REVIEW: IRON MAN 2 WALMART EXCLUSIVE 6" WAR MACHINE
The movie "Iron Man 2" takes its title somewhat literally. Along with the return of Tony Stark as Iron Man, of course, the movie also introduces a second armored hero -- War Machine!
Of course, there are a couple of different War Machine figures in the standard 4" scale action figure line presently being produced by Hasbro, but Walmart is carrying a line of Iron Man 2 action figures that are in the 6" scale that was produced for the first movie. While I certainly have no problem with the smaller figures, I do like the fact that there are larger figures available from this new movie, and that War Machine is one of them. When you get into the highly detailed, intricate armor details that are found in the movie designs, I just think that larger size works a little better to bring out that detail.
So who is War Machine? Well, he wasn't created specifically for the movie. Anyone who saw the first Iron Man movie, and the actor then playing Stark's friend Jim Rhodes gaze at one of the suits of armor with a wry smile and a comment of "Next time, baby!" knows that War Machine has been a well-established character in the comic books for some time. Let's consider some of his background, thanks to a bit of online research.
War Machine is, of course, Jim Rhodes, who first appeared in Iron Man #118, in January of 1979. He would later take over AS Iron Man for some time, starting in Iron Man #170, in May of 1983, before ultimately taking on the War Machine armor in Iron Man #282, in September of 1992.
In the comic books, James Rhodes was given a backstory that connected him to the earliest days of Iron Man, even though the character didn't officially appear until years later. In a flashback story that took place immediately after Iron Man's first adventure, when the newly-armored Iron Man was trying to make his way out of a jungle in Southeast Asia, he encountered Rhodes, who was a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Rhodes had been shot down by enemy rocket fire, and he was stranded behind enemy lines. The two of them defeated a contingent of enemy soldiers, and together, the two men discover the hidden rocket base that brought down Rhodes' copter. They destroy the base, steal a helicopter, and make their way back to friendly territory. Later, Tony Stark arrives at the base hospital to thank Rhodes for aiding "his friend" Iron Man, and offers Rhodes a job as his personal pilot after the end of the war. Although Rhodes didn't immediately take Stark up on his offer (explaining why he didn't appear in the comics before he did), he would later accept Stark's offer and became Stark's personal pilot, chief aviation engineer for Stark International, and one of Stark's closest friends and confidants.
Years later, thanks to the machinations of Obadiah Stane, Stark International was teetering on the brink of several disasters, and Stark himself had lapsed back into alcoholism, which he had previously battled. As Iron Man, his alcoholism impaired him to the point of erratic actions, incoherence, and recklessness. During a battle with the supervillain Magma, an intoxicated Stark was defeated and forced to fly away from the battle. He finds Rhodes at Stark International. Stark revealed his true identity to Rhodes and tries to recharge his armor. This effort resulted in a power outage, and Stark ended up passed out and in no condition to continue the battle. Rhodes donned the Iron Man armor for the first time and defeated Magma. He tried to return the armor to Stark, but Stark told him to remain as Iron Man while Stark's deterioration continued.
After the takeover of Stark International by Stane, Rhodes quit the company and, to protect Stark's armor technology, sent the remaining Iron Man armors into the ocean and destroyed them. With Stark unavailable, former Stark scientist Morley Erwin helped Rhodes maintain the Iron Man armor, and Rhodes continued as Iron Man, fighting any number of Iron Man's longtime foes, and teaming with any number of Iron Man's allies, including being part of the first "Secret Wars" alongside the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, and others.
Stark eventually overcame his alcoholism, and rejoined Rhodes and Erwin, who had formed a new electronics company in California. Due to the Iron Man armor's cybernetic helmet being calibrated for Stark's brainwaves, Rhodes began developing intense headaches while using the armor, and grew more erratic and aggressive. Stark helped Rhodes maintain the armor, but was unaware of the problem. Rhodes became paranoid, believing that Stark wanted to retake the armor. Ultimately, during a battle with the villain Vibro, Stark donned a spare suit of armor to assist Rhodes, and the two ended up fighting each other. After the battle, the two men reconciled. Rhodes continued to operate as Iron Man for a time, once the armor was repaired, but eventually returned to less superheroic duties.
Rhodes returned to duty, reluctantly, as Iron Man, after Stark was shot and paralyzed by a former girlfriend. Sometime later, Stark, his health deteriorating from various attempts to cure his paralysis, created a "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit", nicknamed War Machine, a more heavily-armed version of the Iron Man armor designed for all out warfare. This was used to combat a threat from industrialist Justin Hammer. After Stark's apparent death, he left Rhodes in charge of Stark Enterprises, and left him a modified version of the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, to continue the Iron Man legacy.
Rhodes left Stark's employ after learning that Stark had faked his death and kept it from him, but Stark implored Rhodes to keep the War Machine armor, which he did, and later joined the West Coast Avengers. Ultimately, Rhodes and Stark reconciled during a battle with Iron Man's longtime foe the Mandarin, and Stark gave Rhodes the blueprints he needed to maintain the War Machine armor, as well as a full upgrade to the armor with new armaments. Rhodes continued to use the War Machine armor in a solo super-hero career, sometimes fighting alongside Stark.
Passing over the events of Civil War through Secret Invasion and Siege, which made for very confusing reading, suffice to say that after acting once again to save Stark's life, Rhodes as War Machine joined a team of so-called "Secret Avengers", alongside Beast, Nova, Valkyrie, and others.
Obviously, not all of this could possible be covered in the movies. In the first Iron Man movie, Rhodes was portrayed by actor Terrance Howard. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and serves as the military's chief liaison to Stark Industries and their weapons division. He is also one of Stark's closest friends. Howard was cast with the role of War Machine in mind for the sequel, but a contract dispute resulted in the role being recast to actor Don Cheadle.
In the movie, the War Machine armor is actually the Iron man Mark II armor, reverse engineered by the Air Force and upgraded with heavier external armor plating and new technology to create the "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit". The armor's heavy weapons arsenal of ballistic weaponry was provided by defense contractor Justin Hammer, and includes repulsor based flight stabilizers, enhanced boot jets that could theoretically reach speeds of Mach 8, an arc reactor in the chest capable of generating eight gigajoules of energy, and multiple external weapons such as the dual arm-mounted 9mm submachine guns and the 7.62mm minigun mounted on the right shoulder.
In the film, Rhodes is under pressure by the government to convince Tony Stark to relinquish ownership of the Iron Man armor, while remaining loyal to Stark despite frustration. When an intoxicated Stark in the Iron man armor proceeded to endanger the lives of guests at his birthday party, Rhodes was forced to don the Iron Man Mk. II armor to intervene. After the intervention turned into a fight that destroyed Stark's home, Rhodes left with the Mk. II armor. This was then upgraded at Edwards Air Force Base. However, the armor was under the control of Hammer's agents, and Rhodes was forced to fight Stark against his will. The War Machine software was rebooted by Natasha Romanoff (known to Marvel fans as the Black Widow), enabling Rhodes to regain control over his armor. Rhodes then teamed with Stark to fight against Justin Hammer's unmanned armor drones.
So, how's the figure? Really outstanding. As I said at the top of this review, there's something about doing a highly-detailed figure like this that just works better in the larger size, not to malign the smaller figures, which are very nicely done too, of course.
Unlike Iron Man's bright red and gold armor, War Machine has always been portrayed in the comics in a dark steel and silver metal look. That's certainly been carried over to the figure, whose body is predominantly a very dark metallic gray, with a bit of silver here and there.
The helmet is very Iron Man in appearance, but then being based on the Mark II armor, it would be. The eyes, however, glow red rather than Iron Man's blue, which makes them look a little more vicious. Granted the whole armor manages to accomplish this.
Overall, the armor has a more rugged look to it than Iron Man. I don't mean less technological. I mean heavier, and more suited to extensive battle. There's nothing "sleek" about this suit. And since the movie-based armors tend to look more armor-like than the "somehow skin-tight" armor of the comics, this effect has been amped up that much more for the movie version.
The War Machine armor can best be described as having a great many angular straight lines over the entire body. Even on the figure, it's clear that it has multiple layers of armor almost everywhere. The chestplate in particular seems to have multiple levels, with the arc reactor surprisingly recessed in the chest. There are prominent rises over the shoulders, which merge in the back to form a rail on which the shoulder-mounted gun, easily one of War Machine's most trademark characteristics, can slide back and forth from one shoulder to the other.
War Machine's armor has extensive curved "pads" over the shoulders, and these have alphanumeric markings on them. The left shoulder reads "AF 57 001", and the right shoulder reads "ED 445 FLTS". According to the online research I did, this latter is the tail code designation of the 445th Flight Test Squadron. In the movie, the armor also bears the modern and heritage Air Force logos, so this may well be a legitimate designation. The figure does not have the Air Force logos, but it's possible that it just wasn't workable to secure whatever permission might have been needed for that.
War Machine's upper arms show some silver trim, returning to the dark gray for the lower arms, which are massive gauntlets with machine gun attachments underneath. In a remarkable bit of painted detail, there are little black and yellow striped warning markings on the back of the gun attachments.
Actually, although there isn't a lot of painted detail on the figure beyond the two basic colors, what there is on the figure is superbly well done. The letter-number markings, the aforementioned stripes, and in a few places, little red triangles. This all serves to definitely give War Machine a more military look than Iron Man. The eyes and arc reactor are very well painted, as well, and so are the little repulsors in the palms of the hands.
The torso is heavily ridged, especially cross the abdomen, with an "001" painted on the right side, and the upper legs are almost as heavily armored as the lower legs, which flare out into a huge boots that, of any portion of War Machine, have a certain Japanese anime robot look to them.
Mounted on the rail across the top of the back is an extremely realistic-looking machine gun. And, indeed, it does in fact slide back and forth across the rail from one shoulder to the other, and pivots up and down as well.
What's the main difference between Iron Man and War Machine? Simply this. Tony Stark likes to go for style. Let's not forget in the first movie, the first thing he did after creating his first suit of armor which allowed him to survive and escape captivity was -- once he got some of the kinks out of the technology, like bouncing himself all over his large garage in an early flying attempt -- was to take the basic idea of that first rustbucket (okay, so he didn't have much to work with), and make it a lot more sleeker and stylish. Let's not forget that he was not satisfied with even the sparking gold armor that he turned out, and, looking at one of his long line of sports cars, added some "hot rod red" to the mix to come up with the movie's counterpart to the iconic design.
War Machine? Not much color, not a whole lot of style. You see Iron Man, and you think, "Hey cool! Smooth!" You see Iron Man, you see a walking tank full of bad@$$. It's not sleek, it's not stylish, but the dang thing has three very visible guns and who knows what else tucked into all that machinery. It LOOKS like a military machine. It's not here to show off. It's here to take names and trash the place, and it certainly looks abundantly capable of doing just that. Granted, so can Iron Man. But War Machine looks the part.
Articulation on the figure? Plenty of it. The figure is impressively and fully poseable at the head, shoulders, upper arm swivel, surprisingly well-concealed double-jointed elbows, wrists, mid-torso -- that works and looks as good as any example of this that I've ever seen, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles. In addition to this, the shoulder gun rides along its back rail and raises and lowers, the shoulder armor flips up to allow for better arm movement, and the flaps on the back of the wrist flip back to allow for greater hand movement.
I've occasionally spoken about the tradeoff between articulation and the look of a figure. Generally I reserve these comments for 4" scale action figures, since I think it is possible to over-articulate an action figure, especially in that size range, simply due to the limitations of plastic assembly. The end result is a figure that looks less like a small representative of a person, and more like -- well -- a small humanoid jigsaw puzzle. This can unfortunately be especially true in the super-hero world with figures who wear tights and every detail is already on display.
War Machine -- okay, he's taller -- but he also gets away with it. Most of his articulation points are not all that evident because of the armor design. The last time I saw this effectively designed an action figure with this range of articulation was when Bandai was still producing its Gundam line.
Accessories? War Machine has quite a few. He has a belt of ammunition for that machine gun on his shoulder, which plugs into the gun and into the back of the armor. He also has what I think is a small missile launcher that can be swapped onto the gun mount. Additionally, he has four extra hands in various positions. The hands that are attached to the figure in package are excellent. They're spread out, each finger separate into itself. Basically this is the hand position he'd want for firing his repulsors. The other two sets include slightly clenched hands, as if he were holding something (although there's no weaponry with the figure that he could arguably hold), and clenched fists. These are all neatly painted, and as needed, also have the repulsor units properly painted on their palms.
So, what's my final word here? I know that the core of the Iron Man line is the 4" figures. But there are 6" figures to be found. Walmart has some, and so does Toys "R" Us. But the ones at Walmart are based on figures from the new movie, and the new toy line. The Toys "R" Us figures are remade from the previous movie line. They're still cool, don't get me wrong, and I do recommend them. But if you want the modern "Iron Man Mk. VI", or War Machine, in the 6" format, you'll have to get them at Walmart.
And I, for one, am sincerely pleased that Hasbro and Walmart arranged to make these very impressive figures in this size. I've been an Iron Man fan for years. There's something about the idea of an armored super-hero that's -- almost plausible. And certainly the Iron Man title has had to work hard to keep up with and stay ahead of growing technology. War Machine perhaps not quite so much, since he's more weapon oriented than tech-oriented, but he's still had to stay reasonably cutting edge, and he's been pretty cool, too. And this movie-based figure of him is one mean-looking metallic figure. Any fan of the Iron Man characters would be pleased to add him to their collection.
The IRON MAN 2 Walmart Exclusive 6" WAR MACHINE figure definitely has my highest recommendation!