I was initially hesitant about buying any action figures based on The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in a trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved novel The Lord of the Rings. LotR stands as my favorite novel, and I was one of those who believed that it could not be successfully adapted into a film. I worried that both the movie and the toys would push out my own mental images of the characters and places in the novel.
In truth, the movie has fleshed out much of the landscape in the book, which I have always had difficulty imagining; and it also developed characters (such as Boromir) who were rather flat in Tolkien's writing.
Despite loving the movie, I am still a little disconcerted by the commodification of my favorite book. What's next? Action figures based on Beowulf, or The Faerie Queen? Burger King Kid's Meals with toys from Sir Orfeo? Okay, probably not, but I hope you see my point.
Nonetheless... there were at least a few of the FotR figures I just had to buy. ToyBiz did a fantastic job with these. I have a reviewed a few others (namely Saruman, the Witch-King Ringwraith, and the Ringwraith & Horse set), but this set is by far my favorite.
Gimli, a Dwarven Warrior, volunteered to the Council of Elrond to represent his people and to protect Frodo on his journey to destroy the Ring and become part of the Fellowship of the Ring. He has a deep loyalty to their quest to destroy the One Ring. Gimli will do anything to protect his friends from attacks by their enemies. His short stature will not stop him from battling the grotesque, yet powerful Uruk-Hai warriors bred by Saruman to attack the Fellowship and capture the Ring for their master.
The sculpting is where this set really shines. When the Lord of the Rings figures first hit, there was a lot of press about how the figures were creating using the RealScan technique, in which the actor's heads were scanned with lasers and to create a 3D model and the toy was made from that. Ironically, in the last series, the best likeness was not produced by RealScan but by a sculptor, Phil Ramirez (who is also one of the sculptors behind the upcoming Marvel Legends line from ToyBiz). Ramirez sculpted the head for the new Gimli, and it's 10 times better than the sculpt
on the stand-alone Gimli from the first series. It's a dead-on likeness to the film - you can even detect a hint of John Rhys-Davies in there.
The rest of his outfit is fantastic too, from the rings of his chainmail to the detailing on the axes. The Gimli sculpt is as good (if not better) than anything we've seen from McFarlane. The only complaint I might have is the slight pre-posing: the flaps of his shirt and his cloak look like they're being blown about in the wind.
The Uruk-Hai warrior is a bit of a different story. I suppose I can't really have any complaints about the likeness, since he's just a generic orc. But the sculpt lacks (for lack of a better word) "oomph." Yes, this is just a generic orc, but he need not be generic generic, do you understand? He's just a lumpy monster, nothing else.
The paint application on Gimli's helmet and face are amazing. You can even see the blue in Gimli's eyes. There are some splotches just below his waist - I'm not sure what these were meant to represent [Mud? Goblin blood? --ed.], but it doesn't look too bad. Parts of the Uruk's head are a tad splotchy, but nothing too noticeable. Overall it's a pretty good paint application.
This is ToyBiz, so you know you'll get some good articulation. Gimli's got some slightly unusual but still very useful articulation. He's got balljointed shoulders - impressive on a figure with an arm-based action feature - but no pin elbow joints. Instead, he's got a swivel joint at the bottom of his biceps, and a swivel joint at the wrists. On a figure as small and stout as Gimli, this was probably the way to go, and I don't think the figure suffers for it. He's got a swivel joint at the neck and a t-crotch for the hips. Plenty of articulation for a figure this size - the only thing lacking is a waist joint, but they probably had to remove that for the action feature.
The Uruk-Hai's articulation is a bit disappointing. He's got ball-jointed shoulders, pin elbows, knees and ankles, twists at the neck and waist, and a t-crotch. Unfortunately (and inexplicably) he has no wrist articulation, which would have been a cool addition to this figure. The legs are particularly annoying - they're a little too close together, so the figure falls over easily.
Gimli got the works this time. This is meant to represent Gimli at the Battle of Amon Hen (at the end of Fellowship of the Ring), so he's got his green cape from Lothlorien. But the cape is removable, which is all you really need to make him Gimli from the rest of the movie. He's also got a removable helmet (finally!)
and no less than four axes: two small ones, one long one and one long double-bladed one. The small ones are for throwing, and one small axe can be slid into a holster on his side. The details on all the accessories are fantastic, particularly the helmet. It goes on and comes off easily, and it doesn't even look too big (something that often occurs with removable helmets).
Apparently ToyBiz blew the accessory budget on
Gimli, because the Uruk-Hai was robbed. He's armed with a rubbery sword that is clearly too short for him and a shield that, while looking cool, doesn't hold very tightly to his arm. These are the things that should have come with Lurtz, and they look quite nice if you give them to that figure. Still, it doesn't do anything to spice up this rather staid offering.
Like the majority of the LotR toys, Gimli and the Uruk-Hai
have action features built in. Gimli's is to toss his axe. First, you squeeze his legs, and his right arm rises up. Hook the end of one of the short axes into his right arm, then let the legs go. He'll toss the axe, and if you do it right he can toss it pretty far. Aim well and he could even knock another figure over. It would have made more sense to raise his arm into place, hook the axe, and then squeeze the legs to trigger the arm's release so he throws forward, but that's not how it works. We're none of us huge on action features, but this one is pretty cool.
The Uruk-Hai is less interesting. He's got a little thumb-tab on his back - when you use it to turn his waist back and forth, he swings his arms. Not very exciting, but for those who play with their toys it's probably a fun way to smack other figures (or other siblings) in the face.
Gimli is one of those rare figures that I liked much more once I'd opened the package and played around with it. It's the perfect Gimli, the one I've been waiting for. It's light years ahead of the original ToyBiz Gimli. The Uruk-Hai, though a little weaker, is a great bonus. And at $12.99 for the pair, that's a great value - compare these two accessories-laden, well-sculpted figures to the single Stan Winston Creatures figure you pay $15 for.