REVIEW: Rebel U-Wing Fighter

September 30, 2016 – The long-awaited U-Wing Fighter is here. With a rather high retail price of $49.99 and collectors’ concerns about the addition of a Nerf-firing cannon and its movie accuracy, the question for many is: Pass or buy?

The box for the U-Wing Fighter measures about 16 1/4"W x 14"H x 3.5"D.

The box for the U-Wing Fighter measures about 16 1/4″W x 14″H x 3.5″D.

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AESTHETICS

Aesthetically, this is a beautiful and uniquely designed ship. The sleek, low-profile canopy, the forward-swept wings (thus the “U-Wing” moniker), and the hefty quad engines immediately draw your eye in. The details in the molding and the simple paint application (streaks of blue, yellow-orange, and gray here and there) make this an appealing vehicle to add to your collection.

The ship is just begging to be picked up and inspected. If you are a fan of Star Wars vehicles, this is one sleek and exotic vehicle you will likely want to add to your collection. Better yet, the wings can be posed anywhere from 90° (facing forward) and swept back to about 225° (left wing)/325° (right wing).

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As for the two large Nerf projectiles (almost 3 inches long) and the cannon, don’t let those stop you from buying the vehicle. They are cleverly hidden in the belly of the ship and, we dare say, add to the playability.

Even from this close side-view, you cannot see the red Nerf missile cleverly hidden in the drop-down cannon.

Even from this close side-view, you cannot see the red Nerf missile cleverly hidden in the drop-down cannon.

The slider is perfectly positioned in the rear, so that your thumb can open and retract the wings while the vehicle is in flight.

The slider is perfectly positioned in the rear, so that your thumb can open and retract the wings while the vehicle is in flight.

DIMENSIONS AND FEATURES

Despite early rumors to the contrary, the U-Wing Fighter is not intimidatingly large. When the wings are swept forward, the dimensions are 21 inches (53.3 cm) long from wing-tip facing forward to the rear engine cowling. The ship is about 9 inches (23 cm) wide from left to right engines, and it stands less than 4 3/4 inches (12 cm) tall when the landing gear is down.

The U-Wing is easy to assemble. It also comes with instructions to download a "StudiosFX app" to make special effects and videos with the ship.

The U-Wing is easy to assemble. It also comes with instructions to download a “StudiosFX app” to make special effects and videos with the ship.

Playability value is high, thanks to the following features:

● Four retractable landing gear: two beneath the cockpit and two in the bottom engine cowls
● Spacious cockpit with hinged canopy
● Two red Nerf projectiles (under 3 inches each) which are easy to load and fire and which have a surprisingly long range of fire
● The spring-loaded cannon can be manually retracted and hidden inside the fuselage. A single large button behind the cockpit allows the cannon to drop. Pressing the button a second time will fire the projectile.
● Each wing measures about 15 inches (38 cm) long from base to wing tip.

The belly of the ship hides the cannon-firing mechanism and the Nerf projectile.

The belly of the ship hides the cannon-firing mechanism and the Nerf projectile.

In addition, a 3.75-inch action figure (Captain Cassian Andor) comes with the vehicle. This may be a positive or a negative, depending on how critical you are of the figure.

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On a positive note, Captain Andor is a new figure which comes with one accessory. The small gray blaster can be placed in a holster permanently molded to his leg, or the blaster can be awkwardly placed in his C-cupped hands, thus pointing any which way but forward.

The brown leather-like jacket, the khaki slacks, and the large belt (it’s actually a painted replica belt, not an accessory you can remove) remind us of Indiana Jones. But no matter. The figure easily fits into the roomy cockpit.

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On a negative note, the figure has only five points of articulation: The head swivels 360° and both legs (at the hip) and the arms (at the shoulder) swivel fore and aft. Furthermore, the paint application is a bit sloppy as our version had cockeyed eyes. From a distance, this appears to be Captain Cassian Andor. Upon closer inspection, it looks like Al Pacino.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of the action figure is appreciated. It helps to justify the cost of the boxed vehicle (MSRP $49.99) and increases playability.

SOME CAUTIONARY NOTES

The very strength and appeal of this vehicle – the long, elegant wings – are also its greatest weakness. Regrettably, the wings are far too thin and will almost certainly begin to bend and droop over time.

If you stack 10 sheets of paper together, that is about how “thick” the wings are. It’s as if Hasbro altogether forgot to attach an underside to the wings, of equal thickness.

Assembling the U-Wing is straightforward and easy. Just be careful not to damage the long, thin wings.

Assembling the U-Wing is straightforward and easy. Just be careful not to damage the long, thin wings.

It could be that Hasbro wanted to shave costs, so it reduced the amount of plastic in the long wings. Or it could be an engineer’s solution as to how to easily open and close the wings with a single lever: The lighter the wings, the easier to manipulate.

And that’s a pity. The wings need to be sturdier for rough play by kids. Or to prevent scalding accidents when, a year from now, we find ourselves boiling water in a hazardous attempt to reshape the wing tips.

Finally, let’s talk price. An MSRP of $49.99 is a rather steep climb from the $25-to-$30 range of not too long ago. Current sale prices of $44.99 (at Target) and $44.88 (at Amazon right now) help. The inclusion of Capt. Andor (let’s say he’s worth $8.00) brings the ship-only cost to about $37.00.

Is it worth it? It depends if you’re nuts for all things Rogue One-related or if you really appreciate collecting Star Wars vehicles. If your answer is “Yes”, then the vehicle is probably a good value. Just don’t pay full price.

In this resting position, the U-Wing is  21" L x  9" W x 4.75" H.

In this resting position, the U-Wing is 21″ L x 9″ W x 4.75″ H.

TIP: Use Target’s digital coupon this week ($10 off for Star Wars purchases of $50 or more, or $25 off for Star Wars purchases of $100 or more, excluding Legos and clearance items). Certain other stores, such as ToysRUs, will also likely honor the Target coupons if you ask. Also, don’t forget to see if the clerk will stack the coupons (i.e., use both).

Analyzing Rogue Friday 2016 (Force Friday)

September 30, 2016 – Here we go again: Another Force Friday (or “Rogue Friday”) has arrived, and some people will be ecstatic for what they have found, and others disappointed.

The official street-date was supposed to be September 30th at 12:00 midnight. Major retailers, such as Walmart and Target, largely enforced the embargo – although there were many reports of collectors somehow circumventing it over the last week.

There are lots of examples: Store managers who overrode their POS (point of sale) terminals; unscrupulous fans who would scan a non-embargoed Zuvio, for example, at self-checkout but then replace Zuvio with a restricted Rogue One figure; consumers complaining to corporate headquarters, who told the manager or clerk to simply allow the purchase. This is the Dark Side of collecting.

But most fans, by and large, observed the restrictions.

The reward for patience was lots of availability of product – and some great deals. Sometime after 11:00 PM on Sept. 29th, online vendors such as Amazon and ToysRUs, removed the restrictions.

ToyRUs website featuring "Rogue Friday" (Force Friday) specials

ToyRUs website featuring “Rogue Friday” (Force Friday) specials

ToysRUS had some of the best deals for 6-inch Black Series figures. Kylo Ren Unmasked, K-2SO, Imperial Death Trooper, and Captain Cassian Andor – all were on sale for $15.99 (regularly $19.99). Another discount: Hera Syndulla’s A-Wing on sale for $26.99 (regularly $31.99)

But by 12:30 AM, some of the more popular figures (especially the new Rogue One 6-inch figures) at Amazon and ToysRUs were out of stock.

Rogue Friday at Target

If you didn’t want to venture out at midnight or you missed the online sales, Target might be your next best option. Opening at 8:00 AM on Sept. 30th, Target (just like last year) made the extra effort and stocked lots of Star Wars product in quantity.

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The Big Figs will disappear quickly due to the low price point ($20 each) and limited availability

The Big Figs will disappear quickly due to the low price point ($20 each) and limited availability

If your interest extends beyond the action figures, there are lots of other Star Wars products begging to go home with you:

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Target offers one of the best deals: Similar to last year’s offer, Target is again offering two coupon-savings deals. If your Star Wars purchase is $100 or more, get $25 off (excludes Lego and clearance items). If the total is $50 or more, get $10 off (same exclusions apply).

TIP: Save an additional 5% off your entire Target purchase when you open or use the Target REDcard™

Hera Syndulla and A-Wing Fighter Coming Sept. 30th

September 27, 2016 – The A-Wing fighter is back! And this time, it comes with a 3.75-inch Hera Syndulla figure wearing a pilot helmet (yay) and two Nerf missiles (groan).

The classic A-wing design is back with a new painting scheme.

The classic A-wing design is back with a new painting scheme.

When viewed from above, the Nerf holder is not visible. But from just about any other angle, the firing mechanism and the two large Nerf projectiles stick out like sore thumbs.

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Hera Syndulla’s A-wing is a new mold of the classic vehicle. The Hera action figure is a re-release of the 2015 figure with an added A-wing pilot helmet.

The MSRP is about $31.99 with a release street-date of Sept. 30th. ToysRUs online is accepting pre-orders with an advertised price of $26.99 – not bad when you consider the fact that the A-wing also comes with the Hera Syndulla figure.

Star Wars vehicles rarely sell out quickly, so expect to see the A-wing widely available at various retailers.

Hera Syndulla's A-Wing Fighter

Hera Syndulla’s A-Wing Fighter

Target Savings

Similar to last year’s offer, Target is again offering two coupon-savings deals for the week of Rogue Friday (previously called Force Friday). If your Star Wars purchase is $100 or more, get $25 off (excludes Lego and clearance items). If the total is $50 or more, get $10 off (same exclusions apply).

You can browse the weekly Target ad HERE (good through Oct. 1st) targetcoupon-roguefriday-fullad

The Future of Star Wars After 2020

September 25, 2016 – In October, 2012, the Walt Disney Co. and George Lucas announced that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. Four years later, here is the current schedule that Disney has announced for its “forever franchise”:

● Dec. 18, 2015: The Force Awakens
● Dec. 16, 2016: Rogue One
● Dec. 15, 2017: Star Wars Episode VIII (no official title yet)
● May 25, 2018: Han Solo: A Star Wars Story
● sometime in 2019: Star Wars Episode IX (no official title yet)
● sometime in 2020: third stand-alone Star Wars movie

In short, a Star Wars movie every year. But what happens after 2020? So far, the public can’t get enough Star Wars, and Disney has to appease its stockholders with boatloads of dividends and returns.
future of Star Wars Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he had spoken with Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy about the future of Star Wars.

“I had a meeting yesterday with Kathy Kennedy and we mapped out — well, we reviewed — the Star Wars plans that we have ’til 2020,” Iger said. “We have movies in development for Star Wars ’til then, and we started talking about what we’re going to do in 2021 and beyond.”

The movie scheduled for 2020 will be a third Star Wars stand-alone movie and already has a writer working on it. But the identity of the writer and any details about the storyline are under wraps.

Rumors of a Boba Fett-centric movie in 2020 continue. But at this point, that’s more wishful thinking and hoping than confirmed fact.

There are reports that writer Simon Kinberg might be assigned to write the 2020 movie. The foundation for the rumor is that some years ago, it was confirmed that both Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan had been drafting ideas for Star Wars spinoffs. Kasdan ended up co-writing The Force Awakens along with J.J. Abrams, after the mysterious departure of writer Michael Arndt.

The only confirmation from Disney is that discussions are actively underway for movie-planning for 2021 and beyond. Could there be an Episode X? We don’t know. Could there be more stand-alone films? Quite likely.

In the meanwhile, the new Star Wars Land theme parks (not officially named yet) will have opened or be on the verge of opening – one each in Anaheim and Orlando. Best guess: 2019-2021.

And if the timeline for Star Wars Rebels is similar to that of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, then Rebels will have finished its storylines and been retired by 2020. Clone Wars ran for six seasons and 121 episodes (2008-2014). Therefore, if Rebels is just as successful, a six-year run would be 2014-2020.

Finally, notice some overlap here: Writer Simon Kinberg is co-creator (along with Dave Filoni and Carrie Beck) of Star Wars Rebels. Kinberg thus has his hands busy in storytelling for the Rebels series and, reportedly, a future Star Wars stand-alone film.

Now, if Disney would convert Star Wars Rebels into a future live-action film, wouldn’t that be something? We’re looking at you, Mr. Kinberg.

AT-AT Desk Organizer from Bandai

September 24, 2016 – Here’s an excuse to display a posable 1/72-scale AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) on your desk: Japanese company Premium Bandai will be offering the AT-AT Organizer, featuring hidden compartments to store or hide paper clips, loose coins, a tape dispenser, and an ink-stamper.

bandai-at-at-1In addition, the top of the AT-AT can hold pens/pencils, and loose cables on your desk can be wrapped around the AT-AT legs, disguising them as tow-cables from a snowspeeder.

The AT-AT Organizer will be available in December and will retail for about $95.00. To order or to visit the Premium Bandai site, click HERE.

“Star Wars Rebels” Season Three: Watching the Jedi Become Extinct

September 23, 2016 – Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels begins tomorrow, Sept. 24th, when the main themes become clearer than ever: the rise of the Imperial Military and the near-extinction of the Jedi Order.

By the end of Rebels Season 2, we find our would-be Rebels in disarray: Ezra is tinkering with the power of the Dark Side, his mentor Kanan has lost his sight, and Ahsoka is missing.

The dramatic introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Empire’s military consolidation underscore the perilous plight of the Jedi.

Clip for Season Three premiere, “Steps Into Shadow”:

The emphasis on the Empire’s military might is consistent with the storyline of Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope (1977), where the Jedi are all but extinct. Grand Moff Tarkin is the first to point out the absence of any Jedi.

Darth Vader: He is here.
Grand Moff Tarkin: Obi-Wan Kenobi. What makes you think so?
Darth Vader: A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master.
Grand Moff Tarkin: Surely he must be dead by now.
Darth Vader: Don’t underestimate the Force.
Grand Moff Tarkin: The Jedi are extinct. Their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion.

The new season of Star Wars Rebels begins with a focus on the mysterious and powerful Sith Holocon, which Ezra helped Darth Maul to acquire. Ezra has been using the Holocron to explore the Dark Side while Maul, hiding in the shadows, serves as a secret tutor.

You can watch the premiere of Season Three beginning Saturday, Sept. 24th, on the Disney X-D channel.

Trailer for Season Three: