With all of the various Clone Trooper figures that have turned up over the years since Episode II and Episode III, it would be difficult to say that any of the Clone Troopers are particularly overdue. But in my opinion, this one is -- a Super-Articulated version of the 501st Legion Clone Trooper. Finally, he's turned up.
Let's give a bit of history here. The 501st Legion didn't actually start out in the fictional Star Wars Universe. In fact, as much as anything Star Wars can, they started out in real life. The 501st Legion is an international fan-based organization dedicated to the construction and wearing of screen-accurate replicas of Imperial Stormtrooper armor, Imperial officer uniforms, and other villains and nefarious characters from the Star Wars universe. Members of the 501st Legion often make appearances at casual, promotional, and charitable events, often at the request of Lucasfilm's Fan Relations department. Formed by Albin Johnson and Tom Crews in 1997, the group boasts over 3,500 members in 40 countries as of mid-2007.
Formed initially for the Imperial Stormtroopers, the group now includes all trooper variations, as well as Sith Lords, bounty hunters and other villains from the series. Custom creations are not permitted, and all eligible costumes must be approved to be recorded in the 501st member database.
The armor worn by the 501st is all fan-constructed and distributed, and is usually made out of ABS, vinyl or fiberglass. As the costumes worn by the 501st are often not licensed LucasFilm products, George Lucas can (and has) sought legal action on those who sell armor. However, LucasFilm has sanctioned the wearing and presentation of the costumes providing that the participants are not reimbursed financially for their appearances, and that they represent the franchise in a positive and respectful manner. In 2005, George Lucas accepted an honorary membership from the organization.
Some of the fundamental conditions of being part of the 501st Legion are that members must be 18 years of age or older and their costumes are of professional quality. At formal events, members should appear to have walked off of the screen when portraying characters.
The Legion does not charge for its services or appearances, although hosts are encouraged to make donations to a charity of their choice in the Legion's name. Most notably, over 200 501st Legion members and representatives of the Rebel Legion marched in the 2007 Tournament of Roses Parade, where George Lucas was the Grand Marshal.
As a tribute to the efforts of the 501st Legion, also known as "Vader's Fist", the Clone Troopers that accompanied Anakin Skywalker, the newly-minted Darth Vader, on his siege of the Jedi Temple, were designated the 501st Legion, although they were not referenced by name in the movie. The name has since turned up in ancillary material such as games and comic books and the like.
So, basically, you have a legion of Clone Troopers that committed a pretty heinous act in their aid on the Jedi Temple, that, really, were named for a group of real-life Star Wars fans who like to dress up in Stormtrooper (and one would have to believe Clone Trooper) armor, and go out and occasionally perform for charity. Interesting little dichotomy there.
I'd like to take a brief step aside here and comment on something regarding the events of Episode III -- am I the only person who thinks that to some degree the Jedi deserved to lose? Now, I'm not advocating the raid on the Jedi Temple. I certainly don't agree with killing "younglings", or for that matter, torching the Jedi Temple and destroying all the history and knowledge contained therein. But come on -- you've got a pitched battle taking place throughout the galaxy, and these guys are running around in robes and relying on millennia-old combat techniques and think they're going to come out on top. By their own admission their connection with the Force wasn't what it once was, and they STILL should've seen it coming. But noooo -- they're the Jedi!
There's certainly been no shortage of Clone Troopers over the past few years. We've had "plain vanilla" Clone Troopers, red-trimmed Shock Troopers, Mace Windu's purple-trimmed Clone Troopers, and a host of others -- the significant majority of which utilized a very effective Super-Articulated body mold.
Except for the 501st Clone Trooper. Over a couple of appearances, and for whatever reason, this particular Clone Trooper, certainly notable enough in the movie -- you're not likely to forget seeing Anakin/Darth coming up the steps to the Jedi Temple with hundreds of these guys marching in formation behind him -- "Vader's Fist" indeed! -- got the short end of the stick in the figure department. Sure, they were the best of the best. Sure, they were elite, hand-picked Clone Troopers assembled into an imposing force and turned over to the newest apprentice of the Emperor himself. Darn shame that the most commonly available versions over a couple of carded editions, including a relatively recent one, couldn't be posed worth a darn, at least not when compared to most of the Clone Trooper figures out there.
Apparently, it bugged enough fans that these notable Clone Troopers suffered from limited articulation, that something of a ruckus was made about it. And that ruckus got back to Hasbro. I recall reading an interview in one of the leading toy magazines that indicated that there were plans to produce a Super-Articulated 501st Legion Clone Trooper, who would be swapped into an assortment in place of its predecessor, as soon as possible, but frankly, the molds that they wanted to use were already being used to capacity on other Clone Trooper divisions. It WOULD happen, but it would take a little while.
Finally, I found the Super-Articulated 501st Legion Clone Troopers. And they looked a little different than the previous ones in the same package. Posed differently. I studied the figure as closely as I could. One thing very much to Hasbro's credit, and to the designers of the Clone Trooper armor in the films. It lends itself very well to being articulated as an action figure and looking darn good in the process. Most of the articulation points, even including the sometimes-difficult mid-torso point, can be nicely worked into the armor and "undersuit" design, resulting in a highly articulated action figure whose articulation points aren't all that readily apparent.
This is really a superb Clone Trooper. Hasbro has finally done right by the 501st Legion. For one thing, precisely the right set of molds was used. There's a second set of Clone Trooper molds out there, very well articulated, don't get me wrong, but there's one thing about it I don't like. The helmet is removable and has the "Jango/Clone" head underneath. My problem with this is that the Clone Trooper helmet inevitably ends up looking just a little too big. There are a few other articulation variances, but nothing serious, although for some reason this particular set of molds seems to be a little more prone to loose articulation points.
The set of molds used for the 501st Clone is perfect. The helmet IS the head, and therefore looks properly proportioned. There are no loose articulation points. And the articulation is excellent. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Most of the articulation points have multiple ranges of motion, including back and forth movement as well as pivots or swivels.
The detailing is superb. Just as recognizable as the intimidating red-trimmed Shock Troopers are these blue-trimmed 501st Legion. One wonders what sort of reputation they garnered for themselves in the aftermath of Order 66 and the assault on the Jedi Temple. The trim has been done in a dark blue, very appropriate color. The shoulder pads are blue, there is a vertical blue stripe running from the back of the top of the helmet over the top of the helmet and down the "face". This stripe continues on the chestplate, where it splits in two and tapers to either side near the stomach. This works well with the design of the figure, since this is there the mid-torso articulation is.
There are blue stripes around the wrists, and double stripes down both legs. This is a level of detail that I do not see on any other 501st-related Clone Troopers I have, and it's certainly appreciated here. There's also a stripe across the bottom of the knee pads.
Especially notable is the painted detailing on the back of the figure. The sculpted detailing, which looks like some sort of control panel on most of the Clone Troopers, is generally left unpainted. Not here. The panel has been painted dark blue, and the buttons have been painted grey and white. It's really a remarkable level of painted detailing that no doubt required special paint masks to be set up. For those who have some understanding of the expense involved in painting and detailing any action figure, this is especially appreciated.
Weathering on the figure, although present, has thankfully been kept to a minimum. Granted, I wish it weren't there at all. However, it's been kept to a handful of nick-like scrapes here and there on the armor, and is nothing I can't live with.
The Clone Trooper comes with the blaster rifle that many Clone Troopers come with. Sometimes I wonder if, given the number of Clone Troopers, and the number of blaster rifles that have come with those Clone Troopers, if Hasbro has any idea how many of those blaster rifles they've stamped out. Probably more rifles than some small countries' entire arsenals.
The information on the back of the card reads as follows:
501st LEGION TROOPER - These highly trained tactical ops clone troopers accompany Darth Vader on a mission to destroy the Jedi. Vader and the troopers storm the Jedi Temple and, with crack marksmanship and coordinated team maneuvers, quickly eliminate the Jedi inside.
One concluding note -- how do you tell a Super-Articulated 501st from its less-articulated predecessor, especially since there are some places where that predecessor can still be found? The Super-Articulated version will be facing a bit more forward than the other one, and he won't have his knees bent as much. Another good way to tell is to check the mid-torso point. It's not that easy, but the previous 501st is not articulated there. If you can see the articulation point there, you know you have the Super-Articulated 501st.
Hopefully these will be around long enough for those who want to build a small army of them to do so. The 30th Anniversary/Saga Legends line which features this figure will soon be making way for new assortments of Star Wars figures, as we head towards the new Clone Wars series. And certainly, the SUPER- ARTICULATED 501st LEGION CLONE TROOPER, decidedly overdue in my opinion, but most welcome, definitely has my highest enthusiastic recommendation!