Manufacturer: Master Replicas (http://www.masterreplicas.com)
Release: July 2004
Founded in 2001, Master Replicas has made some of the highest-quality, officially licensed prop replicas for the two largest film properties ever: Star Wars and Star Trek. Among collectors, the items they have made are considered some of the best in the industry. So there is no surprise that a company of this caliber would choose to pick up, what we Ringers would consider the ‘best’ film property in history: The Lord of the Rings.
This review will focus on Master Replicas’ first offering to the general public; the ‘Sting Sword FX Collectible.’
I think I can safely assume if you are reading this review, you know of the sword ‘Sting,’ or at least have heard of it. But for those of you who might not, I thought a VERY brief history would be in order.
If you are only familiar with the film version of The Lord of the Rings, it is important to know the history of this sword does not simply start with Bilbo giving it to Frodo in Rivendell. In fact, Sting plays a rather large part in Bilbo Baggins adventures during ‘The Hobbit.’ (And if we want to get really technical, there is most assuredly another whole history of the sword from the destruction of Gondolin in the First Age)
Bilbo, a generally lucky Hobbit, found a special ‘knife in a leather sheath’ while scrounging among the spoils of a Troll’s cave. As a interesting aside, Thorin Oakenshield found Orcrist and Gandalf found Glamdring at the same time. Bilbo gave the sword the name of ‘Sting’ after he managed to rescue Thorin and his fellow dwarves from the tangled webs of the Spiders of Mirkwood.
Bilbo kept Sting, along with The One Ring and a mithril shirt, as momentoes of his great adventure. As we have seen and read, Bilbo then bequeaths these items to Frodo in Rivendell.
So enough with the history…lets get to the review!
I will be ranking this product on the 5 Ring system. 5 Rings is excellent while 1 Ring is poor.
If you are an avid collector of New Line Cinema’s Lord of the Rings, then you have seen this design before. There is nothing especially novel about the layout, except the box color is brown and there are some small design elements (Sauron’s eye) that form borders on the front and back panels. The standard Middle-earth map underlays the entire box.
The front and back panels feature duplicate information: A beautiful shot of Sting in ‘Orc Mode’, a large LOTR logo, the product name and the Master Replicas logo.
The side panels showcase the product in the ‘off’ position and a line drawing of the display stand. (Read below for more on the stand)
The lack of creativity with the design is not the fault of Master Replicas. From what we gather, all LOTR licensors are required to confine their designs to a guide provided by the studio. In my opinion, the Lord of the Rings product designs are in desperate need of an overhaul. The loss of a 1/2 RING was solely because I’ve seen this before on a slew of other LOTR items.
Not much to say here, except that Sting was extremely easy to remove from its packaging. The styrofoam casing easily slides out of the exterior box. The display stand is not secured to the styrofoam, so if you happen to open the box upside down, the stand will drop out onto the floor. Since the stand is not made of any valuable or particularly fragile material, this is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. The sword is easily removed from the styrofoam via two place holders, and the removal of a few layers of cellophane.
FIRST IMPRESSION: (5)
Behold Sting! First impressions are just as important in collecting as they are on a date. It is a good thing then that the Sting Sword FX Collectible is immediately appealing. As I will describe below, the paint, construction and function of the item far exceeded my expectations.
The blade is polycarbonate with a real metal coating. The flat sides of the blade are covered in what looks like embossed plastic, but it is really hard to tell. I must emphasis that it does NOT look cheap in the least. The layered effect of the plastic on the metal is flawless and only under close inspection do you realize the sides are clear plastic.
The runes embossed on the hilt and blade match exactly what we have seen in the films. Since the mold for this collectible was cast directly from the mold used in the films, the accuracy is to be expected.
The cross-guard and the pommel feel like heavy steel, and give an impressive weight to the sword. It simply feels like a real weapon. While the instructions specifically mention not using it for sword play, you probably could get away with a few defensive maneuvers before the sword broke. Not that I’m suggesting the sword be so used, but simply that the construction could withstand some activity.
The battery installation is explained in detail in the instruction booklet and was not at all difficult to accomplish. I think the only hesitation I had in performing this function was the worry that I would break the sword. Once you have the pommel off however, you’ll see the worries are not justified.
There is a small, extremely well hidden, speaker slit directly below the cross-guard. As I’ll discuss later, this is where the audio emits from the sword.
The operation of this collectible could not be easier. There is a small three-stage switch located under the cross-guard on the handle. The switch matches the color of the hilt and as a result is not readily apparent when holding the sword. The switch has three stages:
OFF (Bottom Setting) – The sword is completely deactivated and none of the sounds or glow will function.
ON (Middle Setting) – The sword now has battle sounds enabled.
ORC MODE (Top Setting) – In this mode, when you encounter a random orc, the sword will glow blue…okay…it doesn’t exactly work that way, but Orc Mode activates the battle sounds, a consistent low hum and the blue iridescence of the blade.
Mouse Over to see Glow
THE GLOW: (5)
ORC MODE could have been created as a cheap electronic trick. When I first read about the sword, and even after viewing it on the Master Replicas website, I figured the effect would simply turn off and on like a light switch. This is definitely not the case.
When switched to ORC MODE, the hum of the blade starts low and then grows in intensity as the blade fades from silvery steel to a magical blue. The whole mode change takes about a second and a half.
When you switch to OFF, the reverse takes place but seems to take just a little longer.
The only complaint I have would be to see the fading be just a little more delayed. 2-3 seconds might have done the trick.
As for the glow itself, it is nearly perfect. As you can see in the pictures I took, the blade really does appear to be glowing. I do not know the technology involved, but Master Replicas has definitely pulled off some techno-magic here.
The battle sounds consist of a series of four clangs and clashes simulating sword play. The noise for this audio comes out through that hidden slit below the cross-guard. The speaker quality is relatively high and the sound is realistic. You can activate the audio to play by lightly hitting the sword against an object or by swinging with some force in the air. I found that hitting objects with the flat portion of the blade will yield the best results.
The only part of my Sting Sword FX Collectible experience that did not live up to expectations was the display stand included with the product. In sharp contrast to the expertly designed sword, the display stand is made of a cheap plastic that quite simply does not do the sword justice. In a way, displaying Sting on this plastic stand cheapens the perceived value.
Granted, from a distance, you can’t tell the display stand is made out of plastic, but upon closer inspection it is readily evident. I can’t help but think a faux wood texture or something similar would have greatly improved the stand in some capacity.
The saving grace of the display stand, bringing up to a 3 RING rating, is its functionality. It is well designed, allowing for either horizontal or vertical display.
It goes without saying that the Sting Sword FX Collectible is something that all fans will want to own. It is a very well made and designed item, which is definitely a bargain at the suggested $119 price tag. If Sting is any type of indication of what we can expect from Master Replicas in the future, then the future, for Lord of the Rings collectors, is bright indeed.
If you would like to place your pre-order for Sting or any of the other items they will be releasing this year, check out the Master Replicas.com website.