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King Leonidas - 300
Hot Toys

300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jeff checks in tonight with a look at the manly man King Leonidas. As a Spartan, I gotta say he's pretty damn cool. Tell us all about him, Jeff!

A big thank you to Mike as always.
The story of the Battle of Thermopylae (380 BC) and the legend of the 300 Spartans is one many of us will remember from our childhoods, a bold story about bravery, duty and above all else self-belief.

It showed that a man with a plan, and a good knowledge of the lay of his particular land, could take on the massed ranks of a mighty army with just a handful of men and still kick it’s ass to the middle of next week. And it hammered home the fact that one traitor can undo the good work of good men. I remember first hearing the story from my junior schoolteacher Mr Armitage, he was an old RAF man, and the story of the Spartans seems to be one held in particular reverence and high regard by service men the world over.

The movie was inspired by, and in fact based upon Frank Millers ‘fanciful’ retelling of the story, which owes more to his love of the old 1962 movie ‘The 300 Spartans’ than the actual ‘history’ recorded of the legend. After all the Spartans were hardly the whiter than white, virtuous heroes portrayed in the recent ‘re-imagining’ of the story. Sure, it was cool that they were one of the earliest civilised democracies to hold women with the same regard as men, but they also used and traded in slaves in a society that was often very far from civilised. The comics were originally published by Dark Horse back in 98 as a limited edition 5 issue series, under the sub titles- Honor, Duty, Glory, Combat and Victory.

It became a noted series that went on to be reprinted in a collected trade paperback many times, and it was popular enough to blip on the radar of a certain Mr Zack Snyder, becoming his next project after his version of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ had done more than respectible business at the box office.

And if the IMDb is to be believed, then it looks like Snyder plans to revisit this particular time in history, with a movie of Xexes penciled in for him in 2011.
I liked Snyders movie a lot, it was solid entertainment, perhaps a little ‘over stylised’ at times (but this of course is more to do with Miller’s source material), and containing more than a few jingoistic moments. But despite all this, or perhaps even becase of, it still managed to deliver a beautifully coriagraphed orgy of destruction. In fact the brutal violence was so exquisitly staged it was almost poetic in its beauty… which did leave an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It was a tonic in the post 9/11 world. Showing heroes and vilains with an overriding sense that good will prevail… eventually.

I remember back when it came out, there was a scrum of people wanting someone to pick up the licence and deliver a good 1/6th articulated figure of King Leonidas, but it never happened. There was the NECA nerd hummel figure which was nice… but not for this particular articulation junkie.
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

The problem was always gonna be how to do an articulated figure well. As those Spartans liked to dress, well, a little spartan, meaning a lot of flesh would be on show, and pottentially a lot of ugly joints. Well here we are a full three years after the movie first hit, and it’s popularity shows no sign of waning, if anything it seems to be gathering fans and fast becoming a cult classic, and in those three years a certain company called Hot Toys has gone from strength to strength, willing to adapt to the challenge of each new licence, and here they have once again gone above and beyond!
What do I mean?

Well, if you were worried about ugly joints you needn’t have been… read on, it’s all geek to me!

Packaging - ***
This is a similar style to the recent Watchmen figures, consisting of an outer slip case with a window fronted box within. The outer case in predominantly red with a large Spartan shield on the front, the back has a full figure shot with a corner flash of the extra ‘angry’ head sculpt. The inner box has a pic of the helmeted head in profile alongside the production credits on the back and a large window showing the figure on the front. Inside the tray the figure lays alongside his accessories held firmly between clear vac-formed trays with no twisties used at all.

So a nice design, but lacking the WOW factor of some recent Hot Toys boxes. However, if you were a big fan of the graphics used on the comics and the movie you’ll be more than happy, as Dixon Chan has picked up on many of the cues to produce a bit of packaging that stays very true to look and feel of the source material.

Sculpting - ****
Every single millimetre of this guy is sculpted from the top of his braided hair to the tips of his be-sandaled feet, and it is another AWESOME job. The two heads were sculpted by GOX (Jae Sung Eom) and they are both amazing portraits of Gerard Butler as the hero King. The head he comes wearing in the box is the more relaxed of the two, but he still bears a very determined steely glare. It looks to me like some elements have been reused in the two sculpts, for example the hair and brows look the same Though I noticed the casting on the angry head is ever so slightly softer on the hair. From the brow down the angry, shouting head is all new, the nose is wrinkled as the mouth opens into a snarl, the act of opening the mouth pushes up the cheeks to show more wrinkles under the eyes and of course the teeth are bared, the fine detail picked up here is just jaw droppingly good. He also has a scar running over the brow and cheek of his left eye. If I had to pick a favourite of the two then I’d go for the relaxed head, but there is only a gnat’s bollock in it, as the shouting head is still an outstanding piece of work, and works so very well for many action poses.

He also comes with a full muscular body sculpt. This is an all-new type of body and has been sculpted specifically for this character showing the scars and veins of his own particular anatomy. I shall go over the limitations of its articulation (which are far from bad) in that category, but as far as sculpting goes this is an outstanding new figure, yet again showcasing the rapid evolution of Hot Toys bodies. You only have to look at the recent crop of bodies they have shown us, like Hell Boy, Wolverine and Dutch, that’s without going into the ever growing stable of ‘standard’ base bodies which seem to get tweaked for the requirements of each new release, like Albert Wesker for example, to see they are dedicated to perfecting each individual character.

He also comes with four hands, a spear grip and a sword grip right plus a shield grip and open palmed gesturing left. The feet are also fully sculpted to show the strapped leather sandals worn in the movie.

All in all this is another case of Hot Toys showing why they reign supreme, standing firmly at the apex of the state of this particular art!

Paint - ****
Because of the spartan nature of his attire, there is a whole sea of flesh on show here, making this a figure for those comfortable with their sexuality… tell me, Joey, do you like gladiator movies?

Well, what ever your persuasion, this guy has ‘bad ass’ written all over him, and he’s ripped with a capital R!
The Heads showcase yet again why JC Hong is held in such very, very high regard by 1/6th collectors the world over, his ability to draw out even more awesomeness from the already amazing sculpts handed to him never ceases to amaze me, and once again he has pulled an absolute doozy out of the bag!

All the flesh tones are incredibly life like, showing an incredibly intricate mottling effect over the entire figure, with subtle variations in tone to enhance areas around the eyes, mouth and even some of the musculature on the body. This is definitely another benchmark in mass produced paint apps, the fact that Hot Toys can keep these so consistent is pretty astounding, the body even has secondary subtle tones used on his scars, and the feet have the leather straps picked out with the flesh tone being kept consistent to the rest of the body. The hair is painted in a flat tone, but as always the underlying sculpt is more than up to showing off all the detail just with the play of light upon its surface. Lastly his attire is given a paint treatment as well, his forearm and calf armour is painted in a bronze finish with darker tones to help enhance the seams and detailed areas while his leather shorts (which are actually moulded rigid plastic) are painted in tones of brown to mimic the patina of old leather with small rivets picked out in the bronze colour as well.

So, it’s another 4 star paint app for Hot Toy and JC without a question, resting on laurels doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary, but laurels are more Roman… THIS IS SPARTA!

Articulation - ***1/2
When I first saw the proto pics I was pretty impressed, but since then they’ve improved the head sculpt and thrown another ‘angry’ one in for good measure. But as impressed as I was by the look of the whole package, it was the new body that had me most intrigued, and it hasn’t disappointed!

The upper body including the arms down to the wrist, neck, groin and torso is all one virtually seamless piece. I say virtually because if you look hard enough you can see a feint seam running down the outer arms and there are a number of small holes that indicate some process of its manufacture, but all have been plugged to make them invisible to all but the most prying of eyes. The legs which are also fully covered in a silicone skin are then popped onto what appear to be push on ball joints, then lastly the hands feet and head are all attached in the usual manner.

So working up, the ankles and feet (like the wrists) have the usual range, but be sure to line up the radial cut in the double pegged ball joint depending on if you want the appendage to rock from side to side or tilt backwards and forwards. The knees can be pushed to a little over 90 degrees on what feels like a mechanical double knee under the silicone skin. The hips as I said are on ball joints so can twist a little inwards and outwards and can be raised to about 80 degree. There is some movement in the abdomen meaning he can bend over and arch back a little, the range is slight here, but does make quite a difference, allowing for some subtle variations when posing him convincingly. The shoulder can bend upwards to the front by a comfortable 90 degrees and it can also bend up away fro the body to the same amount, but be mindful of the configuration at all times, as if you forget which combination you used to achieved a pose, it can mean all the difference in the ease with which you return him to a relaxed position. The mid bicep also has a radial joint that allows the upper arm to twist toward and away from the body by about 75 to 80 degrees. For the elbow it seems to be the only wire joint on the body, but it can still bend to a little over 90 degrees as well. Then lastly we have the neck, the head can turn easily from side to side and it even has the ability to tilt from side to side, but I found on mine it couldn’t hold the pose and sprang back after posing, it can’t however look up or down at all.

So in a nutshell that is it, but the basic mechanics when described this way don’t do justice to the way it all works together on an aesthetic level. You’ll find when posing the upper arms the soft rubber skin, combined with the underlying armature actually manage to crease, fold and stretch like real muscles, meaning that when fully kitted up you’ll find yourself pushing the cloak back to show off more of the body, rather than strategically placing it to cover up the joints like you might with ‘lesser’ semi clad figures.

Realistically I can’t give this figure a full score in terms of ‘pure’ articulation, hence the lack of that all important star. But when you look at the figure as a whole, I was very tempted to give it the full whack, it really is most impressive!

Outfit – ***3/4
Among other things, Miller took some liberties with his Spartan armies attire, as a Spartan warrior going into battle would always have been clad in far more armour, consisting of a full metal chest plate, and thick leather leg and arm coverings, not to mention a leather kilt. However when you want to make your army look like uber fit super heroes, a muscular bare chest can be pretty inspiring. But I’m not here to critique the historical accuracy of Spartan warrior clothing, but rather it’s accuracy in portraying what we saw in the movie, so in terms of aesthetic this is a full score figure without a doubt, however in terms of actual functionality I feel I have to just claw back a little of that score.

In fairness it’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation, as I genuinely don’t believe that real leather or pleather on his shorts could realistically (on a mass produced level) ever look as convincing as the plastic moulded shorts he actually sports, however if they had been made of a softer more flexible material he could have made slightly deeper stances without the edges of the shorts pushing into his soft rubber thighs (it feels kind of wrong typing that). You’ll find a printed sheet of instructions within the box, these tell you to get the radial position of the leg into the position you want before bending up into a deep stance, because if you try to move the leg position once it is bent up, you risk the abrasive quality of the hard edge of the shorts rubbing the paint off of the thigh, this wouldn’t be the case if the shorts were softer… but then they wouldn’t look as good! Now you’ll see why I said they were the subject of Joseph Heller’s classic quandary. But which ever way you look at it, it does mean that it’s a compromise. I don’t mind compromise, sometimes it’s the only realistic way forward, but it does mean it keeps the score just a whisker off of perfection!
I do feel I must emphasise it really is only a whisker, because the rest of the outfit, although slight in it’s content is done exceptionally well, it basically just consists of his helmet and red cape. The helmet is a great representation of the movie helmet, with its pitted bronze finish, cheek and nose guards radiating up to the triangular apex which in effect points to the real hair plume. This crest stands about 1.5 cm directly up from the helmet and radiates straight over the head to the back where a longer piece, which is in effect a ‘pony tail’ hangs down the back. The helmet is constructed of thin brittle plastic, but it fits both heads like a finely tailored glove, sitting in a convincing position to give a clear view of the eyes and mouth. Then lastly it’s the iconic red cape, this is made of a soft man-made fabric that feels a little like suede, and it drapes fantastically for the scale. It’s cut to mimic the look of having a hood and is held together on the right shoulder with a broach baring the Spartan spear head symbol. It’s also been dyed to look like the bottom edge is weathered and dirty.

So as I said, not the most comprehensive of wardrobes, but what we need we get, and what we get is carried out to near perfection!

Accessories - ****
The Spartans were famous for being the only Greek society that operated primarily as a militaristic entity, it was a complex society that not only embraced democracy but also showed strong aspects of oligarchy and timocracy. However, lets not forget it had successive Kings, so one could argue it was also a monarchy as well.

But for all these complexities, Spartans were first and foremost warriors, and the most important things to a Spartan warrior was his armour and weapons, so what we get in the box is-

- Helmet with real hair crest
- Wolf’s tooth necklace
- Sword
- Leather scabbard
- Spartan shield
- Broken arrows to insert into shield + bonus undamaged arrow
- Spear
- Two pairs of hands
- Alternate ‘angry’ head sculpt with
- Figure stand with 300 movie logo

As far as his weapons go, what we have here is the selection as seen in the movie, consisting of scabbard, sword, spear and shield. His helmet could also very much be considered part of his accessory package, but I went over its details in outfit.

The sword is an accurate facsimile for the movie sword as seen here and the bottom part of the handle is removable so you can slip the grip into his hand and then replace it. Likewise the spear has a removable pommel at the opposite end from the blade, this means the pole can slide into the specially designed hand with ease, you then just reattach the blunter end. The scabbard is made of leather (or man made leather) and has small rivets and a working buckle, the sword slides easily into mine.

Next up is his shield, this is molded and painted to look like bronze, it has the triangular spear symbol on the front and has the scratched, scarred and pitted appearance of a piece of kit that has seen a lot of service. It also has seven little holes to insert the broken enemy arrows into, making for a rather cool display option. The back has a loop to slide the arm into, but you have to remove the hand first, position it to grip the handle and then reattach it to the arm. We also get his wolf tooth’s necklace, only a small item, but an important one for this figure, as not only does it make a specific nod to his past, but becomes an emotive symbol to his wife of his fate. Its plastic but is painted convincingly to look like a real enameled fang and hangs from a cotton thread around his neck.

You also get the classic figure stand, however Leo stands just fine without it, but at least it gives you somewhere to lay the undamaged enemy arrow… at his feet!

Value - ***1/2
Even at the hefty RRP of $149.99 this is a lot of figure for your money, and all the new R&D make this just a bit more special than even I thought it was going to be. As I said above, the physiology of this particular figure matches King Leonidas perfectly, but with just a few tweaks I could see this being a great starting point for Doc Manhattan from Watchmen, Maximus from Gladiator or if you can imagine it scaled up, then perhaps a good 1/6th HULK isn’t such a pipe dream after all!

Fun Factor ****
C’mon, you can’t help but look at this figure and get all pumped up in a pseudo macho way… you wana scream “Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty... For tonight, we dine in hell!” or as I already said “THIS IS SPARTA!”

But to be honest there are so many memorable scenes and even quotes from this movie, that having him stand on your shelf or desk is the perfect excuse to drop them into conversation every now and then.

And if you’re facing a difficult decision, just look at good’ol King Leo, rub his shield for luck and ask your self, ‘how would he have handled this situation’. OK, that’s not an excuse to kick your business rival down a well or to cut the head off of a passing traffic warden… but hey, a little fantasy in life can be a good thing!

Overall - ****
I am so very impressed by this figure! Of the recent crop I received he was the one that really stood out as something a bit special, and that newly developed body is yet another landmark in the design and engineering of articulated 1/6th figures. The sculpting and paint is up there with the finest Hot Toys have to offer and his accessories cover all the bases they need to. The price isn’t exactly a bargain, but for a figure that looks this good, and is as close to a 1/6th facsimile of Gerard Butler playing the hero King Leonidas as this is, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable either.

I have a feeling this might be on a few peoples lists come the end of the year, when we are all thinking of our favourite figures for 2010… it might even be on mine!

Where to Buy -
Sideshow have long sold out, but you can still try hooking up with some of Michael’s sponsors below-
 
Urban Collector  - $149.99

Big Bad Toy Store  - $144.99 

or try eBay where I’ve seen some great buy it now prices ranging from $135 to $210.

300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

300 King Leonidas sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys


This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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