Jake Sully as his Na’vi avatar
Hot Toys - Avatar

   "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 Parker is back tonight with another great Hot Toys review - take it away, Jeff!

A big show of thanks once again to our glorious overseer… Mr Michael Crawford.

With Titanic under his belt, Jim Cameron had crowned himself the biggest grossing director of all time. From now on, budgets and deadlines were something for his ‘people’ to worry about. He could focus much more of his time on his great passion for deep-sea exploration. But while messing about in dinghies, well, boats… well, actually state of the art, record breaking, multi million-dollar self financed mini pressurised-subs, he decided to make another movie.

Of course we all know now that Mr Cameron would go onto steal the ‘top grossing movie of all time’ crown from him self (though with the extended 3 hour ‘directors cut’ Avengers movie due to get a theatrical release in August, a certain Mr Whedon might just be in with a chance!). He had now properly cemented himself at the top of the directorial table in Hollywood… in terms of bums on seats and dollars in the bank, if not artistic merit.

Because lets not be too fawning here, Avatar was a solid and entertaining movie, one that reinvented and redefined the use of 3D technology, dragging the gimmick into the digital age, (yeah… thanks Jim… nice one). However, at its heart it was hackneyed and basically ‘imperialistic’ (for that read racist) tale that we are all familiar with in stories from Fern Gully to Pocahontas. I will say though, that in its defence the basic premise of the Greco/Roman hero quest has been copied in every other story from the legends of King Arthur, Star Wars, Harry Potter et al in a virtually unchanged guise. Just add a wizard here and ignite a lightsaber there and your job is done. Is there a truly original story left to tell? Of course there is, but this wasn’t it.

Rant over, because as I said, it was a movie that I ‘essentially’ liked. Its strongest point was in taking an alien world and creating a fully realised backdrop for our story to unfold within. From the life cycle of a glowing phosphorous seedpod to the bizarre anatomy of huge hulking herbivore, just about every aspect of the flora and fauna of the aboriginal inhabitants of Pandora had been researched, designed and rendered to a highly believable state. The most important of these was the Na’vi, because it was this race of sentient humanoid beings that the whole story was to revolve around, if they hadn’t been believable then the film would have stalled at the gates. But thanks to an amazingly talented crew of concept artists, designers, renderers, motion capture technicians and digital animators we ended up with some elegant aliens we could very much put our faith in, whilst silently fancying at the same time. If it’s considered wrong to be attracted to an eight-foot tall blue chic with a tail I’d like to know where it’s actually defined as wrong!

Yeah, thought so!

And that was another valid point, rather crudely made. Because when Jake was in his ‘other’ mode, we had to have a race of beings that he could not only sympathise and empathise with, but one that we had to believe he could actually be physically attracted to. He was after all seeing Neytiri through human eyes… if she had displayed more of… lets say Jabba the Hutt’s anatomy, my guess is he might have been on that gun ship launching the first wave of missiles that destroyed ‘Home Tree’. Shallow, maybe, but its why the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) fund never has a problem raising money for Pandas, but can’t seem to raise a dime fort horny backed lesser spotted stick insect.
It seems like an eternity ago that Hot Toys announced they had the Avatar licence, followed by an equally long period to see the prototype figure eventually unveiled… but then we had another long wait before the figure was to be finally, ‘actually’ released, but here it is at last. There is no word on any follow up figures yet, so I’m hoping this one sells well enough to prompt Hot Toys to announce a follow up companion figure of Neytiri (come on…. You HAVE to do at least her!). Others, like Jake in his wheel chair and the loathsome Colonel Quaritch might be too much to wish for at this stage… let alone the though of a fully articulated 1/6 AMP suit, but a guy can dream can’t he.

Packaging - ***
Jake is designed to be 1/6 scale next to a regular 12” figure, so to house the big guy they needed a big box. This measures an impressive 22” x 10” x 8”. There is a simple matte white outer sleeve with a striking full colour gloss laminated vista of Pandora sweeping across the front. Inside the sleeve is a large window fronted box with a full creative team production list on its back.

The figure is housed within between layers of vac formed clear and black plastic with his numerous accessories and diorama base.

So it’s all in all a large tasteful and impressive box, but when compared to Hot Toys firing on all eight creative cylinders, this does feel just a little on the flat side.

Sculpting - ****
In the past I was privy to knowledge that some 3D rendered characters ‘may’ have had their 3D created images made available to some toy manufacturers. So I did wonder if Cameron’s digital effects crew (most of the design and rendering fell to Weta, but ILM and Digital Domain also worked on the mammoth project) had helped Hot Toys out at all in terms of the digital sculpting. That was until I saw the blogs of Joseph Tsang and his amazing work on the completed figure. No, this was a classic labour of love, done the traditional way by a very talented guy!

Tsang has often worked on the more ‘exotic’ life forms that Hot Toys have created, with everything from Ghost Rider to the new Predators. He has a great eye for delivering finely observed details, and he manages to do the same again here.

Jake is a more complex figure than might be immediately evident, as although he is essentially an alien, there is definitely more than a hint of the actor Sam Worthington’s features in there too, which he has managed to nail quite convincingly. I shall focus on the head and hands in this section and keep the body for the articulation part, though it is worthy of note here that from top to toe the entire figure was sculpted by Tsang.

The facial expression is relatively neutral, the one factor that could potentially count against this release as Jake is in his warrior outfit, complete with war paint and ceremonial feathers (think Apache brave going into battle and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark), so a more aggressive, maybe even shouting sculpt might have been better.

The complex nature of the way the hair is fabricated means a complete second head would have undoubtedly pushed the price up too far, but an alternate ‘face’ if executed like the DX Jack Sparrow might have been a cool solution.

However that wasn’t to be, and I’m not here to critique a ‘wish list’, I’m here to rate the merchandise. As such this is a great piece of work, and though essentially sculpted as a solid head, the finished product is a truly mixed media affair. The basic head has (as I already said) captured a striking likeness of the character with some beautiful observations on the partially open mouth, but it’s the fine work on the braided hair on the top of his head, and the way it graduates into the real plaited strands with beads and feathers (both real and sculpted) that helps set this figure apart as something quite special.

If you should choose to invest in this figure, I’m convinced most really will enjoy just sitting and drinking in all the incredible fine detailing, I swear I notice something new every time I reposition him. Do however take care when handling him, as I did have a couple of feathers come loose on me, easily replaced with a spot of glue or simply poked back into the braids, but be aware.

He comes with a selection of four hands, and I admit I would have liked at least one more. We get a gun grip right, a knife grip right, a fingers splayed left and a relaxed (semi gripping left). These are undoubtedly enough to achieve a good range of stock poses, but an extra relaxed right hand would have enabled some cool poses for when the riffle is slung over his shoulder and the knife is sheathed.

So, there are a couple of things I would have liked as extras, but when purely looking at the quality of the production figure it is truly outstanding and fully deserving of highest accolade.

Paint - ****
The thing we humans are best equipped to judge is regular human flesh tones. It’s what we are used to seeing all day and every day, so we are also pre-programmed to intrinsically understand these shades without explanation. And lets face it Hot Toys have proven themselves to be past masters at getting these complex colourations just right.

However, Jake here is an alien, a Pandorian N’avi alien to be precise, so that makes him a bright Smurf like ‘process’ blue.

So, being blue can we expect a subtle lifelike colouration?

Of course we can!

As not only is Jake’s flesh tone blue, but his skin is covered in a series of complex tribal war paint and ‘natural’ markings. Made even more detailed and complex by the beaded and feathered jewellery that also adorns his body.

The base tone of the plastic and vinyl used looks to be blue, but is covered in gentle graduations to help enhance its form. The ‘natural’ skin patternation and the stripes of war paint look to have been applied mechanically, but very well for all that. If you look closely through a magnifying glass (yeah, it is that subtle) or at the enlarged images in my photos, you can actually make out the tiny printers matrix within some of the tones. But as I say, you need to get up super close to be able to see this, from a usual standpoint it is all but invisible. The mouth is also beautifully carried out, with just a hint of his teeth showing.

The thing that really brings the head to life is the use of small inserted glass eyes, an inspired way to handle this feature as even though they are not positionable like with the DX series, it helps immeasurably in creating the illusion of real tiny ‘wet’ eyes.

So, he may be a big old blue alien, but the detailed and delicate work executed by JC Hong is just about perfect.

Articulation - ***1/2
Na’vi physiology is basically very similar to the human form, only with much, much longer limbs, and it’s the length of these limbs that also contributes to making the so darned tall. In the movie an average male Na’vi was meant to come in at around 10 foot tall. Now if in the world of 1/6th, an average 6 foot man measures 12 inches so it obviously translates to a 10 foot individual measuring about 20 inches (though maths was never a strong point). However the figure is 18 inches, but to my memory looks about right when stood next to a ‘normal’ 1/6th figure (from my memory of the movie anyway. If he had been 20 inches I think he may have actually looked ridiculously big!

Because of the unique nature of this body it necessitated an all-new design, sculpt and engineering job, and some compromises had to be made. We all know that the native Na’vi spends his life in the simplest most minimal of outfits, but that also means a helovalot of naked blue flesh is on show. Naked, or nearly naked bodies are often the bane of many a 1/6th manufacturers existence, though it is worthy of note that far more muscle bodies are available now than ever before. But a naked body inevitably means visible joints.

When Hot Toys very first announced the Avatar license I did wonder if they might not have gone down the same route they explored with King Leonidas from 300 (reviewed here), I would still imagine it was an avenue explored during the R&D, but now obviously one that stalled at the gate. In the end we have finished up with what is in effect a scaled up ‘muscle’ body, similar to the ones used on figures like Perseus, Wolverine, Indiana Jones etc.

This means we hit a happy middle ground between good useable poseability and less aesthetically intrusive joints. Of course you can’t keep everyone happy and some will complain about his lack of extreme mobility while others claim the joints are ugly. I’m more biased towards the first category, its articulation all the way for me. If you are from the later category, go buy a statue, this is meant to be a POSE- ABLE-ACTION-FIGURE… cheese you people!

So what do we actually have here, well its less than was exhibited in the early promo shots of the prototype, for example the joint mid foot is now gone in favour of a seamless full foot, this is in my opinion a smart move, as the hinged joint may have been a little too intrusive even for me. Next up is the knee which has a hinged rotating peg joint, meaning a 90 degree bend is available here, the hips are pegged rotating ball joints so a good range in most directions can be made. The groin is made of a softer vinyl to aid in the positioning of the hips in deeper stances. The lower abdomen is made of solid plastic but then the rest of the torso up to the neck is also covered in the softer vinyl to hide the underlying engineering. I’m happy with this solution as long as the materials utilised in the manufacturing don’t either go brittle and crack or go soft and melt. The range beneath the vinyl skin is good meaning he can abs-crunch forward a little and also lean back to look up or hold his gun when in a prone position. The shoulder joint tucks in under the softer skin and is a fully functioning universal joint, able to move freely in all directions. Next up we have the elbow, which like the knee is a pegged hinge joint in the interests of making him look as good as possible. I could really have done with a double joint here, and maybe even a cut joint in the upper arm (after all he does have his arm jewellery to hide the lines), but alas t’was not to be.

Lastly we have the now classic double pegged and hinged ball joint, everybody pretty much uses it now because it works so darned well.

That is it, a good solid and robustly constructed base body that poses on the whole very well. There are inevitably some limitations due to the compromises struck in favour of not making him look like Sideshows slave Taylor (shudders), but enough ‘disguising’ has been done to keep all but the hardcore statue enthusiasts happy (and quite frankly they’ll NEVER get it anyway).

Accessories - ***1/2
There are quite a few elements that you have to add to the figure when you unbox him, but it’s a grey area as to what exactly constitutes accessories over outfit. The things packed separately in the box are-
- one AVR-30 door gun
- one dagger/knife
- one braided bandolier with a scabbard for his knife
- one grenade bandolier
- six grenades
- four arm bands
- one necklace
- one communications necklace
- two extra hands (four including the ones fitted)
- one right lower arm covering
- one environment based figure stand.

Many of those items I covered in the outfit section, so here I shall stick to the other items. His AVR-30 is super detailed, and though it is essentially a fantasy weapon it has a lot of characteristics (as lets face it’s I based on) an M60 machine gun, and it’s only because of his Na’vi proportions that Jake can wield this at all. You will notice it has an articulated coupling on its underside to attach it to a gunship for when being used by a mere human. The rest of the weapon has no articulated elements from what I can see other than the sliding buckle on the carry strap, but all the detailing is solid nonetheless. Likewise his dagger (obviously) has no moving parts, but is again replicated beautifully to look like it is made from a bone/tusk with a bound handle.

The scabbard to hold the knife is attached to a fabric sash with some nice woven detailing and a small tooth toggle. Criss-crossing his chest the other way is a military belt with multiple small clips and six grenades attached to it, again all the fine detailing here is beautifully rendered.

Lastly he has his rather cool ‘Pandora environment’ figure stand. It’s sculpted to look like a small section of the forest floor with a tree stump featuring some of the green and blue glowing plant life of the planet. There are also a few more human looking ferns around the edges. The cool feature is that it does actually light up. Simply insert a couple of batteries into the base then flick the switch at the back. It goes without saying that this is obviously far more effective in low-light conditions where all the plant life takes on an ethereal glow and the two sections of ground under Jakes feet also light up. I admit the ferns do look a little plasticy, but on the whole this is a very nice display piece, and will help greatly in ensuring Jake doesn’t take any unwanted dives… because lets face it, he is never gonna fit inside a regular Detolf, well, not unless you take a shelf out!

Outfit - ****
Those Na’vi are a shameless bunch… but I guess that is another point that Cameron was (perhaps clumsily) trying to make, these are in effect the original inhabitants of the Garden of Eden.  A spiritually pure race of beings, living in a perfect symbiotic harmony with the soul (Gaia if you will) of their home planet Pandora. Even offering prayers and incantations after the death of an animal they have hunted. This is an anthropological ‘borrowing’ from many Native American, African and indeed Australian Aboriginal cultures, in fact I guess it is fair to say in a more ‘spiritual’ time all of humanity would have carried out such superstitious practices. Sadly I don’t remember the last time I gave thanks for a pack of vacuum-packed lamb chops, but hey, that’s progress for ya!

And as such, living this pure existence in a tropical climate means they have little need for multiple layers of clothing. Instead they opt for the simplicity of loincloths and in the case of Jake (in his warrior mode here) a few strategically placed pieces of jewellery and armour.

Over his lower legs are sculpted greaves that have woven lattice panels radiating around the inner calf and shin to hold a more robust protective panels on the outer side. This is textured to look like some Pandoran equivalent of crocodile hide. To cover his modesty he wears a simple calico loincloth with a long panel hanging at the front adorned with strings of beads. The rear has a double sash/belt that ‘loops around the tail… as lets face it must be a pain in the ass (quite literally) finding comfortable clothes for a guy with a tail, and the simple act of sitting down opens a whole other can of worms.

Next up he wears a moulded upper torso/waist belt. It is again sculpted to look like it is made from woven strands of hemp or leather and is held shut by a strip of Velcro up its back. Around his upper arms and neck he wears tight fitting ornamental jewellery adorned with both sculpted and real beads and feathers, whilst around his neck he also wears a communication device linked (though not physically) to the communications mic he has tucked into his left ear. His right arm also has an armoured panel made to look like its fabricated of a similar material to his leg guards, and is held in place with a strap of tied leather.

Lastly he has an ornamental headdress, which has sculpted twine, teeth and beads woven into it, and all the fine sculpting here once again works well in mimicking what we saw up on screen.

That is essentially it!

So though his wardrobe is sparse, it is still nonetheless a great representation of what we see worn in the movie. I’m sure there are some who would have liked some of the ‘leather’ elements to have actually been ‘pleather’ but for longevities sake and indeed aesthetic reasons I have no problem with the way they have been fabricated, top job!

Value - ***
When reviewing the 89 DX Joker recently I asked how far we were from a 1/6th figure pushing through the $300 ceiling… well here we are! With a full RRP of $315, Jake here has erupted through it confidently.

Of course for a 1/6th figure he is huge, standing at a height that most scale figure would be proud to achieve. So, one does have to take into account that we have a totally new body that needed to be designed and engineered. And a lot more plastic and vinyl was required in his manufacture, making him heavier and bulkier for freight… plus Cameron’s hefty license for the most popular movie of all time must be swallowing up a big chunk of the unit price. So, I’m fully aware of why he ends up costing so much, I’m merely pointing out that it is still a lot of money.

However, if you are one of the few on the fence, and if the outlay won’t put you on the street living in the rather impressive box he comes equipped with, then I have no problem recommending this figure very, very highly!

Fun Factor - ***1/2
I guess it may have come across that I am not the biggest fan of the movie, I am however 6’4”, I could do with losing a few pounds and I love comic books and sci-fi films… so I guess that makes me a big fat geek (BFG)!

And any self respecting BFG just has to admit that within the arena of modern sci-fi movies that Avatar stands like a behemoth, straddling the camps of mainstream entertainment and sci-fi with an ease that just a few short years ago would have seemed pretty hard to pull off. As such, if you want a collection that represents and spans the whole gamut of modern pop culture, then this is a figure that cannot be ignored by any 1/6th aficionado!

And as for FUN, well it poses well, is robustly built and the scale is well handled for him to be displayed with your other ‘normal height’ figures. My personal ‘fun levels’ would be greatly increased if we do get Neytiri to stand alongside him, but even if we don’t this guy can do a solid job of at least representing the movie in your collection.

Overall- *** 3/4
A lot of what I have to say was kind of covered in fun factor, other than to just point out how fantastically well all the fine detailing on his ornate tribal hair braiding and feathers turned out. The clever and convincing use of mixed media, coupled with the uber delicate fabrication makes this figure look stunning even when examined very close up.

So, it is sadly another time where the monetary outlay is the only factor keeping this guy back from a full score. If you are a fan of the movie then this is in my eyes the figure to get, I’ve seen some very good statue representations of Jake, but in terms of fine detail, likeness, ability to pose (a real big one for me) and of course those light catching glossy iridescent eyes then this is the likely to be something of a jewel in your collection.

Where to Buy:
Sideshow has Jake available and in stock at an eye watering $314.99, it may be time to sell a kidney! Or you can try Mike’s sponsor below where you could potentially save $30 on the RRP… and lets face it 30 bucks is not to be sniffed at!

Fan Boy - in stock for $284.99

BBTS - in stock for$289.99

Or hit eBay where the BIN prices are between $250 to $350… but keep an eye on those international shipping prices, often those lower prices hit you with big shipping fees at checkout, and don’t even get me started on import duties!

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

This page copyright 2000 - 2010, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour