Sideshow Lord of the Rings
Frodo and Sam

Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam and Frodo action figures

Fans of the Sideshow Lord of the Rings series have had their fears...fears that the line would end before they got the Fellowship.  Oh, there are other figures everyone would like to have, but before you have anything else, you must have the Fellowship.

So far, we've done pretty well, getting Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas...and then someone took a slightly wrong turn and gave us Faramir.  Not that he's not a well done figure, just that he's not exactly what the fans were craving.

But now they are back on track, releasing Frodo and Sam on brand new smaller bodies.  With this smaller body, we should be able to get Merry and Pippen as well, and with just some minor mods they should be able to give us Gimli.  With Gandalf already on the way, that will get the line to a reasonable and necessary point.  Any figures after that are a blessing, but please, oh please, don't leave us hanging on the Fellowship.

Frodo and Sam just started shipping, and as usual, there is a regular and a Sideshow exclusive version of each.  I'll be looking at the exclusive versions, but I'll point out the differences (accessories) as I go along.  They run $70 each from Sideshow, regular or exclusive, and right now the exclusives are available on a second chance opportunity.  With only 1500 produced of each, I don't expect they'll last long.

Sideshow Collectibles Lord of ther Rings Frodo action figure

Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam  action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam action figure
Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure

Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Sam and Frodo action figures

Packaging - ****
While these boxes don't have the uber-cool magnetic closures that the Star Wars boxes do, they still look awfully good.  The die cut front panels work well, and there's plenty of informative text.  I do wish there were some instructions on putting the outfit together, particularly the belts, but it's a minor whine.

As you'd expect by now, these are completely collector friendly too.  No twisties, no tape, nothing to damage.  Take him out, put him back, no problemo.

Sculpting - Sam ***1/2; Frodo ***
Likenesses have been a real issue for the LOTR line.  Some have been there, but hidden by less than perfect paint.  Others just haven't been there, period.  I'd say Boromir is probably the best of the bunch up to this point, but it's time for him to move over - Samwise is da house.

Yep, Sam Gamgee takes his rightful place as the best overall head sculpt of the line so far.  Oh, I'm betting Gandalf gives him a serious run for the money when he hits, but only time will tell if he'll top this guy.

From just about every angle, you can see the Sam likeness.  The hair is beautifully detailed, and the proportions are completely realistic and screen accurate.  Nobody is going to see this guy and the shelf and ask you who it is.

Frodo is close...but not quite. The likeness is there from some angles (check the last photo for an excellent example), but straight on is not one of them.  The reason for this is the wide face, something Frodo did not have.  In fact, merely compare the head sculpt to the character photo on the front of the box to see what I mean - his eyes are very close to his temples, his face very narrow and long.  They made the final sculpted head wider, and larger in general than it really should be compared to the body.  While Sam's head looks right on his slightly more padded body (he was the fatter of the two), Frodo's big noggin' looks disproportionate on the thinner body.  He has almost a puppet look to him.

He does have an excellent detailed hair sculpt though, which looks dead on accurate.  And as I said, while the straight on view isn't the most flattering, side and angled views look very much like Frodo.

Both figures suffer from Barbie skin.  I prefer the slightly rough skin we've seen with most Hot Toys releases, particularly on male characters.  Both Sam and Frodo have perfectly smooth skin, much like a baby's bottom.  It takes away some of the realistic nature of their appearance, at least for me.  Fortunately, neither of these characters were particularly wrinkled or aged on screen, so it's a fairly minor point.

The sculpted hands work well both with the accessories and with various poses.  I did have a little trouble getting Sting to stay well in either gripping hand, but with a little effort I managed to get it into the poses I wanted.

Usually with sixth scale figures, the majority of the character sculpting is confined to the head and hands, but with Hobbits you can't ignore those feet.  The foot sculpts look great, and seem to be just about the right size.

BTW, this new body (which all talk more about in the Articulation section) is scaled just about right for the Hobbits.  They stand about 9 inches tall, bring them up to about chest high on the normal Sideshow figures.

Paint - ****
Too often on Sideshow figures, there's a great head sculpt hidden by weak production paint. This has been particularly true for the Lord of the Rings line, where glossy skin, uneven eyes, and large catch lights have made them less than perfect.

That's not an issue here.  The paint is clean and neat, with perfect eyes and an even, soft skin tone.  The lips are clean and even, and the eyes are just about perfect.  They still have painted catch lights, but these are so small that they look much more realistic.  The eyes and lips also have that glossy coat, giving them a slightly wet look.

Even the eyebrows have been improved, with the paint following the sculpt perfectly.

The feet are hairy too, and the paint work here is decent, if not quite as stellar as the face.  The work on the feet and the eyebrows bodes well for the facial hair on future figures. 

Articulation - ***1/2
This new body is a completely redesigned effort.  It has all the joints you'd expect, and while many of them might first appear to be standard, like double jointed elbows and knees or true ball jointed ankles and wrists, they are actually completely re-engineered for an optimum range of movement and natural posing.

And on these points, they've succeeded extremely well.  Some of the joints are new to Sideshow entirely, like the neck.  It's ball jointed at both the head and the torso, giving it a tremendously wide range of movement.  Since neither of these characters have long hair or other sculpt details that would impede the movement, these two articulation points work great.

The re-designed elbows, knees, ankles and wrists all work tremendously well too, as do the hips and shoulders.  The bodies are lightweight, and I found that they were able to pose and stand much more naturally and fluidly than any previous Sideshow figures.

That doesn't mean they are completely without flaws.  If they were, I would have gone four stars here easily.  There are two main issues - gapping ankles, and looseness.

On both figures, you'll notice that there are 'cracks' at the seam of the ankle, where the post for the ball joint is inserted.  These aren't actually cracks, but the slight separation of the seam.  It doesn't appear as though it will worsen, and if these figures weren't nekkid from the knees down, you'd never know about it.  But it is visually distracting on characters like the Hobbits, and makes them look cheap.

After playing with them for a bit and posing them in various ways, I also found that the knees, hips, ankles and wrists were loosing up a bit too much.  The bodies are a little more floppy than I'd like to see on future releases.  Thankfully, I suspect that both these issues are correctible.

Accessories - ****
Both Hobbits are packing some serious extras, even if you didn't get the exclusive versions.

Since Sam isn't carrying the ring, he got stuck carrying everything else.  I'm not sure that was actually a fair trade.  Sam has a large backpack, with an interior main pocket that opens and you can put even more stuff inside.  There's some padding in there to fill it out, but you could put other goodies in there too.  There's a small bedroll tied to the top, a couple pans and a ladle hanging off one strap, with pot hanging off another.  These extras all attach with actual hooks, and can be removed or rearranged a bit for your preferred look.

There are also several pouches and bags sewn to the backpack to add to its visual appeal.  Finally, there's a string of sausages that can hang off the pack, or can be put inside one of the pockets.

Before leaving the backpack, it's important to note that both shoulder straps have heavy gauge wire within, allowing you to pose them on his body quite nicely.

Sam also has his sword and scabbard/belt, which fits nicely around his waist.  The sword fits in the scabbard well, but the small pin used to attach the scabbard to the belt is extremely easy to break.  I broke mine within minutes of having him out of the box, and have to contact Sideshow for a replacement.

The scabbard itself has some wonderfully sculpted details, and the sword looks great in Sam's hands.  This is the weapon set that Sam received at Weathertop. 

Sam also has a pipe, as well an an extra fist hand and open gesturing hand.  The hands swap pretty easily, and although the hands are soft rubber, I had no trouble getting them into some great poses.  The small posts are made from very sturdy plastic, and I never felt like I might break or damage them when swapping hands.

Just in case Frodo hasn't loaded Sam down with enough stuff, he also has a shoulder bag, or haversack, that looks great and opens to hold more stuff.  He also has a sculpted water skin with leather strap.

The exclusive version of Sam adds in the Elven Lembas Bread, wrapped in leaves.  It's not a required extra, but something the completists were certainly want.

Frodo also has a backpack, but since he's carrying the ring, he doesn't need one nearly as large as Sam.  His doesn't open - the pockets are tacked shut with thin thread - but it has padding inside to make it appear full.  It has the heavy gauge wire in the straps as well, making it possible to sculpt them to his shoulders and hands just right.

He has Sting of course, with a nicely done belt and scabbard.  This scabbard is attached to the belt with a more standard plastic 'loop', making it much sturdier than Sam's.

He has the extra pipe, like Sam, as well as the extra gesturing hand and fist.  Unique to him is the Phial of Galadriel, nicely sculpted and just about the right size, as well as the One Ring on a chain around his neck.

The gold metal chain is a little large in scale, and the plastic ring looks too small on it.  The ring size is actually about right though, and you can swap out the chain with a finer one pretty easily. That will make this small plastic ring even better looking.

The exclusive Frodo also includes his less attractive and somewhat more brutal sword and scabbard he received at Weathertop.  That makes a nice combo with the Sam figure, since his weapon is from the same point.

Of course, both figures come with the traditional Sideshow stands, shrunk down a bit to accommodate the smaller stature of these heroes.

Outfit - ****
If you were worried about the outfits, you needn't be.  In fact, other than the rather weak coat with Aragorn, most of the SS LOTR figures have had great outfits.

These even go further.  There are multiple layers, including the shirt, vest and coat on both.  These are extremely well tailored, with real buttons done in a proper scale, real pockets that are the correct size, and velcro and snap closures that work well and are barely visible.

They both also have their classic cloaks - very different for each character - and an Elven cloak.  These cloaks all feature wires in the hoods that allow for posing.  The heavier cloaks are made from a wool-like material, and yet it's properly scaled in thickness for this size.  The Elven cloaks are even thinner, and it's possible to have one of the cloaks on over all those other layers, and still look correct.

Fun Factor - **1/2
You'd think they'd do better here, but these two are a bit too fragile for even mild play.  Pose them carefully, and they'll look great on the shelf.  Want something for your 8 year old who loves the movies?  Find one of the Toybiz versions.

Value - **1/2
Wow.  Seventy dollars.  Not cheap, that's for sure, but in the range of the low end Hot Toys stuff.  While I have some issues with things like the size of Frodo's head, and the splitting ankles, I have to recognize that a) these are the first use of the new bodies, not re-uses of the older bodies, and therefore have a greater cost, and b) they come with a ton of accessories and clothing.  Given that, the $70 price tag seems about an average value.

Things to Watch Out For - 
It's quite easy to break or lose various parts.  Be particularly careful with Sam's scabbard, which I broke off the belt almost immediately, and of his many hooks and strings on his backpack.

Overall - Sam ****; Frodo ***1/2
If I were grading these on the accessories, outfit and new body alone, they'd be scoring out of the park.

Sam has a couple minor issues, including that Barbie doll skin.  But the nits I have with him are quite minor, and the new body manages to make up for many of them.  In the end, I have to say that he's the best figure in the LOTR line so far.

Frodo tries hard, but he falls a bit short.  My biggest problem with him is the oversized head, and in combination with the doll skin and big eyes, he looks far too Team America for me to ignore it.  Still, the likeness IS there, particularly from just the right angle.  Don't believe me?  Just check out the last photo.

There are some things they need to improve on this new body, including those gapping ankles and the looseness of the knees and hips.  But I have every expectation that both these issues will improve with time.

The outfits are outstanding, the accessories top notch.  Sideshow worked closely with Hot Toys on several aspects of these figures, and it shows.  Holding them in your hands and posing them, you get the impression that this is an entirely new breed of Sideshow figure.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpting - Sam ****; Frodo ***1/2
Paint - ****
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - Sam ****; Frodo ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Online dealers are already selling out on these guys:

- Sideshow has a second chance right now on both the Frodo and Samwise exclusives!

- Fireside Collectibles has the regular versions on sale for $63 each.

- if you're in the UK, Forbidden Planet has them for 45 GBP.

- or you can search ebay using the sponsor

Related Links -
I've covered the rest of the line so far, including Aragorn, Faramir, Boromir and Legolas.

Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

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Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings Frodo action figure

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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