Saturday 5 March 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Captain Phasma

When the marketing for Star Wars The Force Awakens went into overdrive there were a select few characters who quickly became the subject of much discussion. The identify of mysterious new villain Kylo Ren was one such talking point, however eyes were also drawn to a Stormtrooper leader decked out in a cape and shiny silver armour. This of course is Captain Phasma, First Order Stormtrooper Captain and played by Gwendoline Christie. Due to Christie's acting experience in Game of Thrones and her generally badass look, Phasma was touted as being one of the things to look forward to most in the film with many people labelling her "the next Boba Fett". This unfortunately turned out to be more accurate than people hoped, with Phasma herself doing extremely little in the film and coming away feeling like a throwaway character more than anything else. Still, the design looked fantastic and so it's no surprise to see Bandai Tamashii Nations add her to their steadily-growing collection of Star Wars themed S.H. Figuarts - making her the third release from the newest instalment. 

As was expected Captain Phasma comes in matching packaging to the previously released Kylo Ren and First Order Stormtrooper figures, which is a rather plain looking rectangular black box with a predominantly transparent front. References to The Force Awakens are kept relatively small, but the iconic Star Wars logo looks great printed across the window with gold outline. The back is a little more exciting and features a picture of the figure against a foil backdrop, along with a few small boxed-off shots. It also shows off how great Phasma looks with the First Order troopers, perhaps as an attempt to persuade collectors to buy a few if they haven't done so already. 

The first thing that keen-eyed fans will notice about S.H. Figuarts Captain Phasma is that Bandai took a little liberty when it came to that silver armour's finish. While in the film itself Phasma's armour has a reflective chrome finish here Bandai have opted to go for a glossy painted look instead. With vac-chrome figures both fingerprint nightmares and a ticking time bomb when it comes to flaking paint, I can't say I blame them - though to sticklers for accuracy this may definitely be a sore point. Another issue is the scale, as there's very little height difference between the three figures released thus far. Though in reality it's the stormtrooper that's the problem more than anyone else - going by the actors' heights Phasma should definitely be slightly taller than Ren, but not the same height as her men. If you're mixing lines this will definitely be an issue and the taller/bulkier Black Series release might serve you better.

However if neither of these things are any real concern to you Captain Phasma looks pretty great. The armour is essentially the same as that of a standard Stormtrooper, but the silver colouring makes the detailing stand out all the more and the new helmet tops it all off.  That said the paint job doesn't have the smoothest of applications, and there are a few discoloured splotches that prove to be a bit of an eyesore. The cape is made of a thick, soft plastic and due to the way it drapes over the left side can cause a few minor balance issues every now and again. What's particularly impressive is how the cape isn't just smooth and textureless - not only are there plenty of creases moulded in but there is also a number of pouches running along the left hand side.

However if the caped look isn't doing anything for you Bandai have also packed in a matching left shoulder guard for a more traditional Stormtrooper look. Simply pop off the head to remove the cape and then pop the small silver piece onto the now exposed balljoint. While the removal of the cape might take away some of Phasma's uniqueness, one can't deny that the standard Stormtrooper garb looks great in polished silver. This look also allows you to get a better look at the back of the figure as well, including all the sculpted armour detail that was otherwise covered.

The general articulation is pretty good, but does have a few spotty patches here and there which are usually more ironed-out on Figuarts releases. Other than the obvious limitations donning the cape brings to the left shoulder there isn't anything majorly to complain about the top half of the figure. The hips however are a different story. While this could very well be a random production problem that isn't widespread, this particular Phasma isn't too great at holding especially wide-legged poses. The hip joints will get the legs into position just fine, but after a while the legs seem to just slide back into a neutral position as if they were elasticated. It's not a problem I've ever encountered with this line which baffles me all the more, but given the praise for the FO Stormtroopers hips I can't help but feel a little disappointed by what Phasma is offering.

Given how little the character did during The Force Awakens, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone to hear that Captain Phasma doesn't have much in the way of accessories. Aside from the aforementioned left shoulder pad, she also comes packaged with two additional pairs of hands and her primary Sonn-Blas F-11D blaster rifle. The rifle is very nicely detailed, however I found that the scope on my figure's wasn't glued in very securely and popped off very easily. The gun itself doesn't seem to be broken as I can clearly see how the two pieces are meant to slot together, but at the same time there's no way that's meant to solely hold it in place.

The undercarriage of the gun's front is also on a hinge, which allows it to swing forward in a vertical handle-like position. There's no real evidence of how this should be used in The Force Awakens itself, but the expanded resources lead me to believe it's for a more comfortable two-handed grip. It's a pretty pointless feature overall here, but another one of those little touches you can't help but admire Bandai for throwing in anyway.

S.H. Figuarts Captain Phasma is a nice looking figure, but one that's surely going to leave many collectors conflicted. The height issue is probably the thing most people will bring up when talking about her, but others may also take issue with the lack of a chrome finish (in which case, the forthcoming Mafex figure may be a better alternative). Personally though I found the bigger problems to be the spotty paintjob, unresponsive hip design (which could be a one-off, but it's been enough to sour things) and weighty cape which limits posing far more than it perhaps should. In terms of getting a high end Captain Phasma figure the Figuart may certainly serve you better than Hasbro's Black Series equivalent, but when compared to other entries in the line itself Phasma fares similarly to her movie counterpart and leaves more to be desired.

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