If you saw my reviews of Preview Jango & Clone Trooper, you probably know that I don't like the new packaging at all and I have a lot to say. Nothing's changed about either.
R3-T7: Here's another astromech droid in the Star Wars line, but what makes it different? Well, as an Episode II Preview figure, it's the only one without a pre-posed sculpt, but it's a droid, so that's not a big surprise; as a preview figure, it's clearly got the most "blast effect", but we've seen this style of blast effect on the POTJ boomer-damaged Battle Droid. As an astromech droid figure, this little guy has something I've been wanting for quite a while and is its only real unique feature besides the color: a clear dome.
It's true, the main feature of this astro droid is the fact that you can see right through the dome (where it's not painted over) to see the R3 droid's "dome guts". The dome guts don't really take up as much space as they could, but they are effectively-used, even connecting to the main radar eye and a gold vent to the right of that; there are even some red and green-painted molded wires in the back of dome - a nice, subtle touch. The dome is a new sculpt and has the best radar eye of all the astromech figures to date: the eye is large, painted black, in the proper location, and the correct shape. The dome isn't perfect though, the smaller eyes/cameras that are on ball-joints on the real movie prop at the front, top, and rear of the dome are different than on R2 droids apparently - the picture of the movie prop on the bubble insert make them look more like silver pimples and this translates into what look more like soldering joints than anything else (especially the one on the top of the head which, to be fair, is actually in the right place for once). The smaller radar eyes, like the one directly under the main radar eye, are not painted in their centers at all, they're totally clear where they should be red or blue. I don't know about R3 droids, but R2 droids have six trapezoidal doors on the top of their domes surrounding the round center door (which is painted gold on this droid and appears to be part of the gray piece that makes up the internal mechanisms) and this R3 droid has only five of 'em. Also, the dome clicks when you rotate it, which some fans love because of the nostalgic feeling, but I think is pointless and only adds needless friction to a big point of articulation.
The body of R3-T7 is a straight re-use of the R2-Q5 body (which was a different sculpt from R2-R9 and R2 w/ Holo Leia) from the center cylinder to the legs even to the feet, except for the copyright year -- still, R2-Q5 had a pretty accurate body where it counted, especially in the oft-forgotten "hip holes", so if we gotta have a re-use, at least it's a good one. However, all those articulated 3rd-foot astromechs share a problem with R3-T7 here, the middle leg doesn't retract all the way AND is too susceptible to being extended too far. The former is always frustrating, but the latter just requires a keen eye for the angles on the legs & feet and some perseverance to overcome.
The figure on the card back appears to have a silver dome, this is actually just a piece of poor photography and/or photo editing. However, one thing you cannot deny about the picture (besides the fact that the 3rd leg is extended way too far) is that the figure has a heavy paint wash meant to simulate dirt and grime, while the actual figure is nowhere near as dirty. The R3-T7 in my hands looks like it hasn't been washed in only a few weeks, but the one in the photo looks like it just popped out of the swamps of Dagobah - a significant difference, and the photo of the actual prop on the bubble insert seems to be of the dirtier variety. I'm not crying though, I think it looks much better its mild dusty appearance (except on the foot plugs, which got no overspray at all and stand out thanks to this) accented by a few darker stripes and a silver "scrape" on one of the doors . The paint over the figure's body is yellow, but a bit more green than the movie prop's yellow -- the application of the yellow paint seems to be fairly sloppy everywhere - front, back, side, legs, and dome; however, the smaller details like the silver, gold, and blue are more carefully applied.
The final feature of this figure is the blast effect, which is a translucent blue plastic electrical field surrounding the figure. It seems to have no rhyme or reason to it, and doesn't hug the figure everywhere. It's a lighter color than the POTJ Boomer Droid's electro-stuff and it's thicker too, but it doesn't seem to have as clear an idea of where it's supposed to go, the Boomer Droid's seemed to have an exact place while this seems too random. As a result, I don't know if I'm doing it wrong or if it just looks that out of place, but the result isn't very impressive or even effective from my point of view -- luckily, it's the least important part of this figure for me.
Didn't think I could say so much about a re-used droid body with a new dome, didja? (GRADE: B)
Zam Wesell: Surprise surprise, another pre-posed Episode II figure, but it's not a flatline, there are some... faint signs of life. This figure has 8 points of articulation, the "standard six" plus two more in her right arm - a mid-arm swivel and an upper-wrist swivel - these extras save this figure from utter desolation in her one pose, even though the arm bends 90 degrees at the elbow and the right hand has an extreme trigger-shooting pose which, when rotated upwards, reminds one of Mr Burns clutching a glass of brandy as he plans his evil domination over the town of Springfield. That's great for her right arm, but her left arm didn't get such articulation and is stuck in a fairly useless position when she's not holding the rifle (think of Leia as Boushh's hand holding a thermal detonator... without the detonator) -- as you may have noticed, the arms are one of the major hindrances for this figure. Annoyingly, the mid-arm swivel seems to be firmly stuck in the arm, so Zam doesn't get the severed-arm treatment unless you are VERY careful, I believe attempting this would rip the plug, ruining the figure. Also, the shoulder articulation is not top-notch thanks to small arms and a lot of flash (excess plastic) at the seams. So what's good about Zam? The overall sculpt is very intricate, the silver detail elements are all nicely weathered or antiqued, there's an "on the loose" holster on the figure's skirt that really holds her small pistol quite nicely, and the separate "skirt" piece can unplug from the torso to get more range of motion at the waist (though this leaves an unpleasant hole below the chest armor). Ah, but what else is NOT so good about this figure, you ask? Keep reading.
Sadly, this figure is another victim of Hasbro's need to ruin female action figures with V-crotch articulation rather than the classic T-crotch. That means that the hip joints meet the crotch piece at an angle to look more realistic in the intended pose rather than be more functional like pretty much every other Star Wars figure out there; Zam's V-crotch isn't as extreme (or ugly) as Aurra Sing's, but it still makes moving the legs ugly and somewhat pointless since they don't move straight out in front of the figure, rather off to the sides like she was sitting spread eagle. Since the point of hip articulation isn't in the center, the sides of the thighs where the legs meets the crotch is left with a noticeable flat area if you move the legs up at all, although you probably won't want to anyway since the right leg looks like it's not even part of the figure when you move it upwards. A similar problem is brought about at the waist where the svelte build of the character makes for a large flat shelf at the "skirt" when you twist the waist - this is an issue with many newer figures, but here even more so thanks to Zam's slim physique.
Another problem is the color, which doesn't match from one section to the other. Since there is severe weathering on the torso, you don't tend to notice this problem at first, but after a few moments, you realize that ONLY her torso is weathered while her arms, legs, and "skirt" are not. The arms really suffer here because they're right next to the weathered areas and made from the same color material, and it's a shame because if they matched, they'd have more of their details stand out (same issue with the skirt, though it's not the same color plastic and not supposed to be). There's also another coloring problem below the waist, the crotch and legs don't match even though, once again, they're the same material.
One of the biggest flaws of this figure was Hasbro sculpting the veil directly onto the face, there's very little face showing and Hasbro has yet to master painting small, intricate flesh areas of figures. I had to search and search to find a Zam preview figure that didn't have extremely sloppy paint in the face - most of them had globs of pink paint on the veil and runny eyes - luckily, the one I picked appears to be their best work of the lot; yet it still doesn't look right in the same way Commtech Leia's painted face doesn't look right. This is a shame because instead of seeming mysterious and alive like it should, it looks like a wax dummy. Speaking of the veil giving the head problems, the veil is pretty thick and even though the head is rubbery, turning the head to either side is quite difficult, especially towards the right where it may even be a threat to the neck plug (unless you like headless figures).
Finally, we come to the accessories and how they interact with the figure. As mentioned before, the figure has a small pistol that can be stowed in a holster -- this silver and black pistol has less detail than some accessories and the barrel is thin and bends quite a bit. The pistol is not terrible and fits in either hand, though when held in the left, the gun is sideways away from her body. For the right hand, there had to be two small "shelves" added to the fingers to get either weapon to stay in the hand, it makes one wonder why they didn't just sculpt the hand a little more closed. Then there's the rifle which is as long as the figure and very thin - taped into the bubble tray, it came out slightly bent in several places. There's not much going on with this rifle in the way of detail, but the figure can hold it in a 2-handed pose and the head can point in the same direction as the rifle. Then there's the big new experiment in Star Wars action figures, the translucent plastic blast effect -- this one is red and sort of a cross between the preview Clone Trooper's "ice crystal" and the preview Jango's blasts, and can be plugged onto either of Zam's weapons (though to get this to work on the pistol, they had to add extra barrel from the original wide opening). The hole wasn't drilled straight on mine and it comes out of both guns at an angle which kills the effect. Even if it was straight though, it's still got bigger problems: it's immediately too heavy for the pistol's small barrel which bends under the weight, after only a few hours, the rifle appears to be suffering the same fate; and just as bad, instead of looking like blaster fire, it looks like a fat red comet smashing into the front of the weapon!
All in all, this figure is not the best of the Ep 2 preview figures, but has enough articulation to keep from being a one-pose-wonder. I'm probably being a tad generous, but I'm giving Zam a (GRADE: C+)