Lord of the Rings

Sideshow has just released only their fourth figure in their 12" Lord of the Rings line, and yet it's already a character most folks would consider D list. Oh, if you were putting together a "hot hunks of Middle Earth" calendar, he'd certainly be chosen before Gimli, but Faramir isn't one of the first characters - or first couple dozen characters - that leaps to people's minds when they consider the license.

Okay, so maybe he wasn't part of the Fellowship, but he's got a couple good things going for him. He had one Hell of a snazzy outfit, which is always a big plus. And if you're looking for a character that follows a certain design and style after Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir, Faramir does make sense. Of course, having your older brother already produced probably meant he put in a good word for him as well.

Faramir is just now shipping from Sideshow, and he runs about $65, similar to his brother but about $10 more than Legolas. The exclusive version (with the extra accessory) is a limited run of 1250, while the edition size for the regular figure isn't yet set. Boromir (at 2000 - ) and Legolas (at 3500 - ) are both still available directly from Sideshow, so it's no real surprise that we haven't seen a ton of announcements of upcoming figures yet.

Don't worry though - I have some very strong expectations that we'll see several more figures in the line announced at SDCC next month. But while any discussions of the death of the line are premature, it is true that the sales aren't nearly what they are for several other licenses, especially Star Wars.

Packaging - ****
Sideshow continues to look for ways to do the very best packaging on the market, and there's a couple more improvements here.

Of course, we get the uber-cool wide, flat box with the double gate fold die cut front.  The velcro they've used this time (magnets seem to be reserved for the Star Wars packages) are extremely sticky, and also appear to be well attached to the box.  Still, be very careful whenever you open this guy up, because the tight fitting velcro could still pull off the box.

Inside, all the parts are in the tray, and there's NO twisties, tape or dental floss holding anything in. Bravo!  They've protected the paint on the head with a non-stick piece of plastic in back and a neck restraint, while the hands and feet are protected with plastic wrapping.  It's all collector friendly in every way, and it will keep the paint job in original condition while it wings its way to you.

There is still tape on the outer flap of the box, but this isn't a big deal.  I expect we'll eventually see that go away as well, but for now, I can certainly live with it.  The only thing missing was the foam inserts inside the outer box, like what we've seen with recent Star Wars releases.  The outer box fits tight against the actual figure packaging, which means any severe damage to the outer box is translated to the inner.

Sculpting - ***1/2
I was concerned that the sculpt was going to be weak...but that's not the case, if you can find your way past the paint.

Now, David Wenham doesn't have any extremely unique facial features, but there are certain proportions to his face (and hisbig nose) that make him somewhat distinctive.  Comparing the likeness to stills from the film, I have to say I think they did do an extremely good job with this one, certainly as good as Boromir, much better than Legolas, and miles better than Aragorn.

There's also a very good proportion between this head and the fully clothed body.  He's wearing a lot of clothes, but they're well tailored for the most part, and the size of the head matches up extremely well with the appearance of the clothed body.  There's no bobble or pin head here.

The sculpted hair is the right style, and it flows pretty well.  There's enough detail in the strands, and there's no tootsie roll issues.  Both sets of included hands are also very well sculpted, and we actually have a set designed specifically to hold the bow and arrow that work perfectly.

Now, that's not to say there's some minor issues.  The jaw seems slightly off, and the sculpted beard is heavier than what he had in the films.  These are minor issues though, and I think that in the hands of a master painter, this head sculpt would really shine.

Paint - *1/2
Unfortunately, the paint doesn't do the figure justice.

Let's start with the hair.  It's all one solid color, which isn't too big of an issue, since trying to do a wash or highlights on the hair can often backfire.  But that one single color is something I've never seen on any human's head, sort of a clay or slate color.  It looks nothing like the blonde color in the film, or even the blonde color of the prototype.  I can completely understand a final production figure not having the same number or even quality of paint ops - but color?  Lowe's can match the color of paint off just about anything with their equipment, and I'd expect any Asian manufacturer to do the same.

The hair also suffers from a gloss finish, but it's not as glossy as the face and beard.  The beard is down right shiny, and it's also painted a dark brown, quite different from the hair.  Hey, at least the beard and eyebrows match.

It looks like they tried to lighten up the heavy beard about by rubbing off the high spots.  Clearly, this beard is thicker and darker than anything the character ever had in the movie.  On top of that, it's very sloppy.  There's overspray up onto the chin around the mouth on one side but not on the other, making it appear like there's a bare spot.  The moustache is crooked, and even the eyebrows have small gaps in the paint.

The skin tone is good, but has the same gloss finish.  It's not as bad on the face as the beard (or as bad as we've seen on some past figures), but it's clearly noticeable.  

I've heard reports of bad eyes as well, but fortunately I didn't have much trouble there.  Mine have clean edges, and both are fairly straight and even.  One pupil is a bit bigger than the other, but it's fairly minor, especially after being overwhelmed by the rest of the face issues.  Worse, from photos it looks like I got one of the better versions, and a lot of folks are far more upset with the paint job on this figure than usual.

However, had I merely judged this score on the face I would have added another half star.  While the face paint is annoying, it wasn't nearly as bad (at least in terms of gloss) as I'd been hearing.  For me, the boots are even worse, with a muddy effect that doesn't work at all.  It ruins what looks like is a very good boot sculpt, and feels tacky to the touch.  In my experience, that's never a good sign.

Articulation - ***1/2
I don't know what they're up to at Sideshow, but it sure seems like they've taken people's comments into account on the articulation.  They still have a way to go to catch up to Hot Toys and Medicom, but I swear that there have been subtle improvements in the joints of their standard body.

I was able to pose this guy in all kinds of natural ways, especially the legs and arms.  The hips also seem to have a better flow, and the ball jointed neck worked great.

Simply handle this figure side by side with a Sideshow figure from a year ago, and you'll feel the difference.  There's still a few issues, like the looseness of the shoulders (I had a hard time getting the arms to stay above the chest), but Sideshow should be commended for the improvements.

Accessories - ****
The regular version comes with his long bow, arrows, a quiver, his long sword and scabbard, and and am extra set of hands. Of course there's also the black display base, emblazoned with the LOTR logo.

The long bow is fairly basic, but that's not inaccurate. The bow string is much more in scale than Boromir's, and you'll want to be careful when posing him with the bow drawn.  It will fire that arrow, and you don't want to explain that one to the emergency room doctor.

The arrows look terrific, and fit nicely on the bow.  In fact, they are even notched to fit over the string.  They fit inside the quiver nicely, and the quiver is perhaps my favorite ever produced.  Instead of being either all plastic (the most common answer) or all cloth (occasionally done), the quiver is a combination. There's a hard plastic shell which has the leather straps attached to it.  There's also a cool cloth/leather insert that actually holds the arrows (and is removable) with drawstrings at the top.  It looks extremely realistic in combination, and fits nicely on his back.  There's a hole cut in the cape to allow the straps to fit through.  The one negative is the buckle, which isn't exactly screen accurate.

What would Faramir be without his sword and sheath, attached to the leather belt.  While the hilt of Faramir's sword is a bit more plain than some of the other characters, I think I like this one better. The plain style, and perfectly painted blade (there's not a nick or inconsistency anywhere on mine) makes it look much more realistic.

Unfortunately, there's a downside again.  The belt is a bit too short to get it buckled quite right.  This is really due to the fact that the leather tunic is a looser fitting than it needs to be.  If this were tighter, the belt would probably be just about the right length. Still, an extra half inch here wouldn't have killed them.

The belt/scabbard is also the one place I had some issues with damage.  The front leather strap pulled apart on the belt on mine, and I'll have to come up with a way to reglue it.

I already mentioned the excellent sculpt on the extra set of hands, but it's also worth nothing that these popped on and off smoothly, and stayed on extremely well.  No problems with them dropping off every time you posed him.

The exclusive comes with one more goodie - the cloven Horn of Gondor. Since the regular Boromir figure included the undamaged horn, including the damaged version that was brought to Faramir after his brother's death was a good idea, but it's not one of those exclusives you simply can't live without.

Outfit - ****
While I like the color that Boromir's outfit brought to the display, I have to say that Faramir's is the best of the bunch.  And that's without doing any futzing - no water soaks, no ironing, no steaming - right out of the box.  There's some color inconsistency with the on screen version, but I can live with that when the quality is this good.

He has his fuzzy pants and a fuzzy shirt, covered by a long vest.  This 'vest' hangs down in strips that look like the skirt you actually see.  The leather tunic covers the upper half, and snaps in the back.  On either shoulder is leather armor, while there are hard plastic gauntlets on both forearms.

The outfit is all topped off with the cape, done in brown instead of green.  Yea, the color isn't quite right, but it's made from a nice, thin material, with the usual wire inside the hood for posing.  This cape hung and flowed the best of all four right out of the box.

Oh, I almost forgot - there's those boots.  The sculpt is actually quite good, and includes the buckles on the side.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the paint section, the paint work is awful.  They were going for a muddy effect that just didn't work, and on top of it, the paint left the boots sticky.

While the entire outfit looks excellent (ignoring that nasty paint), it's the tunic that makes this guy.  The imprinted tree looks fantastic, and the different colors of leather work great.  There's tons of detail here, including the small buckles and threaded string on either side, that in reality would have been the closures.  I do wish the tailoring was a smidge better - the jerkin is a little looser fitting than I'd like - but it's a very minor nit.

Some folks might complain there's not enough weathering to the clothing, but I much prefer this clean appearance than the usual botched attempts at weathering.  Doing realistic damage and dirt at this scale is extremely difficult, and I'd prefer a great looking clean figure to a goofy looking weathered one.

Fun Factor - ***
Obviously, these aren't meant to be played with.  But that doesn't mean they aren't fun.  Great sixth scale product never forgets its roots in G.I. Joe and Johnny West.  They quality, realism and engineering of these figures may be light years beyond what we had in the sixties, but they haven't forgotten those humble beginnings.

Value -**
If there were fewer paint issues here, he'd get a 3 star score in this category, similar to his brother. You can't deny the excellent costume and accessories, but at $65 the quality of everything, not just some things, has to be above average.

Things to Watch Out For - 
There's a couple things to take extra care with.  First, don't pull too hard on those velcro closures when opening the box.  They seem much sturdier than past releases, but there's no reason to test the theory.

Also, take some care with the leather straps.  As I mentioned, one of the straps holding the scabbard in place pulled free on mine, and the quiver strap is quite thin and easy to break.  It's not like there's anything here that's going to snap when you breathe on it, but you want to keep in mind that realistic materials like these in such small scales still needs to be handled with some care.

Overall - ***
This figure was wavering between **1/2 and *** stars.  The only reason it finally got the three was because the overall quality of the other categories - especially sculpt, outfit and accessories - outweighed the paint. Mine paint job isn't quite as bad as some of them I've seen either, and had I gotten one of the worse ones, that extra half star would have been lost.

Of all the things that go into a figure, my patience has grown the thinnest around paint.  If you're going to produce a high end collectible, the one area that requires quality is the paint application.  Hard to sculpt an exact likeness?  I get that.  But hard to get the paint the right color, applied cleanly, and without the God awful gloss?  There really is no excuse.

For me personally, this figure is actually my second favorite in the LOTR line up from Sideshow.  Boromir is still the easy winner, and I was too easy on the Legolas head sculpt.  Aragorn is overall my least favorite, although he scored the same overall as did poor Faramir.  How could that be?

That's simple - he didn't really have an tremendous highs and lows.  The outfit, sculpt, paint were all average or just above (in some cases).  Nothing was outstanding, but nothing was horrendous.  For me, he was 'meh'.

Faramir is quite different.  He has some tremendous highs, especially in the outfit and accessories.  His articulation is better than Aragorn's, and he's a lot of fun to pose. His sculpt is much better than Aragorn's too - but I simply can't ignore that the quality of the paint reduces the overall quality well below my expectation of a $65 figure.

If this was a major character, like Gandalf, I'd say definitely buy it even with the issues.  But for a second string character, you might want to think about spending the bucks.  I'm happy to add him to my shelf, but I can easily see where the issues with the paint might be too much for many collectors.

For the big Faramir fans though, if you have the talent yourself to repaint this guy (or are lucky enough to know someone that can), you can end up with an amazing final result.  And I suppose in the end that's my biggest issue: Sideshow almost hit a home run, but didn't quite see it through, wasting a fantastic opportunity.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpt -  ***1/2
Paint - *1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
You have a number of great online options:

- you can still pick up the regular version () at Sideshow for $65, or get on the wait list for the exclusive version ().

- CornerStoreComics has him listed at $55.24.

- Alter Ego Comics also has him at $55.24.

- and Amazing Toyz follows suit with a price of $55.24.

- Fireside Collectibles has him listed too, and guess what - he's $55.24!

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has him at $55.25, and they also still have Aragorn in stock.

- Dark Figures has him listed at $60.

Related Links -
I've reviewed several other high end LOTR collectibles:

- from Sideshow, there's the 12" Boromir, Aragorn, 12" Legolas, and quarter scale Premium Format Lurtz.

- and now from Gentle Giant, we have the Gandalf, Strider and Ringwraith mini-busts, the first in their on going series.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour