Star Wars AT-AT
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
|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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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’
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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.
This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer.
Photos and text by L.