Star Wars AT-AT

Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro

   "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."

Regular reviewer "L" is back tonight, checking out a toy I can't wait to get my hands on - tell us all about it, L!

Imperial troops have entered the base! A lot of people started talking about a larger AT-AT the minute the news of the BMF hit, and there’s a certain intelligibility to that – one of the arguable improvements in the execution of the Falcon was its improved scale, and consequent impressive size. As another classic toy from the vintage era, the AT-AT was already a fan favorite – how could improved scale, i.e. massive size, fail to make it a classic?

The difference between the Falcon and the AT-AT, however, is that the former was not only a cool vehicle, it was also the setting for much of the action of the original trilogy, with both an interior and an exterior which featured in enough of the movies to provide ample opportunities for toy treatment. Not so with the AT-AT.

That makes reviewing a toy like this a bit of a challenge. Fans who want faithful reproductions of what was on film may take issue with departures from the canonical design. And while perhaps nobody would insist on a ship with no interior of any kind, finding general consensus about what the interior should actually look like is a difficult task. It’s easy to recognize and accept that Hasbro is going to have to make some stuff up -- but it’s not so easy to accept the choices that were actually made. Here, things perhaps get irreducibly subjective. Is it possible to write a review of a toy that may not be able to be all things to all fans? Boldly risking the wrath of Master Yoda, I’ll give it a try.
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro

Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro
Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro

Packaging - ***
It’s somewhat odd that a classic OT toy is being released with Clone Wars packaging. Other than that, there isn’t much to say. The packaging features a dynamic painting of the AT-AT battling some rebel troops, and the back shows off the features of the toy. Windows display the included AT-AT driver and the speeder bike. The toy itself is securely packed inside, in several pieces (head, body, legs, feet, a few small details like guns etc.).
Everything smoothly fits into place and snaps tightly, with minimal pressure required. As a result of this approach, the box is smaller than it would otherwise have been, which is a bonus for MIB collectors. No, you can’t see the toy in its box, but if you want to have one in perfect mint condition for posterity, you won’t need as much space for it. That’s a nice touch. Almost all of the assembly is a one-time procedure, incidentally, so this toy will not fit back in the box when (and if) you want to put it away.

Sculpting - ****
There are two ways to judge the sculpt of a toy like this. There’s the detail and proportions, just as one judges the sculpt of an action figure. But there’s also the greater issue of the engineering of the toy – how was it designed, how did they turn a model into a toy? As far as detail, proportions, and aesthetic, it’s pretty awesome. It’s far more detailed than the prior AT-AT had been, and better proportioned (see the comparison pic to note just how surprisingly inaccurate the prior version had been). Perhaps most importantly, the AT-AT is BIG. The BMF didn’t really need to be huge to work, because the Falcon wasn’t known primarily for its size. But AT-AT’s? These things need to be tall. They need to be imposing. They need to seem like massive engines of the Imperial warmachine. And this thing does. At the same time, to be fair, I have to agree with fans who have expressed concern that it feels more like an animated AT-AT than it might have. It doesn’t go so far as to be much of an issue, so I didn’t dock any stars, but it’s noticeable (to me at least). The feet are slightly oversized (required for balance), and the head is slightly too tall (required for internal space).

The second category is harder to describe. It’s not just a question of action features, but aesthetic decisions in how to execute the basic concept. Where will the ship open? What will the interior look like? Answer: awesome. The crew hold, the cockpit, the speeder bike hangar, are all spectacularly decked out with panels and buttons and mechanical parts. The hold is split-level, with a ladder in the wall suggesting even more depth. There are also railings (indicating that the Imperial architect who worked on the Death Star was not hired for the AT-AT gig). The opening panel on the side is split down the middle, so you can choose to open only the top half, increasing the sense that the interior has levels. Another cute touch: the speederbike hangar is visible through a window the hold. There’s also a handle to move the head around, and it’s sculpted both to hide in the top of the AT-AT when not in use, and to look like a deliberate part of the ship when extended. The former capacity is not entirely successful – the designers did as good a job as one would hope for, but it’s still clear that there’s something on the top of the ship. The latter is quite neat – the handle works as a radar antenna, or as a gun pod (though in the pic I’ve included, I forgot to swivel the guns around into place – you can somewhat make them out on the ends of the handle). Very cleverly done. Perhaps my favorite unexpected decision: the red windscreen is actually transparent, so you can see the drivers through it.

Paint - ****
Again, there’s some debate about some subjective points here. The toy has some impressive paint apps, with some panels done in different colors, some weathering in places, and a lot of details in the cockpit. It’s all done very neatly, with no spill, and some areas are done with a kind of smudgy-airbrush look. It looks good. Plus, the designers also gave the option of weathering up the toy even more by including a bunch of blast mark/exhaust stain stickers. Hasbro has done less weathering in its paint jobs since around 2005 or so, and if that bugs you, you’ll continue to be bugged here. On the whole, the toy is pretty clean. Still, the inclusion of the stickers is a nice touch to accommodate fans who can at least doctor up the AT-AT slightly – and customize it so no two are exactly alike, for that matter!

Articulation - ****
This is going to be familiar to anyone who has owned a prior version of the toy, with a few new touches. The legs move at the hips, knees, and ankles, exactly as they have in prior versions, with clicking joints that hold their position well under the weight of the toy. The head moves in the same way it always did, only now the handle has been moved from the inside of the toy to the top – it hides reasonably well, as discussed in the Sculpting section, and pulls out to allow for easy manipulation of the head. The chin guns are “articulated” in the same way the POTF2 version’s were – move a lever under the chin and you get reciprocated movement on the guns.

Features -
Here’s where Hasbro went to town. As I did with the BMF, I’m going to divide up the features into two categories: electronic and non-electronic.

Non-electronic - ****
There is a retractable deployment line for troops, which unfolds and can be extended or retracted manually by means of a rolling wheel. It runs smoothly, and works well. There’s also a retractable grappling line for Luke or any other figure, which doesn’t fare as well. It pulls down manually and retracts mechanically at the touch of a button inside the ship – while making a banshee screeching noise that sets your teeth on edge. It’s disappointing that the only action feature inspired by the movie itself is so irritating to use, but maybe the noise won’t bother you as much as it did me. There are opening hatches all over the place, including three on either side of the hull, one at the back, one on the underbelly (to throw thermal grenades in, of course), and one at the cockpit. Finally, there’s a spring-loaded deployable speeder bike which docks in a little platform. It’s a cute touch, and my response to it is much like my response to the shuttle included with the BMF: I think it’s brilliant. It not only adds a fun accessory to the toy, with its own play pattern, it gives kids a way to enjoy the toy without having to lug the huge thing around all the time. The AT-AT becomes a “headquarters” of sorts, with the ship going on recon missions.

Electronic - ***
There are three lights: a red light in the hold, a blue light in the cockpit, and light-up chin guns. They’re all bright, and work well – though I would point out that the Falcon’s lights were more impressive. There are also tons of phrases. But, be warned: not only are most of these phrases not in the movies, absolutely none of them are sound clips from the film. That’s right: even dialogue from the film has been re-recorded with new voice actors, and in at least one case slightly altered. Why did they do this? I have no idea. I was never planning on using the phrases anyway, so I don’t really mind that they aren’t what they might have been. To be fair, even for users who love sound bytes in their toys, the presence of so many new phrases might make up for the fact that the few ones which appeared in the film have been executed poorly. (Incidentally, I’m not listing the phrases because there are so many, but here are a few: “Ground troops deployed, sir,” “Rebel snowspeeder squadron approaching on your flank,” “Rebel base located,” and several key Vader phrases, along with all of Veers’ familiar lines)

Accessories - ****
There are two: the speederbike and the AT-AT driver. The bike is the Saga 2002 version; it doesn’t pop-apart, the back is smooth rather than having the sculpted pouch, and the handles are designed slightly differently from the vintage design. The AT-AT driver is the Saga 2006 version; he has swivel elbows rather than ball-jointed, his helmet is not removable. I suppose two figures would have been nice (we got them with prior AT-AT’s, and the BMF) but this feels like a nitpick to me.

Value - ****
This thing is a real bargain, there I said it. It’s $100, which is far less than the comparably decked out BMF, and frankly less than Hasbro could have charged to still have many fanboys happy to fork out. It’s already something people wanted; the price just makes it easier to justify.

Fun Factor - ****
Really? Do you have to ask? This thing is made of 100% solid gold awesome. The extras are all fantastic, but even with no batteries and the hatches all glued shut, it’s still a two-foot tall walking metal deathtank. As with all large and expensive toys, whether or not it’s appropriate for kids is really a matter of parental discretion, but I can say they’d probably love it, and it seems sturdy enough for normal play.

Things to Watch Out For -
You can’t see the toy from a sealed box, so make sure nobody swapped out the bike or the driver. Once you get it home, make sure you have all your parts (the directions have a list) and that’s about it. One key thing to repeat, though – the assembly is a one-time thing, so make sure you’re confident before you go ahead. Chances are you won’t make any mistakes (I don’t think you can, other than possibly placing the legs in the wrong spot, if that’s even possible) but if you aren’t sure you’re ready, it’s nice to take a beat before taking the leap.

Overall - ****
It’s hard to deny that this is a must-own toy for a SW fan, and possibly for anyone who really likes big, cool toys. At the same time, in the interest of fairness, I will say that I am less impressed with it than I was with the BMF. The design is slightly less movie-accurate, which was, to be fair, unavoidable. The sheer size of the toy tends to instill giddiness, but the BMF set such a high bar, I can’t bring myself to say that the crown has to be conveyed to a new owner. Still, there can be TWO once-in-a-lifetime awesome Star Wars toys!

Where to Buy -
This thing is going to be everywhere. Street date is Aug. 6, though some people are finding them early, especially on the West Coast. I’m not going to list any retailers who have been willing to do this – any of the big, bad retailers who break street date, ahem – because I don’t want anyone to get into trouble with Hasbro. Be patient for two more weeks or so, and this should be somewhat easy to find.

Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro

Star Wars AT-AT action figure vehicle by Hasbro

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by L.

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