Saturday 26 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Grand Admiral Thrawn

Release Date: July 2017 (SDCC Exclusive Version), Fall 2017 (Standard Retail Version)
RRP: £20/$20

Star Wars Rebels added a lot of great things to the new Star Wars canon, but undoubtedly one its most popular moves with bringing back Grand Admiral Thrawn as a main antagonist for its final three seasons. First appearing in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, the character was a huge part of the franchise's expanded universe and prominently featured in all manner of tie-in media. Following the rebranding of the expanded universe into the non-canon Star Wars Legends in 2014, Thrawn's future was up in arms. But since appearing in Rebels the Chiss admiral has once again become a popular part of the Star Wars universe - also appearing in a new trilogy of novels by his creator. So when Hasbro's Black Series toy line began tackling characters from Rebels, they couldn't have picked a much better choice. The Black Series 6" Grand Admiral Thrawn was first released as a 2017 San Diego Comic Con exclusive, joining the main line a few months later.

While the SDCC edition of the figure come in some lavish fold out packaging replicating the look of Thrawn's office in Rebels, the standard edition on the other hand just sticks to the same tried and tested packaging style you'll see across the six inch Black Series range. The front does however have some nice artwork of the Grand Admiral himself, and the back of the box a short bio based on his appearance in Rebels. The spine and back also feature the figure's numbering in the "Phase 3" assortment. Inside Thrawn and his only accessory are housed on a single moulded clear plastic tray.

Much like how the line has handled its releases based on The Clone Wars, for the Rebels cast the Black Series takes the general design of the CGI model and transitions it to a more realistic look so they can stand alongside the movie characters and not look out of place. This puts Thrawn in this interesting little niche where you have a very humanoid character that isn't based off any direct actor likeness. Since actor likeness can go either way even for far more expensive figures, this definitely works to Thrawn's advantage. Not only does it capture all the right parts of the Rebels design, but also all the various book covers and various bits of artwork Thrawn has appeared on over the years. The serious eyebrows and piercing red eyes are excellent compliments to that icy blue skin. Moving down the figure there isn't a whole lot to say about his relatively basic Imperial uniform, but the textured finish and moulded fabric folds ensure it hits all the right notes. What little paint apps the body has are all perfectly applied, such as the belt, shoulder epaulettes and rank insignia. Admittedly its a figure that doesn't have a whole lot to it, but just has this incredible stage presence to it. So it's pretty true to the character in that respect.

Given the lower price point it'd be unfair to compare a Black Series figure to some of the higher end Star Wars figures coming out of Japan, but in terms of how this particular line (as well as six inch Hasbro figures in general) handles things Thrawn lands somewhere in the middle. Thrawn features a ball jointed neck, ball-hinge shoulders, rotating hinged elbows, hinge-swivel wrists, ball jointed hips, swivel, thighs, double hinge knees and some hinged ankle rockers just above the feet. I think there may be a waist joint in there as well, but its so stiff that I'm afraid to force it to find out if it's intended or not. Altogether that's not quite as articulated as something like the Clone Trooper mould, but it's not a bad spread overall.  What is there isn't entirely perfect though - the head doesn't offer very much in the way of up/down motion (sidewards is fine however), and despite the cuts in the skirt to free up movement the hips are still pretty limited overall. The good thing is Thrawn isn't the kind of character that needs to be super articulated to work as a toy, so while there may be room for improvement here it's only really going to affect you if you're putting Thrawn in some fairly unconventional poses.

Thrawn's sole accessory is a small blaster firearm, moulded entirely in gunmetal grey plastic and able to fit comfortably into the holster hanging from the left side of his belt. Although the gun can fit comfortably into either hand, it naturally looks best in his right hand which has been moulded with a flexible trigger finger to hold it properly. It's a fairly basic accessory so there isn't a whole lot more to say about it other than that, and since the Black Series isn't a line preoccupied with loading its figures with accessories you'd could argue that Thrawn didn't necessarily need to come with anything else. Unless you've ever laid eyes on the SDCC exclusive version that is, which in addition to special collectors' packaging is also LOADED with extra goodies. That version goes above and beyond to reflect Thrawn's fascination with art and collecting, coming with Clone Trooper Commander Gree's helmet, a Jedi Temple Guard helmet, a lightsaber, a ritual stone, chalice, Kalikori Totem, Ysalamiri Sculpture and two display plinths. Of course the SDCC version will also set you back a hell of a lot more than the standard one, so the big question is whether all of those pieces are really worth the extra cost to you.

Star Wars Black Series Grand Admiral Thrawn is a pretty interesting figure because while he doesn't really do very much nor come with very many accessories, it just has this overwhelming presence that makes it work on pretty much level. All you need to do is put those arms behind his back and you're good to go. As such a fan favourite character even before his return to Star Wars canon through Rebels and Zahn's new novels he feels like a pretty essential addition to the Black Series toy line, and a figure that'll appeal to fans new and old.

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