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REVIEW:
STAR WARS "FORCE UNLEASHED" IMPERIAL OFFICER JUNO ECLIPSE
By Thomas Wheeler


There used to be a joke about the Star Wars universe -- that Princess Leia was the only female in the entire galaxy. While this was biologically impossible -- or at least improbable -- it did seem that the number of females in the Star Wars universe was relatively small. Indeed, from Star Wars through Empire Strikes Back, it seemed that the only other female we encountered was Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru -- and she didn't last too long.

Okay, there was also the singing bartender played by Bea Arthur in the Star Wars Holiday Special, and Chewbacca's wife in the same train wreck of a show, but does anybody really even want to think about that...?

Whether George Lucas got sick of hearing this joke or not, I really don't know, but in Return of the Jedi, we were introduced to several more females. There was the dancing girl named Oola that Jabba the Hutt fed to the Sarlaac, and there was Mon Mothma, clearly a high-ranking individual within the Rebellion. The prequels gave us even more. Aurra Sing, Zam Wesell, and of course, Padme Amidala. Taun We of the Kaminoans sounded female, but with some of those weird aliens, you can never be entirely sure.

The non-movie material has introduced us to even more female characters. Mara Jade is probably the most prominent of these. But with the new video game FORCE UNLEASHED, we're about to be introduced to yet another. I honestly have no idea how prominent she'll be in the video game, but she at least warranted an action figure from Hasbro, as part of their Force Unleashed tie-in assortment, and we all know that most toy companies don't like to do female action figures if they can help it. The rationale that females simply don't sell that well in a boys' action figure line still persists to this day.

Force Unleashed was pretty much the big Star Wars event for 2008. Now that we're past the 30th Anniversary of the original movie, and with the Clone Wars television series, and of course given the massive popularity of video games these days, Force Unleashed is getting a lot of cross-media attention in the Star Wars universe right now.

A basic summary of the video game's premise of Star Wars: Force Unleashed is an upcoming multimedia project developed and published by LucasArts along with Dark Horse Comics, Lego, Hasbro, and Del Rey Books. It consists of a video game, a tie-in novel, action figures, a comic book, a reference book and a role-playing game supplement, as well as a book on the making of the game. The game will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, second-generation N-Gage, and PlayStation 2.

The premise of the concept tells the story of Darth Vader's secret apprentice as he hunts down the remaining Jedi. Set in the dark times between Episode III and Episode IV, the story explores the aftermath of Order 66, which called for the immediate execution of all Jedi, as well as the rise of Darth Vader leading into the Original Trilogy.

Of course, there's no shortage of additional characters in the game. Jumptroopers, EVO Troopers, Imperial Shadow Guards, other characters, and then we have a new female character, an Imperial Officer named JUNO ECLIPSE.

Nice name. Fits well within the Star Wars universe. Luke Skywalker. Han Solo. Juno Eclipse. It works.

Juno Eclipse is clearly human. Now, this is not terribly surprising for two reasons. One, there's no shortage of human-like races in the Star Wars universe. Two, the Empire had a habit of preferring humans in their rank and file. Aliens weren't really welcome. This has generally been thought of as a form of bigotry on the part of the Empire, and there's probably some truth to that. At the same time, we know that the ranks of the Stormtroopers continued to be at least partially comprised of Clones, which came from a human base, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Imperial Quartermaster in charge of Uniforms wasn't all that interested in trying to develop a range of outfits to fit some of the bizarre range of sentient life forms that existed throughout the galaxy.

So we have Juno Eclipse, a female human Imperial Officer. Now, it's worth noting that we never saw any female Imperial Officers in the movies. Was the Empire chauvinistic as well as bigoted against aliens? In this case, we can likely say, probably not, at least not to the same degree. Other female Imperial Officers have been portrayed in the comic books and novels, so we know they're out there.

Based on the limited biographical data presented on the package card for the action figure, I think it's fair to say that Juno Eclipse plays a fairly significant role in the game. It reads: Juno Eclipse is the Imperial captain of the Rogue Shadow. She is appointed by Darth Vader to pilot his Secret Apprentice throughout the galaxy. Haunted by a tragic past, Eclipse continues to serve the Empire loyally while secretly yearning for a new life.

Now, if you get appointed by Darth Vader himself to pilot his Secret Apprentice (the main character of the game, played by the player, of course) around, one would have to say that you've earned your stripes in the Empire. That's not a lightweight assignment, and I don't doubt that Juno Eclipse surpassed any number of other Imperial Officers, probably most of them male, to land that choice assignment.

As for that "tragic past", I'd really love to be able to report on that, but details of that information just aren't out there -- yet. Wouldn't surprise me if the novel or maybe the comic book get into that to some degree.

Offhand, it looks like Juno Eclipse may be the second most prominent character in the game other than this Secret Apprentice. The listed data that also appears on the package card, along with stating that Juno Eclipse is Human, an Imperial Pilot, and that her weapon of choice is a Blaster, states that she "Finds her loyalties shifting from the Empire to the Apprentice." Well, now, THAT'S interesting. Makes me wish I could play video games worth a darn. I suspect this Force Unleashed is going to be an impressive piece of work.

So is the action figure of her, as it turns out. I initially bought this figure mostly because I liked how it looked, and getting back to my original statement, how many females are there really in the Star Wars universe. The numbers are better than they used to be, but they're still pretty minimal. I figured the figure of her would likely be pretty popular, probably second only to the Troopers, so when I saw her, I decided to get her.

Now, I tend to keep my purchases of Star Wars figures mostly to Clone Troopers, occasional Stormtroopers, and periodic Droids these days. Why? Well, for one thing, I like them. For another, for the most part, you can be assured that you're going to get a well-articulated figure. Articulated in Star Wars figures can, unfortunately, be somewhat variable, even among relatively human-like characters. There's no guarantee that a figure's elbows or knees will be articulated, let alone wrists or ankles. Sometimes this isn't that much of a problem. Sometimes, if the figure is also pre-posed, it can be. And I'll admit, I like the level of articulation found in the so-called "Super-Articulated" Clone Troopers.

But it looked like the articulation on Juno Eclipse was entirely satisfactory, which it is. She is only very, very slightly pre-posed, in that the left leg is pointed outward just the slightest fraction more than the right, and the torso has a slight curve in it as a result of the leg. It's so minimal you almost don't even notice it. And clearly this is an all-new set of molds, since it bears a 2008 date on it.

Juno Eclipse is very fully articulated, poseable at the head (ball and socket design), arms (outward as well as forward and back), elbows (wish a swivel), wrists (which surprised the heck out of me since these are pretty narrow wrists), waist, legs (hindered slightly by the tunic), knees (swivel as well as back), and ankles (pivot as well as forward and back). That's a pretty impressive range of motion!

The other reason I've tended to stick with Clone Troopers in recent times has been the unfortunate tendency for other, newer human-like figures to be made somewhat smaller than in the past. The reasons I've heard for this are rather varied, but I have yet to hear one that I thought was especially justified. There's no good reason to make a Luke Skywalker that looks about twelve years old compared to other recent figures. I've been steadfastly avoiding these "tiny humans" (and several droids), but picked up Juno Eclipse nevertheless, since I figured if she came up short -- well, okay, she was just a short human then. There weren't any previous versions of her to make comparisons.

So imagine my delight to discover that Juno Eclipse wasn't shortened! Using the Clone Troopers as a "base height", she's a perfectly reasonable height, at almost precisely 3-3/4", which is just as it should be. I was very pleased by this.

The overall detail on the figure is truly superb. The face is a fairly straightforward female face, with a rather determined if somewhat neutral expression on it. Based on the photographic image on the back of the package card, I am assuming that an actress was hired to play the role of Juno Eclipse for the video game. The figure is a capable likeness in this regard.

Juno Eclipse is dressed in a black Imperial Officer's uniform. The outfit has been somewhat textured to give it a more fabric-like appearance, and this has worked out very nicely and adds a little "depth" to the appearance of the figure.

There's not a lot of painted detail on the figure's uniform. Really just a bar of Imperial whatayacallems, that we've seen on most Imperial Officers to some degree, and a couple of silver highlights near the sleeves. There's also a silver belt buckle, and a bit of flesh tone on the back of her gloves.

The painted detail on the face is superb. Juno Eclipse has light blonde hair, tied off tightly in the back, light blonde eyebrows, a little bit of red around the mouth, and the eyes are especially well painted, showing the whites of the eyes, eyelashes over them, blue irises, and even black pupils. That had to put a bit of a strain on somebody's paint stencil, but it looks really superb.

Juno Eclipse comes with a blaster rifle, and it looks to be the same sort of blaster rifle that is handed out to just about every Clone Troopers that's come along for the past few years. This is not a criticism. It's a nicely made weapon. But one of these days, I'd really like to know how many of these things Hasbro has stamped out, just for fun...

The one thing that really surprised me was that Juno Eclipse's HAT is removable! I didn't expect that. I didn't expect it so much that when I was testing the head articulation and the hat fell off in my hand, I briefly wondered if I'd broken the figure. Nope, the hat is supposed to come off. And it's really nicely made and looks good when in place. I've seen no shortage of figures over the years, in any number of lines (including Star Wars), where a removable hat or helmet just doesn't look very good. There's only so thin you can make the plastic, and if it's too thick, it looks too large and bulky for the figure, and tends to spoil the look of the figure as a whole.

Not this time. Maybe it's the angle of the mold, or the fact that it's not a very big cap, but it looks perfectly fine on the figure. Like I said, I was surprised to discover that it was even removable. Fortunately, it stays in place quite well. However, I will say that it's not a very big item, and for those of you who display your figures in the open, and might be concerned about a very small, potentially lost part, a small drop of Elmer's Glue should remedy the situation.

Juno Eclipse comes with a "Cheat Code" for the game, but I don't think it would be entirely appropriate for me to divulge that information (which, I'll admit, is probably all over cyberspace by now anyway...)

So what's my final word here? I doubt I'll get the Force Unleashed video game. Not because I don't think it'll be impressive. In fact I suspect it's going to be extremely impressive. I'm just not very good at playing video games. However, Juno Eclipse introduces a fascinating new character to the Star Wars universe, an Imperial Officer with a troubled past who maybe starts questioning her place in the Empire. That's got a lot of potential to it. While I may not pick up the video game, the comics and the novel might well be another matter, especially if they reveal more details.

And certainly the figure of Juno Eclipse is highly impressive. Nicely designed, looks good, an excellent range of articulation, a good height -- really a superb addition to anyone's Star Wars collection. JUNO ECLIPSE from the STAR WARS FORCE UNLEASHED series definitely has my highest recommendation!