RS Prop Masters
Armour and Helmets
We thought the title for this review should be "Blurred Lines" - we'll explain why
over the course of the review...
|A few years back, a couple of guys from the north of England
revealed what for many was the "Holy Grail" of replica prop collecting -
that they had an original near-complete set of armour and helmet from
Star Wars / A New Hope and having made casts from this original, would
make replicas available. This is a very BIG deal for collectors since all
amour up to this point had been cast from a Return of the Jedi
set (and although ROTJ armour was derived from ANH, there's still a huge
significant differences). So the two guys, Simon and Rob went about
making moulds straight from their near-complete original ANH Sandtrooper
armour set. Fast
forward a couple of years and what we're reviewing today is one of their
first generation replicas created from their original A New Hope suit.
A very big deal indeed!
|..and a more regular front-on shot of the helmet - in this instance
we're looking at their ESB version, specifically the Alan Harris Edition (Alan being one of the
Stormtrooper actors in the movie), which we think is a nice touch for
Star Wars aficionado's. As per the originals the ESB eyes were cut back
a little more than they were in ANH, with the ESB
also sporting a black frown and printed trapezoid, tear and side tube decals.
|Over the last few years we've been spoiled as far as Stormtrooper
helmets are concerned, since there are already a number of producers out
there (all fan-made) who have had access to original helmet casts.
However armour is a different matter, since up to this point there's
never been a armour maker who has had access to an original ANH (and
therefore ESB) set - until now. The original armour RS Prop Masters used
was a Sandtrooper variation (so had been to Tunisia and back!) and so
needed separate mouldings for the Ab Buttons, Sniper Knee Plate and
shoulder strips (since they're not present on the Sandtrooper armour).
Also on their original there were duplicate forearms, Shins and Biceps,
so some work was needed adapting for the opposite side - but having done
this they can fabricate the entire armour set.
|Above a great studio-shot of 2 RSPM Stormtroopers (R2Dan and ObiHahn)
and below a shot of RS Prop Master's armour literally
straight out the box (minus the bubble
wrap) - and wow does it look good. This is how RSPM's ready-assembled
armour arrives if you go for the "fully loaded and assembled" version,
along with the gloves and hand guards (also present but not pictured).
It literally is a case of grab a black undersuit and a pair of Chelsea
boots and you're good to go..
|This geeky coolness extends further since RSPM assemble the armour just
like the original ESB sets, so the torso parts (chest, abs, back and ass)
are all fixed together in a "clam-shell" type arrangement with a single
snap opening on the right side. If you look at the image below loaded back in 2009
(and kindly provided to us by Star Wars Costume Designer John Mollo from his
personal 1979 diary detailing the ESB production and costumes) you can
see that RS Prop Masters has followed this exact same assembly approach.
Since these guys already had an original armour set in their possession
you could be sure that these are put together just right.
|Below a shot of the clam-shell style body section opened up. The elastic strip and
pin approach used for the original suits allows good movement while
still keeping all the constituent parts firmly secured together. The RS
Prop Master guys have done a great job in emulating the original
approach that Mollo and his team adopted for the originals -
and it means its an
absolute joy to wear should you ever wish to. The arms have
been assembled in the same way as the originals as well so rather than three
separate shoulder, upper and forearm sections, they're all affixed
together via thick black band of elasticated material - so it feels more like
pulling a single sleeve on.
|But ultimately the most important thing about any armour is it's
accuracy compared to the originals. And this is where the RS Prop
Masters armour and helmet really stand out. RSPM is the only
armour maker who has ever cast an original ANH set so ultimately it's the only
provider able to provide this level of armour accuracy. It's sharp where it
needs to be, asymmetrically wobbly where required - and finished off in
a slightly off-white ABS that looks like it walked straight off
the 1976 set. It's also great to be able to say that they haven't
cleaned up their armour moulds - so everything on both the helmet and armour
is as close to an exact copy of the ANH/ESB original that we're probably
going to get.
|Above and below a couple of shots that hopefully show off some of the
detail present on this armour. Notice in the photo below the small screw
holes under the lip of the chest piece- these are connected to the strip
and pin connection strips we mentioned above - and again are present on
original armour suits. This also allows the armour to move and
accommodate different body shames and sizes.
|The other interesting thing about RS Prop Masters is that although
we're classing them as a fan-made provider, its clear that they're
positioning themselves in much the same way as you'd expect an
officially licensed company to operate.
At an initial level, that approach is reinforced by the "RS Prop
Masters" web site which is very open and professional - with the
kind of order pages and purchase baskets we've come to expect from major
brands rather than fan-made sellers. This level of professionalism is
extended in to the order handling process through shipping to delivery. Our set was extremely well packaged and was accompanied
by a slick owners
pack including two metal plaques (for helmet and armour) and professionally
printed material, COA, car stickers etc. In this review we've
steered away from Licensing issues, but clearly the years of UK Court/High
Court/Lords legal cases have left the UK/EU Licensed Prop market in
a position where fan-made producers are prepared to adopt a more
professional and legitimate approach to replica prop production.
|Below with ESB helmet it really does look an incredibly impressive
replica. RSPM sells a number of different helmet and armour versions,
Stormtrooper, Sandtrooper, ANH, ESB,
Shiny ABS, painted etc. so you can pair your armour with your helmet of
choice. In our case we're reviewing the standard ABS armour
and "Alan Harris" Limited Edition ESB helmet.
|Armour is available in a number of different materials and
configurations, hence if you're happy doing the assembly work yourself
there's a cheaper UKŁ800 option including Armour and Helmet - with the cost
rising appropriate to the amount of work RSPM needs to do in putting
your armour set
together. Top price being UKŁ1,100 for the "fully loaded" fully assembled
pack with strapping just like the originals. That's not out of line with
other armour makers out there and certainly seems a "reasonable" price
|Concentrating on the helmet for now, as you can see from the
following photos it looks absolutely incredible. Certainly the sharpest
helmet we've ever come across, the hollows at the base of the tears are
clearly present - as are the oval tracks inside them. We've seen details
like this added to other casts, whereas on the RSPM helmets they're clearly
the remnants of the original helmet they're cast from.
|When the light catches the top of the helmet you can see all the
lines, bumps and wrinkles of the original underlying helmet, which we
absolutely love. However its good to hear that they also produce a more
sanitised "wrinkle free" version for those who prefer a more idealised
look - and presumably unlike the rest of us haven't freeze-framed their blu-rays
to marvel at just how knocked-off the original costumes were!
|As per the original ESB helmets, these are effectively ANH helmets
with a few minor alterations - most obviously the all-black frown and
decals replacing the hand-painted detailing of the ANH's. Again the RS
excels and the decals look to be spot-on replicas of the 1979 designs
used for ESB.
|Below we went a bit OTT on the photo filter, but really like this
shot. The helmet comes with all the details we've come to expect from
quality replicas now including authentic rubber underside "S" and brow
trims and accurate Hovi Mix "mic-tip" castings. They have also matched
the level of accuracy on this inside with correct 1970′s yellow foam
petal liner, green Acetate "lens" lighting gel along with correct
screws/bolts and elastic chin strap and clips. Everything that should be
there, is there.
|Below of the rear right quarter, showing a decent amount of undercut
at the back - this presumably determined by the amount of undercut
present on the original helmet RS Prop Masters used as the basis for
their mould. RS Prop Masters go to pains to point out that absolutely no
details have been intentionally removed or lost in the process of
creating their master mould (or “buck”). Similarly their helmets are
assembled in exactly the same way as the originals. If you opt for the
ANH helmet then its hand-painted - just like the originals.
|As mentioned earlier, RP Prop Masters helmets Helmets are available
in a choice of plastics to complement the different armour options. We would certainly
be interested in taking a look at their painted HDPE
ANH helmet, since for any manufacturer that's the base material that
would provide the most accurate to the original screen-used ANH/ESB
Stunt helmets. Hmmmmmmmm!
|Below one last shot of the helmet and armour together in all their
glory - it's hard not to be impressed!
|Parting thoughts: What RS Prop Masters has done is massive. Making
prop replicas cast from an original "New Hope" Helmet AND Armour set has
never been done before, so it already places them in a different league
from any other armour makers out there, whether Fan Made or Licensed.
Secondly they've upped their game to the point that they're positioning
themselves like a "normal" retailer - i.e. a decent
website with online ordering, pro/tracked shipping, collectors
materials, display stands etc. It's getting to the point where the
difference between "officially licensed" and "fan-made" is not so clear
- hence the "Blurred Lines" review title.
So we're not sure what this means to the market,
but it most certainly does lay down one hell of a hefty gauntlet to
companies like EFX who are currently looking at producing something
similar. A few years back Museum Replicas acquired the license from
Lucasfilm to produce armour - and found it a lot more complex than they
had originally thought. More recently EFX threw its hat in the ring and
teased an original ANH Hero helmet and suit - which if it happens will
be fantastic. But producing and selling full armour is exponentially
more difficult than just a helmet on its own. In many ways the
manufacturing process is the easy part, its all the other things that
stand between those vac-formed bits of plastic and you the buyer that
cause the problems. Quite simply we're wondering just how any licensed
producer will be able to
match, let alone better the package that RS Prop Masters has here - at a
price that's anywhere near comparable. Especially as a Licensed
company has far higher admin, cost of sales, overheads, license fees
etc. than a smaller "Fan-Made" company will ever have.
EFX doesn't feel it needs to compete and with their fully licensed
armour will be addressing a slightly different niche?
Either way lets not move away from what RS Prop Masters has achieved.
They've made what we are confident is the very best, most accessible and
importantly, the most accurate ANH/ESB Stormtrooper Armour and Helmets
ever produced. And they have done all this at a very realistic and reasonable price point. Now
that really is impressive. Form an orderly queue here!