Two words come to mind when you first see the new line of Indiana Jones action figures from Hasbro: Star Wars. And that’s a good thing. Either in an act of synergy or luck of them winning the likely bidding war, by choosing Hasbro, Lucasfilm practically guaranteed that these figures would be of the classic 3 3/4″ variety and not the increasingly common 5″ or 6″ sizes. And, frankly, as they have shown with their mostly excellent new “Anniversary” line of G.I. Joe figures, this is a great time for Hasbro to relaunch a figure line of this size, thanks to years of development of the Star Wars and pre-Sigma 6 Joes. The Indiana Jones line, encompassing original film (Indiana Jones and the) Raiders of the Lost Ark and the new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, takes some inspiration from both Star Wars and G. I. Joe, but leans more heavily on the somewhat less articulate Star Wars line. (More on that later.)
This similarity can be seen clearly by looking at the packaging. The Indiana Jones carded figures are exactly the same size as Star Wars carded figures. I have demonstrated this by packing my RenÃ© Belloq figure inside a Star Wars protective case that comes straight from the Star Wars Shop. Fits perfectly.
The artwork is mostly in the standard Indiana Jones browns and yellows, with lots of iconic imagry to grab the eye. The front features Indy’s name in big letters, a nice image of him taken from the theatrical poster and a big swooping whip around the figure itself. The back features typical character information, pictures of other figures in the line and a nice big image of Indy alone on Raiders cards and with Mutt on those for Kingdom.
As for the figures themselves, I’m going to talk primarily about the ones that I, myself, have purchased. Not having seen Kingdom, I have (quite naturally) focused more on the other half of the initial run, figures from the original Raiders of the Lost Ark.
First, let’s look at an important part of a film-based figure line: the likenesses. Now, this has always been tricky at the 3 3/4″ scale. I’ve seen brilliant looking prototypes that just didn’t translate to decent looking actual figures. (I purposely avoided the Episode II Obi-Wan Kenobi figures because he didn’t get one single decent likeness that go-round.)
For the most part, Hasbro has done their usual decent job. It seems to me that they must have a different team on these figures than on the Star Wars line, as Indiana bears no resemblance to the many Han Solo figures that have come along over the years. It’s not that the Indiana figures don’t look like Harrison Ford, they do. Just in a different way than the Star Wars ones do. Difference of viewpoint, no doubt. It’s interesting to note that “older” Indy (from Kingdom) and “younger” Indy seem to be using the same mold, just with grey hair on the older iteration. They don’t seem to have re-sculpted to add wrinkles or anything. Still, a decent likeness. There’s room for improvement, but nothing worth complaining about.
What is worth complaining about is the fact that the Marion Ravenwood figure looks absolutely nothing like Karen Allen, it’s just “nondescript woman in Marion’s clothes” as far as I’m concerned. She’s such an important part of Indy’s history and Raiders in particular, it’s unfortunate she isn’t immortalized more accurately. Even the kiddie “Action Hero” figurine looks more like Marion than this one does. Here’s hoping the figures sell well enough for a second line from Raiders so we can get a better version later. (At least she’s not as bad as the mannish ’95 Princess Leia.)
From the new film, Mutt Williams, played by “young action star of the moment” Shia LeBouf, fares much better, even better than Indy. His likeness is pretty much spot on (if a bit meaner looking than he comes off in the trailers), with everything from his distinctive features to spectacular 50’s haircut intact.
Also from Kingdom is Irina Spalko. This figure doesn’t look an awful lot like actress Cate Blanchett, but at least it doesn’t aggressively not look like its source, as the Marion figure does. With the distinctive haircut and uniform so prevalent in the trailers, it’s at least easy to see who this figure is.
The other classic figures, Sallah and Belloq are very nicely detailed, but, like Irina, are more easily recognized by their costumes than by their facial likenesses. Sallah, in particular, is a disappointment, as he’s such as great character and deserves a solid representation. (He’s bound to get another chance, perhaps in his trademark fez, when Last Crusade figures roll around.)
Articulation is decent across the line, but there are some quibbles. Hasbro has gone with the extremely versatile ball joint for knees and elbows on most figures (something they added to the Star Wars line a few years ago) and this allows for a great variety of poses. Wrists and ankles are also articulated (twisting and sometimes pivoting), which assists with getting these figures to balance, which is important given the fact that they do not come with stands. Heads are ball jointed, but complex hair (Marion) or headgear (Sallah) prevent a full range of motion.
And let’s talk for a quick moment about Marion. It’s bad enough that she doesn’t look like Karen Allen. I’ll forgive that as part of doing business at the 3 3/4″ scale. But tell me, Hasbro, why she lacks the knee articulation that virtually every other figure in this line possesses? It’s mind boggling! There’s an Indy that doesn’t have it, but as he has “whipping action”, that’s likely meant to aid in the use of that feature. No such justification with Marion.
Okay, now let’s talk accessories. Here, Hasbro has shown their usual bizarre scattershot attitude towards stuff for their figures. Indy is practically overloaded, getting not only two(!) whips and a gun (along with a working holster and whip hook on his belt), but also the fertility idol. Everyone else basically gets two items. Marion gets a sword and frying pan. Her most obvious accessory, the spider monkey, can only be gotten with a simple repaint of this Marion in a two-pack. Otherwise, you can buy a Monkey Man figure who comes with the pesky little creature. Irina’s accessories are aggravating because while she gets a (too thin and easily warped) sword and a gun, neither her holster nor her sheath can hold them!
Every figure also comes with an “artifact” in a cardboard crate meant to come from the government storage facility seen in the first and last films. These don’t really count as accessories, as they are not only not to scale with the figures, they aren’t to scale with each other. They are a nice addition, but since they don’t add to the play value of the figures, they don’t add much to the overall experience. (It doesn’t help that the nice artifact stickers that are included are meant to be mailed in for a redemption promotion from Hasbro. I want the exclusive figure, but I’d like to keep the stickers, too. Decisions…decisions…)
Lastly, there’s an important question for long-time fans such as myself. How well do these new figures mix with the old ones from ’82? Actually, due to the fact that Kenner tried a more articulate and detailed design on them, the old Raiders figures hardly seem out of place against their modern counterparts. Height differences are well within the normal level of variation and they even seem to use each others accessories fairly well.
Ultimately, Hasbro has done a fine job with the line. It’s certainly a more satisfying revival than the 1995 reboot of the Star Wars line, as faithfulness to the source material seems the goal here, while back in ’95 they were trying (unsuccessfully) to re-invent the wheel. Sales of the line have been strong, so I’m sure the next wave (featuring Temple of Doom and/or Last Crusade figures) is on its way. They’ve certainly hooked me with the first serious non-Star Wars figure collecting I’ve done since the days of the Star Trek line from Playmates. Although it can never be as expansive as the Star Wars line, since it has a smaller cast overall and less potential for “Expanded Universe” material, there should still be plenty of characters not yet seen (Where’s my new Toht?) and alternate versions (They owe me that improved Marion.) to keep the line happily nestled alongside the Star Wars line for many years to come.