HeroesArentBorn.com Review: War Machine (Iron Man 2)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: May 10, 2010
“Next time, baby.”
Terrence Howard did not get the chance to make good on that promise, but those three words were enough to send waves of excitement and anticipation through theatres worldwide. For Iron Man fans in the audience, they knew exactly what director Jon Favreau had planned for them in the sequel:
Part of the Iron Man mythos since the dawn of the 1980s, War Machine was the alter ego of Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes—Stark’s closest friend and the first person to set eyes on Iron Man outside of Wong-Chu’s camp (in the comic universe). Since the convoluted series of events leading to War Machine’s illustrated origins are not translatable to a two hour movie, the movie version strips away the extraneous circumstances and focuses on the widening rift between Stark, who wants to keep the Iron Man technology out of government hands, and Rhodes, the man who has to choose between loyalty to his friend and duty to his country. After witnessing a reckless alcohol-fueled display by a full-suited Stark, Rhodes absconds with the Mark 2 armor and delivers it to his superiors, allowing Justin Hammer and the U.S. military to transform the suit into their own version of Iron Man—War Machine.
On the heels of Iron Man 2’s blockbuster opening weekend, HeroesArentBorn.com is pleased to present this integral character as our third Hasbro action figure review. Enjoy!
SCULPTING: Above Average
Sadly, this review kicks off with the figure’s weakest element: War Machine’s helmet. At a cursory glance, the helmet seems OK enough, but there is something that just doesn’t look right about it. Closer inspection reveals the reasons why.
The shape of the helmet is way off the mark. Let’s call it the “donut effect”. Simply put, the cheeks and jaw bulge so much that it looks like War Machine went on an eating frenzy at the local Dunkin Donuts! Most likely, this is a result of the helmet getting distorted during the production process rather than a sculpting gaffe. The effect remains the same. War Machine’s face is way too fat, and it is very much noticeable. Additionally, the eyes are overly narrow and look like tiny slits rather than lenses.
Had the helmet been scored in its own category, it would be average at best because of these distortions.
Fortunately, the remainder of the armor compensates a great deal for the helmet and yields a greater pay-off for Hasbro’s efforts.
The sculptors did an outstanding job translating the many nuances of the War Machine suit to its 3.75 inch scale rendition. Most of the etched lines found on the practical and CGI suits found their way onto the figure. Such examples include the three scratch mark-like lines on the silver parts of the thighs, the ribbed pattern on the silver biceps, and the reptilian scale-like plating seen on the abdomen and shins. Speaking of the abdomen, Hasbro even made sure to include the small rivets found where the silver and black-gray elements meet. Central to any of Stark’s suits is the arc reactor cavity, and Hasbro did a decent job here too. The cavity does seem a bit too recessed if one were to imagine how a human could fit inside the suit, but that is a minor issue. Its size and placement are more critical to the aesthetics, and those appear dead-on accurate.
Helmet aside, the most negative aspect of the suit involves Hasbro’s sculpting efforts on War Machine’s mini-gun. Proportionally, it looks like the one on the practical/CGI suit, and its ability to pivot vertically and laterally allows for a variety of offensive poses. The overall shape of the gun is respectably accurate too. The problems lie in the details. First, the gun sits too high above War Machine’s shoulder, but this is because the mounting arm sits too high. The gun itself is the correct size. As for the inaccurate details, the barrel’s end should be deeply recessed, yet Hasbro opted for a very shallow depth as seen in the image below. Additionally, the cylinders running along the length of the gun are too shallow as well. Yes, this is a mass market action figure, but adding a little bit more depth to the mini-gun does not seem too unreasonable an expectation.
There is one final component that needs to be addressed, and it is absent in all of this review’s pictures. That component is the detachable ammo strip connecting the slot on War Machine’s back to the side of either mini-gun. There is a simple explanation for this omission:
It is utterly useless.
For starters, the tabs on both ends of the strip are not very long and therefore don’t permit any firm attachment to the corresponding slots. Second, the strip is too short and has little flexibility. This means that it pulls tight and twists itself right out of the slots the moment War Machine’s torso and/or gun are rotated. Even when the figure is in a neutral pose, the slightest bump will dislodge the ammo strip. Collectors and casual consumers needn’t fret though…the add-on is not missed one bit. In fact, the aesthetic look of the figure benefits from its absence.
PAINT APPLICATIONS: Average
War Machine’s color palette relies more on gray-black color of the plastic than on actual paint applications, and that is a very good thing because Hasbro’s efforts here are sloppier than expected—especially when compared against both versions of the Iron Man Mark 1 armor. The borders between molded plastic and silver paint are frequently marred by bleeding and stray marks.
Our more specific analysis begins with the helmet, which has one very noticeable shortcoming. There is almost NO red paint around the white lenses. Under the camera’s macro lens, one can see that the red does not even run along the outer perimeter of the “eyes”. For something that’s meant to simulate a glowing effect, this deco is unacceptable. Fortunately, Hasbro did not repeat this mistake on their Iron Man Mark VI figure.
The military coding decals (i.e. – the various letters and numbers on the suit) fare slightly better than the eyes. The “001” on the side of the torso is the best of these decals with consistently crisp edges. The “AF 57” on the left shoulder armor is almost as good but suffers from a slight misalignment between the letters and numbers. The remaining decals are hindered by fuzzy edges and a few occurrences of runny paint. After seeing the crystal clarity of the cinematic Mark 1’s decals, these are disappointing. Another important note on the decals is that some of their placements differ from the screen costume (e.g. – “FLTS” should be beneath the “ED 445”). This is not a point of contention though—just an observation. The same can be said for omitted decals such as the Air Force insignia and “War Machine” name on the left bicep.
The best aspects of the paint applications are the arc reactor and the repulsor pad on War Machine’s open palm. The repulsor follows the same style of two-tone micro-dots used for the Mark 1 figures, and it remains an effective approach. Oddly enough, Hasbro strayed from this approach with the arc reactor. Rather than dots, they used a technique best described as a dollop of milk dripped into red liquid. This approach yields a noticeably different look to the reactor effect, but one that is nevertheless effective.
This is where War Machine shines brightest—in no small part due to its whopping 18 points of articulation! This additional articulation is found in the knees. Rather than traditional hinged knees, War Machine has an upper and lower hinge on each knee. This allows for more subtle and precise posing in addition to a very broad range of motion. With this figure, one can actually make the calf touch the back of the figure’s thigh!
Now for the traditional points of articulation…
The joints are not as tight as those found on the previously reviewed Mark 1 figures, but they still hold sturdy poses. The ankles have greater ranges of motion than most figures specifically because the armor does not cover the backs of the ankles, allowing the ball hinges to reach their potential. Likewise, the shoulder joints have better articulation than they initially appear because Hasbro had the foresight to include hinges on the shoulder armor. Those hinges allow those pieces to lift up and away from the shoulder joints. The remaining joints work much like they did on the comic book Mark 1 figure, resulting in a highly poseable action figure. As with the cinematic Mark 1 figure, Hasbro did an excellent job using the armor’s many nooks and crannies to conceal most of the joints. Only the knees are clearly visible.
ACCESSORIES: Above Average
War Machine’s primary accessory is a projectile launcher mounted over his left shoulder (although it can attach to either shoulder). As with the launchers included with the various incarnations of the Iron Man armor, this weapon is not movie-accurate because War Machine only has the smaller mini-gun. Unlike the extraneous Iron Man launchers, this one at least blends in much better with the figure because Hasbro fashioned it in the form of a much larger mini-gun that complements the movie-accurate gun. Its inclusion increases the ferocity of War Machine’s appearance. It also allows for the idea that the suit’s weapons are modular and interchangeable—an intriguing idea that could work well for the character in the inevitable Iron Man 3. Lastly, collectors can easily choose to leave the gun off the figure for a more accurate appearance. Of course, that option still leaves behind the mounting arm, but that could be sawed off if one wants to permanently discard it (obviously, ADULTS ONLY for this option).
With regards to the projectile launcher’s aesthetic appearance, Hasbro included some truly meticulous sculpting on the barrel. The gun features six smaller barrels that extend from a recessed inner ring. The cavity in which the projectile loads solidifies the illusion of extreme depth and augments the realistic look of the weapon. This is in stark contrast to the smaller mini-gun which featured shallow sculpting on the barrel’s end. Paint is so minimal that one can easily miss its inclusion. However, there is a minute amount of silver weathering on the barrel’s outermost ring that subtly enhances the aesthetics of the launcher. As for the effectiveness of the spring-loaded mechanism, it launches the fireball-like projectile a safe yet respectable distance.
As impressive as the mini-gun / projectile launcher is, the accessory category falls short simply because Hasbro missed an opportunity to include an alternate head, one with a raised faceplate that would show Rhodey’s face. If likeness rights are an issue, the scale is small enough for Hasbro to go with a more generic face and still include the alternate head. Hopefully this is an idea that the company will implement further down the line.
For those readers who have already read our earlier reviews, feel free to skip the rest of this section as it is reprinted verbatim.
The second part of the accessories is the standard pack-in for this figure line—a generic unmarked figure stand with slots to display character-specific “Armor cards”. The cards are comprised of a base card made of a thin glossy paper stock and two additional cards made of transparent plastic. Layered properly, these three cards show the character’s complete armor. It is very reminiscent of the scene in Iron Man where Stark layers his blueprints together to reveal the full design of the Mark 1 suit to Yinsen. It’s a novel idea and far better than some of the pack-ins used in the past with the Star Wars line, but the cards are ultimately inconsequential.
Additionally, the presence of an Internet URL on the side of the card (www.ironmancard.com) suggests that these cards are part of an on-line game. Sadly, that is not the case. Entering the URL only redirects users to Marvel Comics’ official website (www.marvel.com). It is a disappointment and nothing more than a misleading gimmick to draw people to Marvel’s home on the web.
OVERALL RATING: Above Average
War Machine conquers its many shortcomings to culminate in a very functional if not entirely satisfying action figure. The keys to its success are the superior articulation and Hasbro’s intricate sculpting of the armor. Plus, the poseability of the mini-guns allows for some rather aggressive action poses. On its own, War Machine does end up surpassing the average 3.75 inch scale action figure.
The main problem here is the one alluded to in our review of the cinematic Mark 1 figure. Quoted from that review:
Hasbro forged an incredibly detailed and surprisingly agile action figure that, like the comic book Mark 1 figure, sets a new standard of quality for future products…
There is a downside. When the next figure settles for the status quo or proves to be an average figure, it will be a disappointment because people have seen what is possible, and that lesser-quality figure will be regarded more harshly. Such relative perceptions are particularly problematic when writing product reviews such as these, and it is a challenge to know when to let go of relativity and judge a product on its own merits.
Had War Machine been reviewed before seeing and reviewing the Mark 1 figures, the issues with the helmet and paint applications probably would not have seemed so egregious. Flawed, yes, but not as disappointing as they are right now. Fact is that War Machine has so many good qualities that consumers need to judge it on its own merits. Do that, and you will find a figure more than worthy of your hard-earned cash. Judge it against the Mark 1 figures, and you will probably miss out on a solid action figure.
*This is an unofficial fan site devoted to Iron Man Items and Collectibles. The site has no connections to or affiliations with Marvel Comics, Paramount Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Hasbro, Sideshow Collectibles or any other other website or page listed to on this site. HeroesArentBorn.com is owned by Kid4Life LLC. All Rights Reserved.