The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is different from the original book…
…Just like Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, Dracula, Snow White, Jaws, First Blood, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, the other thirty-odd Disney animated movies, Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Shining, The Thing, The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, Dune, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Tarzan, Jude the Obscure, John Carter of Mars, Jakob the Liar, All the Harry Potters, The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, Fight Club, Goodfellas, The Godfather, every Sherlock Holmes adaptation, World War Z, I Am Legend, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Coraline, Stardust, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, The Da Vinci Code, James and the Giant Peach, The Chronicles of Narnia, Blade Runner, Life of Pi, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Perfume, The Postman, The Joy Luck CLub, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Princess Diaries, Patriot Games, Wag the Dog, Charlotte’s Web, A Christmas Carol, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1984, War of the Worlds, The Color Purple, Lord of the Flies, Stand By Me, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Die Hard, 30 Days of Night, Starship Troopers, Eragon, The Great Escape, Ichi The Killer, all of the BBC adaptions of the Richard Sharpe novels, The Name of the Rose, Where the Wild Things Are, M*A*S*H, Enemy at the Gate, The Hunt for Red October, A Clear and Present Danger, Conan the Barbarian, Howl’s Moving Castle, Scarface… and so on. The issue isn’t really whether or not the movie is accurate, it’s whether it is a good movie in and of itself. I really liked it, but I’m fine if you didn’t because it’s just a movie, and not something worth murdering one another over. But if you disagree with me, I will murder you.
Anyway, one of the major differences between book and movie was Azog the Defiler. See, in the book, Azog had died in that flashback battle. Bilbo and the Dwarveswere not constantly pursued by a band of orcs. And at the very end of the story, Azog’s son, Bolg, appeared to lead the goblin army in the Battle of the Five Armies. In the movie, they kept Azog alive and added the pursuing orcs to give a little more coherence to the narrative. Bolg is also present starting with the second movie. Personally, I was fine with it, and this is not the place to talk film merits. What a lot of peopel do not know is that Azog was one of the very last special effects done for the film. Originally, he was a man in a suit, but he did not seem intimidating enough, so they swapped him out for the giant one-armed CGI albino at the very last minute. They reused Azog’s old design for “Yazneg,” the orc with feathery shoulder pads who chases the dwarves on wargback at one point. Something similar happened to Bolg, whose design changed dramatically between the release of his action figure and his actual film appearance. The issue with Azog’s design meant that he couldn’t get any real merchandise before the first movie, at least not until the middle of last July.
Azog the Defiler first got an action figure as a 2013 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, which retailed for $50. I was tempted, but didn’t plunk down the cash for it. A regular release came out in time for the movie, with fewer accessories. This review will compare them both, but only a little bit because since I do not have the exclusive in front of me.
Azog comes tied into a blister pack, with some basic imagery from the movies, a listing of figures on the back, and a pretty good figure of the toy. It’s got nothing on his impressive SDCC packaging, but that really does not matter much in this context.
On a technical level, Azog’s sculpt is fine. Nothing looks inaccurate his face i the right shape, and his skin has a measure of texturing to keep it from looking “toy-ish.” But in spite of that, everything seems soft and under-detailed. He’s sort of like an impressionistic painting, where everything looks great from a distance, but not so good up close.
The face is a perfect example of this. Technically it is Azog, from the shape of his nose to his high cheekbones to the ritual scars over his mouth and cheeks. It is easily the best part of this figure. And yet, his expression is calm, serene, and quite un-Azoglike. Every time you see this guy in the movies, he is grinning, snarling, roaring, scowling, or doing something – even at his most neutral, he at least looks thoughtful. This is the calmest orc mass-murderer ever. He’s very Zen.
As for the rest of the body, credit is due for the skin texturing, but Azog’s musculature seems less-prominent than in the actual movie. His scars are all present, but the lines look shallow and simple, not like markings he carved into his own flesh. The comic-con Azog had interchangeable hands – the right could swap for one holding Dwarven King Thror’s head, while the left forearm traded for his prosthetic metal claw. This figure just comes with a basic right hand and claw on the left arm. And, much like in the film, you can see how he had it put in – he jammed the thing into his stump so hard that it’s sticking out of his elbow! Between this and the scars, I’d say that Azog has a thing for pain, but he did look pretty unhappy when he first lost his arm. The claw looks good, and is strong enough to hold a toy up by the chin – nice detail!
Azog’s loincloth is leather, and appears to be made of dwarf faces. That’s grim! The faces are very faded and a little hard to make out, but clearly there. You can also see some extra metal bands that he nailed to his torso, because apparently nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t involve self-mutilation. Topping off the whole ensemble are his boots, with some Mordor-esque layers of metal plating, and pointy toes.
Azog’s paint is pretty functional and serviceable. His skin is a grayish shade of off-white, painted rather than sculpted. He looks like he’s wearing heavy makeup, which would have been the case had it been an actor and not a CGI model. His scars are all painted, though the pink lines do not always line up with the marks on his sculpt. His eyes are particularly good, as the only detail with more than one paint app.
Azog’s clothing is all brown. This fits the leather, though it also contributes to his loincloth looking sloppy and soft. What’s more, the metal bands nailed to his torso are painted the same brown as his leather loincloth. This odd, especially because he has some metallic apps on his costume. Azog’s claw is appropriately metal, and some of the coloring has bled onto the skin of his arm. This is a nice little touch, showing the horrible effects that this kind of thing would have on someone’s flesh – though how long has he had that claw? I think that if anything was going to rot, it would have done so along time ago.
Azog has a ball-jointed head and ankles, ball-and-socket shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, and a swivel wrist and waist. Technically, it is sufficient articulation for almost any pose. However, in practice…
…Notice how you never see Azog with his knees bent? This is because his skirt totally eliminates his leg articulation! You can spread his legs out a little bit, but they will likely spring back into place. Bending his knees doesn’t work if he has no movement at the hips, either, so you have an orc warlord who fights while casually standing straight up. His head may be a ball joint, but it has less range of movement than many figures with full hairdos, and might as well be a swivel.
The movement that his arms have is also hampered – he cannot reach over his torso very well, so your options for swinging his club are pretty limited. He can hold an enemy up with his claw, though, so that at least is good. And finally, this may only be an issue with my Azog and not others, but mine has an extremely loose right hand. It takes work to pose him with his club without the club just swinging down. All of this is really goo bad, as you have a figure with articulation who honestly cannot use it. He might as well be a Todd McFarlane Statue for all he can move.
SDCC-Exclusive Azog came with a lot of accessories: Swappable regular and prosthetic left forearms, an extra right hand with Thror’s head, two swords, and a mace. Regular Azog only comes with the mace. I am glad that he has it, because it’s the weapon he uses most in the films, but it really feels lacking. Still, I suppose they had to make it different from the exclusive somehow, and he does have his most important weapon
VALUE: Exclusive: **, Regular: ****
Regular Azog’s price varies. While Amazon has him for thirty freaking dollars, Toys R Us has him for $16, and I paid $10 for mine on eBay. Considering what you get, this price is just fine – it’s as if they looked at the problems with the figure and gave us all a break. For comparison’s sake, the SDCC exclusive was $40. And that is an awful price.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Watch Azog’s right wrist, and make sure that his scar paint is lined up well. But other than that, this figure has no quality control problems.
WHERE TO BUY:
Toys R Us sells them for fairly cheap – I got mine at a discount from TRU’s eBay store, in fact!
Despite some high points, Azog the Defiler is kind of a disappointment. His sculpt is soft, his paint is minimal, he only has one accessory, and he can barely move. The comic-con exclusive comes with more pieces, but still has all of the other problems. The legs especially are disappointing, because they cut out almost any pay or display value that the figure has. Still, it does look nice at first glance, and you can sneak him into a Lord of the Rings display if you feel like it. But this is an average toy released in a year of greats, and it seems lacking.