Lord of the Rings 12"

Today we have a combo review - guest reviewer Bob Snare and I both give our comments on the new 12" Lord of the Rings figures.  This is a new style for reviews, but I thought it would be helpful since we had both gotten on hands on these in person.  There are three figures in the first set - Gandalf, Arwen and Frodo.

Also, I'm thinking about doing some Point-Counterpoint type style reviews, so if you think you'd be interested in something like that, let me know!  Now, on to the review:

Diamond saw fit to ship my case of 12" Lord of the Rings figures to my local shop this week. Seems I've been waiting forever for this batch of highly anticipated figures. Of course, once I heard that Toy Biz had the master license my expectations dropped accordingly. The final result was pretty much the schizophrenic mixed bag I expected.

Packaging - Bob ****; MWC ***1/2
(Bob) Nice, leafy green fifth-panel window box packaging. Nothing to complain about - it's even on easy to recycle corrugated cardboard. They lose a point for the excessive number of twisty ties holding the figures in. Even with snips it takes a while to get the damn things out!

(MWC) I concur, but I'd took off a bit because of the huge number of twisty ties and threads used to hold the figures in the package.  Most annoying - there's a piece of plastic holding Arwen's hair in place that is a royal pain to remove.

Sculpting - Bob ***1/2; MWC ***1/2
(Bob) ToyBiz is using the RealScan process on these, to generally good results. They also chose to go with rooted hair, which works well on Gandalf and Arwen, but looks ludicrous on Frodo. And, as with past ToyBiz creations, it's not fully rooted, so the figures have bald spots if you move the hair at all. Arwen is the best, with Gandalf and Frodo following respectively. Also, Frodo has sculpted hairy feet. Mine were unevenly painted with a wash - the right looks considerably better than the left.

(MWC) While our scores are similar, our opinions on the individual figures are a little different.  The rooted hair does look excellent on Arwen, and she as some small braids down through her long flowing hair that look terrific.

I think Frodo looks fine as well - at least I think his hair looks like the photos.  I haven't been particularly fond of the little afro that they've given the character in the movie, but I think the figure approximates it fairly well.

For me, the Gandalf figure was the one that didn't work well with the rooted hair.  I don't think it's the fault of the rooted hair, but the over abundance of it, particularly in his beard.  Those with customizing skills will probably want to give him a trim around his mouth.  And if you're looking to do an Osama Bin Ladin or Moses custom...

The head sculpt on Arwen is also the best, with Frodo next and Gandalf last.  The real scan didn't work as well with him, and I've heard that the process doesn't work well with people who have a lot of facial hair. 

The hand sculpts aren't bad, but only one of Gandalf's hand can actually hold anything.  Actually, that's true of all three of them, but it's most annoying with Gandalf.

Paint - MWC ***
(MWC) Bob didn't mention the paint ops, but on mine they were spotty.  Frodo and Gandalf weren't bad, but the lips and eyes on the Arwen figure were a bit sloppy.  Try to be picky when you buy yours.

Articulation - Bob ***1/2; MWC ***1/2
(Bob) Frodo is on the standard Famous Covers body, although the joints seem tighter. Decent articulation, although in today's market people expect more.

Gandalf is on a new 12" body, with double jointed elbows and knees, cut biceps, thighs, and wrists, double ball jointed waist-chest (ala Dragon). His shoulders are a bizarro style reminiscent of Medicom's 12" figures, although it doesn't work as well. While allowing for extra articulation at the shoulder joint, it's counterintuitive, as to move the arm forward you first have to move it out a bit, and sort of rotate it around on two axes. I predict a lot of broken shoulder joints on these figures by impatient kids thinking the joint is merely stuck.

Arwen is on a new 12" body, similar to Gandalf but with more traditional shoulder joints. Decent, but with the usual loose hip joints.

(MWC) I've included nekkid pictures of all three, so you can see what we are talking about.

I really like the Gandalf figure - I didn't have as much trouble with the shoulders, but it helped stripping him down so I could see how they were supposed to work before I tried using them too much.

Frodo is a FC body, but it the hands are made of harder plastic and he has those big honkin' feet.

Arwen looks great dressed, but she has one heck of a set of legs undressed.  She's one of the best articulated female bodies out there, but the extremely long legs make using her for other things tough.  If I didn't know better, I would have said that Moore designed her...

These bodies are far better articulated than I had anticipated from Toybiz.  Unlike Hasbro, they seem to be learning and responding quickly to what the market expects.

Outfits - Bob ***; MWC ***1/2
Frodo is the worst of the bunch. While it's a bit better than Playmates standard "make everything one piece that velcros up the back" it's not by much. And the lack of tailoring and inappropriate fabric selections make things worse. His shirt and pants are one piece which velcro up the back. The shirt has a collar about 20 sizes too big, making it look ridiculous. Coupled with a velcro up the back vest (why can't the vest open in the front) made out of a heavy fabric, it looks pretty dumb. On top of that put a heavy corduroy jacket with an incomplete lining (which tends to hang out, in spite of some token stitching to keep it in place) and he just looks bulky. Maybe I'm spoiled by Dragon, who takes the time to get things like this right, but Frodo has a rumpled, unkempt look which just isn't in keeping with the character. His cloak is laughably bad, made of a heavy canvas fabric I wouldn't make a *real* cloak out of, let alone one for a 1/6 scale character. ToyBiz had to engage in some serious tomfoolery to make this look even halfway decent.

I ended up cobbling together a virtually identical outfit with the shirt and vest from the western "Hannah" figure and the overalls from a 6" Street Fighter I got on clearance (which, put on backwards, look like suspenders), and the coat Frodo came with. He looks *much* better, even though he's a bit inaccurate from the movie. Still, it's not like what he came in looked right!

Gandalf fares better, with an under bodysuit (complete with longjohns) that attach to his fabric moccasin-like boots. On top of that he has his gray tunic, which is less a robe as it is a baggy jumpsuit, complete with legs (the better to ride a horse). On top of that he has his cape, with cut outs for the arms. Good fabric selection here is offset by a lack of attention to detail for the sake of cost cutting. The seams aren't finished, so they tend to hang out. The whole thing just feels half-assed. Still, it does look impressive on display. He also has a really nice braided "leather" belt that ties through a metal loop medieval style. Very nice! Although he doesn't wear a belt like this in the movie.

BTW, Gandalf's hat will not sit on his head - I ended up putting a push pin through it into his head to hold it in place.

Arwen's outfit is a nicely done gown, made out of a printed fabric with some simple embroidered details. Strangely, for footwear she has a pair of slippers made out of cloth which I suspect won't stay on if you remove the rubber bands holding them on. Still, you can't see her feet, so it doesn't matter. Why ToyBiz did her in this glamor outfit rather than the warrior's outfit she wears in the movie is beyond me - probably to sell us the Warrior Arwen figure later.

(MWC) I like these outfits better than Bob does.  There are a couple glaring problems, but overall they turned out better than I expected.

I like Frodo's outfit, although I think that the velcro is the usual pain in the butt.  If you're used to Famous Covers though, you won't be surprised by this.  His only serious problem is the poor cloak.  Like Bob said, it's made of a material that is far too heavy and thick.  It was tossed in the box immediately.

Arwen's outfit is beautiful, particularly the outside robe/jacket.  The patterned material is a very nice quality, and they did a terrific job in the faux buttons.  Also, she has no velcro; they used the small plastic snaps instead.

Yes, she has a failing as well, those awful slippers.  I have no idea what they were thinking - they're worse than Aunt Mays.

Gandalf's outfit is also excellent, although Bob is right in saying that the quality of some of the stitching is weak.  All three of these reminded me very much of Famous Covers level quality and style.

The weakest piece of Gandalf's costume, and actually the single weakest piece of any of the costumes, is his truly awful hat.  The material is way too thick, it doesn't fit his head well at all, and looks terrible once you get it on him.  Skip it, and use the robe hood if you need a pointy look.

Accessories - Bob *** ; MWC ***
(Bob) Frodo comes with Sting complete with a removable sheath which clips to a belt on his jacket, very nicely done. He also comes with fabric backpack which snaps to the back of his crappy cloak. It's empty and sewn shut, so I'll have to open it, put in some stuffing to make it look full, then sew it back shut. Thanks guys.

Gandalf comes with Glamdring, but no sheath. He also comes with his staff (for Gandalf, the more formidable weapon). Still, since only one hand is sculpted to hold anything, poor Gandalf ends up sticking the unsheathed Glamdring in his belt, which is pretty freaking stupid. Worse, his wrists are so loose he really can't hold anything unbraced. He also comes with a map/shoulder bag, which is nice but, once again, empty and sewn shut.

Arwen comes with jack and crap. Bupkis. Nada.

(MWC) Bob is pretty dead on here.  Arwen comes with nothing - I was very disappointed in that, especially since she has far fewer layers of clothes.

Both bags should have had snaps, rather than being sewn shut.

Value - Bob ***; MWC ***
(Bob) About what you'd expect. I would have gladly paid more for a higher quality figure.

(MWC) Most 12" figures are running around $25 these days.  These seem to be available most places for $20 - $25, so it's a decent price.  

Overall - Bob ***1/2; MWC ***1/2
(Bob) Man, why couldn't Hasbro have gotten this license?. Their 12" Star Wars line has generally been great, and they could have done some butt-kicking good stuff with this line as well (yeah, the bodies are bad, but you can easily work around that. Their outfits are usually excellent, and that's the difficult part). Or (bestill my beating heart) think of what Dragon could have done. Or Blue Box (real metal swords!!). But crappy ol' ToyBiz got it, so we get middle of the road. I may or may not buy future figs in this line, which is saying something since I'm a HUGE Tolkien geek, and have been waiting for LotR figures forever. It's not that I think the figs are bad per se, just that they should be so much better.

(MWC) Well, I differ from Bob on the idea of Hasbro - these outfits are easily as good as most of the 12" Star Wars outfits, the sculpts are far better, and there's no comparison on articulation.

But if Dragon or BBI were doing the outfits and accessories, I'm sure we would have been happier.  Still, I haven't seen sculpts from either of those companies that would have really made me happy.  I think if Sideshow had gotten this license, it would have been the best of all worlds.

Still, these are far, far better than I had expected after hearing all the negative comments on the various message boards.  I'll be picking up the next assortment of 12" figures, and these are looking good displayed on my shelf.

Where to Buy -
I haven't seen these at any retail stores, but I know that some folks are finding these at comic shops.  Online you have a few options:

- Entertainment Earth has the three figures available for $60 plus shipping.  (MROTW Affiliate)

- also has them, but I don't know if they've started shipping yet.  They are $23 each.  (MROTW Affiliate).  If you check some of the coupon sites you should be able to save some cash here as well.

- Aisle Sniper has the set of three for $66 plus shipping.  I've gotten good service from them in the past.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford

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