Vintage Collection - Return of the Jedi
Star Wars - Hasbro

Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro

   "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."

There's something a little different in the guest review tonight, as Lawrence takes a look at Hasbro's new vintage series - yes, that's a paradox! Tell us all about them, L!

After making a few appearances as an adjunct to a more central line, the Vintage line has finally gotten the green light as a basic line of figures – minus the restriction on what figures could be made, minus the special clamshell, and minus the price increase.  Sadly, that last bit didn’t fit in with every retailer’s plans for the line, but we’ll get to that.

It’s unclear if sales for the Vintage Collection have been as strong as Hasbro hoped, but so far they keep pumping out great stuff.  Just now surfacing, the Return of the Jedi wave features a diverse mix of hero and background characters from that film, aliens and droids, upgrades to older sculpts and one character not seen in plastic since 1984.

Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro

Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro
Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro

Packaging - ****
As an old-school Star Wars fan, I find it simply preposterous to imagine that any line could sport more appealing packaging than this.  I suppose that might overstate the case a bit, but really, it’s just joyous to see the classic design brought back.  The inclusion of photos of the vintage figures on the back is a nice touch.

In reproducing the vintage photo for Luke as he appears on the Death Star (minus his cloak and outer vest), Hasbro appears to have missed the opportunity for a “Death Star Luke” cardback.  It’s up to you whether that’s an issue.

Sculpting - R2-D2 ***; everyone else ****
What’s remarkable about this wave is that just about every single figure is stunning, a real high watermark for sculpting.  Additionally, three of the figures are upgrades to figures that haven’t been revisited since POTF2 (Ackbar, Wicket, and the Gamorrean Guard), and which fans really wanted to see improved.

Luke:  The face sculpt is more round than you might expect – it bears more of a resemblance to the original vintage figure than to Hamill as he appeared in the film.  But it looks better than many prior attempts, and there’s no denying that the rest of the figure looks amazing.  They captured the slim build of the actor, and they’ve accurately reproduced the few details in the somewhat spartan costume, like the design of his belt buckle, and the way his vest buttons.  There seems to be a running change in the figure, in that later issues have a peghole for the saber hilt.  This will almost certainly stand as the definitive Death Star Jedi Luke for some time.

Gamorrean guard:  Wow.  Just… wow.  There’s so much to love about this guy.  The head is perfect, accurately reproducing the original mask, with such crisp detail work it seems as though the mouth might actually open.  It’s just an outstanding sculpt.  There are only two flaws, both easy to remedy.  First, the removable helmet doesn’t stay on very well, meaning you’ll want to save yourself some trouble and just glue it in place.  Second, the skirt is, to be polite, a little more aggressively furry than it probably needs to be.  Fresh out of the package, he looks a bit like he’s being eaten by a dust bunny.  This is easy to fix – trim it, or lower the belt a bit, or cut the skirt shorter.  It’s a shortcoming of the figure that a fix is required at all.  Still, it’s difficult to be harsh on a figure that, with minimal tweaking, stands as one of the best Star Wars figures ever made.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I've also heard, though can't confirm, that the skirt looks better turned around, as though they might have put it on backwards.

Ackbar:  Another phenomenal improvement over a figure last produced in the late 90’s, Ackbar now not only matches the original costume more precisely, but is more accurately proportioned.  His Popeye-esque forearms feature a lot of wrinkles and ridges, and his costume is sculpted to look as though it’s comprised of several different materials.

Wicket:  Wicket is one of the few ewok characters who receives considerable screen time as an individual – his interactions with both Leia and R2 are the closest we get to seeing an ewok with a recognizable personality.  Hasbro did a spectacular job with him.  He’s noticeably smaller than almost every other ewok, and his face actually resembles the original costume rather than looking generic.  The sculpt on both hoods is outstanding, and they fit snugly.

R2-D2:  This is one of the few missteps in the wave.  Although the new, slightly smaller astromech mold is fun to see (though fans continue to debate on the true scale of R2), it’s another instance in which an action feature tends to detract from the toy.  R2 has no fewer than three action features working against him.  First, and most frustrating, his dome features a slot which can be used to feature a raising periscope or the hilt of Luke’s jedi lightsaber.  To raise either, you push the middle leg in; to lower either, you pull the leg out.  That means that R2 cannot be displayed with his middle leg retracted and his dome shut, or with both his middle leg and periscope extended.  The second feature is an interface which extends from an opening panel – as is often the case, the panel is noticeable, taking away from the “pure” look we’d get with a fully sculpted droid.  It’s not particularly ugly, but it stands out.  Finally, R2 has a drinks-serving dispenser on the top of his dome which, when removed, leaves a hole.  Without these features we’d certainly have come closer to a definitive version of R2.  I will note that the drink serving tray is astonishingly detailed, and includes individual removable beverages – an unexpected extra mile for the team at Hasbro to take.

Wooof:  As with the Gamorrean guard, he suffers from a needlessly removable helmet that simply doesn’t stay on, and must be glued in place.  Still, that’s a small quibble with an otherwise exceptional figure.  His outer vest is a separately sculpted piece, as is the bandolier strap around his shoulder, giving even more detail to what was already a great figure.  Hasbro has given the figure the same somewhat bulky pants the original costume featured, which some fans consider ugly, but it matches the original costume so I have no complaints.  

Endor soldier:  Finally, we come to yet another figure that really needed an upgrade, and one of the most sought-after army-builders.  This is another exceptionally detailed sculpt, with a removeable helmet, bandolier strap, backpack, and soft goods trenchcoat.  The sculpting is once again superb, giving us realistic human proportions, wrinkles and folds in the outfit, accurate differentiation between materials.  Unfortunately, Hasbro’s inexplicable fetish for giving unique face sculpts to otherwise generic army-builder figures is in evidence here; the soldier is bearded and bald.  While it is possible to swap out heads due to the nature of the ball joint Hasbro has used, it isn’t easy to find heads that are a good match for the size of the peg here.

Paint - ****
There is no need to break this category down by figure, for the simple reason that every single figure sports an exceptional paint job.  Ackbar has mottled skin, Wooof’s horns and bumps have been highlighted, Wicket’s fur has the appropriate highlights to give the impression of hair, R2 has the more authentic steel grey instead of the vac-metal silver on his dome, there’s even a faint glaze of drool and/or snot on the snout of the Gamorrean guard.  The Endor trooper may be the most impressive:  his boots are muddied and weathered, his pants feature both highlights and an elaborate camo treatment, his helmet has silver “scratches” and wear.

Articulation - Luke and Wicket ****; everyone else ***
Luke:  Luke may be the most impressive.  His ball jointed hips are better executed than Bespin Luke’s:  his legs aren’t so far from each other, there’s no “diaper” look.  However, he is so slim, when he turns to the side, his torso splits in an ungainly fashion – see the group picture for further evidence of what I’m attempting to describe.  He does have ball-jointed wrists, which allow for more poseability with the lightsaber than we’ve ever seen before.  He also features the same ball joints in the shoulders, elbows, knees, neck and ankles that we’ve come to expect.

Gamorrean Guard:  Ball jointed shoulders, elbows, neck, ankles and knees, traditional articulation at the hips and wrists.  His neck design and placement means he can’t really move his head all that much to the side, but then neither could the guards in the film.  It may appear that his shoulder articulation is of little use, but it is possible to get the armor on his upper arms to slide under the leather on his shoulders, so his arms actually can extend laterally quite a bit.

Ackbar:  Ball joints at the neck, shoulders, knees, elbows, with more movement in the head than I expected, which gives him far more character.  No ankle articulation, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s wholly unnecessary most of the time and definitely not needed here.

Wicket: Ball joints at the shoulders, hips, ankles, as well as swivel wrists and neck.  This is simply an insanely well-articulated figure for its size.   

Wooof and the Endor soldier:  Both feature ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles, and traditional swivel joints at the waist, hips and wrist.

R2-D2:  I suppose it could count against his articulation that his use of his middle leg is restricted by the action feature, but I consider that more a shortcoming of the sculpt.  He’s got a ton of moving parts, so he’s actually more articulated than most astromechs.

Accessories - Wooof ***; everyone else ****
As if superbly sculpted figures with elaborate paint jobs and unprecedented articulation weren’t enough, this wave also features an extensive and creative set of accessories for almost every figure.

Luke:  Luke comes with the expected assortment of gear – his lightsaber, a lightsaber hilt for his belt, and a pair of manacles.

Gamorrean Guard:  A figure that already impresses gets even more impressive when you see the arsenal he’s packing.  He comes with three unique weapons – two different kinds of axes and a pole arm I’m fairly certain we’ve never seen in plastic before.  This is an army-builder’s dream, and Hasbro seems to be taking full advantage of the fact that many fans will want to buy this figure multiple times.

Ackbar:  Ackbar comes with two accessories:  his “commander wand” about which there isn’t much to say, and the control pad from his admiral’s chair.  Without the chair, it’s not clear what we, or the good admiral, are meant to do with this thing.

Wicket:  Showing remarkable creativity and imagination, Hasbro has included the green headdress and brown pouch that Wicket wore in the 1980’s “Ewoks” cartoon, in addition to the brown hood he wears in the film, and a spear.  For fans who don’t particularly feel the need for a cartoon-accurate Wicket, the hood will fit some previous ewok figures, allowing for an easy way to customize new members of the tribe.

R2:  He’s one of the more tricked out R2 units.  His accessories are well rendered and pretty fun, even if they do have such an adverse impact on the figure itself.

Wooof:  The guard comes with the gun that can be stored in his hip holster, and a pole arm.

Endor soldier:  Although I counted the helmet, backpack and coat as part of his costume under the sculpting category, I think they could just as easily be listed alongside his rifle and pistol (that fits in his hip holster) because by changing what he’s wearing and how he’s armed you can easily create new individual soldiers.  Without the trenchcoat, he looks more like the soldiers we saw in the Saga line, and he can in fact fit into the restrictive plastic jacket those figures wore (pic of this custom is included, but note that the plastic coat does not come with the Vintage Collection figure).

Value - *** at TRU or online, **** everywhere else
I don’t want to give a complex algorithm for this score, but it really is all over the place.  Wicket should perhaps score slightly lower here given that we once got ewoks in two-packs, and now we’re being asked to pay the highest price ever for the smallest ewok ever, packaged alone.  R2 is similarly tiny, but at least comes with an elaborate drinks tray to add some perceived value.  But in all cases, value is going to depend on where you get them.  TRU has inexplicably decided to charge $10 for these, which is just this side of insanity.  Most online places like BBTS are charging pretty much the same.  If you find these at Target, Walmart, K-Mart or the like, you’ll pay less – and since these tend to show up everywhere, there’s no reason to pay more than you have to unless your desperate or insane.  The Gamorrean Guard is such a huge work of art, I almost could give him a pass at $10 – for everyone else, as awesome as these are, they really shouldn’t be more than $7-8 a pop.

Fun Factor - ****
These figures are a blast, and this is a wave that kids and collectors are set to enjoy equally.  We’ve got some great aliens in Ackbar, the Gamorrean guard, and Wooof, we’ve got a fantastic Luke figure, we’ve got a fun variant on R2-D2, we’ve got a good soldier figure.  This is an exceptionally fun assortment of figures.

Overall- ****
I honestly can’t remember the last time a single wave of Star Wars figures had so much greatness in it, with no real filler in the bunch.  The weakest figure is R2-D2, and that’s only because he’s a fun gimmick rather than the definitive version some of us have been waiting to see.  While the Vintage Collection may produce individual figures that surpass what we have here, this is probably going to be the only time we’ll have an entire wave of figures that qualify as “must haves” for most fans.

Return of the Jedi Vintage Star Wars action figures by Hasbro

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Lawrence Horsburgh.

This page copyright 2000 - 2010, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour