How long has it been since I last got a Star Wars figure? Oh yeah... about 10 months. It's been even longer since I've seen a new Star Wars figure in the stores (the few that I get are often the result of friends picking them up for me). Distribution just isn't working for whatever reason, so I've pretty much given up on Star Wars collecting. Imagine my surprise when I found Vintage Collection Jar Jar Binks at K-Mart... on the Lost Line card, no less! I was about to leave the figure on the peg because the extreme delay in finding him had dulled my interest, but I thought, hey, what the heck, I'll give it a go. Maybe it could rekindle a little of the Star Wars fandom that ruled my collecting habits in the late 90's and early 2000's.
You're probably thinking Jar Jar is the last dude that would rekindle any sort of interest in anything. But I've always liked Jar Jar. He was the character that really got me excited about The Phantom Menace before its release because the Lucasfilm hype machine worked overtime to promote him as the first "acting" CGI character. And although he was overplayed in the movie, he gave it some "Looney Tunes"-style slapstick that was actually fun at times. As I've mentioned before, I consider Jar Jar to be the least of the problems with TPM. I also consider the merchandizing to be more important than the movie, and there was no character in TPM that was more insanely merchandized than Jar Jar.
To me, Jar Jar represents the height of my Star Wars fandom at a time when I still held hope that I could re-experience my childhood awe of Star Wars as an adult through the Prequels. That turned out to not be the case (it was probably an unrealistic expectation anyway), but I still hold on to a strange little bit of nostalgia for Jar Jar.
Enough reverie, what about this Vintage Collection Jar Jar? Well, the sculpt is nice, with precise detailing, nifty skin texture, and accurate proportions. They even thought to include the scar on Jar Jar's lip. Unfortunately, the articulation breaks up the sculpt and distorts the proportions. This is especially evident in the ball-like shoulders and elbows, as well as the proportionally thick wrists. It's the same old "marionette" look that's typical of hyper-articulated figures.
Jar Jar's coloration could certainly be better. The markings (tattoos?) on his arms are much too dark. The wash on his vest looks hasty and sloppy. His head is too pink to match the relatively brownish skin tone of the rest of his body. The coloration of the hinged parts of the shoulders and knees aren't painted and make the figure look cheap. But the most egregious problem is that the two-toned spray on Jar Jar's arms ruins his look when you pose him. When you rotate the elbow and the wrist to pose the arm, the lighter side of the forearm conflicts with the darker side of the upper arm and hand. Check out the comparison pic with Episode I Jar Jar above for an example. It just looks awful.
That said, the soft goods pleather skirt works well enough. It reminds me of the pleather that was used for 4-LOM (or Zuckuss... whatever). The underside is distractingly white, but at least the figure can sit well.
And speaking of movement, Jar Jar's articulation is pretty strong. This is probably the most hyper-articulated Jar Jar figure of all time: swivel atlas (that's the joint where the neck meets the head), hinge neck base, swivel-hinge shoulders, swivel-hinge elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, swivel hips, swivel-hinge knees, and swivel ankles. All the joints move well, excepting the neck base and the ankles which move so little that I'm not sure why they're articulated at all.
Jar Jar comes with a Gungan staff and an energy ball throwing thing, whatever it's called. I would have loved an environment-specific stand, which I request pretty much every time I review a Star Wars toy. I guess I just never got over that insanely cool OTC Dagobah wave. But I don't think it's an unreasonable request. $10 for a figure that should be $8 (if you adjust the price of the original Kenner figures for inflation) means that we can expect more plastic here.
So does Vintage Collection Jar Jar do anything to rekindle my interest in Star Wars? Nope. This is just another example of hyper-articulation ruining an otherwise cool figure. Not only is the sculpt distorted by the joints, particularly in the arms, but the movement of the arms don't work at all with the figure's two-toned coloration.
I know the current mentality for toy manufacturers is, "Let's pack in as much articulation as possible, regardless of the consequences." And collectors just eat that stuff up. But wouldn't it be cool for a figure to look less like a marionette and more hyper-realistic? If this Jar Jar had the same points of articulation as the Episode I figure from 1999, it would be incredible how realistic it would look.
Come to think of it, I actually prefer the Episode I figure. Now that's a fun toy. The Vintage Collection Jar Jar is just a reflection of today's disturbing trend towards action figures becoming less like toys and more like collectibles.