The Toy Guru: Serenity Capt. Mal Reynolds

Greetings net denizens, the Toy Guru is back again with a take on a figure from the fine folks at Diamond Select Toys. DST knew they latched onto a good thing when the took over the action figure license to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel from Moore Action Collectibles a few years back. The popular shows had a rabid following, as does show mastermind and creative everyman Joss Whedon. Whedon’s follow up show, Firefly, also found a passionate niche audience, but it wasn’t enough to save the tale of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his band of space pirates from the Fox chopping block. Firefly lasted only one season. However, the plight of the show’s frenetic and motivated band of followers – dubbed Browncoats in some circles – apparently moved some Hollywood execs just enough to give Whedon the greenlight for a feature film based on the cancelled property. The film, Serenity, hits theaters later this month. The action figures by DST hit stores earlier this month. The good timing prompted me to take a look at one of the first offerings – Captain Mal himself.

Sculpt (5 of 10)

If there is one thing you should take away from this review, it is this – It could have been A LOT worse. In fact, it WAS worse early on. Early painted samples of the Mal figure that made the convention circuit rounds this summer did not inspire confidence among fans that DST would do the line justice. The ‘deer-in-headlights’ look on the early Mal’s face was downright silly and – probably due to the lateness of the change in sculpt/paint apps – can still be seen on the cardback of the figure (See comparison pics below). The new head on Mal is an improvement, but still looks very little like actor Nathan Fillion.

The overall sculpt of Mal’s garb is good, but not very complex. The long coat is a soft, pliable plastic, sculpted to give it a kind of swooshing action hang. Shirt, pants and boots are fine and do capture the look of our hero well.

Besides the lackluster head sculpt, another downfall is Mal’s hands. They are sculpted in a fashion that renders most of his accessories useless. He can grasp the canister/detonator like a champ, but I could only get him to hold the satchel in a somewhat normal manner. He can’t hold his pistol at all… or the rifle very well. This is not good news to someone who makes a living pilfering goods across the galaxy. At least the pistol gets a place to stay via a handy holster on Mal’s right hip.

Paint (7 of 10)

Mal’s paint is good, if a touch bland. Lacking much detail save the silver buckles on his shirt and pants, the colors of his clothes almost seem to wash together. There are a few minor paint drips on his hands, back of the neck and forehead, but nothing major.

There is a mud splatter technique used on his boots and coat that is effective. Some may complain that his cheeks are a bit too rosy, but the blush does seem subtler on the finished product than it did on the early samples.

Articulation (6 of 10)

This version of Captain Mal (there is a Final Battle Mal as well) gets 13 points of mostly useless articulation – ball jointed head, cut shoulders, cut biceps, hinged elbows, cut wrists, cut upper thighs and hinged knees. I’m a ball-jointed neck fan, so kudos for that, though it did seem a more constrictive than other ball-jointed necks I’ve come up against. There is no waist or ankle articulation to speak of, which is unfortunate. A cut waist alone would have increased the score here. I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind the lack of a waist swivel unless the coat complicated the issue. It doesn’t look to me that it would. Perhaps, it was aesthetics – which when you look at the head sculpt is a fairly funny notion.

Mal did suffer from stuck-joint syndrome out of the package, but some gentle pressure freed up all of the trouble spots – shoulders, thighs and elbows were especially testy. The use(lessness) of the high cut thighs versus the traditional T-crotch really brings a new level of unorthodox poseability to the figure. You can twist Mal into a few master-level Yoga positions, but you can’t sit him down or put him on one knee.

Also, Mal’s right knee did get a little loose on me during a quick test of flexibility.

Accessories (7 of 10)

Captain Reynolds comes with four accessories – a pistol, an assault-type rifle, a satchel and a detonator-looking canister. Most look good. The satchel has nice detail with its folds and faux stitching. Add one full point if it would have been a functioning satchel – it does not open. Also, a little pulling – to see if it WOULD open – apparently didn’t go over too well with the bottom piece, which almost fell off. So I guess it DID open, just not how I, nor DST, had intended.

Nice dry brush detail on the pistol balances a very cleanly painted assault rifle. The canister is modestly detailed with a few silver buttons and a red stripe.

Not a true figure accessory, but Mal and the rest of Series 1 also come with a foil collector card by Inkworks.

Overall (6 of 10)

A tough score, but you have to call ’em like you see ’em. I do consider this Mal a vast improvement over the early painted samples, but still falls well short of what could have been. Fan reaction seems to be mixed-to-slightly positive overall. I doubt DST will continue the line, but I support the film’s success level and sales of this first batch of figures will dictate that. Likeness is the main drawback to the figure, following closely by poseability. The previously mentioned Final Battle Mal figure did get a different head sculpt, but faired little better than this standard issue version – a touch better on the likeness, but a terrible hair sculpt negates that effort.

Mal is one of five figures considered the first series in the Serenity line. We’ve covered both Mals, but there are also two Jayne Cobbs – one standard issue and one cigar-chomping version dubbed Mercenary Jayne. The last figure is a Reaver – a villainous race of semi-humans from the TV show that make a big screen appearance as well. Series 1 is out now and available at specialty shops and online.

See you in the aisles!

Bonus Pics