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Review: The Solo: A Star Wars Story Force Link 2.0 Collection

Hasbro’s latest 3.75″ Star Wars action figure offerings are some of their best, ever.

If you’ve followed any of my Star Wars toy reviews over the years, you know I’m a BIG fan of Hasbro’s return to 3.75″ 5POA action figures. The fantastic sculpts and limited articulation, reminiscent of the Kenner era vintage toys, makes these figures feel like the best “retro” style toys on the market, a logical extension of what Kenner was doing back in the 80s, but with lots more detail in the sculpting and paint work, and the ability to focus on the newer Star Wars movies in terms of characters.

The Solo: A Star Wars Story-themed figures, which just hit stores about a month ago, are a true highlight of this aesthetic, delivering remarkably good sculpts largely inspired by the new Han Solo prequel movie, which still feel of a kind with the original Star Wars toys from the 70s and 80s.

I say “largely inspired by” because, as we’ve seen over the past few years of Hasbro’s basic 3.75″ line, the toymakers leave room to add characters from other corners of the ever-growing Star Wars universe (in this case, re-releases of New Trilogy heavyweights like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren, along with all new figures like The Last Jedi version of Maz Kanata). But the lion’s share of waves one and two draw from the young adventures of our favorite space scoundrel.

What’s very interesting to me is, said scoundrel Han Solo is actually not in the first two waves of single-carded figures at all. Instead, we get the Solo-era Chewbacca, the mysterious Qi’ra, some new Stormtrooper variants from the film, and the delightfully bizarre alien creature Moloch. Han himself is relegated to either the vehicles in this toy line, or the new Force Link reader 2.0, which I’ll address later in this review. Likewise, Lando Calrissian is only available in a two-pack, and not single carded… an odd play to limit the release options of arguably the two most well known characters in the film.

We’ll get into that, but first, let’s look at the single carded figures. Qi’ra is great, and even in this smaller scale, the likeness to actor Emelia Clarke rings through. Like The Black Series figure, this toy is based on Qi’ra’s younger look, which I’d argue is a smart choice considering the strong sense of style she carries. With her asymmetrical hair, fur-lined jacket, and leather-like boots and skirt, Qi’ra has a Blade Runner vibe going that makes her feel unique in the Star Wars universe, while still being part of it. And I’m happy that Hasbro opted to make her skirt a rubber overlay, rather than cut a t-crotch out of the design, which wouldn’t have worked considering the particular length and style of this costume.

Chewbacca borrows some parts from The Last Jedi figure, so he suffers all the same benefits and drawbacks. His height is great, towering over the humans in the line, and I like his new bandolier and rifle… but the oddly rigid pose is carried over from last year’s figure, making the end result another strange looking Wookie, not quite neutral, but nowhere near a natural action pose, either.

The Mimban Stormtrooper, however, is a great example of pre-posing done right. He sports permanently bent elbows and wrists, which allow him to grip his blaster or rifle perfectly, making him one of the more imposing Imperials we’ve seen in this toy line. And I love the weathering of his dirty armor, and the flair added thanks to the rubber cape which connects around his neck and drapes over one shoulder. I could see this pre-posed style driving hardcore army builders crazy, but he’s perfect if you only want to display one or a few of these guys on the shelf.

Moloch might be my favorite figure in this collection to date, because he’s exactly what I’ve been missing from Star Wars toys for a while now– a weird-ass alien. This big, stocky, robed creature might seem like a reject from The Force Awakens at first, but his figure is so much cooler… not only is Moloch’s mask removable (a fun Easter egg Hasbro opted not to reveal until the figure was released), but he sports a gross catepillar-like body beneath those robes, instead of a humanoid form. Overall, this makes him one of the least poseable figures in Hasbro’s collection, but the level of detail in the sculpt, and the overall strangeness of this design more than make up for that.  I cannot wait to see this guy in action on the big screen, and I can’t tell you the last time a movie toy left me with that feeling.

In addition to the single-carded figures, the Force Link 2.0 collection also carries over two-pack box sets, and the major new edition this time is the younger Lando Calrissian alongside a Kessel Guard. First off, even if I wasn’t HUGELY into Donald Glover (which I am, obvs), it would be hard to deny how genius his casting was, playing the young version of the dapper and oh-so-suave Lando. Hasbro’s figure captures a decent likeness of Glover, and the overall toy works pretty well thanks to the layers added by his removable rubber cape and scarf, and the enhancement of a working holster for his blaster. The figure itself is a bit rigid and his feet rest a bit too parallel for my taste, but at the end of the day I can forgive that in light of the existence of a tiny Donald Glover toy to add to my collection.

The Kessel Guard is another welcome alien creature, whose strange anatomy is more hidden than Moloch’s, but no less present (seriously, what kind of head could fit beneath that wonderfully weird flat helmet?). This guy has a very classic Star Wars background character style, and I love that we’re seeing more of these environmental characters added to the Solo collection, as I felt they were sorely lacking for the Last Jedi and Rogue One based toy lines.

I’m like ten paragraphs in, so I guess we should talk about the star of Solo, right? As I said previously, Hasbro made a bold move by opting to not include Han in their basic, single carded toy line. Looking at their Star Wars toy offerings from the top down, I think this unexpected move makes sense from a certain point of view… It would be easy to heavy-pack Solo in the first wave of single-carded releases, but that would run the risk of repeating the shelf-warming status we saw with both Finn from The Force Awakens and Jyn Erso from Rogue One. So instead, Hasbro is sitting Solo out from the core line and using him in areas they want to draw attention to… namely the recently relaunched Vintage Collection (the younger Han will anchor the sophomore series of this line), and as a pack-in with the Force Link 2.0 reader, which is the basic line’s gimmick, carried over and built upon from The Last Jedi collection.

It’s a gambit, but a smart one… and if ever there was a time to gamble for Hasbro, this seems thematically appropriate, if you consider how Han won his iconic ship from an infamous card game. But putting strategy aside, let’s look at the young Han Solo figure included with the reader. It’s quite good! Han is sporting his new core outfit from the Solo movie, including a brown jacket and the familiar belt, blue pants, and boots from his OT appearance. The figure features a functional holster for his blaster, and a decent likeness of Alden Ehrenreich, which works in the figure’s favor as the vagueness of the toy portrait helps to grey the line between the visage of the young actor and Harrison Ford.

The reader itself is similar in structure to last year’s Force Link device, but with a new veneer based on the light grey panels of the Millennium Falcon, and the addition of an app which enhances the Force Link experience. The basics are still in place– strap the reader to your wrist and pick up a figure, move it around, and you’ll hear a variety of sound effects and lines of dialogue likely to be cut from the final film. The app adds the ability to retroactively draw sounds from the Force Link 1.0 figures, and also to have two figures interact with each other, once two Force Link readers are synced together.

I love this technology, and think it’s a much better kid-friendly gimmick than some lame missile launching accessory, and I’ll admit, I’ve had a lot of fun trying to unpack potential spoilers for the upcoming movies by on swinging toys around wildly in all directions while wearing a bit of Star Wars-y tech on my arm. Just as the figures themselves feel of a kind with the Kenner vintage toys, the Force Link tech is a natural, logical progression from the CommTech reader gimmick Hasbro introduced– and tragically cut short– after 1999’s The Phantom Menace collection.

Look, I’m well aware of the mindset of many Star Wars toy collectors these days. Many of you were hurt by the death of the Vintage Collection, or the Saga Legends series, which saw hyper detailed, super poseable figures from all corners of the Star Wars canon captured in plastic. I collected them too, and was bummed when that line ended. But in 2018, Hasbro is in a great place, where they are picking up the torch of super articulated 3.75″ figures in Kenner-style packaging, AND releasing toys that feel more organically connected to the figures inside those vintage coffin bubble cardbacks… which also expands on a great idea first conceived at the dawn of the Prequel Trilogy. I can only speak for myself, but between retro style box art and an ambitious re-imagining of what the Star Wars toy line could have been between the Kenner era and today… I choose Hasbro’s bold, interesting, and most importantly FUN Force Link collection. There’s some real action figure magic going on in this line, and I’d hate any Star Wars fan to miss out.

Thanks to Hasbro for giving us (some) of these figures to review.

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