“Let Them Come! There Is One Dwarf Yet In Moria Who Still Draws Breath!”
Honestly, I could write a whole article about Gimli the dwarf using nothing but book and movie quotes attributed to him. So, if anyone were to ask my opinion, which I know they’re not, I would say that you hear John Rhys-Davies’ voice already. Okay, I will relent, just don’t tell the elf.
Anyway, I am a huge Lord of the Rings mark. I have lost count of the number of times I have read the book, and I still take in the Peter Jackson movies at least a couple of times a year, and always around the winter holidays. I have such fond memories of seeing the films in the theater, and the original Toy Biz action figure lines are the best work that company ever did (FIGHT ME!), and one of the few action figure lines that really got me back into full-blown collecting after being out of the game for several years. I still have that entire line (I was a devout completist), and despite some of the awkward action features, the figures still hold up well today thanks to their ahead-of-their-time sculpting and articulation.
It is PAINFUL for me to say that those figures started releasing 20 years ago at this point, so it is not ridiculous to say that the property and characters were due for a refresh. Like many venerable properties, LotR acquires new fans every day, so for some, this will be the first chance to collect action figures in real time, and for some of us, an opportunity to revisit some old friends. Admittedly, I met the announcement (which seems like forever ago at this point) of new figures with a tepid reaction due to then being handled by Diamond Select. I have not gotten any DST figures since the Real Ghostbusters were released due to be generally disappointed with most of their final products. However, this is LotR, and I made up my mind a long time ago to at least give these first figures a try.
So, I will put the conclusion to bed right away on that front: Gimli is the best DST figure I have gotten in, well, maybe ever. This figure is far from perfect, but the translation from prototype to final product actually holds up well overall, and isn’t subject to as many of the precipitous fall-off points that many of their offerings seem to plagued by. If you are okay with the 1:10 “Select” scale, I think you will likely be pleased with Gimli overall. Sure, he is the first figure from the line, but I am going to remain cautiously optimistic about future offerings. I think Gimli is likely the most “toy-etic” member of the Fellowship, so that works in his favor, but there is a good amount to like here.
The sculpting work is probably the strongest aspect of the figure, and I am impressed by the work. The intricate armor details and beard work (important for a dwarf) are highlights, and Gimli’s stalky build suits him well. The material work is also better than I expected in that the lower portion of his tunic is made of a softer PVC to reduce impeding the articulation. The likeness to Davies (or at least his full mask) is there, and despite a bit of a misaligned right eye, this is unmistakably Gimli. I appreciate the sheath for on of his axes on his left hip, but the rings on the right hip and back are mind-bogglingly frustrating. They are statically posed and made of a hard plastic, so they cannot serve the purpose of holding his other axes when not in use, which is a damned shame. I feel like this is a cost-cutting, but I would have GLADLY sacrificed the extra hands for functioning weapons holsters, but more on that in a minute.
Speaking of axes, Gimli comes with three: his small axe, his walking axe (he got form his dad Gloin), and the double-bladed axe (which belongs to his cousin Balin). So, he is well armed, and I am not going to argue that. I will say that the talented Eamon O’Donoghue is handling the design work for this line, and he did a great control art piece for Gimli, but getting to see stuff like that is always a blessing and a curse. It is rare for everything from the original art to make to the final product, but seeing the two throwing axes there and not here makes me sad because, again, I would have ditched the open hands for those in a heart beat. C’est la vie, I guess, and since the storage rings don’t work anyway, I already have more axes than the figure can handle. The non-helmeted head I am good without, but damn, damn, DAMN – I wanted all of the Fellowship to have their Lorien cloaks, so that is certainly disappointing. Maybe a boxset will be in our future when all is said and done.
The articulation is not the strongest part of this figure, but it isn’t terrible, and it can facilitate Gimli poses fairly well. I would have loved to have gotten more range of movement in the shoulders to help with dynamic axe posing, and I am always sad when double elbow and knees are not present, but I am definitely appreciative of the forward-facing ankle rocker joints. I mentioned the knees before, but again, I wish they were better to pair with these ankles (and not so ugly when bent), and judging by the placement of the joint, it almost looks like these were originally meant to be double (like the obvious double elbows in the prototype), but were then reduced. Bah. I will say that since the “standard” Gimli never got the super-articulated treatment in the Toy Biz line, this holds as the most posable iconic Gimli we have gotten.
Finally, I wanted to mention the paint as that is historically the weakest aspect of most DST releases I own. I don’t know if they use thick/cheap paint or the applications are just usually weak, but many good sculpts have been wrecked by the bad paint in their history. Gimli is actually mostly fine, though, which I have to admit was the best I was hoping for. The prototype paint what beautiful, but the work here is better than expected. The wash in armor works, and the face is pretty good, but mine has an unfortunate wonky floating right eye. It looks worse under close-up, but it would be nice to see them move to the photo real printing that seemingly all of their peers are doing at this point. There is also some sloppiness throughout, but nothing aside from the eye that is terribly egregious. I really wish they would get their paint work together. Sure, reducing articulation and accessories can be annoying, but bad paint can kill a figure in heartbeat, so I hope we see more Gimlis in the future and fewer Vigo the Carpathians. At any rate, they will need to be on the ball to pull off Frodo and Aragorn, so hopefully Galadriel is watching over us.
Gimli is actually a pretty good start for this line, and am enjoying playing around with the figure. I was originally going to feature Legolas here too, and I might still do so next week, but I will let the cat out of the bag and say he is not as good as his unlikely friend. I really hope we will get to fill out the Fellowship in this line, and the buildable Sauron already looks to be REALLY awesome, so I think that be the highlight of what we know so far. Past that, my love of Middle-Earth makes it so I would be over the moon if we can get Thorin and Company, too. Sure, the movies were not as good, but that is such a fun group, and I will never get over The Bridge Direct’s horrible handling or the original figure line. It feels good to be a Middle-Earth collector again. Get your own Gimli from Dorkside or BBTS.