Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Power Of The Force R5-D4 Was Once Cool, But Is Now Showing Its Age!

The Good: Great coloring details, Good molded details, Good balance, Neat concept additions.
The Bad: Plastic discoloration, Vastly overproduced, Execution of concept is more of a flop.
The Basics: The R5-D4 figure from the Power Of The Force line adds some conceptual changes to the briefly-seen droid from Star Wars with mostly disappointing results.

Earlier today, I had a job interview and that was pretty cool. I realized about midway through the final interview that the position puts me in touch with so many people in the toy industry that there might be a possibility that I could get access to the New York Toy Show next year, assuming I get hired on full-time by the company and do not blow the opportunity. Come to think of it, maybe next year, I could go to the San Diego Comic Con! Hey, a reviewer can dream, right? I mention this at the outset of my review of the Power Of The Force R5-D4 figure because I am very excited about the new job and R5-D4 was in my bad during both of my interviews today!

For those not into the whole Star Wars phenomenon, R5-D4 was the droid Luke Skywalker and Uncle Owen tried to buy with C-3PO in A New Hope (reviewed here!). When this red astromech droid exploded, C-3PO suggested Luke take R2-D2!

The 4" R5-D4 is the simple astromech droid with a few additional modifications to make it almost a concept figure. Regardless, it has since been recast and rereleased (at least twice) and this version, which has revealed some serious problems with age, has become irrelevant.


R5-D4 is a three-legged, barrel-shaped droid that stands 3 1/8" tall to the top of the antenna atop the droid's head. This is essentially a red version of R2-D2, but with a flat head. If only it were that simple for the figure!

This toy is a decent sculpt, though it looks a little larger than most astromech droids. Kenner got the general shape of the robot right, though in order to keep it stable, the two back legs are connected by a connector at the feet that is both unremovable and inaccurate to the character seen in the film. Also on the sculpt front, there is a difference which makes this R5-D4 a bit more of a concept figure than a true-to-film one. This R5-D4 has laser cannons on the sides of the figure. The silver-gray struts attached to the legs are little guns which rotate up and bear no resemblance to anything actually seen on R5-D4 in A New Hope.

They also clash with R5-D4's white and red color scheme. R5-D4 was once a masterwork of detailing that set higher standards for the Kenner Star Wars figures. The reason is simple; instead of having a monotonal white barrel and legs, this version of R5-D4 was cast in white plastic with gray flecks in it, which made it look more weathered and sandbeaten. That's a great detail that added realism to the toy . . . for a time. Unfortunately, now fifteen years later, R5-D4 is one of the most discolored toys Kenner ever produced. The top of the barrel which opens (see "Playability") has retained its original color while the white base and legs have yellowed significantly. I looked while I worked at the store I worked at; this is not an uncommon problem for this particular figure. It does, unfortunately, drag an otherwise average figure down a bit.


R5-D4, barrel-shaped droid who would otherwise explode, comes with only a missile as an accessory. R5-D4 has one playable function, which requires the blunt missile that fits into its barrel. The missile is a 2 3/4" long yellow plastic grapple with a squared head. It does not have any surface detailing or coloring that even attempts to make it fit the color scheme of the rest of the figure.


The four inch toy line was designed for play and R5-D4 is a little better than fair in that regard. The figure is poorly articulated, though it has great balance. Flatfooted, R5-D4 is well-balanced and manages to stay up even on surfaces that wobble, largely because of the third leg at the front of the barrel. Outside that, R5-D4 lacks significant articulation to make it interesting. In addition to low articulation, R5-D4 is barely poseable. It comes with only four points of articulation, swivel joints where the legs connect to the top of the barrel and where the cannons connect to the legs. This allows for some rotating fun, but R5-D4 cannot even turn its head like most Astromech droids!

The reason for the inarticulated head is very clear, though! R5-D4 is actually an action figure that splits almost in half to reveal a cannon inside. This extra play function requires the front and back portions of the figure to be pulled away from the central barrel. When that is done and the missile is pushed into place (proper place in this case being where the missile clicks and locks in) a yellow button on the front of the droid figure protrudes. Pushing that launches the missile! Sadly, after fifteen years, the springs on my R5-D4 only allow the missile to be projected about two inches up in the air before descending in a very quick arc back!


R5-D4 is part of the Power Of The Force four-inch series, a series of Star Wars action figures that was incredibly common. R5-D4 was overproduced, appearing on at least two different cards as an identical sculpt.  This figure without a Freeze Frame slide is a poor investment and it may often be found inexpensively and might well be better for fans looking to play than make money eventually off it.


Droid fans might want an R5-D4, even discolored, just for large assemblies or Jawa junkpits. But for serious fans of Star Wars droids, there are two recasts that would be a better use of one's funds.

For other Star Wars: A New Hope figures in the "Power Of The Force" line, please check out my reviews of:
Death Star Gunner
Cantina Aliens 3-pack
Death Star Escape 3-pack
Luke Skywalker In Stormtrooper Disguise


For other toy reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

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

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