Sauron Minimate


Fans of the Lord of the Rings have had no shortage of action figures to collect.  There's the regular 6" scale action figures from Toybiz, the smaller Armies of Middle Earth, and of course the 12" figures from Toybiz.

But there's always room for more - or at least Art Asylum hopes so.  They've been very successful with their brand of mini-figures, called Minimates.  We've seen them used for a variety of licenses, including Star Trek and Marvel Superheroes.  Now it's time for them to tangle with Middle Earth.

They've announced a whole slew of them to hit this summer, with all the regular players - Frodo, Sam, Gimli, Boromir, Grishnak, Merry, Legolas, Saruman, and various Orcs and others.  But when it comes to the big bad in Middle Earth, there's only one name - Sauron.  He's da man, or da eye, or whatever the hell he is at this point.  And he's the first LOTR minimate to hit the market.

He's also a Tower Records exclusive, at least as a single pack figure.  He's available right now for $6.99.  I have a variety of links at the end of the review for places where you can pre-order the others.

Packaging - ***
I suspect we'll see the two packs come in boxes similar to the recent Marvel Superheroes, so it's not surprising to see Sauron come in a box as well.  It's a great design, with nice black and white graphics.  It's certainly easy to store, relatively collector friendly, but be careful you don't smoosh it.

Sculpting - ***1/2
The most important question for this figure is - how big is he?  This is a figure that must TOWER over the others, and impress with his sheer size.  The Toybiz version did a pretty good job, and was one of the coolest figures of 2002.

Minimates come in two scales currently.  There's the 3" size that the Star Trek and Crouching Tiger minimates were, and the newer 2" size that the Marvel versions and now the LOTR characters will be in.

To get the effect of size, they produced Sauron in the 3" scale.  It works pretty well, and I've included a shot at the end of the review of him with a smaller Hulk minimate to give you an idea of the overall difference in scale.

Most minimates don't have a lot of sculpting details, but all of Sauron's major armor pieces are done that way.  His helmet, shoulder armor, gauntlets and 'skirt' are all sculpted with just the right amount of detail and style.

The helmet is particularly good, and the red blazing eyes stare out menacingly.  The helmet slips off a regular blank minimate head.  Actually, without his armor on, he's not nearly as terrifying.

His cape is a three piece affair.  It slips on and off with the shoulder armor, and the two 'wings', are articulated to be positioned as far out or as tightly together as you'd like.

Paint - ***1/2
Sauron is done in a gun metal gray with black lines to indicate his lesser armor pieces.  The red of the eyes is the only splash of color, but he's not really a pastel kind of guy.

Articulation - ***
Minimates have great articulation - neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles.  However, the design of this figure takes away a bit of that articulation.

The 'skirt' tends to limit the legs, and the helmet and shoulder pads limit the neck and shoulders.  Still, he can take a most imposing stance, and look good doing it.

Accessories - **1/2
He comes with one - his scepter.  It looks great, and fits perfectly in his hands.  It's not too soft, but not brittle enough to break easily.

Fun Factor - ***
Most mini figures are kid friendly and offer tons of fun for the little ones.  Plenty of articulation, and lots of neat play possibilities.  Sauron might be a little frustrating for them though, with the helmet popping off very easily whenever you turn it.  Then again, kids have been known to put up with the little annoyances when it's a license they love.

Kids that are into LOTR are likely to really enjoy acting out the various scenes with these smaller versions.  Convincing them that these are cooler than the 6" versions might be a tough sell though.

Value - **1/2
The single 3" minimates tended to sell for the $6 range, so $7 here for an exclusive isn't all that surprising.  It's not a great deal by any means, but it's fairly average these days.

Overall - ***
I've managed to avoid most of the Lord of the Rings frenzy.  I picked up the 12" Toybiz stuff, but that was because I knew there wouldn't be much.  I only pick up the occasional 6" figure, knowing that if I started down that road, I'd have a massive collection of hobbits and orcs in no time.  Even worse would have been the Armies of Middle Earth, with dozens of figures released right in the first wave.  I've even avoided the uber-cool but uber-expensive Sideshow/WETA stuff.

But it looks like Art Asylum may have me hooked this time.  Sure, these don't have the sculpting of the 6" scale,  but they have a unique look, and they're small, so they won't take up much display space.  There aren't likely to be as many as the AOME series, so they'll be a little easier on the wallet as well.  

Of course, a lot of this depends on how the main characters look in person, and how easy they are to pick up.  Hopefully there won't be any crucial exclusives that are impossible to get.

And also of course, if you don't like mini-figures in general, it's pretty safe odds that you won't like these.  They are a different style, and lots of folks don't find them their cup of tea.

Where to Buy - 
Tower Records has him as an exclusive right now.  They make it clear though that it's as a single packed figure, so I suspect we'll see him pop up in some sort of set later. 

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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