Yodasnews Review: Concept Starkiller Hero (McQuarrie Signature Series)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: October 29, 2007
The Death Star. The Millennium Falcon. Darth Vader.
All those names immediately bring to mind powerful images which have become inseparable elements of pop culture over the past thirty years. In an age where people have a hard time identifying the Vice President, the black visage of Lord Vader is never left nameless. Nor is the silhouette of the Falcon set against a brightly burning star.
But in the earliest days of the saga’s creation, the vast majority of those iconic images were very different from their final designs. Whereas many of the McQuarrie concept figures to date have at least somewhat resembled their legendary appearances, the Starkiller Hero is significantly different from its final incarnation: Luke Skywalker. It is also the sole entry in this figure line that is technically not found in any aspect of the Star Wars universe. Since this concept developed into Luke Skywalker by the final drafts of the screenplay, the character of Starkiller ceased to exist, and the name only has meaning for the more serious fans.
Furthering this tribute to the unseen origins of Star Wars, this depiction of Starkiller is the female rendition of the character. It was a concept that existed in only a handful of artwork, making this an extremely obscure design.
And unlike the last several entries, the Starkiller Hero takes the McQuarrie Signature Series back on the right track with one giant leap. Today, we will examine in detail just what puts this figure in such high regard.
PORTRAIT: Above Average
If there is one complaint about this portrait, then it would have to be it is too feminine. As stated in the introduction, this figure is based upon a handful of concept pieces illustrated by Ralph McQuarrie during a brief time where the character that would become Luke Skywalker was changed to a female protagonist. However, the look wasn’t entirely feminine. The portrait in fact was slightly androgynous with mid-length and unkempt hair and no signs of makeup. This female “Luke” was a tomboyish character.
However, Hasbro has gone the route of a truly feminine look for the character. The hair is no longer flat and unkempt. Rather, it is wavy and bouncy with a flip at the base of her neck. The lips are also a definite shade of deep pink, an unmistakable simulation of lipstick. But while these feminine features deviate from the source material, they stay true enough to the spirit of those designs, and they are also executed beautifully. This is especially true for the hair. It has been sculpted with effective simulations of layers and varying fullness, and the paint has been applied very cleanly.
Final verdict here? This is a solid, well-made portrait, but it is not quite an accurate translation of McQuarrie’s artwork.
FLIGHT SUIT: Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
Nearly everything about the flight suit is so very, very right. The proportions are good, and the cut of the suit is faithful to the source material. There are many fantastic details everywhere—particularly in the boots. The natural crinkling of leather is sculpted into the boots, and the thin crosshatching straps recess into the shins perfectly. Also, the boot tops flare out very realistically. The laces on the tunic are just as well done and simulated as the aforementioned straps, and the belt pouches, while small, are carefully and clearly sculpted.
Overall, the three-dimensionality of the sculpting is remarkable, and the brown paint wash adds a further subtle touch of depth and texture. Hasbro truly produced an exceptional rendition of the Starkiller Hero’s flight suit with only one flaw. The knee joint is painted with the lavender of the flight suit, which is aesthetically damaging because it is surrounded by brownish-tan and sorely stands out when the knees are bent. But that is only one blemish on an otherwise beautiful palette.
ARTICULATION: Above Average
The Starkiller Hero is a very unexpected yet welcome surprise in this category, and it is an excellent case of not judging a book by its cover. It also illustrates why this category is not scored strictly by a rubric listing numbers and types of joints. In this figure’s case, the presence of swivel cut elbows and the absence of ankle joints make this figure look deficient with regards to poseability, but Starkiller is capable of so many poses on her own. Such poses include having her hands clasped behind her back, holding her blaster with one hand on the slide, and turning away from a bright explosion while covering her eyes. Conversely, Starkiller cannot kneel, and that is the result of both no ankle articulation and the hard plastic of the vest’s bottom tunic interfering with the swivel joints on the hips. These limitations, however, are minor when compared against what is possible.
DESIGN STABILITY: Average
This figure’s stability is a half and half situation. The positive half is that the knee joints are very tight and lend a good solid base for which to support the Starkiller Hero. The plastic above the waist also feels lighter than the plastic used in the legs, a concept that, if true, significantly adds to the figure’s stability because it eliminates the possibility of becoming top heavy. The downside of this situation is that the elbow joints can become flimsy after repeated use and will collapse into right angles under the weight of the heavy lightsaber (more on that in a bit).
RESPIRATOR WITH BACKPACK AND HARNESS: Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
The conceptual Boba Fett figure, the second entry in the McQuarrie Signature Series, introduced the idea that this figure line had room for more than just one rendition of a character by including an alternate Joe Johnston-designed helmet. Darth Vader came packaged with an alternate McQuarrie helmet as well, allowing collectors to display two different concept renderings. The Starkiller Hero figure advances this concept further by including three accessories that were derived from an alternate sketch of the character.
The first two of these three items combine to create one component—a respirator system. For the purposes of this review, we will examine each piece separately.
The smaller piece is the harness, an accessory containing an element carried over from the female Starkiller design. That element is the mechanical box located on the center chest region of the harness. Upon closer inspection, one can see this “box” is actually a pair of macrobinoculars, something that is difficult to discern from looking at the original sketches. While simplistic in design, Hasbro managed to incorporate enough details to create a very well-rounded piece. The brown “leather” harness itself is equally as detailed from top to bottom. The shoulder area has thick pads with recessed grooves sculpted into the plastic, and the four buckles on the front also yield excellent sculpting as well as clean and crisp paint applications. Finishing off the details are several shallow grooves which realistically simulate notches for the buckles.
The only negative issue with the harness is the manner by which the four straps connect with the belt. There are four grooves strategically placed out of sight where the ends of the harness straps are meant to be placed. However, the tips are too soft, flimsy, and short to be properly inserted. Instead, the harness tends to dangle at the ends. Even so, it doesn’t look all that bad.
The larger piece of the respirator system is the backpack with a Vader-esque breathing mask attached via two oxygen hoses. The mask is actually not shown in either concept sketch, so this may simply be creative license on Hasbro’s part to bridge this figure with the earlier Concept Luke Skywalker figure. Or it is quite possible that the mask is from a third Starkiller sketch that is not in my reference library.
In any event, the mask looks and functions extremely well. The backpack, despite being all one base silver color, is detailed with enough sculpted dials, panels, and knobs for the visual aesthetics to hold up under closer inspection. The ripples in the hoses have been scaled down very well, and they drape over the figure’s shoulders naturalistically. The breathing mask itself exhibits stellar sculpting with multiple sloping grooves and three circular exhaust ports, which are painted with a metallic color that effectively captures the reflective qualities of real metal.
Aside from the hanging straps, the respirator system is a very detailed and superbly coordinated accessory, and Hasbro’s work on it truly shines through.
HEAD GEAR: Excellent
The second (and smaller) component drawn from this alternate concept sketch of the Starkiller Hero is the figure’s head gear, which bears a striking similarity to the gear worn by Naboo pilots over twenty years later. Hasbro did a superb job translating this accessory from paper to plastic. The best elements here are the two small mechanical earpieces on both sides of the gear. They’re small details, but ones that Hasbro was diligent enough to include. The goggles are shaped differently than the concept sketch, but this is hardly an issue. There are four different sets of goggles on that one sketch, and none of them are the same either.
CONCEPT LIGHTSABER: Average
If you own the Celebration 4 exclusive Concept Luke Skywalker figure, then the lightsaber included here is nothing new except for a blue blade instead of the translucent greenish-yellow blade used prior. Recycling accessories is a fuzzy line between legitimacy and laziness, but this is one occasion where it makes good logical sense to reuse Concept Luke’s weapon. The first reason is that there is a lack of source material for Starkiller’s lightsaber. Reason number two is that the Starkiller Hero is simply Luke at a different stage of conception, so using the same weapon is entirely appropriate.
Unfortunately, the hilt is far too thick for the hands on this figure, making the recycling ultimately inappropriate from a functionality perspective. First, it is difficult to squeeze the hilt into the figure’s grip. Then, it easily and frequently pops right out and drops to the floor.
BLASTER PISTOL: Average
Much like the lightsaber, the blaster pistol is not very well established in the concept renderings, so Hasbro was free to take a good deal of creative license with the design. While there are many good sculpted details, the barrel is made from a plastic that is too thin and flimsy. This allows for easy warping if one is not careful, and the risk increases because the holster burdens the blaster with a tight and awkward fit. Therefore, the barrel will inevitably bend when being holstered. That alone is enough to make this merely a middle of the road accessory.
FUN FACTOR: Above Average
Because of terrific aesthetics and above average functionality, the Starkiller Hero is a very fun figure and a neat addition to one’s collection. In fact, this figure could easily blend into a Naboo display as well. Many of these design elements are similar to the Naboo pilots such as the partial helmet with goggles and the tailor of the flight suit. The feminine earth color palette also acts as a visual counterbalance to the heavily industrial and sterile appearance found in the McQuarrie Imperials.
In all, the Starkiller Hero holds a massive amount of potential, and most of it is realized.
OVERALL RATING: Above Average (Bordering on Average)
Taking into account that this vision of the Starkiller Hero was a short-lived concept, it was an interesting choice for an action figure and one design with which Hasbro could have easily gotten lazy due to its lesser known status. However, a great deal of work went into the look of this figure, and the aesthetics of the final product reflects that.
The absence of ball joints in several locations as well as the flimsiness of the elbows are the biggest reasons the Starkiller Hero couldn’t achieve its full potential. Instead, it stands as a worthwhile entry in the McQuarrie Signature Series and a significant improvement over Yoda, Kenobi, and Darth Vader. One can only hope that this is the beginning of an eventual return to high quality for the remainder of the line—a figure line that is quickly entering its final stretch.