Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Grand Moff Tarkin

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Release Date: March 2018
RRP: $20/£20

There are so many characters in the Star Wars universe crying out for a figure, that sometimes even the most obvious candidates take their sweet time to become a reality. Good things do usually come to those who wait though, and a lengthy wait Black Series Grand Moff Tarkin eventually arrived at the beginning of 2018. Portrayed by legendary actor Peter Cushing, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin was the right hand man of Emperor Palpatine himself - overseeing the completion of the first Death Star before dying aboard the battle station after that critical blast from Luke Skywalker. Though in terms of the saga movies he only appeared in a A New Hope, the character went on to appear (thanks to both incredible and at the same time uncanny advancements in CGI) in Rogue One as well as the Rebels animated series. A younger version also appears in Star Wars: The Clone Wars - depicting his first meeting with Anakin Skywalker, the man who would go on to become Darth Vader.

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Grand Moff Tarkin comes in the standard red label assortment Black Series packaging, featuring a particularly striking image of the character on both the front and back of the box. There's just something inherently sinister about Cushing's portrayal, which for me personally is all the more chilling considering I was introduced to the actor through the two Doctor Who & the Daleks movies of the 1960s. The back of the box also features a small bio about the character in a number of different languages, as well as the figure's unique numbering which is also printed on the red coloured spine. Inside the figure, along with its rather special accessory, is housed on a moulded clear plastic tray.

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Black Series Tarkin features the same body as the earlier-released Director Krennic (and later used on Grand Admiral Thrawn), but naturally with the uniform repainted to its correct military green colouring. Tarkin's outfit also lacks gloves and a holster, so the former have been replaced with new flesh coloured hands and the latter completely omitted from the figure. Hasbro decided to retain a moulded blaster holding right hand on the mould, which is strange as not only does this figure not come with any weapon accessories but also Tarkin was never seen onscreen with a blaster. But then again, Hasbro just generally have a habit of leaving blaster hands on these figures even when they aren't warranted, and in a weapon's absence it does make an acceptable pointing hand. But it isn't the body that's the great part of this figure - it's the head sculpt. Grand Moff Tarkin was among the first Black Series figures to utilise Hasbro's "Photo Real" technology, which is something that has greatly improved the quality of the line in the last few years. Being new technology you'd expect it to be something that got better as it went along, but one look at Tarkin and you'll be amazed at how right Hasbro got it straight away. It could just be the angular, sunken nature of Tarkin's face that makes it far easier to sculpt, but this figure has an incredible likeness of Peter Cushing for something this size and price point. I've bought figures three times the price of this that haven't managed to pull off likenesses this well. It has that stern ferocity that makes Tarkin such a chilling villain, and barely needs any pose at all to immediately have shelf presence.

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Despite not needing a whole lot of movement for the kind of poses you'd probably think to put this figure in, the Tarkin figure still has a fair bit of articulation to it that keeps it on par with most Black Series releases. Altogether he features a ball jointed head, swivel hinge joints in his shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles along with a single waist swivel, double hinged knees and ball jointed hips.  A boot swivel might have been nice as well just to get a little more option with the legs, but the lack of them certainly isn't any real detriment to the figure. The swivel hinge elbows do make up for the lack of a separate bicep swivel, but it's a shame that they aren't capable of anything more than a 45° bend. So unfortunately bringing his hands up to his face is impossible, but Tarkin can still look intimidating with his hands behind his back or pointing out to relay orders. Personally I wouldn't expect the same kind of poseability than I would with something like a Stormtrooper, so I'm more than satisfied with what Hasbro have pulled off here.

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As someone seen barking orders more than getting his hands dirty himself (not that he couldn't do it himself, if all the expanded media is anything to go by), there aren't a whole lot of accessories Tarkin could have come with. Hasbro could have perhaps thrown a blaster in since his right hand was moulded in the trigger position, but what would be the point when he wasn't ever seen with one nor is there any place to store it on his person. So what Hasbro have done instead is perhaps better than what anyone could have hoped for. Included with this release is the Imperial IT-O Interrogator droid seen in A New Hope during the interrogation of Princess Leia. As this is a free-floating droid, a clear stand has also been included which connects to the bottom via a ball joint - giving it the ability to tilt and swivel as desired. With the number of accessories wildly varying between Black Series releases Hasbro could have easily just released Tarkin on his own, but to get both a whole droid and such a memorable piece of A New Hope included really is an incredible outcome. The droid is a completely static piece so sadly has no moveable parts, but the sculpting and paintwork is excellent. It's nice to have a piece that lets you appreciate all the smaller detail of the design, without having to freeze frame the film or consult images online. It's an excellent accessory that turns an already fantastic figure into something truly special.

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When I started properly collecting Star Wars figures around this time last year, if you told me that Black Series Grand Moff Tarkin would turn out as one of my favourites I'd have probably laughed at you. But here we are in the future, and this figure is absolutely one of the best I'd had the pleasure of handling in the line. That unbelievably good head sculpt just goes to show the strides Hasbro have made with that Photo Real sculpting technology they're now using, and the inclusion of an Interrogator droid really is an incredible bonus. Yes the body isn't the most articulated one out there, but there's very little a Tarkin figure would need to do that this one can't. More casual Star Wars collectors probably don't consider "normal" Imperial guys like these as a priority, but Grand Moff Tarkin is the real deal. After memorable appearances in both A New Hope and Rogue One, Hasbro have produced a figure that's worthy of Peter Cushing's legacy.

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