I’m 35 years old; meaning that I was a wee boy when the original Star Wars trilogy came out. I saw them in the theaters, loved them, and then watched them repeatedly on VHS tape in the years that followed. I know them well.
Rumors of Lucas doing a prequel trilogy had been floating around for ages but once it was confirmed, I, like every other genre nerd in the world, was stoked. I couldn’t wait to see the origins of Darth Vader, the formation of the Empire, Obi Wan and Anakin fighting side by side in the clone wars…the possibilities were endless! I was brimming with curiosity as to what other characters from the original trilogy would pop up. Would old favorites of mine like Ponda Baba or Ree-Yees get some time in the spotlight? What new wonders would I behold? And perhaps most importantly, what new action figures would result from these new chapters. It was truly an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan.
I have mixed feelings about that movie. I had been anticipating it for so long that I had ridiculously unfair expectations for it. There was really no way it could live up to the hype I had built up in my mind, no matter how good it was. But high expectations aside, that film missed the mark big time. The dialogue, the acting, the midichlorians. Ugh. I’ve watched it several times since and I honestly don’t know if it’s gotten better or worse with time. Sometimes I’m in a forgiving mood and I can enjoy it, other times I’m feeling critical and I watch it with a palm on my face.
Today though I want to focus on some of the good aspects. Let’s put Jar Jar aside for a moment and remember that Menace also gave us Darth Maul. Boss Nass was an abomination but Qui-Gon Jinn was the man. Lil’ Anakin Skywalker was painful to watch but his owner, Watto, was a pleasure.
Watto is one of my favorite things about The Phantom Menace. Maul was probably my favorite new character to be introduced but he really didn’t get to do a whole lot before ending up in two pieces at the bottom of a hole. Watto on the other hand had plenty to do in the early half of the film. He had dialogue scenes with multiple actors and I think this chubby little computer animated winged anteater stole most of them. He was interesting to look at and the voice work done by Andrew Secombe was great. I loved his gruff blue collar attitude, “What, you think you’re some kind of Jedi, waving your hand around like that? I’m a Toydarian! Mind tricks don’t work on me; only money.”
When it comes to Star Wars action figures, the character likenesses of the 80s toy line left a lot to be desired. Sometimes the results were kind of charming, like with Ponda Baba (Walrus Man)’s webbed feet, but as much as I may have liked those silly 80s toys I still longed for film accurate figures. By the time Menace had come out Hasbro had come a long way in that regard. The likenesses were much better, especially on the alien characters. This Watto, released in the first wave of Phantom Menace figures in 1999, is a pretty decent representation of how the character looked in the film. He’s nicely detailed with lots of wrinkles in his flesh, folds in his leather and veins in his wings. The face of this figure has a lot of attitude sculpted into it, from the furrowed brow, to the broken teeth. The colors are nicely done and subtle, unlike the day-glo 80s toys. The articulation is limited but that’s no surprise for a Star Wars figure. He’s articulated at the legs, arms, head, and his wings which can be swiveled or popped right off.
His scale looks about right, he’s about half as tall as a standard figure. He came packaged with an ipad like device and a stupid sound chip thingamajig which went straight into the garbage. Every figure came with one and you had to buy a separate device to play the sound bites from the film embedded in the chips. Dumb accessory. Nice figure. 8 out of 10.