Star Wars Action Figures

 

Yodasnews Review:  Republic Clonetrooper (212th Attack Battalion)

 Sideshow Exclusive Edition 

Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498) 

Review Date: May 26, 2009

  

For years, Sideshow has used the Art S. Buck base body on their 1:6 scale figures.  In recent years, Medicom’s RAH and Hot Toys’ Truetype bodies have eclipsed the Buck and exposed its vast shortcomings.  After years of clamoring from fans, Sideshow premiered their new base bodies: the Prometheus and the Clonetrooper Body (which is either exactly the same or extremely similar to the Hot Toys’ armored body used on their Dark Knight Batman figures).  Collectors anxiously awaited the first figures on these new bodies: Raiders Indiana Jones (Prometheus) and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Clone Armor (Clonetrooper Body). 

To many consumers’ horror, the new bodies were crippled by joints and limbs so floppy and weak that the figures couldn’t hold their poses and collapsed under their own weight.  The official word was that the new bodies had kinks which would be worked out during the first few releases.  Naturally, this meant the initial releases were going to be worthless pieces of plastic unless luck (of getting a tightly-built body), extensive modifications, or flat-out body swaps salvaged them.  The first two “Clonetrooper Body” releases suffered greatly.  Clone Obi had rampant reports of floppiness, and the Imperial Stormtrooper (it seems) fared only a little bit better. 

What would the third release be like? 

After focusing our efforts on companies such as Hasbro and Kotobukiya for the past year, Yodasnews is pleased to revisit the Sideshow Collectibles 1:6 scale Star Wars figure line with today’s review of the 212th Attack Battalion Republic Clonetrooper or the Utapau Clonetrooper—the first prequel soldier in Sideshow’s vast line.  What follows includes not only a review of the Utapau Clonetrooper but also an analysis of how the new “Clonetrooper Body” performs on this figure—the third such release. 

 

Portrait:  Above Average (Bordering on Excellent) 

There has been a good deal of controversy surrounding the sculpting of this particular helmet.  Since the helmet is the same on every basic Phase II armored Clonetrooper, the expectation is Sideshow will re-use this sculpt for future clones such as Shocktrooper and the 501st Legion.  For that reason, it’s important that Sideshow gets it right the first time. 

But when the prototype images went up during the pre-order process, a significant number of collectors saw a helmet that was close but didn’t look right.  Closer analysis revealed several surprising flaws.  The most noticeable was the shape of the T-visor.  The CGI Clonetrooper model has a visor which angles down to the mouth grille in converging straight lines.  Sideshow’s helmet had a visor that bowed inward, resulting in a thin tapering just above the grille.  Next, the design of rebreather and vocator at the base of the helmet was incorrect.  Sideshow’s version had two circular portholes with a square vocator housing.  The CGI model, on the other hand, has straight edges running across the tops of the portholes and angled sides on the vocator housing.  The silver mesh of the aerators had been replaced with painted knobs, and the mouth lacked the slightly curled tips at the ends of the grille.  Lastly, the helmet’s rounded fin ended too close to the brow. 

Yes, these may seem like minor annoyances, but the overall look of the helmet was disrupted by the errors.  Naturally, message boards such as those at www.sideshowcollectors.com lit up with angry cries for Sideshow to correct the sculpting before beginning production.  After some time, Sideshow announced revisions were made, but the only noticeable change was a corrected vocator housing.  The fully circular portholes, mesh-less aerators, non-curled grille, and over-extended fin all remain on the production piece. 

These inaccuracies are the reason this figure missed a full “Excellent” rating.  Yet the rating remains on the border for a reason—the helmet sculpting is extremely detailed, proportionate, and just plain looks amazing.  Casual fans and the general public will not know to look for the numerous inaccuracies, and they are not so intrusive that the overall aesthetic is severely damaged.  The shape looks impressive at all angles—straight-ahead, profile, and partially turned.  The upper section of the T-visor is very accurate as is the detailing on the temples.  The details on the back of the helmet are also cleanly sculpted.

The paint applications of the Utapau Clonetrooper’s helmet avoided the controversy that dogged the sculpting over the past several months.  Of course, Sideshow’s track record with successful paint applications is hit-or-miss, so some still waited with baited breath to see how the production applications would turn out.  Would the accuracy of the 212th Battalion’s orange helmet marking make the successful transition from prototype to production?  Would the weathering look overdone or too unrealistic? 

What Sideshow delivered was phenomenal and among the most realistic applications in their 1:6 scale Star Wars line. The pristine white has been tainted with a subtle dark wash that conveys the illusion of time and wear.  The blue heat dispersion vents on the lower jawline are crisp, proportionate, and of the correct number.  The orange marking is proportionate (although the inaccurate fin does make it look too wide) and void of bleeding.  Lastly, the scraping and blaster burns look very realistic with only one exception—the line of three dots looks too precise for battle damage.  That lack of realism however is obliterated by the fact that Sideshow lifted that pattern directly from reference images.  Look at the clonetrooper on page 133 of Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, and you will see the same pattern (albeit lighter and more subtle) on the helmet.

Costume:  Excellent 

While the helmet has its issues, the body armor is utterly and absolutely magnificent. 

The overall proportions are impeccable with each piece of armor matching reference images in shape, size, and placement.  Sideshow’s sculpting team did an excellent job handling the separation between the pectoral and abdominal pieces.  They fit together seamlessly while in a neural pose, but they can shift position to allow movement in the mid-torso.  This becomes a major factor when utilizing the ball-jointed torso joint and establishing a solid center of gravity for the figure in free-standing poses.  Of course, great care needs to be taken when moving the plates apart since breakage is a possibility.  The remainders of the armor plates are also very accommodating to the figure’s articulation, and most of them do so while maintaining their appropriate positions.  The only area that has a tendency to slide around too much is the thigh armor, but that is a minor irritation at worst.

 

Moving away from the overall picture, the sculpting of individual pieces and areas remains remarkable.  The chest armor is cut, angled, and layered in all the right places, and the curved recessions in the abdominal armor is a perfect match to the CGI model.  The shapes, cuts, and contours of the leg armor are also exceptional matches to the CGI.  The panels on the clonetrooper’s right forearm and back are cleanly sculpted, and the boots are also extremely detailed and accurate.  The spare ammo magazine pouches on the belt are proportionate and nicely replicated as well. 

If there is any one area that comes up short, it is the belt.  First, it sits too low on the waist, which results in the illusion of a shortened codpiece and longer abdomen.  Also, the spacing of the front pouches is a smidge too cramped.  These anomalies are only noticeable in direct comparison with a reference image though.

The paint applications of the body armor are quite honestly the most vital elements of the figure’s overall aesthetics.  Create something too artificial in appearance, and the whole piece would look like a cheap toy.  Thankfully, Sideshow managed to produce something that looks like it was ripped right off the front lines of the Clone Wars.  The orange markings of the 212th Battalion are accurate in their placement although some of the sizes and angles appear to deviate from the source material.  Again, this is seen only in direct comparisons.  Even then, they may be nothing more than an optical illusion.  The dingy tint continues across the entire suit and is almost never overwhelming—“almost never” because the grimy deco on the boots is too heavy and negatively stands out.  The most impressive element of the paint is the scraping and blaster mark effects.  Their arrangement has a random appearance, which goes a long way toward selling the realism.  The varying shades of paint also augment the realism.  Out of all the battle damage on this figure, the best is found on the left arm.

The weakest element of the costume is the underlying bodysuit.  It appears a bit oversized for the body, and the material has too little give to it.  That lack of elasticity results in the suit hampering the limbs’ ranges of motion.  Also, the gray pinstripe pattern is not accurate at all to the CGI bodysuit.  Medicom’s prequel-era clonetroopers have a stitched ribbing on their bodysuits, which looks more accurate.  Sideshow would have been better off copying this approach or using the stripe-free suit shown in the prototype teaser image.

Stability and Design Integrity:  Above Average 

Thankfully, the Utapau Clonetrooper seems to be the start of things settling down.  There seems to be far fewer reports of loose joints with this figure.  The one area that seems to continue being weak is the ankle joint, and that is more of a design issue than a construction or quality control issue.  However, you can swivel the ball joint so that the foot can pitch up and down or bank left and right.  If you alternate the joints (i.e. – make the left foot pitch up/down and the right foot bank left/right), the stability can be greatly improved.  The hands operate similar to the ankles with regards to orientation and ranges of motion, but the pegs do not stay in very well and frequently pop out while posing. 

Patience is a virtue with this figure.  Take the time to study these new joints and understand how they move individually and in relation to each other.  Once you have done that, this figure becomes very dynamic and quite stable—although using the figure stand is still highly recommended just as a safety precaution. 

Now that the stability issues seem to be on the mend, it is time to see how the articulation of this new body compares to previous Sideshow releases. 

Articulation:  Excellent 

In short, the “Clonetrooper Body” is a vast improvement over the Buck. 

The body hangs with a much more natural flow and proportions, and the ranges of motion are amazing.  The only attempted poses this sample could not realistically achieve were kneeling and prone positions (e.g. – having the clone lying on its stomach and firing its blaster).  However, the restrictiveness of the plates and the bodysuit may have played a significant part in these inabilities, so it is difficult to discern whether or not the issue rests with the base body. 

The next four images illustrate the wide range of possible poses better than words can.  It should be noted that the only time this figure was photographed with the support of the stand was in the image accompanying the description of the character-specific figure stand later in this review.  Every other picture was taken with the figure in a free-standing pose.  That goes a long way toward establishing its stability.

 

Interchangeable Hands:  Above Average

When the list of accessories for an armored soldier includes “Fully Detailed Armor Set”, it’s a pretty good bet that accessories are going to be sparse—so sparse in fact that the interchangeable hands are not even included in the “official” list.  The Utapau Clonetrooper comes with a pair of weapon grip hands and a pair of clenched fists.  The sculpting is very detailed with realistic creases in the “gloves”.  However, the figure lacks a pair of relaxed “neutral pose” hands, which keeps this category from earning the top rating.

  

BlasTech DC-15S Blaster:  Excellent (Bordering on Above Average) 

The smaller of the Utapau Clonetrooper’s weapons, the BlasTech DC-15S blaster is a highly accurate scaled reproduction of the CGI prop.  There are a few small areas where the shape or proportions differ, but at least 90% is an exact match.  The most notable features are found on the blaster’s grip.  The texture of the slip-resistant grip is very cleanly sculpted and holds up well under the close inspection of a macro lens.  The same is true for the four small silver rivets on each side of the grip.  The protruding charge magazine is well-sculpted, and the flexible wiry rope atop the muzzle has kept its shape quite well thus far. 

The folding stock is this accessory’s downside.  After being used several times, the stock has a habit of sagging downward approximately 20 degrees.  It also gets in the way of putting the weapon in a two-handed grip.  Combine that with the hands’ tendency to pop out of the socket, and it can become very frustrating.  It’s possible—just very frustrating.

 

BlasTech DC-15A Blaster Rifle:  Excellent 

The largest and decidedly better of the two accessories is the BlasTech DC-15A blaster rifle.  While the shape differs somewhat from the rifle pictured in Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, other reference photos seem to suggest that there various forms of the DC-15A.  In any event, every element appears well-proportioned and sports very crisp sculpting.  There are no fuzzy etchings, no muddled details to be seen.  The entire rifle has a light gray wash which provides definition.  The rifle grip features the exact same details as the DC-15S, and they are just as exceptionally well-executed here.  The silver sniper scope on the underside of the rifle as well as the muzzle feature crisp details as well.  Also, the lack of a folding stock makes this a much easier weapon to place in a two-handed grip.

Character-Specific Figure Stand (Exclusive Accessory)Below Average 

Not every exclusive edition accessory is going to be a winner, but the notion of a character-specific figure stand as the “exclusive” is flat out ridiculous.  That’s not to say it’s poorly executed.  In fact, the paint is very crisp and void of bleeding, and it goes very well with the figure itself.  However, it is nothing special.  Some may argue that it will help casual viewers readily identify the specific trooper.  Hogwash!  Hot Toys has been doing that for years with their regular figure stands.  Sideshow would do well to adapt their concept as the new standard rather than wasting an exclusive accessory.

Overall Rating:  Excellent 

The Utapau Clonetrooper had major forces working against it—the controversy over the helmet’s accuracy and the weaknesses of the new “Clonetrooper Body”.  Overall, it overcame these hurdles and came out strong on the other side of the fire.  The helmet is still inaccurate, but Sideshow’s final production version is good enough to stand on its own.  The deficiencies found in the base bodies of Clone Armor Kenobi and the Stormtrooper seem to have been remedied (at least on this sample and based on fewer reports of loose joints), so this bodes well for future Republic and Imperial soldiers. 

Beyond those issues, the figure itself is a work of art with all-around superior painting and sculpting.  Calling this the most realistic figure in the Sideshow Star Wars 1:6 scale line would not be an inappropriate claim.  The construction and implementation of the armored pieces work extremely well with the body’s articulation, and the weapons are solidly built and highly detailed.  The exclusive stand, while a poor choice, is nevertheless a nice complement to the figure in both color scheme and design. 

At an MSRP of $89.99, this is not a cheap purchase.  However, it is definitely worth the price.  Collecting all the different styles of clonetroopers in this scale will obviously be an extremely expensive endeavor, but the Utapau Clonetrooper is an excellent choice if you only want one figure to represent the Episode III clonetroopers.  Because the exclusive accessory is an easy pass though, collectors would be better off purchasing from a reliable online retailer (any one of our sponsors would be an excellent choice) and saving approximately $10 off the MSRP.