Yodasnews Review: Concept Snowtrooper (McQuarrie Signature Series)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: November, 27 2007
While their apparently weak armor and horrendous marksmanship diluted their on-screen presence for some viewers, the Imperial Stormtroopers were a terrifying and formidable force in the eyes of the fictional Rebel Alliance. Their identical uniforms and electronically distorted voices gave them an almost robotic nature in a time when their true origins as a partial clone army was still twenty-five years away—although the foundations for that were certainly in place from the start. From the perspectives of the heroic characters in the Star Wars universe, what could possibly be more intimidating than the rank-and-file hordes of Stormtroopers?
Perhaps an Imperial force that could pursue them into the heart of the coldest reaches of the galaxy…
The Snowtrooper, making its cinematic debut in The Empire Strikes Back, was the first of many Stormtrooper variations that would come to populate the saga’s universe. Equipped to survive and carry out combat operations in the harshest of frigid environments, Snowtroopers enjoyed a good amount of screen time during the major set piece of Empire’s first act—the Battle of Hoth. These troops quickly became fan-favorites, and collectible renditions have been consistently popular.
Now, twenty-seven years after their debut, Hasbro presents the first action figure incarnation of the Snowtrooper’s conceptual design. Given the popularity of previous Snowtroopers, this figure is virtually guaranteed to fly off the pegs. However, does this figure deserve such attention, or is it merely benefiting from its inherited good name?
HELMET: Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
The first conceptual designs of the Snowtrooper harkened back to the samurai culture that bore an influence in George Lucas’ vision of the first Star Wars film (Episode IV: A New Hope). This was a short-lived concept as the direction shifted toward using a Stormtrooper as a base and modifying the armor so that the soldier could function in an arctic terrain. This approach was decidedly more logical and realistic.
As such, the conceptual Snowtrooper helmet uses the concept Stormtrooper’s helmet as its base. It does seem odd that the Stormtrooper helmet from Episode IV was not used since its design was clearly finalized. Presumably, this was McQuarrie’s decision. Whatever the reason is, both the sculpting and painting have been executed very well. There are only the slightest occurrences of paint escaping its boundaries, and those are spots where the silver paint of the two “chrome” exhaust vents meets the dingy white mask. It is so slight that one almost needs a magnifying glass to see the errors.
The first new element of the helmet is the gigantic cap fixed over the base helmet. Its shape is clearly inspired by Darth Vader’s helmet locking cap, but this one is smoother and more boulder-shaped. There are etchings that wrap around the cap’s equator, and they demonstrate the high level of attention that Hasbro gave to the details. The sculpting team reproduced five blue alien characters which are emblazoned on the cap exactly as they appear in the concept art. Furthermore, the entire etching band retains symmetry by having the same five characters appear on the opposite side, but they are in reverse order so that the band starts and ends with the same symbol. Strangely enough, this second set is unpainted—probably because this side was not depicted in the specific concept painting used as the basis of the figure card. Close inspection, however, shows that the painted markings are out of-sync with the engravings, an error that prevents this from being a perfect execution.
The final component of the conceptual Snowtrooper helmet is a removable breather hood which covers the lower portion of the mask and aids the soldier’s breathing in Hoth’s atom-chilling climate. The hood on the figure is extremely faithful to McQuarrie’s design, and a subtle yellow-brown paint wash adds to the realism of the piece as it appears battle-worn and aged. What really makes this component impressive is just how seamlessly and securely it attaches to the helmet. The attachment system is superbly concealed as well. In addition to the tips being shaped and sized so precisely that they fit into place like puzzle pieces, there are also two circular indentations inside the hood which lock into place with the mask’s silver exhaust vents. The hood’s only downside is that it interferes with tilting the head downward because it has no flexibility.
All in all, this is one of the most faithful translations of an Imperial helmet to be produced in action figure form, and its functionality is equally as impressive.
REMOVABLE VEST AND BACKPACK: Above Average
Based upon the illustrations in my reference library as well as pictures which are readily available on the Internet, these appear to be two components which are not clearly depicted in the concept art. Therefore, they are more open to interpretation and creative license.
There is very little to say concerning the vest. The basic idea appears to be that this is a padded field vest in which the Snowtrooper can carry extra supplies. The sculpting here is excellent, but the two small spots of red are a wee bit sloppy. Unfortunately, these slight imperfections stand out more than usual because they are the only use of color on an otherwise white vest.
Directly attached to the vest is the Snowtrooper’s backpack. This is the source of the soldier’s life support system, a conclusion easily reached because of the white hose connecting an external tubular tank mounted on the backpack to the top of the pack. In a surprising move, Hasbro made the backpack hollow, which reduces its weight and lessens the chance of a skewed center of gravity. It is a considerate design element, and kudos to Hasbro for implementing it. Sculpted buttons and grooves are plentiful, but the paint applications on the blue and black buttons are flaky and worn. Additionally, the dark gray paint on the left side dial is smudge. While some of these can be chalked up to “wear and tear” simulation, most of it is simply and clearly sloppiness.
Paint issues aside, the vest and backpack combo is a solid component of the conceptual Snowtrooper’s armor. It fits extremely well over the figure, avoids interfering with any of the torso’s joints, and has minimal impact on the figure’s center of gravity.
BODY ARMOR: Excellent
If there is little in the way of reference sources for the vest and backpack, then there is even less for the upper torso body armor that the vest conceals. Rather than have an irrelevant separate category, this section will also take into account the remainder of the Snowtrooper’s uniform as well.
Discussion of the underlying torso armor will be brief. Obviously, it is modeled after the conceptual Stormtrooper armor and has several very realistically painted scrapes and scratches that reveal shinier silver “metal” underneath. There is also a dark mustard-colored cylinder on the trooper’s back, which is most likely a component of the life support system. It is an interesting detail that didn’t need to be included, but its presence adds to the completeness of the armor.
The rest of the uniform and armor appears to be an amalgamation of several concept renderings (including sketches done by Joe Johnston) because there are more than a few areas that can’t be seen in the concept art that appears to be the basis for this figure’s overall design. To make this examination easier to navigate, we will work from the neck down to the boots.
With regards to the arms, it appears Hasbro erred on some details but captured the overall concept. The shoulder pads on the figure are squared off whereas both the McQuarrie and Johnston designs show spade-shaped pads. Additionally, the gloves appear to extend all the way up to the elbows, but those sculpted on the figure only go to mid-forearm. However, the darker gray patches on the gloves are accurately reproduced as are the look and feel of the airtight fabric jumpsuit. In fact, the entire jumpsuit looks great with very naturalistic folds in the “fabric” with one exception—the joints are painted basic white as opposed to the dirty white of the jumpsuit.
The belt and skirt also appear to be mix-and-match designs from both McQuarrie and Johnston, and they blend together seamlessly. However, that does not mean they are flawless. First, the length of the skirt comes up a bit short, and the dark mustard-colored cylinder hanging off the rear of the belt should be white-gray and has too much of it sculpted into the skirt. On the other hand, both the skirt and utility pouches exhibit detailed and clean sculpting work with the “dirty” paint wash adding to the “used” look of the uniform. There are also small details on the belt that help enhance its overall appearance.
The boots are the final component we will examine in this category. Once more, this is an area not prominently covered in the concept art which I have available to me, so it’s necessary to allow for creative license and judge Hasbro’s work on its own merits. What immediately struck me is how similar these are to Darth Vader’s boots. Both have near-identically shaped shin guards with straps securing them to the legs. The Snowtrooper’s boots, however, have straps that cut through the guards in a belt and belt loop fashion, making them clearly visible on the front. The bunching of the “fabric” under the pull of the straps is sculpted with good attention toward realism. The only area for improvement here is that the dark mustard-colored linings of the soles smudge onto the white areas of the boots.
STABILITY: Below Average
Earlier, it was mentioned that the hollow nature of the Snowtrooper’s backpack would help in the aggregate stability. That may be true, but whatever help it would provide is lost since one leg is actually longer than the other!! The difference is no more than two centimeters, but it is enough to severely hamper the Snowtrooper’s free-standing ability. Most free-standing poses require the trooper to be hunched forward so as to reduce the workload of the shorter left leg. Still, one should expect the figure to tumble at the slightest disturbance because, even if one compensates for the left leg, the boots are sculpted with the soles tilted at different angles. Neither foot is flat and flush with the display surface.
ARTICULATION: Above Average
The majority of achievable poses, obviously, will require a figure stand due to the aforementioned stability issues. Beyond the typical variations of standing in place, some other poses include holding the rifle strap while the weapon is slung on his shoulder, holding the helmet’s breather hood, and carrying the concept rifle with two hands—although this last pose is tricky because of the weak plastic as well as the tight and rigid hand grips. Kneeling is out of the question since there is no ankle articulation. Fortunately, there are not very many poses which require those joints. Overall, the McQuarrie Snowtrooper is well-articulated despite the sub par stability.
CONCEPT BLASTER RIFLE: Average (Bordering on Above Average)
What stood out first with the concept blaster rifle is just how much its shape resembles an elongated version of Boba Fett’s Blastech E-11 rifle. It would not come as much of a surprise if the Snowtrooper’s weapon played a part in the final design of the bounty hunter’s weapon of choice—especially since unused concepts are sometimes later recycled. Case in point: the abandoned concept for the AT-AT found new life with very few changes as the Turbo Tank of Episode III.
The Snowtrooper concept rifle is molded in solid black plastic, but there is nevertheless a high level of realism and three-dimensionality here. Credit for that can be given to the sculpted details and the weathering, which has been achieved through a delicate silver paint wash. This wash was applied at varying thicknesses, creating a very realistic aged look to the weapon. The strap is not the best fit with regards to staying on the trooper’s shoulder, but it is workable.
There is but only one major criticism for the concept rifle—complete lack of a traditional handle or grip. It is extremely difficult to pose this figure firing his weapon because there is little to grasp. However, this looks to be an element of the concept design, so the toy version is staying true to the source. Where the Hasbro rendition falters is in the weak plastic from which the weapon is crafted. It warps in the figure’s grip far too easily. That reduces functionality and, therefore, reduces its rating as well.
FUN FACTOR: Above Average
If you don’t mind having to use a figure stand, then the McQuarrie Snowtrooper offers a variety of display options. Army builders will likely enjoy grabbing a couple of these figures and using them as “specialized” Snowtroopers. In this age of seemingly endless troop variations (thank the Expanded Universe and Revenge of the Sith for that), such use is entirely plausible. Kids will even like this figure simply because it’s another in a long line of soldiers, and those are an almost guaranteed hit with the younglings.
OVERALL RATING: Above Average (Bordering on Average)
So does the McQuarrie Concept Snowtrooper stand on its own merits or does it rest on the laurels of the Snowtroopers’ popularity? Looking at all aspects of this figure, the answer would have to be that it does stand on its own—just barely. Hasbro did an exceptional job on the aesthetics, but the overall functionality is lacking. It has terrible stability, and its one and only weapon is next to useless. Despite all that, it still fares better than the mid-series releases (namely Darth Vader), and it makes for a great looking addition to McQuarrie Signature Series.