Emporer Palpatine
Sideshow - Star Wars

   "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."

Ryan is taking a look at the new Palpatine from Sideshow - take it away, Ryan!

Another big thanks to the Captain….
Tonight we head over to the dark side to have a look at one of its all-time most powerful and sinister masters of the force. That’s right, Palpatine himself. Sideshow gave him the special treatment awhile back, treating fans to a prequel version of him in a two-figure set that did him some serious justice. But I’d say that many were like me and still waited with eager anticipation for Sideshow to give us a classic ROTJ version of Vader’s boss. Finally, we were treated to one when preorders for this guy opened up back in December. It’s been a long wait from there, but he’s finally started shipping as of this past week. Palpatine, though not everyone’s favorite SW saga character—or favorite Sith Lord for that matter, with Vader and Maul hogging most of the fan glory—certainly deserves mad props for being the mastermind that was able to gain control over the entire universe through a process of patient and clever manipulation that would make Satan himself jealous.
As usual, S.S. released a regular and exclusive version of this figure, with the regular going at $90 and the exclusive at $95. Yeah, they’re getting a bit greedy on us, charging more for the extra accessory whereas it used to be the same price for both, giving the early birds a special treat that the procrastinators lost out on. Here, I’d say the extra five bucks is justified ‘cause Palps gets a whole extra head, but I’ve noticed it’s starting to become that way with all exclusives regardless of the size or significance of the extra item. Oh, well. Anyways, I’ll be reviewing the exclusive tonight, which sold out at a staggering 5-10 minutes after priority preorders opened. But if you missed him the first time, don’t despair—he’s currently back in stock! I’d go for it, since that extra head is really worth it, allowing you to alternate between calm, manipulative Palpatine and severely-pissed-off Palpatine. I’ve waited a long time for this figure to show up; was it worth it? Let the scrutiny begin…

Packaging - ***1/2
We’ve seen it all before. Not an aesthetic phenomenon, but does the job and does it well. The cover flap held closed by magnets, a single tray for the figure/accessories, and plenty of info of the character. Worked great before, and still does.

Sculpting - ****
Beautifully grotesque.  The regular head has a calm expression that works for almost any pose. On the exclusive head, we get a more extreme expression, as Palpatine is ready to make Luke pay the price for his lack of vision (the goofy expression they put on Jedi Luke actually kind of works here if you want to recreate the death-by-Sith-lightning scene). Both heads capture Palpatine’s likeness perfectly, not leaving out a single line or wrinkle. Sideshow’s head sculpts—for the most part—are getting better and better, and Palpatine is no exception. It’s hard to tell from the pictures—this guy is hard to photograph—but the sculpting on both heads and pairs of hands really do make him seem lifelike. The flash of the camera makes his face look TOO white, whereas pics without flash tend to come out more blurry, but I’m showing pictures both with and without flash to try and show as best I can how real this thing looks.

Paint - ***1/2
Of course, even perfect sculpting can’t make a figure appear lifelike if it’s covered by a horrible paint job. Fortunately, that’s not the case here. Like with the sculpting, the attention to detail here is profound. There’s not a whole lot of paint needed on this figure, but what little is needed was executed perfectly, with all the subtleties in the hair and skin tone showing up on the head(s) and hands. The right eye on the regular head looks *slightly* off-center to me (at first I wondered if that was intentional, if maybe Palps really did have a lazy eye, but I pulled up some photos of him and it doesn’t look like he did, so I have to assume it wasn’t intentional), and both eyes in general just don’t look as authentic as the face and hands. The eyes on the exclusive head are better though, and they do look more real than those on the regular head, probably due to the lack of the lazy right eye. The eyes on the regular head would look better if they were slightly narrower I think, but once again, that’s just a minor nit. Overall, the paint job is near perfect, and if not for the minor issues on the eyes, would have nailed a full score.

Articulation - ***1/2
The articulation is near-perfect on this figure, with smooth, tight joints and great poseability. Palpatine isn’t really an active or agile guy in his older ROTJ days, so you’re probably not gonna try to display him doing cartwheels or anything, but it’s nice to have a well-articulated body nevertheless, and at this price point, we have a right to expect it. The Buck days are long gone, and with Palps, we get the Pro (good thing too…if I paid $95 bucks for a figure that was on that old body, I’d be pissed). This is another area where Sideshow has come a long way in recent years. On many of my older SS-SW figures, I’ve had to get a knife or file and hollow out the holes in the hands so they would fit on those stupid little pegs at the wrists. Not a problem here, as we get wrist pegs (not unlike those used by Hot Toys) that actually come attached to the hands, and so all you have to do is insert the pegs into little holes at the end of the arms, making the hands incredibly easy to remove and replace. Unlike the Buck body, the Pro gives us rotatable wrists rather than cut ones, so you can move the hands in virtually any position.  Replacing the head on the exclusive can be a little more tricky than replacing the hands, since the first time I took the regular head off, the neck peg popped out with it, making me have to place it back in the hole and try ‘er again, trying to work the head loose while leaving the peg in place. It was easy once I got used to it. 

Ok, so why not a perfect score? Welp, I’ve got two issues: the range of motion on the head/neck, and the loose ankles. The head moves up and down a little bit (moving further down than up), but not as much as it could or should. If you want Palps to look up at Vader, you’re out of luck. The head on the Vader doesn’t really look down either, so visual contact is out of the question, I reckon. My bigger problem is the loose ankles. Because of this, I had a semi-difficult time getting Palps to stand on his own, and at $95, I shouldn’t have a semi-difficult time with anything on this figure. I kept having to make the feet point forward because they kept wanting to spin around in the other direction, and with the feet being covered up by the robes, you can imagine how fun that is to deal with. Fortunately, my Jedi reflexes enabled me to catch Palpatine once as he started to plummet to the floor while I was trying to photograph him. For the most part, however, I’m not too worried about him standing on his own since I prefer to display him sitting in his chair, but if you want to display him standing up, you might need that display stand if you plan on placing him at a high altitude.

Accessories - Exclusive ** ; Regular **
As far as this section goes, I’m not a happy camper.  Palps gets his cane, an extra pair of hands, and a display stand. And of course, the exclusive gets the extra head.  I hate to say it, but if you got the regular version, you pretty much got stiffed. The cane, the only real “accessory” that he gets, is about a half inch too short. If you put it in his hand, it doesn’t reach the floor, not even with his arm fully extended downward. It comes down to about his ankle. The extra hands, a gripping hand for the cane and a hand with a pointing index finger, are well painted and sculpted, and are pretty much all he needs, though I would have loved to have seen a pair of hands with lightning bolts sculpted onto the fingertips. They could have also given him Luke’s unlit lightsaber that he holds on to at the beginning of their little discussion (I included the Jedi Luke figure’s unlit saber in the photo), or the handcuffs that he makes fall off Luke’s hands. The exclusive head is certainly a big plus even at $5 extra, but I’d have been much happier if both versions came with it while the exclusive version had an extra pair of hands with lightning bolts. Heck, even if the cane had been longer, I could possibly see my way to giving a half star more in this category. But at this kind of price, we ought to expect more than we’re getting here.

Outfit - ***1/2
Adjustable hood: good idea. Adjustable sleeves: bad idea. The edges of both hood and sleeves have the small wire running through them, allowing you to adjust them however need be. For the hood, this works great, and looks better than many of the robes on past Sideshow SW figures.  The hood is the right size and easy to adjust, which hasn’t always been the case with this line. The sleeve ends, however, are a pain, and do not hang well. They look big and awkward, and while you can eventually adjust them to a position that looks good, it takes awhile to do. It would have been better, I think, if they kept the wires out, allowing the sleeves to hang naturally.

Aside from this issue, the outfit is spectacular. The robe looks great and—with the exception of the sleeves, hangs well on the body.  The robe is held by a clasp that works and looks great, and underneath the robe is a tunic held in place with a loosely-tied sash.  The boots, hidden by the robe, are made with a soft rubbery material and look fine, though I’m not sure that matters since you can’t really see them.

Value - Exclusive **; Regular -*
At $95 for the exclusive and $90 for the regular, this is not a cheap figure.  I gave the exclusive a better value score because, while I wish they wouldn’t start charging more for figures with exclusive items, the extra head is actually worth the $5 difference, and then some.  It’s still below an average value, though, and while you (probably) won’t feel ripped off getting the exclusive, you’ll still feel the pinch, and you certainly won’t come out of the transaction feeling like Donald Trump.
$90 for the regular, however, is straight-up ridiculous. Without that extra head as an accessory, this is a $60 figure tops. People seem to realize this, though, since as far as I know the regular version never sold out. There are probably other places you can get it cheaper, and I can see this guy going down to $60 or $70 (or less) on ebay before long. If you’re gonna get the regular version, I’d go that route.

Throne Environment - ***
I’m giving the imperial throne environment its own little category instead of a full-on review (I don’t think it warrants one), and this will not affect Palpatine’s overall score one way or the other.

This is well-sculpted and painted, and is scaled in the perfect size, but will cost you anywhere from $120 to $140. Sideshow has it at $140, but I cancelled my preorder when I found it at another site for preorder at $126. $140 is beyond ridiculous, and anything $120 or above is still pushing it. At less than $120, I’d give this thing a half star extra. One thing that surprised me was how heavy it is, and I can assure you that it feels just as authentic as it looks. My only problem—aside from the price—is that mine wobbles a bit at the swivel. The swivel works fine—Palpatine can easily spin himself around and around with complete ease when he gets bored—but it wobbles just enough to get on my nerves, especially when I’m reminded of how much it cost.  Furthermore, truth be told, this is simply a chair, not an “environment.” A cardboard picture of the window and view of space behind the throne in the film to place behind the chair (like the background that came with the Hot Toys Godfather) would have made it an environment, and a good one at that. Yeah, the chair’s great to have, but it’s not an “environment,” and it’s not $140 worth of quality.

Fun Factor - ***
Kids wouldn’t have as much fun playing with a wrinkly old guy with a short cane as they would with Vader, but I assume that you’ll utilize some common sense and not let them play with either one.  He’s still agile and durable enough to make a good toy, given that you’re mentally destitute and saw fit to allow them to play with a $90/$95 toy.

Overall - Exclusive *** ; Regular ***
This is a great figure, but overpriced. Sure, you get your money’s worth as far as the sculpt and paint, creating a staggering likeness to the hideous and deformed Emperor. But that alone does not justify the price. At this price range, I’d definitely like to see more accessories, or at least see them not screw up the main accessory that the figure DOES have.  I’m scoring the exclusive a half star higher because the exclusive head is simply wonderful, and will make you feel not nearly as bad about the money you’re spending. Palpatine and his chair together make a wonderful display  that’s sure to trip out any Star Wars fan, but the minor issues with the outfit, articulation, and eye paint on the regular head combined with the jacked up price are enough to hold this figure back from perfection.

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

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