Harry Potter - Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter fans every where have a huge summer in front of them. First, the fifth film hits theaters on July 11th, and the trailers look fantastic. The fifth book was also one that was well suited for a movie, with plenty of action and intrigue. Right after that, on July 21st, the seventh and final book will hit the stands. The Deathly Hallows will mark the end (perhaps!) of a truly remarkable series of books and films. Who lives? Who dies? Fans themselves are dying to know.

NECA had released their first Harry Potter figures back in March, based on the earlier films. They have now released their first series based on the new film, Order of the Phoenix (henceforth called OOTP in the review), and it includes a new Harry, Ron, Hermione and Sirius Black. You can find these at Hot Topic stores right now for around $15 each, or hit one of my sponsors recommended at the end of the review.

Packaging - ***
I like clamshells, and I'm glad NECA went with this style. The interior art is good, and there's at least a little personalization for each character. They also reduced the size of the clamshells slightly from the earlier wave, although the figures aren' smaller in scale.

Sculpting - Hermione, Sirius ***1/2; Ron, Harry ***
The underlying head sculpts on all four figures are actually quite good. The paint application makes it difficult to see in some cases, and the body sculpts have some issues that pull the overall scores down, but if you take the head sculpts independent of those issues, you will find that they are above average quality.

Hermione is particularly well done, and suffers from fewer other issues as well. I'd go so far as to claim this is the best head sculpt for Hermione we've gotten, including the Gentle Giant mini-bust...BUT...and it's definitely a huge uppercase but...this will depend heavily on the paint ops you end up with. I saw two on the shelf, and the difference that the paint made between the two (and it was only minor variations) was HUGE.

Sirius also is a very good Oldman as the character likeness, but he suffers a bit from NECA hair. It's been sculpted separately from the head and attached, and tends to look a bit like a tootsie roll hat. The thickness and weight tend to make it less realistic in appearance. Hermione has a bit of this going on, but it's not nearly as bad as it is with Sirius.

Harry and Ron don't have the hair issues, and in fact have very good hair sculpts. This is their OOTP look, which is particularly unique for Harry. Their head sculpts are also top notch, with the right facial structure and proportions. Even Harry's glasses are smaller and more in scale than previous attempts, although they still are a tad more coke bottle than they should be.

What pulls down Ron and Harry below Sirious and Hermione are their sculpted poses, particularly in the arms. Because these figures have so little articulation, the sculpted pose of the arms, torso and legs becomes critical. Hermione's pose works well for her, looking poised and ready for combat, but in a natural way. Sirius' pose is one of dynamic action, and actually looks better than this style of pose normally does.

For Harry and Ron, the slightly dynamic leg and torso poses are fine, but the arms don't work particularly well in any stance. Ron's arms, especially the right one, are a bit akimbo, not quite matching up with the best poses for the body. Harry is even worse, since the cut shoulder joint on his right arm means it can only be held straight out from his body.

These are all in scale with the previous line, running about 6 1/4 - 6 1/2" tall. Harry and Ron are actually quite large compared to Sirius, who seems a bit short to me compared to Voldemort. But it's a fairly minor issue at best, and it's nice to see that they appear to be paying at least some attention to scale across the line.

Ron, Harry and Sirius can all stand well enough on their own too, although they have basic stands included. Hermione isn't as lucky, and you'll definitely need her stand to keep her upright.

Paint - Hermione ***; Sirius, Harry **1/2; Ron **
Unfortunately, most folks won't be able to see that the sculpts are good, because the awful paint ops will get in the way.

In my set, Hermione is the best of the bunch. I doubt that will be true for everyone though, because what I saw on the peg was a tremendous difference between figures. Some had much better work than others, and a couple were downright awful. This kind of inconsistent quality is the worst situation for specialty market toys, because the online buyers won't have a chance to pick out the ones that are best.

All of these have painted skin, unlike series 1 where the plastic was cast in skin tone. If you are going to do the paint well, then paint it - if you are going to slop it on, please just cast it in the color to begin with.

Only Hermione has a decent paint job on the face, with a relatively even skin tone, and good eyes, eyebrows and lips. She still sports some slop around the tie and sweater, and I hate the black nostrils (which are much more obvious in person than in photos), but at least I was able to pick out an acceptable version.

Harry and Sirius have good areas, but they also have more slop than should be seen on a $16 action figure. For example, Sirius' head sculpt is goofed up by a very poorly painted and uneven beard, and Harry's face has lots of slop on the skin and glasses. That kind of work has to drive the poor sculptors crazy.

But Ron was easily the worst of the bunch. Not only does he have an uneven and inconsistent skin tone, his right hand was several shades darker - and clearly orange. The hair line is bad on the one I picked out (where you can clearly see the skin color up onto the hairline under and around his left ear), but on the one I left on the shelf it was that bad all the way around the face. His blue eyes are far too large for the sculpted sockets, his lips are uneven, and there's even slop around his tie and shirt. And remember - I picked out the better version.

Harry also sports slop around the tie and shirt, as well as his hairline. His skin tone is inconsistent as well, although not as bad as Ron. While I suspect this Harry sculpt is better than the first, I can't be sure due to the paint work. In general, these sculpts are actually pretty good, but the poor quality of the paint is going to make that difficult for most people to see.

Articulation - **
The articulation here is almost non-existent, and what is here is fairly useless for anything other than a single pose.

Oddly, I found that I could get the most poses out of Sirius, who is stuck in the most dynamic stance. He has a ball jointed neck down at the torso, but the hair restricts it to the same movement as a cut joint. He has ball jointed shoulders (NECA style), cut wrists, and a ball torso that actually works extremely well and allows for the most mobility of his few joints. I was able to get two or three really good combinations out of the arms and waist, but naturally they are all fighting poses.

Ron, Hermione and Harry also have the ball jointed necks, but Hermione's hair and the boy's collars creates the same issue as with Sirius. They all have ball jointed shoulders as well with the exception of Harry's right arm. here, there is only a cut joint, reducing the number of possible poses drastically. Ron and Harry also have cut ankles with little mobility, and Hermione has cut thighs up under the dress. Ron and Harry have cut ankles, but they are pretty much worthless. They all have that same cool ball jointed waist, although I couldn't get quite as much out of it with any of the kids as I did with Sirius.

These are made to be posed in one stance, and then left alone. I don't know about you, but I'd like a bit more. If you aren't going to supply the articulation, then you have to give us the very best sculpted pose for the character possible.

Accessories - Harry, Ron, Hermione ***; Sirius **
The kids fair quite a bit better here than does poor Sirius. All four figures come with very basic black stands, not the much more attractive sculpted stands we saw with the first series. As I said earlier, you'll need to use Hermione's, but you can probably skip using the others. The figures have post holes in both feet, so you can use the one that works better for your display.

Sirius' only other accessory is his wand. It's a nicely done wand, and it does appear to be his unique version, but that makes him awfully light in this department.

The kids share a 'build an accessory'. Each one comes with some pieces to build a practice dummy for their training. Ron has the body, Harry has the head and arms, and Hermione has the base and 'legs' (which is really a wheel). Put the pieces together and sadly you get a more articulated figure than any of the actual figures themselves. The dummy has a cut neck joint, ball jointed shoulders, and pin elbows and wrists, all of which work terrific.

Ron also has his wand as does Harry, and again it appears as though they did their best in this scale to match them to the actual wand designs. Hermione comes with her normal wand, plus a second wand as well. For the life of me, I can't remember her using the other wand in OOTP, but it's been years since I read the book. I'm sure the fans with better memories will remind me as to why this second wand is important.

Fun Factor - **
I gave the first wave a better score in this category, but the lack of articulation and clunky poses hurt this wave even more. As little plastic statues they'll make a nice edition to the shelf, but kids aren't going to enjoy these all that much. Stick with the 3 3/4" figures from Cards Inc. for them.

Value - Ron, Harry, Hermione **; Sirius *1/2
Sixteen dollars each? That's $64 plus tax for 4 small action figures. It's a good thing for NECA that the fans are so ravenous, because otherwise they'd be stuck with plenty of these at that price point. Even with ravenous fans, you can still pick up most of the first wave at my local Hot Topic. I don't expect this wave to sell that much better, although having all three kids this time might be a big help.

Sirius takes a bigger hit in this category than the other three because of his lack of accessories. It's not like his figure is that much larger or complex than Ron or Harry, and he only has the reused base and one wand.

Things to Watch Out For - 
The hands are a little stiff, so inserting and removing the wands can be tricky. I found that for most of the figures, pushing them through from the bottom was easier than forcing them in the top, but no matter how you do it, take your time.

I also found some of the joints were stuck, particularly the wrists on all the characters and Harry's right arm. The pegs can be broken, so take care when freeing up any joints that are frozen by paint.

Overall - Hermione, Sirius ***; Harry, **1/2; Ron **
I don't mind adding Hermione and Sirius to the collection, although at this high of a price point I certainly expect more. Ron and Harry could have been just as good - or even better - if not for the terrible paint quality.

If you're going to make plastic statues, where things like Articulation and Accessories don't have much weight, then you damn well better make sure that you nail the Paint and Sculpt. NECA managed to do half the job here, and at this price point they need to step it up.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt -  Hermione, Sirius ***1/2; Ron, Harry ***
Paint - Hermione ***; Sirius, Harry **1/2; Ron **
Articulation - **
Accessories - Harry, Ron, Hermione ***; Sirius **
Fun Factor - **
Value -  Ron, Harry, Hermione **; Sirius *1/2
Overall - Hermione, Sirius ***; Harry, **1/2; Ron **

Where to Buy -
Hot Topic is getting them in, but it will depend whether your local store carries them or not. Online options included these recommended sponsors:

- CornerStoreComics has the singles for $13 each, or the set of four at $48.

- Amazing Toyz is already sold out of most of them, but you can get just Harry for $11, or Harry and Sirius together for $25.

- Clark Toys doesn't have this set listed yet, but they still have the full set of five figures from the earlier release for $60.

- Dark Figures has them at $13 each as well, but are sold out of some already.

Related Links -
Other Harry Potter collectibles include:

- most recent review was a guest review of the Tonner dolls

- I also reviewed the first series of figures from NECA.

- there's the other mini-busts, including Voldemort, Hagrid and Mad Eye Moody, Ron and Hermione, Snape and Dumbledore, Dobby and Dementor, and a guest review of Harry and Sirius.

- Gentle Giant also did a statue of the Hungarian Horntail, and the Riddle Grave.

- the Noble Collection has done some nifty wands.

- just case you forgot how bad some of Mattel's figures were, here's Extreme Quidditch Harry and Dueling Club Harry.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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