Lord of the Rings mini-busts
Elrond and Balrog

Gentle Giant's series of mini-busts continues this month with the release of two more B characters - Elrond the Elf, and the Balrog.

Now if you've already started typing up the email explaining to me that Elrond isn't an Elf, he's half-elven, just keep in mind that it's not like I said he was Vulcan.

Elrond was Lord of Rivendell of course, and played in the film by Hugo Weaving, a terrific actor.  He's one of my favorite characters, and I was happy to see they'd be including him in the line up.

The Balrog is most notable for killing Gandalf the Gray, of course.  This specific Balrog is Durin's Bane, as opposed to Batman's Bane.  I wouldn't want to meet either in a dark alley.

Elrond, like the first busts, comes on a base that has a small drawer that can hold a ring.  Get it?  Balrog does not, because he has a light up feature.

These two busts are just hitting stores now, with prices in the usual $40 - $50 range.  As always, I have some suggestions of sponsors who have these in stock - thanks for ordering from them when you can, since their sponsorship is what makes the site possible!

Packaging - Elrond ***; Balrog **1/2
Both boxes follow the standard pattern that has been set for the packaging up to this point, although the Balrog has a slightly different color scheme than most.  The Balrog also lacks the handy window, probably due to his enormous size, but it's still something that is sorely missed, especially if you're buying these in store where you would want to see the bust in advance of buying it.

As usual, both figures come with the baseball card style COA's.  Elrond is a limited edition of 2500, while the Balrog is a whopping 3000.

Sculpting - Balrog ***; Elrond **1/2
Perhaps I'm being a bit tough on these two, but hear me out.

Elrond is not a terrible sculpt, and I do like the design (more on that in the later section).  There's some wonderful detail work in the ring holder base, and while the feature is fairly unnecessary, at least it doesn't get in the way.

The head sculpt is mediocre at best.  And Elrond (and Hugo) isn't a pretty boy character, with difficult to capture features.  He has a very distinct appearance, with a jawline, nose, brow and forehead that all set him apart.  The head sculpt almost captures his look, and it's not awful by any means, but it's not at the same level of quality as their Gandalf, for example.

He also has a slack look to his face that doesn't really match the character well.  It's as though the muscles in his face are loose, and Elrond has the kind of personality where he always has a hard set face, with gritted jaw and furrowed narrow eyes.  Here he looks...tired.

This bust is also hurt by a common problem with GG busts - the lack of any texture on the clothing.  They've actually gotten better about that with some recent releases, but here all the clothing is the same smooth resin.  It loses reality points even on broad inspection.

The Balrog has much better small detail, and just like Elrond, I really like the design.  You can't fault them here for lack of texture or not giving us an intricate sculpt, but two things bother me and bring the score down.

First is the scale.  Yes, we all knew it wouldn't be in scale with the rest of the line, but the box this guy came in was about twice the size of a regular GG box.  That was there for all the extra padding though, put in to protect the fragile wings.  The bust itself (ignoring the depth due to the long wings running out in back) is much, much smaller than I expected, and is really going to look out of place with the rest of the line.

The other problem is his pin head.  Now, I realize that his wings and body are going to be much larger than his head, but this guy does have a bit of the puny noggin' thing going on, especially considering that even with the horns it's tiny.  The proportion of head to torso and wings seems off, and is extremely noticable.

Paint - Balrog ***1/2; Elrond **1/2
One issue that the Balrog doesn't have is with paint.  There's no slop here, and GG did a terrific job of getting in lots of detail with very few colors.  The translucent plastic used for the various sections that light up look great even in full daylight, and mess nicely with the resin areas.

Elrond doesn't have any slop either, but the face paint doesn't do much to counteract the slack appearance.  The eyes lack life, and the lips are too red for the skin tone.  The color of the hair seems off as well, although it's possible that the soft colors used in filming the movie don't translate well.  And perhaps the biggest issue - what's up with those eyebrows?  They are much longer and more 'human' in appearance than I ever remember Elrond having.  In the end, this bland paint job does nothing to improve the overall appearance.

Design - ****
While I'm not thrilled with either sculpt, I do have to admit that the designs were perfect choices.  The Balrog is rising up to attack, mouth wide, back in flames, and the huge wings are perfectly set for the body pose.

Elrond is handing over the sword, a key moment for him and perhaps the best choice for his pose.  The sword itself is a separate piece that simply sets in his hands, but it does so cleanly and with very little effort.  It's not likely to fall out either (unless you pick up the bust without paying attention), and the hands and cloak were designed to hold it nicely in place.

Features - Balrog ***1/2; Elrond **
While Elrond's feature takes a hit, the beauty of it is that it really doesn't matter and won't effect the final score.

Elrond has the little ring drawer, which isn't particularly exciting for me, but on the plus side, doesn't hurt the bust in any way either.

Balrog's light up feature was slightly disappointing, largely due to the mouth.  The back and shoulders light up great, but the bright light tends to show seams and other defects in the mouth a little too clearly.  Still, considering the price point, I think they did a decent job.

Value - Balrog ***; Elrond **1/2;
Elrond runs the usual $40 - $45 depending on the retailer, and that's become the norm for busts in this size and style.

Balrog is also running around $45 though, and while he's smaller than I had hoped, he's just as large as the usual bust AND has the nifty light up feature.  It might not work perfectly, but it certainly ups the value at this price point.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Remember that the sword can drop out if you pick Elrond up!

Overall - Balrog ***1/2; Elrond **1/2
In the end, I liked the Balrog more the longer I looked at him.  While the scale is off, you can always put him far enough away from the other mini-busts (or add in some AOME figures around him!) to avoid the issue, which really only leaves the pin head problem.  The wings and flames, along with the terrific design, ended up winning me over.

Elrond didn't do quite as well.  I do think they picked the perfect design, but the final execution didn't live up to what we've come to expect with the work we got on figures like Gandalf.  I suspect he's going to be one of those busts that is in the middle of the pack for most folks - not the worst one they do for the overall line, but nobodies ultimate favorite either.

Score Recap:
Packaging - Elrond ***; Balrog **1/2
Sculpt -  Balrog ***; Elrond **1/2
Paint - Balrog ***1/2; Elrond **1/2
Design - ****
Value -  Balrog ***; Elrond **1/2
Overall - Balrog ***1/2; Elrond **1/2

Where to Buy -
Online options include these terrific sponsors:

- CornerStoreComics and Amazing Toyz has Elrond for $42, and the Balrog at $46.

- Alter Ego Comics has Elrond for $42.50 and the Balrog for $46.75.

- Dark Shadow Collectibles is sold out on Elrond, but still has the Balrog for $48.

Related Links -
It should be no surprise how many past reviews there are of LOTR collectibles, considering how popular the films and books are:

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

- Dreams in Dragons also did a series of 12" figures, as did Toybiz (series 1 and series 2).  Toybiz also did rotocast versions of some of the characters in a 12" scale.

- and now from Gentle Giant, we have the Gandalf, Strider and Ringwraith mini-busts.

- and if you're just a fan of the Balrog, don't forget about the huge NECA action figure version, and the candle votive.

- if you prefer your LOTR figures a bit smaller, there's the minimates (series 1 and series 2, including Sauron),

- or if you prefer them huge, here's the 20" Gandalf and Aragorn from NECA.

- and don't forget that Toybiz did their huge, huge line of 6" scaled figures for the movie.  I reviewed a few (and had a few guest reviews), like the King of the Dead and the Morgul Witch King, Gollum, several of the Two Tower figures, the uber-cool Cave Troll, and even more Two Towers figures.

- and who could forget the Intelliblox?

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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