Star Wars Action Figures

Yodasnews Review: Holographic Darth Sidious with Mechno-Chair (SDCC 2007 Exclusive) 

By Jeff Gouse (SithLord0498)

San Diego Comic Con Internation 2007 is now in full swing.  An old fan favorite from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark stood side-by-side with Spielberg and Ford to reveal her return.  The psychotic supervillain Sylar is switching sides to become Young Mr. Spock (and yes, Leonard Nimoy is also playing Spock as well…)  And by the time this review hits the Net tonight, I’m hoping that we’ll have our first look at The Dark Knight trailer and the mysterious new look of Heath Ledger’s Joker in its entirety. 

On the Star Wars collectible front, we’ve seen a variety of new items, most being from Sideshow (Hasbro pretty much already let their cats out of the bag).  If you have a total of $11,000+, you’re welcome to order life-size C-3PO and R2-D2 replicas.  In the 1/6th scale figure world, message boards and blogs are ablaze with commendations for Bespin Luke Skywalker while pitchforks are being sharpened and torches lit over the revelation of Snowbunny Padme.  And very distinguishable silhouettes revealed that Sideshow’s first two-pack is going to indeed be Prequel-themed:  Chancellor Palpatine and Darth Sidious. 

With that last point in mind, it seemed appropriate to bring you, at the height of SDCC 2007, our review of Sideshow’s Holographic Darth Sidious with Mechno-Chair from Episode I: The Phantom Menace

This review also marks the introduction of a new method of grading products.  Using a strict numerical system has just been too frustrating and limiting with regards to subjective views.  A product can be fantastic, but a failing in just one area renders it only average in the end.  Enough is enough.  From now on, each category will be graded from “Poor” to “Excellent”, and numbers will have no bearing on the overall rating because this approach allows for differentiated weighing of scores. 

Now, without further ado, here is the Yodasnews review for Sidious and chair… 

PackagingExcellent 

When I went outside yesterday to meet the UPS driver, a moment of fear washed over me.  I thought Sideshow messed up and sent me the wrong item.  Quite simply, this package is SMALL!!!  The dimensions are only 8.5 x 10 x 3.25 inches.  Additionally, there are no gatefolds or magnetic clasps.  Pop the top tab, open the flaps, and pull the blister out.  Lacking an inside panel, Sideshow listed the character and prop background story on the back of the box, where we are also treated to images from both The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith as well as a Photoshop-enhanced picture of Holographic Sidious addressing Sideshow Darth Maul in Theed’s royal palace. 

The overall design is the uniform 30th Anniversary packaging imposed on all high-end licensees by Lucasfilm.  While I was opposed to this at first (and I still think Lucasfilm should’ve kept their noses out of other company’s design departments), I’ve come to love how this design looks in person, and I hope it continues beyond 2007 (minus the small Anniversary logo in the bottom left corner, of course).

 SculptingExcellent 

In terms of the actual product, this is the first of two areas where Sideshow truly excelled. 

Nute Gunray’s creepy crawly chair, a lavish gift which concealed an encrypted Sith hyperwave transceiver, has a design that echoes ornate Egyptian relics and, by proxy, the type of designs seen in the Stargate franchise.  Spidery in design and mobility, there are two thick rear legs and two spindly front legs.  A good way to visualize this (pictures aside) would be to imagine the legs and arms of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The predominant pattern etched into the body of the chair is a series of toothy zig-zags and triangles with circular grooves carved into the chair in various locations.  There is also a removable chair backing which is attached via pegs.  To achieve “chair” mode, pull the backing off and flip it so that it rises above the chair.  Want the holoprojector mode?  Point the backing down toward the floor and put Sidious on the chair.

 

And speaking of the diabolical Sith mastermind… 

The Darth Sidious hologram figure is almost as impressive as the mechno-chair.  The robes look very realistic considering the nature of the figure and plastic.  They effectively simulate a natural flow and hang with realistic folds and wrinkles in what would be the cloth.  The face sculpt is superb from the nose down, and it really does look like Ian McDiarmid, a positive given the teaser announcement of the imminent two-pack.  But the sculpting around the eyes is lacking and doesn’t really resemble Ian.  But this is negligible since “hooded Sidious” is most recognizable by the mouth and chin area.  Additionally, the hands have a good amount of detail to them, but there is an oddity here.  The fingernails are long and pointy, which correlates to Sidious’ post-transformation appearance in Revenge of the Sith.  It would appear to be inaccurate for The Phantom Menace.  However, it’s only noticeable if you’re studying the hands.

 

Paint ApplicationExcellent 

Paint application is the second product-specific area where Sideshow earns a rating of “Excellent”, and it’s due primarily to the mechno-chair.  Multiple colors and shades of paint have been layered to create a combination of copper and bronze with reddish tones.  The remarkable aspect of this approach is the colors seem to shift in different lighting.  Low indoor lighting makes the chair appear reddish-brown.  Put a light directly facing it and snap a picture, and you see a coppery object.  It’s not a perfect overall application as there are some minor paint scrapes (thanks to the hinge joints) and some slight paint runs, but these flaws, like the upper face sculpt on Sidious, are only really noticeable upon close examination.

There isn’t much in the way of paint for the hologram because it has been molded in translucent blue plastic.  The extent of Sidious’ paint deco here is some use of white paint to create a “frosting” effect throughout the figure.  I imagine this is to help provide color gradation when the hologram is lit up, and it’s relatively successful.  Plus, it gives the piece a little bit of detail and life when the electronics are inactive.

 

Articulation and Design Stability Above Average 

This is a peculiar category for this product because message boards have already lit up with many collectors complaining about top-heavy holograms pushing down on weak joints and collapsing chairs.  When Sidious and chair arrived yesterday, it looked as though this sample would suffer the same upset.  But a day later, it seems as though this whole situation comes down to the collector needing to exercise the following traits: 

Caution, patience, and a sense of balance. 

There is more than adequate articulation to put the chair in a multitude of poses while simultaneously redistributing the weight of the entire “figure” in a way that prevents collapse.  The picture below testifies to that fact.  In all, there are ten points of articulation: 2 swivel joints on each large leg and 3 hinge joints on each small leg.  Could Sideshow have improved their design to be more stable?  Absolutely.  This would not have been an issue if Sideshow had used “click” joints and made Sidious from a lighter weight plastic so as to prevent top-heaviness. 

Bottom line: the situation is not as dire as it may seem.  But if your sample still collapses after taking this advice, you should contact Sideshow and arrange for a replacement within their 30 day guarantee window.

  

ElectronicsAverage 

The electronics work good, and the hologram glows brightly in the dark.

BUT… 

Honestly, it doesn’t look much different from holding a flashlight upright, putting Sidious on the end, and flipping the switch.  All the mechno-chair does is provide a Darth Sidious nightlight…not a “secret transmission” across the vastness of wild space known as our collection rooms.  A better approach in this case would have been a flickering LED or two LEDs of slightly different hues with one constant and one flickering randomly.  This would probably simulate a more convincing transmission effect than what we got.

 “Fun Factor” Above Average (bordering on Average) 

For as amazing as the sculpting and paint turned out, there’s really not much you can do with this item.  It’s primarily a display piece.  But as you’ve seen, it is possible to get some cool poses out of the product.  Still, this isn’t a true action figure.  It’s a beautiful paperweight. 

Overall RatingAbove Average 

Holographic Darth Sidious with Mechno-Chair has just as many good qualities as it does negative, but in the end it’s still an above average product.

 First, a recap of the “pros”:

 This is a beautiful display piece and a great companion to many figures.  Use it with Darth Maul to re-create Episode I scenes.  Use it with the upcoming Asajj Ventress (and a Hasbro Dooku if you’ve got one), and you have the Clone Wars animated episode in which Dooku’s own mobile holoprojector made an appearance.  You can even use it with a Medicom Darth Vader to stage the fallen Jedi communicating with his master.  No, it’s not film-accurate, but it would still be a cool looking setup.  The sculpting and paint application are phenomenal as stated before.  No need to re-tread.  Same goes for the variety of chair poses.  Just remember:  be patient and careful. 

As for its shortcomings, there are a few.  Despite its range of poses, Sideshow did fumble a bit with the design stability.  The contradictory relationship between the heavier-than-necessary hologram and weaker-than-necessary chair legs is something that should’ve been discovered and addressed in the prototype phase.  Also, the light-up feature is substandard.  A slow, rhythmic strobe effect would have been much more appropriate for this feature.  As it exists, the feature is much too basic for the price being charged for this product. 

And that, dear readers, is the last flaw.

The Sidious with Mechno-Chair is overpriced by roughly $10.  At a $30 price tag, this would have been a terrific purchase.  Instead, Sideshow is charging $40 for this item.  And if you’re a Non-Attendee of SDCC 2007, you have to pay a marked-up price of $45 plus your shipping charges (almost another $10 in my case for a grand total of nearly $55).  I don’t regret buying this, but this is one of those times where I try to forget what I paid for it.  As with all collectibles, monetary cost and value is collector-specific.  Only you can decide whether or not you want to pay the price necessary to get an item. 

Price issues aside, I would recommend this product to the following people:  Sidious/Dark Side fans, focus collectors, 1/6 scale collectors.  Everyone else…you will probably be better off spending that money on something more meaningful to you.