What are my favorite Star Wars figures? Generally speaking, Clones and Droids. And this review has two Droids and a Clone Trooper to offer. Let's start with one of the droids, the R2-B1 Astromech Droid:
According to the book, "Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Droids", the R2-style Astromech Droid was designed by Industrial Automaton, and was the second iteration of their R-Series Astromech Droid, which goes all the way up to R9's, interestingly. Wouldn't mind seeing some toys made of these someday, either. Hasbro...?
The R1 was a towering piece of work, not at all like its more diminutive successors. According to the book, the R2 units exploded the popularity of astromech droids, and broke all sales records. The unit was a perfect fit for the navigational droid socket of any standard starfighter, and once plugged in, the unit can monitor flight performance, fix technical problems, and boost power from shipboard systems. It can hold up to ten sets of hyperspace coordinates in memory, and possesses the intelligence to perform engine start-up and pre-flight taxiing. Standard equipment on an R2 includes two manipulator arms, an electric arc welder, a circular saw, a hologrammic projector, an internal cargo compartment, and a fire extinguisher. Many buyers have tricked out their R2 units with add-ons including underwater propellors, booster rockets, magnetic-grip treads, and even inflatable life rafts.
Obviously the best-known R2 unit of all time is R2-D2, who frankly saw a lot more action than probably any other R2 unit in history. But he's also not the only R2-unit in existence, obviously, and Hasbro, making good use of existing molds, has been giving us other assorted R2 units for quite some time. There was a black Imperial R2 droid a while back, as well as Mace Windu's purple R2 droid. The man just can't get away from purple, can he?
Although no specific timetable was given for the introduction of the R2 droid series in the Star Wars universe, clearly they are commonplace and in wide use by the time of the very first movie, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. There are several in service on board Queen Amidala's Royal Starship, including R2-D2 himself, who was the only survivor of an astromech droid repair team sent outside during spaceflight to repair some damage caused by enemy fire. Unfortunately for the other droids, that enemy fire was continuing even as they were trying to effect repairs, and they got caught in the blasts and turned into space-fairing scrap metal.
One of these hapless victims was called R2-B1, and it is he that I wish to review.
Technically, this is not the first version of R2-B1 ever produced. There was one a number of years ago. He came out right about the same time as TC-14, a silver 3PO-style droid who was serving on board the Trade Federation vessel. Putting these two droids in the same assortment made for an interesting display in the toy stores. Although they were not packaged on the same card, seeing them on the toy racks in the same general area gave one the impression of looking at some sort of "alternatre universe" versions of C-3PO and R2-D2.
One of the major differences between the first R2-B1 toy and the new one, is that the first had a chrome silver dome. I sort of miss it on the new one, but the new one does benefit from a higher level of detailing and other impressive features, so this is a minor complaint.
R2-B1 uses a set of Astromech Droid molds that has turned up fairly often lately. Fortunately, it's an excellent set of molds. It has been used on the aforementioned Imperial and Mace Windu Astromechs, on the Astromech that came with the ARC-170 Battle Pack, on the special edition R2-KT droid, and I'm sure there's an actual R2-D2 out there that has used these molds at some point. I'm just not sure which one it might be.
These molds are accurate and nicely detailed, and they have a very interesting "action feature". Turning the dome around lowers and raises the third center "leg" from the main body of the droid. All three legs have a small wheel underneath them, allowing the droid to roll along any smooth surface. He actually rolls better when the third leg is extended, as one might expect him to.
R2-B1 has a distinctive color scheme, featuring a dark, navy blue body and a silver-grey dome. He has fairly bright yellow trim, which cam be seen around his eye and elsewhere on his dome, and on his two manipulator arms on his chest, and a few other areas on the droid. Some of his other areas have silver trim.
R2-B1 comes with a platform that he can be placed within. This is a reproduction of the lift platform that took R2-B1 and the other Astromech Droids to the exterior of Queen Amidala's royal starship to try to effect repairs. Frankly, it looks a little like a droid version of the sort of peotective device that people are secured into when they're going to go on a roller-coaster ride that features inversions, loops, or other features that might otherwise get you tossed out of your seat. R2-B1 stands on the platform, and then the two devices to either side can be flipped down to secure him at the "shoulders", the tops of his two protruding legs. It's a nice accessory for a toy that would otherwise be difficult to accessorize.
One more interesting feature. I suspect that the initial design of this droid, which was probably for an R2-D2, was to have the single eye in the front of the dome seem to light up, by molding it from a separate piece of transparent plastic. This piece would correspond to the very top of the dome, which in the case of R2-D2 could also be blue, just like his eye. No doubt this worked superbly well for R2-D2.
On other models, with different color schemes, it wouldn't work as well, either because the eye color was different than the color of the top of the dome, or because the top of the dome or the entire piece itself was molded or painted in a color of plastic that would not reflect the light well.
And some sort of split the difference. Example -- on R2-KT, the top of the dome is painted pink. The eye appears to be black. However, it is possible to shine a flashlight directly on the top of the dome and get some reflection in the eye, which appears to be a sort of purplish blue.
R2-B1 is another example. The top of his home has been painted yellow. His eye looks to be a very dark orange. He actually reflects light better than R2-KT, although not as well as I suspect the original R2-D2 usage of this mold design would have. But once again, if you try the flashlight trick, and send close, direct light into the top of the dome, you can get R2-B1's center eye to appear to glow a fairly bright yellow-orange.
R2-B1's character profile on the back of his package card reads as follows:
Model: Astromech Droid
Poor R2-B1. His legacy is getting blown to bits. Still, he hasn't fared that badly. Two known action figures, and this one is very cool, and certainly this one hasn't been blown to bits, nor is there any reason for him to me.
If you're a fan of the Astromech Droids, then certainly you will want to add R2-B1 to your Star Wars collection! Just keep him away from incoming Trade Federation fire and he'll be fine. Now let's turn our attention to a droid that doesn't repair ships, he repairs people, the 2-1B Surgical Droid!
You know, in The Empire Strikes Back, this droid's movie credit should've been, "Kept Luke Skywalker patched together". I mean, he dealt with Luke's severe frostbite and injuries after the encounter with the Wampa on Hoth, he built Luke a new hand after Daddy Vader sliced off the old one on Bespin -- it's a wonder that 2-1B didn't stuff Luke into a bacta tank and just leave him there.
The Star Wars New Essential Guide to Droids describes this particular 2-1B as "embittered". Yeah, I think I would be, too, if I had to keep patching the same Rebel Jedi-wannabee back together again.
However, in accuracy, the 2-1B Surgical Droid is a model designation, not a specific individual. It just happens that the one from Empire Strikes Back is the one that we know best. Interestingly enough, the recently released figure of a 2-1B Surgical Droid doesn't even reference the Empire Strikes Back events. Rather, it makes reference to the fact that a 2-1B Surgical Droid was among those employed by newly-minted Emperor Palpatine to encase the severely injured Darth Vader in his protective armor following the battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar.
And how did the former Anakin Skywalker repay these droids for saving his life, however unpleasantly? Crushed the lot of them like a bunch of recyclable soda cans after learning of the death of Padme Amidala.
Frankly, if I were a 2-1B Surgical Droid, I wouldn't go near anyone with the last name of Skywalker...
So, Skywalker encounters notwithstanding, what does the New Essential Guide to Droids have to say about the 2-1B Surgical Droid? It was produced by a company called Geentech, and is regarded as one of the most intelligent droids ever created. It has to be. Its function is to perform life-saving surgery on sentient organic beings.
Unlike other medical droids, which might function as anything from nurses to general practitioners, the 2-1B was specifically designed as a surgical droid. One of the things that made the 2-1B so efficient was a breakthrough with regard to the flexibility of its behavioral circuitry matrix. This allowed the 2-1B to be less literal-minded than most droids, and better able to deal with unforeseen complications during surgical procedures.
Geentech, a relatively small company, worked in partnership with the massive droid manufacturer Industrial Automaton to bring the 2-1B into existence. The droids have been programmed with the finest diagnostic database available. Granted, they're not much to look at, but most beings would only encounter one under heavy sedation, prior to a surgical procedure.
There have been figures of 2-1B before. There was one that was part of the original Star Wars figure line. That particular 2-1B was molded mostly in a dark turquoise, unlike the gunmetal grey that the droid actually is. Kenner at the time was faced with something of a challenge. The droid was, if memory serves, only seen from the waist up. There was no way to know what its legs looked like, or even if it had legs. Unlike C-3PO, which was actor Anthony Daniels in a suit, and of course this being in the time before CGI came into being, the movie's producers built a robotic construct to "play the part" of 2-1B, but they obviously only built as much as they had to.
What was the rest of 2-1B like? Legs? Treads? Some sort of hover platform? Kenner took a guess, presumably with advice from LucasFilm, and decided that 2-1B was more or less humanoid, and had legs, if rather spindly ones. That image has pretty much stuck to this day, and is of course carried over to the most recent toy incarnation.
I was all set to gripe about the fact that 2-1B was a little on the short side, as unfortunately many human-type characters in the Star Wars figure line, including certain droids, have been turning up to be lately, but, intentionally or otherwise, on 2-1B, it's not inappropriate. Once again consulting the Essential Guide, the 2-1B is listed as being 1.5 meters in height. That's a bit shorter than the average humanoid, and indeed, a silhouette graph, that uses the human-sized C-3PO as a sort of "default", does indeed show that 2-1B is slightly but noticeably shorter than "standard human" height.
Personally, I tend to think this is a coincidence in this case. Certain other aspects of the toy's appearance, especially the left "surgical tools" arm, are not quite a match for the diagram and illustrations in the book. And there's also no question that a number of characters who shouldn't be subject to the sudden "shrinkage" in height in the Star Wars line -- have been shrunk. It just happens that in 2-1B's case, it's not unfitting.
The Essential Guide describes the 2-1B Surgical Droid as a "rather ugly unit", with a body that is mostly a dull, gunmetal grey, with many of its inner workings visible through a translucent torso sheath. Its arms end in deceptively clumsy-looking claws, although they are far more precise than they appear and can be changed out for other surgical arrays. Indeed, in both the book and the toy, the left arm has been traded out for a more complex, if somewhat menacing, looking piece of equipment.
The ring on the 2-1B's chest, also reflected on the figure, is an access port for a computer interface tether, designed to connect to a medical mainframe. According to the book, this feature is largely a holdover from the initial wave of 2-1B's, when Industrial Automaton advised buyers to permanently bolt the droids to operating room floors. All modern 2-1B's have legs, as well as expanded data libraries that makes mainframe access unnecessary.
I can't help but wonder if that's just a bit of a nod to the fact that the leg design to the 2-1B droid likely came later, in response to its first incarnation as an action figure, as opposed to its initial movie appearance.
One thing there's no question about is the fact that this is definitely the most impressive 2-1B action figure yet created. It's certainly the most accurate, and the most detailed. The figure has a hose running from its face to its chest, visible hoses on both of its arms, intricate eyes properly painted, and other painted detail which is actually quite subtle, a sort of silver on the otherwise gunmetal grey.
Of course the figure has a transparent torso, however all previous 2-1B action figures have also had this feature. Still, it's worth acknowledging.
This is also easily the best articulated 2-1B Surgical Droid ever. The figure moves at the head, arms (outward as well as forward and backward), elbows, legs (a considerable range of motion here), knees, and even the ankles, again with a surprising range of motion.
Any complaints? Well, just one, really. Unfortunately, the spindly nature of the limbs means they're a little prone to distorting in package. My 2-1B's left leg swings outward a but, and one can tell there's a little warping in the upper leg that has caused this. Now, this is likely fixable. I've heard of the old "boil it for a minute or two and then reposition it" trick, supposedly also good for fixing the legs of Justice League figures. I've never tried it myself, but I've heard it recommended from enough reliable sources to mention it here. And there's no reason to assume that every 2-1B figure out there has any problems, and honestly, it's probably not anything that could have been easily avoided. In this case, it's the design of the character, requiring rather spindly limbs, that's as much the cause as anything.
I don't know if this should be surprising or not, but the 2-1B Surgical Droid figure does not come with any accessories, except for a standing display base. Then again, what would you give him? A bacta tank? Too big. A robotic human-like hand? Too small, and given the text on the back, this isn't THAT particular 2-1B Surgical Droid, as I said earlier. I have no idea if the designers at Hasbro pondered if there was any sort of accessory they could give this figure, and finally just gave up on it and just decided to give us the figure, but -- hey, don't feel bad. I couldn't think of anything either.
One quick note here if I may. I always try to acknowledge the first figure of each new year I purchase that actually has that year's date on it as its copyright date. The 2-1B Surgical Droid has the year 2008 embossed on it. So even though we're pretty well into the year already, I am listing the 2-1B Surgical Droid as my first official figure that actually bears the 2008 date.
The text on the back of the card for this figure reads, "Palpatine takes the gravely wounded Darth Vader to Coruscant. A team of surgical droids, including a 2-1B series droid, uses diagnostic and surgical equipment to treat Vader's injuries, attach mechanical limbs, and encase him in the black armored suit that he'll wear the rest of his life." The movie photo on the card actually shows Vader rising up from the surgical table, just before Palpatine gives him the bad news about Padme and Vader reaches out with the dark side of the Force and plays "pop goes the droid" with the robotic medical staff. Rather ominous image to put on the package for one of those same droids if you ask me.
So, what's my final word on the 2-1B Surgical Droid? I'm impressed. The detail is excellent, the articulation is superb, it's certainly a well- known enough character in the Star Wars universe to warrant an action figure, and technically, as a droid, it can work for whichever side you want. Have him patch up Rebels, heal Clone Troopers, work on Stormtroopers, whatever. And even the slightly smaller height, in this instance only, is not inaccurate, so he'll fit in well with your existing Star Wars collection.
Speaking of Clone Troopers, let's consider the final entry in this review, the HAWKBAT BATTALION CLONE TROOPER.
A recent assortment of Star Wars figures included a new Episode II Clone Trooper, representing the Hawkbat Battalion. I have to be honest here, I wasn't entirely sure about this one. Two things seemed to make him distinctive from most Clone Troopers. One was that he was wearing a brown poncho. The other was what looked from the picture on the back of the package of another figure in the assortment (the 7th Legion Clone Trooper) to be a rather excessive amount of weathering.
I am assuming that the Hawkbat Battalion was stationed on a rather stormy planet, given the ponchos. Now, as much as I dislike the practice of showing a figure with battle damage or other forms of weathering, I realize that if you're stationed on a rather stormy planet with large expanses of water and few land areas, those land areas aren't exactly going to be high and dry, and you're likely to get a bit muddy.
I'll admit, I'd never heard of the Hawkbat Battalion. Then again, trying to keep track of every Clone Trooper Battalion would require -- well, a far more obsessive Star Wars fan than myself. Certainly, I like Star Wars. Certainly, I like Clone Troopers. But keeping track of every movie, animated, video game, comic book, and paperback novel appearance of one cadre of Clones or another is just a bit overwhelming.
Hawkbat Battalion was a battalion in the Grand Army of the Republic commanded by Major CT-12/12-0068, and was one of four battalions under the 101st Regiment. Among its four companies was Bacta Company, commanded by Captain CT-52/89-9204.
Love those personal names of their commanders. No great surprise, the entry lists their sole appearance to date as being from Chapter 1 from the original Clone Wars animated series. I say "no great surprise" because the illustration on the back of this Clone Trooper's package is clearly derived from the animated series.
Now, granted, I was also curious as to what a Hawkbat was. It struck me as an odd name. Certainly it sounded like some sort of animal, but the name was strange, at least for the Star Wars universe, that tends to come up with entirely unique names for its various species -- wompa, ronto, dianoga -- the closest to anything English-sounding I'd previously heard was Dewback. So what was a Hawkbat?
Fortunately, the Star Wars Essential Guide to Alien Species proved to be most helpful here. A Hawkbat is -- well, it's pretty blasted ugly, is what it is. According to the book, it's native to Coruscant, the homeworld of both the Republic and later the Empire, and is about a meter long. It's described as a "reptavian" species, part reptile and part bird, with ruby eyes and leathery wings that span about 1.5 meters. They have strong talons for gripping prey and a sharp beak idea for rending flesh. They have both keen eyesight and a sonar cry.
Scientists believe that the hawkbat is a result of the massively artificial environment of Coruscant, which is one big city spreading across the entire planet, and that their wingspan and eyesight developed because life in this environment required they be able to see from great distances and in near-absolute darkness to locate prey throughout the planet.
According to the entry in the book, they are highly territorial creatures, and their eggs were considered a delicacy. Emperor Palpatine kept a personal flock of them around. The New Republic enacted legislation against hunting them. Despite this, several cookbooks still have entries on them.
It's hardly unusual for soldiers to name their Battalions after animals. It's likely been a practice for centuries, both in real life and in fiction (Tiger Force and Python Patrol, anyone?) So I suppose it makes sense for there to be a Hawkbat Battalion among the Clone Troopers, especially since they are obviously predators.
The Clone Trooper figure representing this particular group is really a superb one, although I am not entirely certain where the body molds come from. He's almost Super-Articulated, but strangely lacks articulation in either the waist or the mid-torso point. The Clone Trooper is, however, otherwise superbly articulated at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and ankles, with a full range of motion at all points.
Surprisingly to me, the figure has a removable helmet with the Jango/ Clone head underneath. I have not seen this before with an Episode II Clone. I've seen it plenty of times with certain Episode III Clones, and generally speaking, I'm not that crazy about it, because the helmet tends up end up looking a little too large. In the case of the Episode II Clone Trooper here, it actually works quite well.
I'm sure there may have been a separate-helmet Episode II Clone Trooper before -- I just don't recall one. The figure has a 2005 copyright date on its boot, which is rather interesting in and of itself, since that was the year that Episode III came out, and we were certainly seeing Episode III Clone Troopers by then. This sort of leads me to believe that this particular figure was sort of "cobbled together" from perhaps more than one mold group. No big deal, since it works well.
The figure doesn't have a lot of color-detail marking on him, but then, the Episode II Clone Troopers weren't initially known for a lot. Various ranks had color stripes on them and that was about it. This is pretty much a plain-vanilla Clone Trooper.
He does have some dark grey "mud splats" on his lower legs, and his feet are entirely dark grey. This isn't a practice I'm fond of, but Star Wars can get away with it once in a while, and it works well enough in this instance, and at least it's not as severe as the prototype pictured on the package card.
And he has a cloth poncho. This is an oval-shaped length of brown cloth, with a little stitching on it to fold the sides inward, and a hole in the center for the head to fit through. It has a few grey mud splats on it as well. I do sort of find myself wondering just how inclement the weather has to be when a Clone Trooper's armor isn't sufficient protection.
The Hawkbat Clone Trooper comes with a standard blaster rifle. His character profile on the package card is pretty much unremarkable, and the comment area only makes reference to the raincoat by saying, "Oblivious to harsh climates and imminent danger, each trooper prepares for another battle in this galactic conflict."
So, what's my final word on this figure? Those who might be concerned that the figure might not be fully articulated because you can't see all the articulation points in the package because of the poncho should take heart. This figure IS fully articulated. Those who might be discouraged because of excessive battle weathering should not be discouraged. It's nowhere near as severe as the prototype makes it look. This is a very cool Clone Trooper, and for those who, like me, have been building a small (or not so small) army of Clone Troopers with all the various variants that have come out, will not be disappointed with this one.
The STAR WARS CLONE TROOPER HAWKBAT BATTALION figure definitely has
my enthusiastic recommendation, as does R2-B1 and the 2-1B SURGICAL
DROID for you droid enthusiasts out there. And for Star Wars fans of
all types, get 'em all. They're all good.