Sunday, July 31, 2011

It Doesn't Matter Who Shoots First, The "Showdown At The Cantina" 2011 Hallmark Ornament Is Cool!

The Good: Great sculpt, Wonderful sound effect, Decent balance, Generally good coloring.
The Bad: PRICE, Could use a little more color detail on Han.
The Basics: Ridiculously expensive for its size, the 2011 "Showdown At The Cantina" Hallmark ornament is still so well-made, I have to recommend it!

There are few debates in Geekdom quite like the one among Star Wars fans over who shot first: Greedo or Han Solo. The debate comes up because in the original release of Star Wars: A New Hope (reviewed here!), when Greedo, a bounty hunter sent by Jabba The Hutt, points a blaster at Han Solo and tells him he's going to kill him, Han discreetly removes his blaster from its holster and shoots, killing Greedo and saving his own life. For the sanitized late-90's "Special Edition" of A New Hope, George Lucas apparently gave in to pressure from whiny parents who thought it was ignoble that Han shot Greedo and he digitally added a laser bolt which missed Han, so when Han shot Greedo, it was in self-defense (which, arguably, makes even less sense because if Greedo couldn't hit Han from across the table, couldn't Han Solo have just run away - odds are Greedo wouldn't have hit him then!) in response not just to provocation, but (snicker) an imminent threat. For the DVD release of A New Hope, Lucas caved to his fans who thought this wussified (yes, that's a professional term) Han Solo's character and re-edited A New Hope so that both character shoot simultaneously and only Han hits his target.

I mention this at the outset of my review of the 2011 Hallmark "Showdown At The Cantina" ornament because there seems like there might be a population that will only consider buying the ornament if the shootout happens in a certain order. To either of those camps, the "Showdown At The Cantina" takes a neutral stance. Instead, this has only a sound effect; there are no lights to indicate who is shooting at any given time. Apparently, Hallmark didn't want the trouble any more than George Lucas wanted to make a concrete answer. Either way, nothing screams "Christmas!" like two people pointing laser pistols at one another and the sound effects of Greedo threatening Han and getting shot for it.


The "Showdown At The Cantina" is a diorama -style ornament from Hallmark, which recreates scenes from Star Wars both with a molded scene and special effects. Unlike the prior two years' ornaments, "His Master's Bidding" (reviewed here!) and "A Deadly Duel" (reviewed here!), "Showdown At The Cantina" features a sound effect, but no light effect. Also unlike the two prior works, the "Showdown At The Cantina" is actually worth picking up because it does what it sets out to do well. Unfortunately, collectors and fans will have to pay for that quality. Hallmark's initial price for the ornament was $32.95, which was the most expensive (initial price) Star Wars ornament for the year and it was priced comparably with the Star Trek Romulan Bird Of Prey ornament (reviewed here!) which was also dramatically overpriced when compared to comparable ornaments.

The 2011 "Showdown At The Cantina" is made of durable plastic and includes a sound function emitted through a tiny speaker in the ornament. The 3 1/4" wide by 2 3/4" tall by 1 1/2" deep ornament faithfully recreates Han Solo slouching back in his booth, pointing a laser blaster at Greedo, the green-skinned Rodian. Greedo is sitting in the opposite booth with his blaster pointed squarely at Han. In between the two is a round table with a glass on it. The piece is held together with a section of the back wall of the Cantina, molded in beautiful, sandy-looking plastic. There is even a window hole behind the table and it gives the ornament a real sense of space.

Hallmark has a lot to be proud of and sculptor Katrina Bricker ought to take a bow for her work creating the "Showdown At The Cantina" ornament. The background looks just like the Cantina alcove where Han Solo and Greedo squared off and the molded details are exceptional. Greedo looks like Greedo, Han Solo looks just like Harrison Ford did in the movie with his chiseled jaw and lean physique. Bricker captured great molded details, like Han's vest, the padded sides of Greedo's flight suit and the veining on the round table. Moreover, Bricker did not skimp on the details for things like Han Solo's blaster (which is a distinctive and recognizable one in the Star Wars universe), the holster on Han's leg or the antennae on Greedo's head. The ornament captures the proportions of each element perfectly, getting even the tiny sucker tips on most of Greedo's fingers! The sculpt is absolutely perfect.

The coloring detailing is almost perfect. With a work this size, it is absolutely astonishing what color details are present. The Cantina wall and floor have realistic coloring to them, looking anything but monotonal as a sandy-hut should. Greedo's coloring is wonderful with distinctive green, yellow and orange for the costume elements and his big black eyes are glossy in contrast to the matte finish for the "skin" (Greedo was a latex suit character in A New Hope). Han Solo features shiny black boots, the red racing stripe up the side of his pants and even brown eyebrows painted painstakingly over his eyes. Unfortunately, the skin tones on Han are monotonal, both on the face and hands. This does not drag the ornament down much, but it is worth noting.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "Showdown At The Cantina" ornament features a sound effect, but not a light effect. Powered by batteries that are housed in the ornament (and come with it), the "Showdown At The Cantina" has three phrases. When the button on the ornament is pushed, Han and Greedo exchange dialogue (Greedo's is gibberish) and for the third clip, there is the sound of blaster fire and Greedo's body hitting the table. It's not exactly the most Christmas-themed ornament, but it captures perfectly the moment it represents and the volume was loud enough that I could hear all of the effects clearly, even during a noisy Preview Weekend with lots of people clamoring about me.


As an ornament, the "Showdown At The Cantina" is intended to be hung on a Christmas tree and for that purpose, the ornament is great. The "Showdown At The Cantina" features a brass loop protruding from the top of the dome that frames the alcove Han is sitting and Greedo is dying in. From that point, the ornament hangs remarkably stable. It does not tip in any direction, though it will twist if the tree or ornament is bumped.


2011 will be known, at least by anyone who follows such things and actually listens to me, as the year Star Wars outstripped Star Trek as the franchise to exploit, at least as far as Hallmark ornaments go. In 2011, there were only 3 Star Trek ornaments, which would cost buyers $77.85. By comparison, Star Wars fans were hit with six ornament sets (six boxes, seven ornaments), Slave I, Jedi Master Yoda, Showdown At The Cantina, the Limited Edition Bossk, the San Diego Comic Con exclusive Dengar and IG-88 set, and the forthcoming LEGO Darth Vader. For fans lucky enough to get the Comic Con exclusives at cost, the six ornaments would still run $130.67! And for those of us not able to get to Comic Con, good luck! The Dengar and IG-88 ornaments have already exploded in the secondary market to an average selling price of $75!

The "Showdown At The Cantina" ornament was issued at $32.95, which is ridiculously expensive, despite the quality of the ornament. At that price, it is not terribly collectible and it is unlikely its value will appreciate significantly. For the last three weeks since they have been on the market, the "Showdown At The Cantina" ornament has sold slowly, though all five of the local Hallmark stores near me have sold at least one each. This does not look to be a sellout ornament or a great investment piece for investors.


The 2011 "Showdown At The Cantina" Hallmark ornament looks good, is balanced well and its minor coloring abnormalities could be overlooked were it not for the sticker shock consumers will get when they go to purchase it. A pleasant addition to a fan's collection, but hardly an essential holiday ornament, the "Showdown At The Cantina" is still easy to recommend.

For other 2011 genre ornaments, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Fleeing The Fiendfyre Harry Potter ornament
Captain Jack Sparrow
Legends Of Star Trek Spock ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

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