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Saruman Sideshow Collectibles, 2002

Saruman the White Statue Review Capsule
Saruman the White roughly a foot tall and costs about $150. The detail is incredible, and the paint job is quite excellent, although it isn't completely perfect. If you like the look of the character and of the statue, and you have the cash, this is a worthy purchase.

Introduction

Saruman the White is one if the nearly immortal members of the Istari. This brotherhood of all-powerful beings is a small group, and only two of them appear on screen during the cinematic adaptation of Lord of the Rings. This one, of course, turned his back on the world of men and decided to grab the power of the One Ring for himself. If any of this is news to you, you best hit your local video store and grab the film as quickly as possible.

Saruman

This is the core of this set. Without him, it's just a pedestal, but when combined they make a pretty good team.

As this is a high-end collectible, there is really only one thing that matters after you have an authentic sculpt, and that's an accurate portrayal of the character's personality. The pose and the facial expression tend to give a figure its life and as you can see, his face is rather serene. Considering he's essentially an overlord of evil, this is a little odd, but it does depict the scene from which he comes accurately.

His pose isn't overly dolled up to seem more exciting than it was during his time in Fellowship, but it merely represents a shot from the film. This is really the smartest move when creating a high-end collectible such as this, some fans might decide an extreme pose or any deviation from the action on film could ruin the statue. While not exciting, it's wonderful, and that's really what one wants in such an item.

There are a ridiculous amount of wrinkles and tiny details worked into this figure, all of which are quite staggering. The amount of work that must have gone into this sculpt is beyond comprehension, and thankfully the result appears to justify the higher cost of this piece. Just take a look at those the above trio of close-up images of Saruman's head. It's gorgeous.

Initially, the paint job looked good. Under better light, it looked spectacular. Under the scrutiny of my camera, though, it appears it wasn't as perfect as I had initially thought. As you can see in some of the pictures, the paint operations are just a little bit off in places, but the funny thing is that it's extremely difficult to see these imperfections in person. If you examine the [define photo], you can see that there's a little bit of flesh coloring extending beyond his lips. This means the beard has a little flesh on it, and there are a few of these tiny glitches. For example, there's a small spot where the eyebrows are sculpted, but the grey paint is just millimeters off-center. The end results, thankfully, still look really great. It's just that a high-end camera can reveal flaws in any mass-marketed item that aren't seen by the naked eye. And I want to make it clear I'm picking nits here-- these coloring issues are very, very hard to spot.

The important thing here is that there's no question of who this is... for the most part. A quick glance might have you say "hey, Gandalf the White!" because of the coloring of the facial hair. All the images I can find of him show darker eyebrows and some black streaks in his beard, and this particular set seems to be mostly grey. While on a smaller piece I'd let this slide, but considering this is a hyper-authentic collector's reproduction, these are small details that really should have been factored in.

Of course, this isn't to say it's a bad statue-- it's not. The pose, hands, outfit, and everything else are absolutely perfect. The clothing drapes in a completely realistic manner, and the layers of robes are represented well. The character seems to be held in a position showing the weight of his outfit and of his years, and even his hand hanging over the pedestal seems to show a bit of strain. It's this kind of detail that lets you really see that the sculptors went out of their way to create feeling in the character, instead of just plopping down a figural representation of Saruman on a base.

This is a magnificent piece, and with a real glut of licensed statues and busts entering the market, Sideshow pulled off a great piece here. It isn't easy to make a figure's head look like the actor, because paint and plastic is a completely different entity from flesh and bone. Thankfully, they got it right.

The Pedestal

While not as exciting as the figure, it's no less important. Once again, the detail is great and the materials used seem very true to the film. While you can only get a certain degree of realism with trying to sculpt cloth, and while it was a high sense of realism, it's much easier to get stone out of stone.

The orb itself is interesting in that the detail only seems to show up when very, very brightly lit. Various markings can be seen in the image above, but in person, the orb appears completely black unless illuminated to high heaven. This is neither a complaint nor a compliment, merely an observation. On the Toy Biz toy, the markings are a little more obvious, but the results are far more marble-like.

The resulting sculpture is nothing short of perfect. With limited paint ops, it's almost impossible not to wind up with a perfect statue. This is, of course, not to say it's without its flaws-- upon very intense scrutiny you might be able to see a speck that's unpainted. But this is like saying that new $1500 LCD monitor you just bought might have a single faulty pixel somewhere... it's so minor, that unless you're insanely anal about your statuary you won't even notice.

The Base

To show the detail on the base, a very large image seemed necessary. Please note the full-size images are unusually large in order to remain legible, so please keep that in mind when viewing.

This is quite impressive, but will be a detail that most likely will not be noticed. The additional work makes it seem even more interesting, because it shows that someone went out of their way to make a truly ornate piece of work, even if people wouldn't immediately notice. Had Sideshow painted in the map, it would not have looked nearly as good, so the resulting base is most excellent.

You can see Rohan, Gondor, Lorien, and numerous other locales. In person, it is nowhere near as easy to read unless properly lit, and it just happened that this image was lit properly when taking photographs. Despite the appearance of the base in this image, in person it is completely black.

Upon unpacking this piece, you might see a little sawdust around the metal pegs that hold Saruman and the pedestal in place, so it's advisable you clean the base off a little before assembly.

Packaging

This statue comes in a nice big green box.

What's In The Box?

Aside from the statue and its components, there's some paperwork, styrofoam inserts, and some tissue paper.

While there don't seem to be any instructions included, there are really only a couple of ways to assemble this statue. If one doesn't work, try the other.

Availability

As of the time this statue was made available for examination, it has already been retired by the manufacturer. It is still available, however, at a few sources. Check your local fantasy stores, gift shops, high-end collectible establishments, and your favorite collectible sites for more.

It's also available from Sideshow Collectibles directly for $150, or you may backorder the piece from Entertainment Earth for $129.99. It's a very heavy piece, though, so be sure to consult shipping and handling information prior to ordering this set.

Fin

For most fans, the cost will be prohibitive. If, for you, it isn't-- you've got a winner here. There's a lot to like about this figure and it makes a great piece to have near your movie shelves or TV. It's spectacular, but it's not absolutely perfect... but darned close. At the price point, it really should have been a little closer to perfection, but it's good enough that most if not all fans will dig it just the way it is.

Reviewed and photographed by Adam Pawlus
Sample received on October 27, 2003
Reviewed on November 6, 2003.

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