Yodasnews Review: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Sideshow Exclusive Edition)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: March 3, 2008
He was the kindly uncle, and he was the sinister stranger. He was the reluctant leader, and he was the manipulative mastermind. He was the saint and the serpent. He would lead the Republic to glorious victory and then obliterate its existence with the institution of the Galactic Empire. He would do all these things by being a master of duplicity, by being both Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and Darth Sidious.
While the Skywalker family gets the most attention in the Star Wars universe, this diabolical Dark Lord of the Sith is arguably the most dynamic and intriguing character in the cinematic saga, and much of the credit for that achievement must go to Ian McDiarmid’s stellar performance. His portrayal of the Sith Lord and his “benign” alter ego lulled characters and audiences alike into a false sense of trust and security before revealing the depths of the character’s darkness.
So it seems appropriate that Sideshow Collectibles selected this two-in-one character as the first genuine two-pack entry in the 1/6th scale figure collection (the Endor Soldier trio were simply three figures mailed together).
At a price of $120, some collectors cried foul and insisted the price should be lower since they were selling two of the same character. One look at these figures, however, shows that they are very much different and could easily have been two separate releases at a reasonable $60 each.
In the first half of this product review, we will examine Supreme Chancellor Palpatine as he appeared the fateful night the Jedi Order was all but eradicated.
Bottom line up front: Sideshow Collectibles shrunk Ian McDiarmid.
Despite stellar portraits on some other Star Wars figures I have reviewed, this is the best one so far. Sculptor Oluf Hartvigson, the man responsible for the portraits of Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn, truly captured something special here. The seemingly neutral facial expression holds just enough nuances to project a variety of emotions: weary, secretive, stone-cold determined, and more. It is difficult to pin down any one of them, and that is the essence of the character. In terms of capturing the physical features of McDiarmid’s face, just look in the upper left corner of the picture below. That side view is dead-on accurate, right down to the distinctly-shaped nose.
In terms of paint applications, they are exceptional and a vast improvement over the sketchy applications on earlier figures. Whatever internal changes Sideshow made with their factories, they need to stay on target because they are going down the right path. Skin tones are even and appropriate for the character. The hairline bleeds in a few small spots, but it looks good from what would qualify as an average viewing distance (about two feet away sounds right). The eyes are cleanly painted and fixed straight ahead. There are even a few brush strokes of red to simulate the veins in human eyes, but the effect ends up looking a tad bloodshot.
This is a superior portrait by a very talented sculptor, and the factory painters deserve a great deal of credit and praise as well.
Costume: Above Average (Bordering on “Excellent”)
The most prolific “Palpatine” costume from Revenge of the Sith (after all, its his final costume), Sideshow did it justice for the most part. The aspect which immediately catches the eye is the superb variety of textures. The robe is a stiff yet soft material that ends up being easily sculpted into windblown poses without the need for articulation wires in the hems. The tunic and its long flowing extensions are a felt-like material that scaled down extremely well—even if the ends of the extensions have an irritating tendency to curve and flop toward the left. The underlying shirt, sash, and trousers are the coarsest of the three materials, fill out nicely on the figure, and (in the case of the trousers) do not hinder articulation.
The predominant reason for falling short of superior is that the figure’s costume is not as film-accurate as it could have been. The larger of the two inaccuracies is that the rougher textured sleeves and tunic are supposed to be a darker shade of red—almost a deep blood red. Sideshow’s figure, however, brands the entire outfit in the same wine color of the robe. On its own, it looks perfect. Against film stills, it is an obvious oversight. The second inaccuracy is much harder to discern to the naked eye and would only really be noticeable to Palpatine and/or costuming fans. On the filming costume, the patterned bands on the robe resemble something in between Celtic knots and chain links. The scaled costume, on the other hand, simply has a continuous series of zigzagging lines running the length of the robe. It conveys the idea that there is patterned texture, but it is the wrong one.
Yes, it may seem nitpicky, but, as a fan of Palpatine, this is the costume I had hoped would be used for this figure. Naturally, I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. It didn’t end up perfect, but it is a fantastic scaled costume nevertheless. Only the monotonous color kept it from reaching excellence.
Articulation: Above Average
Again, the short Buck body is in use here, and, theoretically, articulation is on the same level as previous Star Wars releases. I say “theoretically” because there are some glaring flaws that hinder the figure’s potential. However, they are related more to quality control and will be judged and addressed separately. For now, we will leave it as saying Palpatine is just as poseable as other recent Star Wars figures from Sideshow, and the pictures can speak for themselves.
Sith Lightsabers (Mace Windu Duel): Excellent
For those collectors confused as to why there are two sets of lightsabers with only a single color difference between them, it is because Palpatine built several lightsabers and kept them hidden. The gold and silver version, which is reviewed in this section, is Palpatine’s primary lightsaber, and it was lost when Mace kicked the Sith Lord down at the end of their duel. The black version, reviewed with the Darth Sidious figure, is one of the spares.
The smooth elegance of Palpatine’s lightsaber is reproduced well here. All of the necessary details are present or as present as they reasonably can be. It also fits perfectly into the figure’s hands—unlike some sabers which have to be jammed into place. Sideshow even attempted to simulate the lustrous metal of the filming prop by using a type of metallic paint. For the most part, it works, but close inspection (and I do mean close) reveals some splotchy areas. Overall, this is a quality scaled lightsaber.
Senate Camera Droid: Excellent
The Senate Camera Droid is probably the most complex and faithful 1/6th scale accessory to be included with a figure thus far. Expansion packs aren’t included in that assessment because they are stand-alone purchases, which fall under different criteria. Controlled use of paint washing produced excellent weathering effects on the droid’s upper and lower domes, and that makes the piece look very used and worn. The pieces which comprise the telephoto and wide angle lenses on the forward section are intricately detailed and assembled in accordance with the construction of the film’s CGI model. The included stand is similar to the format used with the Sith Probe Droids. There is a domed black base with a single black rod that rises approximately seven inches in the air. Simply plug the droid into the tip of the support rod and voila!
The only negative aspect is the two antennae are extremely brittle and fragile. Just from rolling over on my desk, the smaller one broke clean off, and the larger one bent. That one was salvageable and bent carefully back into place, but now the slightest wrong move will snap it for good. However, this flaw is negligible since the droid looks just as good with or without the antennae.
Statue of Sistros (Scaled Replica) - Exclusive Accessory: Above Average (Bordering on “Excellent”)
Let me begin by saying that this was a fantastic idea for an exclusive accessory. It’s not something that most people would expect as an accessory since it was merely a background dressing in the film, but fans who read ancillary trivia such as the information found in books like The Complete Visual Dictionary and Complete Locations will recognize Sistros’ importance and appreciate its inclusion in the set.
The quality of work done on this piece is phenomenal, a trait shared by every accessory in this two figure set. The sculpting is crisp and highly faithful to the source material, and the superb mixture of paints creates a very convincing antiquated bronze look, especially the bluish-green streaks found in the crevices of the scaled statue. Its only fault is that the base is not cut flat and level, which means there is a high tendency to tip over if disturbed.
Quality Control: Below Average
Hopefully, this will be among the final reviews where I’m forced to give such a low rating to Sideshow products. For those who are not yet aware, the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi in Clone Armor is the first Star Wars figure to make use of Sideshow’s new “Clonetrooper” body type, and Indiana Jones will debut the “Prometheus” base body (formerly known as the rumored Sideshow/Hot Toys hybrid body). So the age of the outdated and substandard Art S. Buck body is drawing near. The end is in sight.
But until then, we are still forced to deal with Buck problems. For Palpatine, there are three major issues with the quality control, and they are sample-specific. However, the question is this: just how many samples are faulty?
The first issue is the high level of difficulty in swapping the figure’s hands. When the first Star Wars figure appeared, Sideshow posted information on how they created a rounded peg to replace the cone-shaped one of older figures specifically to make swaps easier. The last few Star Wars figures I’ve purchased, however, have reverted back to the conical peg, and I can only hope Prometheus marks a return to the user-friendliness of Jedi Luke Skywalker.
The second issue is that the wrist joints are extremely loose. This is very frustrating because it limits the lightsaber poses of the figure. If you position the wrist so that the lightsaber is being held in an “en guard” position, the entire hand (and saber along with it) flops straight down, and the blade points toward the ground. It is my belief that this problem stems directly from the aforementioned challenge with hand swapping. So much force is required to yank the hands off of the wrist posts for the first half dozen times each one is swapped that it is very likely the wrist joints were strained and loosened in the process.
The final QC issue with this sample deals with the arms. The elbow joints on both arms were “frozen” straight out of the box. “Frozen” is a term describing when there is an excessive amount of glue holding the joint together and the joint ends up glued shut. Sometimes, this seal is weak enough that simply forcing the joint to move will correct the problem. In this case, it wasn’t enough. The alternative, which was very successful, is to strip the clothing from the arms and carefully use a hair dryer to heat and soften the glue. This will allow you to move the joint and break the seal. With such an expensive figure, this shouldn’t be a necessary chore, and it is risky. Too much heat, and you’ll melt and/or warp the plastic. Also, this isn’t an isolated issue. A good number of collectors on various message boards have reported the same problem not only with Palpatine but with other recent Sideshow Star Wars figures as well
Prometheus cannot arrive soon enough.
Overall Rating: Excellent (Bordering on “Above Average”)
Sideshow’s new paint application track record continues to be astounding. The tailoring shows a broad range of materials, essential for accurately representing the more exotic costumes designed by Trisha Biggar for the Prequel Trilogy. The accessories (exclusive included) are very character-specific and cover just about every option there is for the character.
Base body issues aside, this is one amazing figure, a more than worthwhile purchase, and the definitive Palpatine figure in this scale.
There is still his other identity to examine, but that is a review for another day in the very near future. In the meantime, here are some additional images to really show off the quality of this figure.