REVIEW: IRON MAN 3 ASSEMBLERS - STARBOOST IRON MAN
I'll admit it. When I first saw the Iron Man 3 "Assemblers" figures, I wasn't terribly impressed. The package display, with the arms and legs separated from the rest of the body, was more than a bit peculiar, and even though assembly itself was certainly easy enough, the idea just didn't especially appeal to me.
The "gimmick" to the Assemblers figures is that you can swap out the heads, arms, and legs of any of the figures in this particular branch of Iron Man figures, and create various custom armors. This is demonstrated in a small series of pictures on the back of the box. To be honest, I think most of the combos look a bit silly, but let's be fair. Toys are still marketed largely to kids, and what looks silly to a collector might look really cool to an eight-year-old.
But then, I started hearing some positive reports about the Assemblers figures from other collectors. They went together easily enough, and they featured more distinctive designs than the standard 4" scale Iron Man figures. One armor in particular seemed to be garnering particular attention, and that was one called "Starboost Iron Man". I certainly liked the name. And clearly the armor was popular, because it took me a while to track it down, but I did finally find it, and I can see why it's proven to be so well-regarded.
Certainly the Iron Man 3 movie was one of the biggest blockbusters of the 2013 season. There are other contenders, but I think it's fair to say that regardless of how they fare, Iron Man 3 is an unquestioned success for Marvel Studios, and an impressive entry in the growing adventures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Let's have a look at the movie, and then at this new armored "Assemblers" action figure.
Iron Man 3 is the third movie featuring the Iron Man, taking place in what has become officially known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie once again stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The movie is produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Shane Black, with a screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black.
In the film, Tony Stark recalls a New Year's Eve party in 1999 with scientist Maya Hansen, the inventor of Extremis -- an experimental regenerative treatment intended to allow recovery from crippling injuries. Disabled scientist Aldrich Killian offers them a place in his company -- Advanced Idea Mechanics -- but is turned down.
Now, in the present day, Stark's experiences during the alien invasion of New York in the Avengers movie are giving him panic attacks. Restless, he has built literally dozens of various Iron Man suits, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts.
A string of bombings by a terrorist known as the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies bewildered by lack of forensic evidence. When Stark Industries' security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in one such attack, Stark overcomes his stupor and issues a televised threat to the Mandarin, who responds by destroying Stark's home with helicopter gunships.
Hansen, who had come to warn Stark, and Potts survive the attack. Stark then finds himself in rural Tennessee after his artificial intelligence JARVIS followed a flight plan from Stark's investigation into the Mandarin. Stark's experimental armor lacks sufficient power to return to California, and the world believes him dead.
Teaming with Harley, a local 10-year-old boy with an inventive streak of his own, Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the "bombings" were triggered by soldiers subjected to Extremis, which at this stage of development can cause certain subjects to explosively reject it. After veterans started exploding, their deaths were used to cover up Extremis' flaws by manufacturing a terrorist plot. Stark witnesses Extremis firsthand when Mandarin agents Ellen Brandt and Eric Savin attack him.
With Harley's help, Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons. Inside he discovers the Mandarin is actually a British actor, Trevor Slattery, who says that he is oblivious to the actions carried out in his name. The Mandarin is a creation of Killian, who appropriated Hansen's Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans.
After capturing Stark, Killian reveals he is the true Mandarin. He has kidnapped Potts and subjected her to Extremis in order to gain Stark's aid in fixing Extremis' flaws and thereby saving Pepper. Killian kills Hansen when she has a change of heart about the plan.
Killian has also manipulated American intelligence agencies regarding the Mandarin's location, luring James Rhodes -- the former War Machine, now renamed the Iron Patriot -- into a trap to steal the armor. Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One. Remotely controlling his Iron Man armor, Stark saves some surviving passengers and crew but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis. They trace Killian to an impounded oil-drilling platform where Killian intends to kill Ellis on live television. The vice-president will become a puppet leader, following Killian's orders in exchange for Extremis to cure his daughter's disability.
On the platform, Stark goes to save Potts, and Rhodes saves the president. Stark summons each of his Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by JARVIS, to provide air support. Rhodes secures the President and leads him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure. However, before he can save her, a rig collapses around them and she falls to her apparent death. Stark confronts Killian and traps him in an Iron Man suit that self-destructs, but fails to kill him. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian.
After the battle, Stark orders JARVIS to destroy each Iron Man suit as a sign of his intention to devote more time to Potts. The vice president and Slattery are arrested. With Stark's help, Potts' Extremis effects are stabilized, and Stark undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart. He pitches his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea, musing he will always be Iron Man.
In a present day post-credits scene, Stark wakes up Dr. Bruce Banner, who fell asleep listening at the beginning of Stark's story. After the post-credits scene, a final line states "Tony Stark will return". Rather James Bond-ish there, don't you think?
A few thoughts about the movie. A number of people I have spoken to online tend to agree with one particular observation -- too much Stark, not enough Iron Man. Okay, I get that the point of the movie is for Tony to learn that he can function as a hero without the armor. And he succeeds.
By the end of the movie, he's even had advanced surgery to remove the shrapnel from his heart that has required the technological implant in his chest that also aided in powering his armor. Still, the title of the movie series is Iron Man, not Tony Stark, and I think I and a fair number of other fans would've preferred to see a little more armored action and a little less emotional angst and whatever else.
That tag line "Tony Stark will return" with its James Bond riff is hardly inappropriate. Stark comes across like some sort of James Bond type character. With all due respect, when I go to a movie titled "Iron Man" -- I expect to see Iron Man, and a good bit more than this. Tony's claim at the end of the movie that he is still Iron Man -- apparently with or without armor -- just doesn't quite cut it. It was still an enjoyable movie, but still...
The armor came across well, and that includes both Tony's latest as well as the Iron Patriot armor, the repainted War Machine armor. But I still found some elements of the movie's ending rather, if not unsatisfying, then certainly a little disappointing. Several dozen perfectly serviceable suits of armor are self-destructed by Stark. That struck me as a waste. Tony seems to have little reason to build more armor, despite the claim at the end of the movie that he is still Iron Man.
Of course, there's always the Avengers sequel, and given the huge box office numbers on this film, I can't imagine there won't be an Iron Man 4, at the very least, but I'll be interested to see how they explain Stark's return to armor.
So, how's the figure? Extremely cool. In my opinion, one mistake that the Iron Man 2 line, from the last movie, made, was to make too many Iron Man variants that were still colored in Iron Man's basic color scheme of red and gold. There were some others, but they tended to be the first ones off the shelves because they were the more distinctive ones, leaving a field of red and gold that, despite being varied in type, didn't fare all that well.
The Iron Man 3 line hasn't made that mistake. Both the standard 4" figures and the Assemblers are limiting the amount of red and gold armors. In fact, I think there's only one of each in each line to date, and I believe that's a smart move.
Although Starboost Iron Man has a bit of gold on him, it's not his primary color. And in fact I can't say as I've ever seen an Iron Man that really looked like this.
The armor is mostly white. It's a slightly off-white, but it should still be called white. The front of the armor has these black sections to it, of rather heavily ridged, almost scaled armor, near the neck, running down the front of the torso, as well as the upper arms, upper legs, and the front of the boots. Interestingly, there's no black on the back.
The faceplate is gold, and the eyeslits, such as they are, are little more than lines worked into a ridge line within the faceplate. The remaining minimal gold in the armor is mostly lines of trim near the black areas. The arc reactor chest piece is triangular in shape, and painted light blue.
Obviously with a name like "Starboost" Iron Man, this armor is intended to represent a space-worthy version of Tony Stark's finest invention. The description of the armor on the back of the package reads: This suit incorporates a powerful booster pack that allows Iron Man to achieve orbit in a matter of minutes. From there, he can observe the entire world, enjoying the view - or descending on bad guys anywhere on the planet as a flaming blast from the sky.
Okay, this about that last part there -- "descending on bad guys anywhere on the planet as a flaming blast from the sky". If there isn't some serious shielding in this armor, a stunt like that is going to result in Kentucky Fried Tony.
And therein lies, I believe, the very deliberate design and color scheme of this particular Iron Man figure. Yes, it's fanciful, yes, it's a comic book character. But there's a certain logic, within the concept, to the visual design of an Iron Man armor that's designed not only for use in space but for a rapid re-entry that is mostly white in color, with thicker areas of black armor.
Think about the Space Shuttle. For decades, these amazing vehicles propelled hundreds of astronauts from both America and around the world into orbit, to conduct a wide range of scientific studies and help in the construction of the International Space Station. But in order to return them intact to Earth, they needed to be covered in highly protective, specially designed ceramic tiles. And especially the ones on the underside of the craft were particularly protective, as they comprised the Space Shuttle's heat shield, to allow it to endure the massive temperature build-up of re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
And the Space Shuttles were mostly white, with black undersides. Just like the basic color scheme of Iron Man's Starboost Armor. Fanciful it may be, impractical to impossible in real life -- but somehow, it looks right.
The figure is easy enough to assemble. The head is removable, but it comes attached to the torso in the package. The arms and legs snap onto the torso very easily, and the end result is a very nice Iron Man figure that stands slightly over four inches in height.
One might ask -- does this armor actually appear in the movie? And the honest answer I have to give is -- I'm not sure, but I have reason to think it might. This would've been a much easier question to answer in the first two movies, where the number of armors Stark had built was a lot more limited. He got as far as the Mark III in the first movie, and by the second movie, had graduated to the Mark VI. His Mark VII armor appeared in the Avengers movie. That's a lot easier to keep track of.
But by Iron Man 3, we're up to the Mark 42. Tony's been a busy little armor-builder. And while most of these armors do put in brief appearances in the final battle in the movie, they're little more than cameos in a rather oddly-lit nighttime environment. I'm not sure even doing the freeze-frame bit when the DVD comes out would be of that much assistance.
There is a book out, in the children's section, called "Iron Man 3: Suits of Armor" that outlines many of the armors that appear in the movie, and it's worth noting that some of them are actually based on action figures from the last movie, and these do appear in the film. Even more interesting, we DO find the Starboost Armor in this book!
Technically, it's not called the Starboost Armor in the book. It's referred to as the "Sub-Orbital Suit", designated Mark XXXIX -- that's Mark 39, by the way, and it's nicknamed "Gemini". Tony Stark obviously knows his space history.
Regardless of the name and a few extremely minor design differences, it's clearly the same armor. It mentions the booster pack, as well as the fact that the suit is equipped with a series of zero-gravity thrusters that are placed around the suit, which can also clearly be seen on the figure. This would lead me to believe that the Starboost Armor does appear in the movie. May have to try that freeze-frame bit on the DVD after all.
About that booster pack. It's one of several accessories that are included with the figure, and it snaps onto a peg hole in the back of the figure very easily. Like the figure itself, it's mostly white with a little bit of black detailing, and complements the figure design very nicely.
Starboost Iron Man also comes with two interchangeable weaponized arms, at least one of which seems rather clearly to have not been designed with specifically the Starboost Armor in mind. This is all part of the "mix-and-match" feature of the Assemblers series.
The additional arm that isn't especially a good match for the Starboost armor is a replacement left arm, a dark steel blue in color, with a large chainsaw attached to the end. I rather doubt that Tony Stark is going to be cutting down trees in orbit. It's a nicely detailed piece, and I'm sure there are some armors in this line that this would work quite well with. I just don't think the Starboost armor is one of them.
The other arm, a replacement right arm, works a little better. It's mostly black, with a gold-colored, spring-action missile launcher attached to it. At least the color scheme is a lot closer to the Starboost. The missile is an odd piece, though. It's transparent blue, surprisingly ornate in design, with a tip that looks something like a fancy fork with the center tines missing. Like somebody took an elegant trident and snapped off the center. Not really sure what to make of that.
Let's discuss articulation. The Iron Man 3 line of 4" action figures has received a fair bit of criticism for very limited articulation. The figures are poseable at the head, arms, and legs. No elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, or whatever. I tend to agree with the criticisms. On the other hand, if you want to bring in some of these armors, and there are some very cool designs here, then you're simply going to have to accept it.
The Assemblers line have one additional bit of articulation that the standard 4" figures do not. Their arms not only move forward and backward, but also outward. Poseability is still rather limited on these figures, but that gives you a little more action, anyway.
So, what's my final word? I initially didn't want to like these Assemblers figures. I just wasn't crazy about the concept for some reason. In that, I was mistaken. If the Starboost Iron Man is any indication, and I think it is, then these are abundantly cool figures, and I will have to consider bringing a few of the others into my collection. And so should you.
The Starboost Iron Man figure is a brand new and very distinctive take on Iron Man, and it might just be in the movie as well, if its presence in that book is any indication. But even if it isn't, it's still a very cool Iron Man figure, and if you've enjoyed the Iron Man movies, or just like the character, then you should certainly consider bringing Starboost Iron Man into your collection, and putting him together and on display.
The STARBOOST IRON MAN figure from the IRON MAN 3 ASSEMBLERS collection definitely has my highest recommendation!