frodo, Gollum **1/2
Paint - Twilight Frodo, Gollum **1/2; the rest ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Boromir, Merry, Grishnak, Orc Scout ***1/2; Pippen, Crossbow
Uruk-Hai, Aragorn ***; Gollum **
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **
Overall - Grishnak, Orc Scout, Boromir, Crossbow Uruk-Hai ***1/2; Frodo, Merry,
Pippen, Aragorn ***; Twilight Frodo, Gollum **1/2
I picked these up online at Tower Records, but your local comic shop may get them in as well. In addition, some Media Play and Suncoast stores stocked the first wave, so perhaps this second wave will hit there as well. Online options:
- Qwiksand Collectibles has a great price at just $7 each for this second wave. They also have some of the first wave still available at just five bucks a two pack!
- CornerStoreComics has series 1 still available at $7 each.
Figure from the collection of