Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Minimates Might Be Lame, But The Gorn/Kirk Two-Pack . . . Well, It's Lame, Too.

The Good: Close enough likenesses to Kirk and the Gorn
The Bad: Small, Pointless, Not collectible, Poor playability
The Basics: Easily worth avoiding, the "Arena" two-pack of Star Trek minimates at least makes some sense for the pairing.

I am not fond of Minimates. These toys are small, look ridiculous and yet every major franchise seems to have them now. I'm not certain why that is, but it does seem to be the fact of the matter. I tend to find these to be expensive, pointless and a terrible likeness of the people or things they are supposed to represent.

For those unfamiliar with this pointless phenomenon, "Minimates" are two-inch tall action figures that instantly remind one of the people that populate the Lego world (the toy people in Lego sets, not the people who collect Legos!). Someone, apparently, decided that major franchises like Star Trek, Marvel comics and DC comics should not limit their toy production to highly-detailed action figures that push the envelope of quality, but ought to also corner the market on pure crap that looks nothing like the supposed subject of the toy.

In the Star Trek line, Diamond Select has taken over peddling these things that we should all be embarrassed that aliens will eventually find in our landfills. At least they come from Diamond Select in two-packs, so it's not as expensive as some minimate toys. This does not make them better, but they at least seem to try a little harder over at Diamond Select. In this case, they have released a two pack with the Gorn and a beaten up Captain Kirk. The Gorn, the giant reptilian creature that appeared in the Star Trek episode "Arena" (click here for my review!) is immortalized in every major toy line for Star Trek, including the Minimate line. The only reason this minimate scores as high as it does is this: the Gorn looks mostly like what it is, which is pretty easy considering if one has a Star Trek line and it's big, green and looks like a lizard monster, it pretty much has to be the Gorn. In other words, this figure has the virtue of looking like what it is, not by the precision of craftsmanship, but rather by simple default. As well, this battle worn Kirk looks like he has enough detail to make for a reasonable version of the filthy Kirk in "Arena."

There is nothing else that quite looks like the Gorn, so it's hard to screw it up. It's one of the iconic aliens of the original Star Trek and the Minimate does it fair enough justice. Diamond Select Toys has the license to market Star Trek minimates and I continue to wonder why they sully their reputation with this product. Minimates, seriously do look like little Lego figures or toddler's toys, even the Gorn.

The Captain Kirk minimate is a two inch tall piece of plastic that vaguely resembles Captain Kirk. How William Shatner signed off on this one, I'll probably never know. Then again, I suppose you don't need to pay someone for their likeness rights when their likeness is basically a series of squiggly lines on a generic cylindrical head. Honestly, outside the packaging there is nothing that distinctly makes this figure recognizable as the cultural icon we know and love as Captain Kirk. The blockish figure comes with the phaser accessory. The phaser is quite small - only about a third of an inch long - so it seems like it wouldn't be much of a choking hazard for young children, but I'm not one who would risk it to find out. Given how easily it falls out of Kirk's hand, I wouldn't recommend keeping it around little kids! Kirk's uniform is bright yellow, but is torn in the front and there is a little trickle of blood near his mouth that sells the idea of a wounded Kirk pretty well.

The Gorn minimate is a two inch tall piece of plastic that more or less appears to be the villain from "Arena." The blockish figure comes with the rock knife used by the Gorn in the actual episode and that's a nice touch. However, this little shard of plastic is ideal for being stuck in a baby's mouth and being lost forever. It might not be much of a choking hazard because it's so small it might not even be able to be lodged in an airway, but honestly I don't think it's worth the risk!

The figures are articulated, I have to give Diamond Select that; the head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, knees and thigh-socket are all articulated. Given, however, the way the feet are essentially little blocks, the leg articulation does little as far as posability of the figure. It needs to be stood flatfooted in order to remain up and as a result, the knee and thigh articulation are a bit of a waste.

Which leads to the question of playability. I don't get the point of this figure. Sure, you can pose the Gorn, ready to slay Captain Kirk or (perhaps) looking like it will mix a drink for the other Minimates, but the scale is prohibitive for playing with others and the posability is pretty rotten for simply displaying. As far as a toy goes, this basically seems like an ideal toy for a young child to pick up, pop in their mouth and get lodged there as a result of the limb articulation.

I tend to look at the Star Trek toy lines through the eyes of a collector. As a fan of the Star Trek franchise, toys from Star Trek that I've collected have to be pretty special and, well, collectible. I'm not sure what makes minimates collectible other than that Trek-fans are told they can collect them. In any case, the best collectibles remind the buyer of the subject of the collectible. The best collectible toys rock because of the realism to the likeness of the character they are supposed to represent and articulation. Quite simply, the best collectible toys are the most striking likenesses of the characters they represent for collectors and great articulation for those who bother to take it out of the pack for play enthusiasts or those who want to actually display their figures.

The Gorn minimate is neither limited nor an incredible likeness. As it is, the scale is too small for the minimate to create any realistic likeness and the generic expression on the same cylindrical head as every other minimate lacks any real definition that would define the character (outside the color of its skin and the fact that it is obviously not one of the main characters). And while the figure is articulated at twelve points, much of that articulation is pointless and cannot be used to pose the toy for displays in intriguing fashions. And Kirk . . . well, it's Lego Kirk in a torn uniform as far as I'm concerned.

There are far better ways to spend one's fan dollars than on this two-pack.

For other somewhat ridiculous toys, please check out my reviews of:
Scotty Wacky Wobbler
Kubricks Watchmen Set B
Lost Shannon Rutherford action figure


For other toy reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2008, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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