Toy Review: McFarlane Toys 2021 Dune Movie Action Figures

Arrakis. Dune. Desert planet. Sci-fi fans know these words well, but they haven’t always translated to the screen. David Lynch’s 1984 movie, while featuring memorable visuals, never caught on beyond a cult following. Syfy’s 2000 miniseries got more praise from fans of the books, but didn’t exactly cross over to the mainstream. But now Legendary Entertainment and director Denis Villeneuve hope to make the movie saga Frank Herbert fans deserve. The first of a hoped-for set of two films comes out next year in theaters and (barring a lawsuit going bad) HBO Max. It was supposed to hit theaters this past Christmas, but we all know how that went. Nonetheless, McFarlane Toys got the Dune movie action figures into Target stores in time for what should have been the opening.

The line thus far consists of four 7-inch figures that come with build-a-figure pieces to build a fifth, and one 12-inch figure completely out of scale with the other five. At $19.99 apiece for the smaller figures, they’re a decent deal. Unlike the company’s DC figures, which add an extra $5 to the $19.99 base price if build-a-figure parts are included, these maintain the $20 price point. Though they cut costs slightly by using what seems to be the same body for both Stilgar and Duncan. (Small paint differences help them look slightly different.)

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This initial wave consists of Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), Stilgar of the Fremen (Javier Bardem) and Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa). Each package features their house or tribal sigil. Collect them all to get the villain Rabban (Dave Bautista), whose wardrobe diverges the most drastically from the characters’ default Stillsuits. These moisture-conserving desert outfits aren’t quite as sculpted-muscle, Batman-style as Lynch’s, but they’re not too far afield. And they definitely don’t shy away from where they’re recycling the, uh, fluids.

Some fans have suggested that McFarlane’s movie likenesses haven’t been good lately, but that’s not the case. Take a look, for example, at every bump and scar on Bautista’s shaven dome:

No, the issue people actually have is that unlike, say, wrestling or Star Wars, most McFarlane figures don’t use flesh-colored plastic as the base. The heads, underneath it all, are black plastic painted into skin tones before the facial details get printed on. This adds an extra bit of thickness that mildly fattens the faces. Diamond Select has the same issue on many figures based on actors. There’s probably a financial reason for that, but let’s just say the figures’ base sculpts do look like the actors they portray.

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Seven-inch McFarlane figures mostly features the same 22-point articulation system, with some exceptions. Rabban’s elbows feature pin and disc ball joints rather than the double hinge, and his torso is a rubbery skin-over-frame construction hiding the chest articulation. Meanwhile, on the Stilgar sample sent to us, his right ankle hinge came fused, leaving his right foot permanently angled slightly downward. Yes, we took the whole joint apart in hot water to try and unfuse it. Didn’t work.

McFarlane’s hip joints have always seemed excessively complex and not nearly as movable as one might think. The sample Paul figure makes a good example. As is rare with these figures, his upper left thigh joint got some rotational range…exposing the entire joint mechanism (above). Makes one wonder why a simple ball joint might not seem preferable. Face it front and the joint gets concealed again, so it’s no biggie.

Jessica and Stilgar both include a clip-on backpack, with a clip that holds but doesn’t form fit. Every basic figure comes with one or more knives, while Duncan also wields a sword, and Rabban gets a flail and larger blade.

It seems Bautista’s Rabban costume will impressively hide his fit physique to make him look like plump like his uncle. And while David Lynch made the Harkonnens gingers, Denis Villeneuve seems to make them all bald.

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Speaking of Baron Harkonnen — why make him in a completely separate scale? We have theories.

Assuming the Baron isn’t actually a giant, here are some of the possibilities. Baron Harkonnen doesn’t get involved in a lot of the action, so he won’t interact as much with the others. If his scenes are mostly separate, the figure can display separately. There’s also articulation as a factor. McFarlane Toys currently does their 22-joint style on 7-inch figures, and almost none on the 12-inch. There’s no reason that has to stay house style, but the Baron is a large, obese man who doesn’t strike many poses. Maybe selling a barely poseable figure in the 7-inch style would be considered misleading?

Still, one thing that might have worked better in the smaller scale is the levitation effect. The Baron is a solid, hard chunk of figure, held up with a ball-jointed metal rod in his butt. (Yes, this villain literally does have a stick up his rear end. In toy form, at least.) But then it plugs in to a basic plastic base, simulating bricks and sporting the Dune logo, that doesn’t feel reinforced. The ball joint allows for centering the figure’s weight, but this feels like the kind of mechanism that could break under stress over time. In 7-inch scale that would be a lesser issue.

And yes, he does look like Peter Boyle from a distance, but up close it’s clearly Stellan Skarsgard in a prosthetic fat head.

It might be wise for Dune fans to pick up the figures now if there’s any interest whatsoever. Despite the 1984 film’s failure, the toys based on it are highly sought today. Even if the new one doesn’t hit big, the property stays eternally strong with a solid fanbase around the books. And even if it’s a misfire, it looks to be an interesting one. Besides, while Momoa and Bautista have meany plastic likenesses to their names, the other actors don’t get much figure love any other time.

Take a look at more images in the gallery below. Dune movie figures are Target exclusives at this time, with Baron Harkonnen going for $39.99 while the rest run $19.99. Let us know what you think in comments.

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