The ads are running on television, the toys are flooding the shelves - it's that time of year...Lord of the Rings time! With only a couple weeks left
until the big opening day, fans are getting pumped to see the second film in the trilogy.

Of the many new toys for the second film, a couple are real standouts. One of those is the new electronic Sauron (from the Second Age, to be accurate to the books). He is in scale to the 6" figures at 10" tall, and has light up eyes and a talking feature. As the reigning big bad in Middle Earth, he's quite the impressive character.

They are just hitting Toys R Us' across the U.S., but will likely make it out to other retailers like Target soon. SRP is around $20.

Packaging - ***1/2
This is a pretty high packaging score for a Toybiz product, particularly one for a popular film license. But the large box is well designed, perfect for MiBers to display, sturdy enough to withstand shelf wear, easy access to the 'try me' feature, and nice colors and graphics. On top of that, it's fairly collector friendly, although you'll have to be pretty patient if you plan on getting him back in the package.

Sculpting - **** 
Yowza! Toybiz has raised the bar with the new The Two Towers (TTT) figures, and Sauron is no exception. Some people were disappointed with the initial offerings for the first figures based on the Fellowship of the Ring, but I can't imagine many complaints this time around.

Sauron has a tremendous amount of detail in the sculpting and design, far more than the usual large run, major film license figure. Toybiz is gunning for McToys here, and I won't be surprised in the least to see them garner quite a few votes for Best Sculpting in this year's People's Choice Awards.

The design of the figure matches the source material quite well - some folks may not like the way the film has depicted Sauron, but you can't argue that the toy hasn't captured that same look perfectly.

Paint - ****
There's not a lot of color or paint detailing here, but there's still tons of detail. So how can you pull that detail out with the paint work? A wash is the solution. Unfortunately, washes often come off poorly, too heavy or too light. Toybiz beats the odds, and uses a wash perfectly to highlight the various aspects of the intricate sculpt.

Articulation - ***1/2
Toybiz has done a much better job in the articulation category this year, across all their lines.  Sauron sports enough joints to do the job, but not so many as to be impractical.

He has neck, ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, elbows, wrists, ball jointed hips, knees and ankles. A waist might have been helpful, and the armor restricts some of the shoulder movement, but the joints are tight, and he holds a pose extremely well.

Accessories - ****
I'm counting three accessories - his huge mace, his half cape (it's removable), and his One Ring (which is also removable. Since the ring is removable, and quite small, they supply you with four more in case you lose it.

Let's talk about that feature for a moment. To add a great play feature - albeit a tad gruesome - the right hand of the figure comes apart at the fingers, just like in the film! The ring can be then removed from his hand, re-enacting the opening sequence of the Fellowship of the Ring.

The mace, also used in that sequence to swat men and elves like flies, is well sculpted and fits nicely in the left hand. The final accessory, the half cape, is attached with elastic bands to the arms. It is removable, but tough to get back on. It's made of cloth, and extremely well done.

Electronic Feature - ***1/2
There are two aspects to the electronic feature. First, his eyes light up a menacing red. Second, he has four lines from the movie "You can not hide.", "I see you.", "Build me an army worthy of Mordor.", and my favorite, "There is no the void."

Value - ***
Twenty bucks is never cheap, but you're getting a heck of a cool figure for that price. The electronic
feature raises the cost, but it's not frivolous or silly, like so often. Instead, it adds to value of the
figure both to kids and collectors.

Overall - ****
When I score a figure in the overall category, I don't simply add up the scores of the other categories. That would be rather mindless, assumes that all categories have equal weight, and leaves out any visual interpretation of how the total package works together. Here, the scores would be closer to ***1/2 if you simply add them up, but the complete package, sitting on the shelf with other LOTR figures, is far cooler than that score would indicate.

This is clearly a four star figure, and one of the best in the line to date. I bet only Treebeard will have the chance to knock him out of that top spot. Toybiz has clearly stepped up their efforts on this line, and by this time next year I suspect we'll be even further amazed by some of the offerings.

Where to Buy - 
I picked mine up at the local Toys R Us for twenty bucks. On-line:

- has it on the page, but says it won't start shipping til next week. (MROTW Affiliate)

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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