Saturday, June 4, 2011

Not A Fan Of Jar Jar? Need A Gungan? Captain Tarpals Is Your Figure!

The Good: Decent sculpt, Decent accessory
The Bad: Low poseability, Serious balance issues
The Basics: Captain Tarpals might have been a fair military leader who aided the Naboo in protecting their mutual planet, but he makes a poor figure who can't stand well.

When Star Wars Episode I finally made its leap to the big screen after years of anticipation, there were a few serious drawbacks to it. Perhaps the most obvious was the presence and prevalence of Jar Jar Binks, an impressively constructed digitally-created character whose dialogue was absolutely terrible. In fact, one of the articles I read at the time compared Jar Jar Binks to a stepinfetchit in old films. And just as the black population would no doubt like the stepinfetchit stereotypes to disappear, no doubt the Gungan population of Naboo would like the rest of the galaxy to forget about the idiocy of Jar Jar. Among the more educated and impressive (or at least more coordinated) Gungans is Captain Tarpals.

Captain Tarpals, was Boss Nass's military leader and the leader of the Gungan ground forces who repelled the Trade Federation's droid army in The Phantom Menace (reviewed here!). He is a more armored, masked version of Jar Jar (for those who look at things so simply) and he is more of a purple-gray than pink. Unique to The Phantom Menace, (perhaps he was just a few days away from retirement when the Trade Federation attacked?), Tarpals was supposed to be more popular than he ended up being, one figures, as he was granted both 4" and 12" figure immortality. Because he was relegated to only the first film, many collectors forget about him or pass his red-carded figure by.

Still, this 4" Captain Tarpals figure is a surprisingly decent sculpt, but troublesome in the conflicts in detailing and the way he barely stands up. He fleshes out the full Star Wars universe fairly well, but given other great leaders in the Star Wars universe, how many military leaders is one truly going to end up playing with? Still, it is decent Hasbro included Tarpals in their toy line.


Captain Tarpals is sculpted in his sleeveless leather-looking armor with his face mask molded onto the figure and floppy ears hanging down. His hands are open enough to allow him to hold his electropole accessory in a two-handed grip. He looks more or less like he did in The Phantom Menace. Basically, he looks like a less filled-in version of Tarpals with certain details, like the coloring of his whiskers, absent. He stands flatfooted with his legs spread and there is almost no range of motion to the legs that allows Tarpals to remain upright so standing.

The Captain Tarpals figure stands a full 4 3/8" tall (4 1/2" if one does not care that the figure has fallen over), to the tips of his eye stalks. Captain Tarpals is appropriately coifed in his shoulder armor which drapes around his upper arms, but can be removed if one wishes to see his rippling biceps. He has an elongated neck and there is something about his bearing that makes him appear more doglike than reptilian. This figure is made of a combination of hard plastic - the main body and limbs are solid - and has soft plastic ears and shoulder armor. The figure is cast the hard plastic, then colored appropriately.

This toy is a decent sculpt, capturing the facial features of the Gungan quite well. But here Hasbro runs into two problems: the figure alone is underdetailed on the coloring front and the coloring on the picture on the package is far more impressively executed. First, the whiskers on Tarpals are uncolored, so they blend in with the front of his mouth and make him look more like he has a skin condition or a seriously runny nose than whiskers. And before one suggests that in 1998 when the figure was released the technology did not exist to make a more detailed Tarpals, one need only look at the figure's arms to sink that argument. Tarpal's arms are covered in paint details of elaborate tattoos and the fine work there is extraordinary.

Hasbro's other big problem is in how the coloring of the figure matches (or doesn't) the figure photograph on the package. Have you ever noticed how burger joints do not serve their food in boxes with big, glossy pictures of the burger that is supposed to be inside? Simple reason; the disappointment the average consumer would feel between seen the lushly photographed package and the soggy burger beneath would likely turn off most consumers. Similarly, the Tarpals on the back of the package has bright armor highlights (gold as opposed to a dull copper) and even consistent coloring for the knees that reveal the character's knees are visible through the holes in the garment. On the actual figure, they are a strange sculpt with maroon pads beneath, but the photograph informs us it was intended to be something else!


Captain Tarpals, being a military leader of the scrappy Gungan forces requires a weapon, in this case the Gungan electropole. This accessory is made of softer plastic, stands as tall as Tarpals and is colored realistically in the grips above and below the curved place Tarpal's hand belongs. Pointed at both ends, this is a weapon that looks more defensive than wicked (one supposes Darth Maul's lightsaber could slice it in half pretty easily!), but it fits the character perfectly.

In addition, this figure comes with only the standard CommTech chip for this series of figure. For the "Episode I" figure line, Hasbro toyed with action figures that spoke to those who took them out of the package. Thus, each figure came with a chip that featured an image of the character and a voice chip. When placed on the CommTech reader and read, the CommTech player would play dialogue from Captain Tarpals on it. This chip has such phrases as Tarpals saying "Hey yousa . . . stopa there," "Noah again Jar Jar. . .Yousa goen tada bosses. Yousa in big dudu this time," and "Your honor . . .the Queen Amidala of the Naboo." Great intellectual discourse from the Gungans. Sigh. The chip utilizes the actual dialogue from the movie, so it sounds perfectly like Captain Tarpals.


The four inch toy line was designed for play, but Captain Tarpals is terribly lame in that regard. This is a fairly literal thing; the Captain Tarpals figure is very poorly-balanced even when in a flatfooted position. As well, moving his feet even slightly out of a flatfooted position completely mortgages his stability. Sure, Tarpals' legs can be spread so he does splits, but outside an absolute flatfooted position, the figure falls over unless one is able to plug him into an accessory that has foot pegs (his feet have the appropriate holes).

Because of the balance issues, Captain Tarpals is a poor figure as far as posability goes. He is given only six points of articulation, but some of it is overdone (legs) and others, not enough (the shoulder socket is somewhat pointless as the ears and armor inhibit the figure's movement. The lowered flexibility pretty much mandates collectors pose the figure in very set ways. Captain Tarpals, as an action figure, has joints at the groin socket, shoulders, neck and waist. The waist essentially turns around entirely, but the rotation is pointless. There is no articulation in the knees or ankles, which matters less considering that moving the legs causes Tarpals to fall over. As well, the neck joint turns less than ten degrees in either direction making fans wonder why they bothered making it articulate.

Tarpals can hold his electropole in either hand or with a very specific two-handed grip that can then be lowered or raised a few degrees before the armor inhibits it. Still, he can hardly defend himself with it and one might think from the figure Tarpals was cannon fodder as opposed to a military leader.


Captain Tarpals is part of the last of the 1998 "Episode I" collection of four-inch action figures. This series of Star Wars action figures was generally overproduced, but Tarpals seems to be less overproduced than the initial run and as a result, figures like Captain Tarpals are quite a bit harder to track down than their first wave counterparts. As a result, Captain Tarpals may be found, but he is usually priced above the discount rack prices some of the other figures ended up with. Surprisingly, Captain Tarpals is a fair investment and is ideal for collectors and investors, perhaps even more than for children who actually want a Captain Tarpals to play with!


Captain Tarpals is a good idea, but the balance issues and painting issues rob him of anything other than average status. And because I like my figures to at least be able to stand on their own two (or more) feet, Tarpals is one that fans may easily pass on.

For other Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace action figures reviewed by me, please check out my reviews of:
Tatooine Darth Maul
Senator Palpatine
Deluxe Darth Maul with Sith Speeder
Gasgano with Pit Droid
Destroyer Droid


For other Star Wars action figure reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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