Whatever you may have thought about ATTACK OF THE CLONES (and I'm apparently the only one on the Cinescape staff besides Mark Altman who didn't think it a work of life-affirming genius), there's no arguing that the movie was a magnificent toy shop, full of a hundred times more neat gizmos, robots and vehicles than its predecessor. While THE PHANTOM MENACE looked to '30s art deco for its design inspiration, CLONES had more of the look of World War II, from the B-17-like chrome cruiser Princess Amidala arrives in at the film's beginnings to the tanks, mobile artillery and hovering gunships of its "Clone War" finale. So far Hasbro toy releases from the movie have been character-focused, with Obi-Wan's delta-shaped space fighter, Jango Fett's Slave-1 spaceship, and the hot-rod-like speeders flown by Anakin and Zam Wessel in the Coruscant chase as the initial vehicle offerings.
Now Hasbro is getting its own big guns ready for Christmas. The much-ballyhooed remote control R2-D2s (sophisticated enough to bring you a beer!) hit store shelves and promptly disappeared several weeks ago, and recently the movie's big Republic Gunship playsets arrived. The Gunship is kind of a cross between a B-24 Liberator bomber and the Russian Hind helicopter gunships famous for their role in the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan in the '80s. Pics of this toy released before the movie were disappointing, seemingly showing off an overly simplified, unimaginative design. But the Gunship turned out to be one of the coolest things in the movie, a troop transport with rotating belts of ammo on its back, sliding troop doors, a dual cockpit and both automated and manned ball turrets. In the film the Gunship makes its first appearance dropping down out of the sky just as Anakin, Padme and Obi-Wan look like they've breathed their last in the Geonosian arenathe first Gunship arrives under the command of Yoda himself, ordering around a squad of newly-purchased Clone Troopers (how the Republic organizes and transports an entire army of clone troopers it didn't even know about until Obi-Wan reported on it is one of the questions the movie prefers not to address).
Over the course of the ensuing battle we see dozens of the armored Gunships dropping off troops and six-legged proto-walkers, strafing Trade Federation Core Ships, and getting blown out of the sky. It's a utilitarian, beefy-looking ship with a touch of insect to it, sort of a fat grasshopper with lasers and missiles at its disposal. Hasbro's toy scales down the ship a little to keep its total size at an impressive but not overwhelming two feet in length. The standard Hasbro action figures, placed inside the ship's open troop transport area, stand tall enough so that their heads are actually a little taller than the lowest part of the upper part of the side bay; if you watch the film, you'll see that there are several feet of clearance over the clone troopers' heads.
The scale problem (if you can call it that) is made more apparent when you buy two figures which are rather crucial to the completion of this vehicle: the Gunship Pilots. The Gunship toy does not come with the clear, side-mounted ball turrets seen in the filmin order to get those, you have to buy the pilot figures sold separately (in fact, you have to buy two pilots in order to get two ball turrets). The ball turret accessories are not clear and they're only about half the size they need to be in order to fit a clone trooper gunner inside them. This is really a shame because the automated ball turrets included on the Gunship wings are beautiful reproductions of the weapons seen in the film, with clear domes that have blaster mechanics built inside them. Obviously reproducing ball turrets this size with correctly scaled clone gunners inside them would have revealed that these clone gunners were dwarves, but you'd think there'd be a nicer-looking solution than gray paint in place of clear plastic. And forcing the collector to hunt down these figures in order to complete their Gunship is a cheap shot.
That complaint aside, the Gunship is one impressive toy. It's sizable enough that it needs a handle to tote it around, and Hasbro builds one in right between the wing mounts, leaving openings on either side that a truly insane individual could super-detail with his own homemade missile racks to duplicate the look of the film. The dual cockpit opens, the forward ball guns rotate and fire (they actually fire the gun barrels themselves, which seems a little problematic), and the troop staging area features pegs to mount Clone Troopers (and presumably Yoda) on. A switch allows you to drop this section out from the bottom of the hull, allowing you to recreate either scenes from the movie in which the Gunship drops off troops, or some sort of unfortunate accident. Two grappling hooks extend on strings from the back of the Gunship, allowing you to tow other vehicles, and the open interior of the ship allows for plenty of play value. By far the coolest feature, however, is the "slotrac sensor doors"two vented side panels on either side of the hull that attach to interior arms. When you depress a button on top of the vehicle, these side panels slide backward to reveal the interior, showcasing a smooth, gradual motion that looks remarkably like scale hydraulics at work. All that's missing is the whine of servomotors.
At $40 a pop the Gunship is pricey, but it's one of the coolest STAR WARS toys released so far and with a cargo hold full of clone troopers it looks pretty impressive.