“Chewbacca here is first mate on a ship that might suit us.”
That fateful conversation in the Mos Eisley cantina was a fleeting, but important, part in Star Wars: A New Hope, and not just because it kicked off Luke Skywalker’s galactic adventures. For me, it was the moment when my two favorite Star Wars characters came together on screen to talk badass to badass. Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Chewbacca are the class acts of the Star Wars universe (in my opinion), and now the bestest Wookiee ever gets his own figure in Bandai’s S.H. Figuarts line, and even though the wait has been terrible, all of that time is forgotten now that he is on my shelf. So does the figure measure up the character’s greatness? Let’s find out!
Bandai has a penchant for teasing out characters coming to their SHF Star Wars line far out in advance, so it feels like we have been living with this Chewie for a while now. For me, the wait for him (and Han) has been agonizing, but that was really heightened when the latter was released back in February and they skipped March to put a two month gap between the galaxy’s most beloved scoundrels. As cool as Han is, he was incomplete without his space ape life mate, so it is just now feeling like both of the characters have settled into the collection for me. I am glad to say that I dig this Chewbacca figure, and some small nitpicks aside, he and Han are the action figures I have always wanted but never imagined I would actually get. Bandai is doing some amazing things right now, and I will be riding that Star Wars train for as far as they will take it.
This is obviously not the first Chewbacca released in my preferred 1:12 scale, but right now, I think it is the best. I actually don’t have much of anything against the two Black Series Chewie figures, and both of them still stand proudly in my collection. They both certainly look good, but I feel this new Bandai figure bests them handily in the most frustrating shortcoming the SWB Chewies have: the articulation. Not just the articulation, though, but the functional use and range of movement in the articulation are also greatly improved with this figure over the others. The quality is right up there with what you would expect from Bandai, but since this figure is more than double the cost of a standard SWB offering, it is not really fair to compare the two, so while it is better, it is one of those “you get what you pay for” instances.
As much as I love Chewbacca, he is kind of an awkward guy. He is tall and does not speak Basic (the stand-in for English, at least in the original voice recordings), and he interacts almost exclusively with humans in a ship that not built for his stature. So watching him on screen, he is often scuttling along or standing in a way that he does not quite know what to do with himself. Now, because he is a walking carpet with long limbs and fur that naturally occurs where articulation joints are supposed to occur, the limits of that movement have always been a challenge in figure form. The SWB figures are “stiff” in terms of movement, so while I don’t begrudge the fact that Chewie figures are generally not capable of posing in crouching leg sweeps or breakdancing movies (Chewbac does not do those things), I want a Chewie figure that can at least pose naturally (in his awkward way) for the character, and that has been elusive thus far. With this SHF offering though, I think I finally have what I have been looking for.
Chewbacca’s articulation is not perfect, but overall, it is really well done. Bandai has gotten a good range of movement in the standard articulation scheme, but Chewie also has some points that are unique to him due to his anatomy. For instance, there is actually a hinge on the back of his head where the fur starts to fall over his shoulders, and this was done so he could actually look up. I appreciate this a lot because it has never been considered and getting a Wookiee figure that can actually look above his eye line is groundbreaking. Now, that joint does break up the sculpt, so it is not extended to his “beard” so he will still have challenges looking down or side to side, but I am not sure how that would even work without completely murdering the sculpt.
However, his arms, shoulders, torso, hips, legs, and ankles are move better than any previous Chewbacca figure I have ever come into contact with, so this really appeals to me even with a few concessions made. Like most SHF figures, the knee and elbow articulation is visually apparent, but it has never bothered me. So, while the Hasbro figures hide the joints a bit better, this one move more because the joints are fluid and allowed to move under all of that sculpted fur. I really need for Chewie to be able to sit, pose in action with his bowcaster, and be able to stand naturally in his own awkward way, and this figure can definitely achieve all three of those things. I really appreciate the ease that his arms can swing in front of his body to hold the bowcaster, and he can hold a solid and natural stance or walking pose, so those are some Wookiee wins, and we must always remember to let the Wookiee win.
The sculpt of the figure, as usual with these, is very, very nice. Bandai has tackled humans and a host of troopers and robots, but as an alien being, Chewie is a bit of a first for them. His form is obviously very organic and while his torso is pretty cylindrical, his limbs are nice and lanky. His sculpt does tend to limit some of the articulation more than most humanoid characters due to the sculpted accuracy of his fur and physique, but as I said above, it is much better than any other Wookiee we have seen. Long gone are the days of the jacked up Chewbacca from the “Power of the Force” days, so this figure matches the build of actor Peter Mayhew well.
Speaking of Mayhew, he is a good transition to the scale of the figure, and something I have noticed more of overall within this line. If you compare the two figures side by side (and I am sorry I did not do so here, my SWB Chewie is packed away for a move at the moment), there is a major discrepancy in height for two figures that are supposed to be in or about the same 1:12. If have strong suspicion that Hasbro skews to “screen” height, and Bandai favors actual height, even though they the SHF line tends to be smaller overall. So, the SWB figure checks in at about 8 inches, which is the height Chewie is credited as being, but Bandai shoots closer to Mayhew’s height at just above 7 feet. Personally, I think both figures are a bit off in opposite directions, but if I am going to skew one direction, I would rather Chewie be a bit shorter as the SWB tiptoes on the brink of being TOO tall to my eyes. Really though, this figure goes really well with the SHF Han Solo, and that is my main priority, so I am good.
This figure also comes with two different face plates, five different hands, and his trusty bowcaster. The bandoleer and bag are NOT removable, so I am not counting that, but as it is, that is just about everything Chewie needs, but it still feels a little flat. Bandai has (seemingly) been including fewer and fewer accessories with each release, and getting this a few days after the MAFEX Rey really highlights that. The parts and accessories are nice though, I the placid and “howling” faces are both well executed with a good Wookiee likeness. The face plates (as opposed to full alternate heads) make it possible for other Chewie faces to be released later (maybe an ESB likeness with a future Han Solo), but make sure you really push the yelling head on firmly, for some reason you need more force to get it go all the way together, but it does get there.
The bowcaster is another nice piece and it matches the screen reference well. It is not as quite as nicely weathered as the Hasbro version, but it is all one piece, and that is something I prefer since the SWB version falls apart so easily. The open hands and fists do their jobs with good sculpts (I like the accurate fur over the hands), and while it comes “attached” to the weapon in the package, the trigger finger hand is a completely separate piece. My nitpick about the hands is not with what is there, it is with what is not there, and in this case, I REALLY wish a third left hand would have been included to hold the foregrip properly. The open hand will cradle it okay, but I miss not having an actual grip here. It is a weird oversight, or a straight-up cost-saving choice here, but it leave us with having to make due.
*INSERT CELEBRATORY WOOKIEE ROAR HERE* because I am thrilled (and somewhat relieved) that Chewbacca has joined my SHF collection! He’s not perfect (what action figure is?), but for me, this is the best Chewbacca action figure ever released and he was well worth the wait. Having Han and Chewie together in the collection is really something special, and I think the combination has made these two rogues my current favorite part of Star Wars display. C-3PO and R2 are up next for the Original Trilogy for the line (with great-looking Anakin, Padme, and Qui-Gon figures covering the Prequels), but I REALLY hope that the EPIV Obi-Wan they have shown is coming this fall. Of course I want him because he is Kenobi, but with Chewie and Droids being released, my need to complete the main ’77 crew is at an all-time high, so Ben and Leia will get us there. Help us, Bandai S.H. Figuarts, you’re our only hope!