#1539: Xenomorph

XENOMORPH

ALIEN: COVENANT (NECA)

“Ridley Scott returns to the universe created, with Alien: Covenant, a new chapter in his groundbreaking Alien franchise.  The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world.  When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.”

…Okay, I’ve been putting this off for about as long as I could.  Let’s do this.  For my eighth post-Christmas review, I’ll be asking an important question: is it possible to enjoy an action figure based on something you utterly despise?  I’ve pondered this question before, amusingly enough, in the same franchise as this review, and from the same toy maker even.  I mean, I was able to enjoy four whole Alien 3 figures, right?  Surely Alien: Covenant isn’t that different, is it?  Well, yes and no.  The thing about Alien 3 is that it existed before I even got into the Alien franchise.  I knew it was coming before I even started Aliens.  I had fair warning.  It’s just sort of done.  And, the way Aliens ends, Alien 3 is very easy to ignore.  Moreover, as much as I dislike the movie, I’ll be the first to admit that not *everything* about it sucks.  Things like the quadrupedal Xeno I can certainly get behind.  Alien: Covenant?  Well, I had to experience it new, which definitely sucked.  It’s a sequel to Prometheus, a movie that I enjoyed more than I expected, but an incredibly flawed one nonetheless.  At the end of Prometheus, I actually had this little twinge of hope, that maybe Scott would be taking his characters in a different direction than the earlier films and trying something new.  Silly me.  Covenant takes what I liked in Prometheus and gives it a fiery, explosive death, and takes everything I didn’t like about it and sticks it front and center.  And then it sort of tries to reinvent the wheel by reintroducing audiences to one of the most distinctive monsters of all time in a way that assures you beyond the shadow of a doubt that everything clever Scott did in the original Alien was an accident.

…I’m getting very sidetracked.  I should probably talk about the figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Xenomorph is part of NECA’s Alien: Covenant line, released to coincide with the movie’s theatrical run.  The figure stands 8 1/2 inches tall and he has 37 points of articulation, plus a bendable tail.  This Xeno sports an all-new sculpt, modeled after the Xeno seen on screen in Covenant.  To NECA’s credit, they’ve crafted a very good recreation of the creature seen in the film.  Every detail looks spot on, and everything is very sharp and well defined.  The figure’s articulation is pretty decently worked in, and he’s just as posable as his brethren from the other movies.  The paint’s pretty solid too.  The fine details on the head are all well outlined and clearly applied, and there’s decent accent work that shows off the sculpt pretty well.  Viewed just on its merits as a plastic recreation of the thing we see in the movie, this figure is nothing short of exceptional.  And there lies the rub.  I could go on for a very long time about what I didn’t like about Covenant (I’ve already gone on too long, frankly), but nothing frustrated me more than the design of the Xenomorph.  It’s like someone looked at the original design and said “how can remove everything unique, interesting, and genuinely terrifying about this design?”  Simply put, this alien looks like a skinned human with a Xeno head stuck on top.  Is that pleasant?  No.  Is it gross? A bit.  Would I want to run into this thing? No.  Is it scary? Not really.  There’s too much going on, and it’s all far too familiar to me.  Remove the head, and you’re left with a monster that would look at home in any slasher film of the week.  It’s really generic.  And I get that they designed it this way on purpose, so that it would still look alright when brightly lit (which is most definitely not true of the Xenos seen in Alien or Aliens; they look downright goofy when seen in regular lighting).  So bravo, you created Aliens you can look at in daylight.  But why, though?  Why?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This figure came from Super Awesome Girlfriend.  I had mentioned to her that the Books A Million in the mall where she works had a decent selection of NECA Aliens figures, and when she went back, the Covenant figures were all they had left.  She knew I didn’t like the movie, but she really wanted to get me something Alien-related, so she got me this one.  It’s a thoughtful gift, no doubt.  It’s not her fault that the movie sucked.  Nor is it NECA’s, or even this figure’s.  Like I said, just as a figure of the design in the movie, this figure is solid.  And I’ll put it on the shelf with my other NECA Xenos, and be content.  But I really wish the movie had been better.  And I really wish the design were better.  And I really wish Ridley Scott would learn to quit while he’s ahead.

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#1499: Carter J Burke & Xenomorph Warrior

CARTER J BURKE & XENOMORPH WARRIOR

ALIENS (NECA)

It’s been a little while since I’ve given Aliens its proper due.  Even longer since I did it by looking at some sweet NECA figures.  In fact, the last NECA Aliens figures I looked at were the re-releases of Hicks and Hudson.  As awesome as those were, there wasn’t a whole lot new to them.  Today’s review is different.

Though the Alien franchise’s most prominent antagonists are the titular creatures of each film, they’re more of a chaotic, not exclusively evil entity.  The real antagonists of the story are mostly employees of the duplicitous Weyland-Yutani company.  Perhaps their most vile operator is Mr. Carter J. Burke, who serves as a major draw of today’s set of figures.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Burke and the Xenomorph Warrior were released just about a month ago as part of the “Hadley’s Hope” two-pack, which is part of NECA’s overarching Aliens line.  These two join the Marine Two-Pack, as well as Vasquez and Frost under the 30th Anniversary banner.

CARTER J BURKE

“I’m Burke. Carter Burke. I work for the company. But don’t let that fool you, I’m really an okay guy.”

Don’t let the quote above about not being fooled fool you: he’s not really an okay guy.  Fortunately, the same isn’t true of his actor Paul Reiser, which is why we have this figure.  Apparently, after being informed during a Q&A that all it would take to get NECA to make a Burke figure was his sign-off on the likeness rights, Reiser made it a point of contacting them and making sure this figure became a reality.  Good on you Paul!  Burke is seen here in his casual attire he sports on LV-426, which is sensible, since he’s there for most of the movie.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 26 points of articulation.  Burke’s sporting an all-new sculpt, and it’s up to par with the rest of the line’s offerings.  Structurally, he reminds me a little bit of Bishop, although they’ve definitely gotten a bit more comfortable with the use of overlay pieces integrated with articulation.  The head has a pretty solid likeness of Reiser.  They’ve gone with a panic-stricken Burke, which I think really works for the character, in the same way that it worked for the first Hudson.  I know some collectors wanted a more sly expression, but I find I prefer this.  Burke’s paintwork is pretty decent overall, apart from a few small nits.  The biggest flaw is the plaid of the shirt ending just a bit too early, thus leaving some un-painted white exposed.  It’s not the end of the world, and honestly isn’t that noticeable if you’re not looking right at it.  Beyond that, the paint’s pretty solid all-around.

XENOMORPH WARRIOR

Apparently, the humans don’t move so well at retail, so Burke needed an Alien to keep him exciting.  I have a lot of Xenos, so they don’t always thrill me, but I’m okay with it if there’s a good gimmick, which I think this one has.  It’s another concept figure, based on pre-shooting design for the Aliens Xeno Warriors.  It’s really just the same design, but with a dome on the head.  For the actual film, the domes kept breaking due to the more strenuous tasks performed by the aliens, so they were ultimately removed, creating the design we all know now.  It’s a neat little what-if.  The figure stands about 8 inches tall and has 39 points of articulation.  This Xeno makes use of a number of parts from the Series 1 Xeno Warrior, but not as many as you might think.  The head’s been tweaked to add the dome, the torso’s been tweaked to make the back fin a permanent piece, the hands, pelvis, upper arms, and upper legs are new pieces to add articulation.  It all adds up to a figure that looks rather similar to the prior figures, but is much sturdier and a lot easier to pose.  I loved the old figure, but this is definitely an improvement, and I look forward to seeing more Xenos built on this same base body.  The paintwork on figure is rather similar to the black Genocide alien’s.  It works for me, and I’m just happy it’s cleaner than prior Xenos.

Neither figure really comes with any character-specific accessories, but the set does also include the Hadley’s Hope town sign, which is a pretty awesome backdrop piece, and just a fun idea in general.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed this set from my usual go-to for NECA stuff, All Time Toys.  I knew it was hitting, and I made a point of stopping by to grab it.  Burke’s obviously the star here, and he turned out very nicely.  The Xeno’s actually one of my favorites from NECA, and I’m happy to add it to the shelf.  All around, and awesome set, which I’m thrilled to add to my collection.

#1457: Mercury

MERCURY

TRON 2.0 (NECA)

“Jet Bradley, a young computer engineer working for ENCOM, must step into the digital world in search of answers.  He uncovers a sinister plot spinning out of control that threatens to corrupt one reality and forever transform another.”

Tron Legacy is perhaps one of my favorite movies ever.  In terms of toys, though, it’s also one of the biggest disappointments ever, with some of the most lackluster offerings imaginable under its belt.  The Tron franchise in general hasn’t really tended to have much luck with toys.  The only entry to really escape this curse is Tron 2.0, 2003’s video game sequel to the original film.  In it, the son of one of the original film’s heroes goes into the digital world looking for his missing father, and he’s aided by a kick-butt female program sent by his father to help…wait, this sounds familiar.  Yeah, there are a few similarities between 2.0 and Legacy, but they’re actually pretty superficial.  Anyway, when 2.0 hit, they went all-out and had some figures made, which were produced by the fine folks at NECA.  Today, I’ll be looking at the previously mentioned kick-butt female program, Mercury.  No, she’s not Quorra, but I’ll try not to hold that against her.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Mercury is one of the four Tron 2.0 figures NECA released in preparation for the game’s release.  She hit in early 2003, about 5 months before the release of the game.  The figure stands about 7 inches tall and she has 11 points of articulation.  She’s not the most mobile figure ever, but given that NECA was still moving past their usual McFarlane-style plastic statues at this point, she was actually pretty decent.  Honestly, my only real issue is with the v-hips; that’s a style of joint I’ve just never really lived.  Obviously, she’s based on her in-game design, though it’s a slightly idealized version.  Since the graphics of a 2003 video game were still a little bit compromised, this figure sort of smooths some things out and presents a slightly more realistic composition.  She’s still a bit6 stylized, of course, since she’d look a bit weird if she wasn’t.  They kept the essence of the character without the flaws, I suppose.  The sculpt does a nice job fitting in all of the details from the game, and I particularly dig the big bulky gloves.  Those are pretty awesome looking!  The paint on Mercury is a bit monochromatic by design, but NECA didn’t just phone it in; they actually put a lot of effort into getting all of those distinct shades of blue on the figure, and she’s better for it.  Even without translucent plastic or light-up features, this figure conveys the whole Tron aesthetic very well.  Kudos to NECA for that.  Rather than the usual disc, Mercury is armed with a cool fighting staff.  It’s translucent with dark blue piping, which has this nice holographic look about it, and it can be fairly easily held in either hand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This figure’s a recent acquisition for me, but it’s been housed in the same place as the rest of my collection for several years now.  It used to be owned by my brother, who decided over this past summer to part with a lot of his action figure collection.  I’ve taken most of the strays in, of course, because, as I’ve noted before, I’m the personification of the Island of Misfit Toys.  In the case of Mercury, it’s actually a figure that I might have tracked down on my own eventually.  I’ve never played Tron 2.0, but this is still a pretty fun figure, and an early sign of how good NECA would eventually get at making consistently awesome stuff.  One of these days, I’ll need to track down the rest of this particular line.

#1427: Lambert – Compression Suit

LAMBERT – COMPRESSION SUIT

ALIENS (NECA)

After two weeks, I’ve finally finished up with the Star Wars reviews.  Well, for now, anyway.  I feel certain there’ll be more to come.  Of course, I’ve been writing about nothing about Star Wars for two weeks, so I sort of need to ween myself off of things.  So, how about a review from *another* sci-fi franchise that was launched in the late ‘70s?  Yes, today I’m setting my sites on Alien, and taking a look at another of the Nostromo’s ill-fated crew, Navigator Joan Lambert.  Yes, Joan is really her first name.  Take it up with James Cameron. Onto the figure!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Lambert was released in the eleventh series of NECA’s Aliens line.  She’s the only movie based figure in the assortment, and the fourth member of the Nostromo crew to see release in the line.  The figure stands about 7 1/2 inches tall and she has 24 points of articulation.  Lambert is seen here wearing her compression suit, which she wears during the mission to explore the derelict ship on LV-426.  While Lambert is perhaps the least prominent of the three crew members during that sequence, but it’s still a more visually interesting design than what she wears around the ship, and it also completes the away team trio.  And, most importantly, it also gives NECA an excuse to get another use out of their awesome compression suit mold.  This marks the body’s fifth use, following Kane, Dallas, Ripley, and Amanda, and it’s still very much one of my favorites.  There’s also an all-new head sculpt, which is one of NECA’s best yet.  Unlike Kane (who’s lack of likeness was hidden by a facehugger) and Dallas (who was close but not quite there), Lambert’s likeness really is dead on. Like Hudson before her, Lambert’s panicky personality has been captured in this figure’s expression.  It’s a really great recreation of Veronica Cartwright’s scrunched up, screaming face from the film.  The head’s wearing the cap from the film, which is fantastically detailed and matches the rest of the suit’s detail quite nicely.  There’s a second head included, which has her without the cap and with a much calmer expression.  While it’s not quite as dead-on a Cartwright likeness as the other head, it’s still a solid likeness.  I just wish I had a non-compression-suited body to put it on.  As far as paint goes, Lambert is pretty decent.  There’s a little bit of slop here and there, but nothing major.  The weathering on the suit, particularly the metal parts is really nice, and her face is particularly lifelike.  Like Dallas and Kane before her, Lambert is packed with a removable helmet, a flare gun, and a flashlight.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve fallen a little bit behind with my NECA Aliens purchases, I must admit.  I knew Lambert was being released, and I totally meant to order one, but just kept getting sidelined.  I ended up getting a gift certificate to All Time Toys earlier last month, and decided to use it to grab this figure, since they had her in stock.  There’s not a whole lot new to this figure, but that doesn’t at all stop her from being an awesome figure.

Guest Review #0041: Harry Potter

HARRY POTTER

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (NECA)

Hey! So it’s that time again, that super rare time where Jill has a review to write for the figure in question (because Ethan is not in a state to write this in time!). Harry Potter is back, and he’s got an awesome backpack because he’s a high school drop out. This figure, like the Sirius Black figure from The Order of the Phoenix was a Christmas gift from Ethan when he and Tim were trying to convince me to be interested in toys and action figures. (Unfortunately for my wallet, they have been successful).

THE FIGURE ITSELF

This figure of Harry from The Deathly Hallows has 8 points of articulation, none of which are in his legs, like all my other NECA figures. He also comes with a removable backpack and a wand. I thought for a few minutes that his glasses were removable, but after some careful tinkering, I have discovered that they are just precariously attached. He stands about 8 inches tall, and has a passing likeness for Daniel Radcliffe during part one of the Deathly Hallows movies. It’s not perfect, but it’s ok. He’s recognizable. It is a little frustrating that his legs do not have any articulation, it makes it so he only really has one pose that makes sense, which is a battle pose, but his facial expression definitely doesn’t look like he’s in battle.

The backpack is fun, I like being able to pose him with or without it, and it’s accurate for the movie. The wand is both my absolute favorite and my least favorite part of this. This tiny, 1 inch strip of plastic is actually very close to what Harry’s wand looks like in the movies (I should know, I won the fancy prop version in a Harry Potter trivia contest my freshman year of college) and I think the effort that went into making this teeny-tiny little prop is exceptional. However, it is a teeny-tiny little strip of plastic that bends easy and is not held securely in his hand, which means that my greatest fear is that I’m going to lose it. If it falls out of his hand, there’s no getting this back. (My complaints about Sirius’ wand were very similar).

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This was my second Christmas present from Ethan, and it helped to establish the trend the boys have started of getting me action figures and toys as presents until the completionist in me had to start looking for the entire series of multiple toys. This figure is one of the first action figures I actually owned, and since I have gotten him I have bought several figures (including Rue) and established other collections thanks to Tim and Ethan (I own most of the Alex figures in the minecraft lines, and several other series, including some composers). My collection is not as vast of broad as Ethan and Tim’s, but it is growing, and this Harry Potter figure is part of the reason why. He’s not perfect, but he is important to my collection journey.

#1342: T-800 – Final Battle

T-800 — FINAL BATTLE

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (NECA)

“Specs: Model T-800 {Final Battle} – After escaping Cyberdyne, the T-800, Sarah and John Connor are pursued by the T-1000 into a steel mill. The Terminators engage in violent hand to hand combat causing the T-800 to sustain critical damage. Now missing his left arm and operating on limited power and capacity the T-800 staggers to Sarah and John’s rescue and fires his last grenade into the T-1000 causing it to explode and fall into a vat of molten steel.”

Wow, it’s been like a year since I looked at anything Terminator-related.  Guess I’ll be fixing that today!  So, remember back when I reviewed NECA’s Ultimate T-800 figure from Terminator 2?  And how I mentioned that I owned one of the prior, non-Ultimate-y ones, from their earlier line?  Yeah, well that’s (one of) the figure(s) I’m looking at today!  Let’s get right to that, then!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Final Battle T-800 was released in Series 2 of NECA’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day line of figures.  At this point, the line was still exclusively variants of the T-800, but hey, that’s what we all wanted at the time.  The figure stands about 7 inches tall and has 11 points of articulation.  This is before NECA had gotten quite as good with articulation, so he’s a little stilted.  The upper half of the figure’s pretty solid, though, and while the legs are essentially motionless, there’s just enough movement there to help him balance.  On the plus side of things, the lack of motion’s not quite as killer on this particular figure, since the T-800 wasn’t exactly doing kung-fu high-kicks after taking all that damage.  As the name of the figure informs us, this guy’s based on the T-800 as he looks at the very end of T2, after he’s lost an arm and taken a serious beating at the hands of the T-1000.  The figure’s sculpt is pretty darn fantastic, offering a ton of amazing texturing on the leather jacket and pants, and even on the underlying machinery that’s been exposed. There are two heads included with this guy, with varying degrees of damage.  He’s packaged wearing the slightly less damaged of the two, which has the more unencumbered likeness.  While NECA’s gone on to give us better Schwarzenegger likenesses in recent years, this was pretty darn great for the time.  There are maybe some minor quibbles, but that’s really all that can be held against it.  The damage is consistent with what’s seen in the movie, too, which is really great.  The second head is far more damaged, depicting him after he takes a girder to the face a couple of times.  It’s actually one of those cases where the figure looks a bit better than what’s seen in the movie, since the movie had to rely on rather bulky prosthetics, and the figure can just actually carve away chunks of his face.  It’s definitely a nice piece.  The paintwork on this guy is decent enough.  Like the Kyle Reese figure, I did find the soulless eyes to be rather jarring (it’s more obvious on the more damaged head), but it’s far from awful.  There’s a lot of good work on the body, especially the clothes, though.  I do wish the damaged arm had slightly more convincing blood splatters, since these look more like red paint, but that’s minor.  In addition  to the spare head, the figure also includes the slightly damaged grenade launder, which he can hold pretty well.

Did you see in the intro where I hinted at more than one figure?  Well, I’ll touch on that now.  Alongside their 7-inch line, NECA also did some 12-inch Terminator 2 figures, and the Final Battle T-800 was one of the two they chose to do.  The figure is essentially just an upscaling of the 7-inch figure, but there are a few tweaks, most notably the inclusion of a light-up feature for the eye (activated by pressing the panel in the center of his chest).  It’s also worth noting that the larger figure only includes the more damaged head, presumably because a swapping head wouldn’t have worked too well with the light-up bit.  The larger size actually really helps the figure.  The likeness on the head, in particular, is a lot stronger at this scale (to the point where I honestly think it’s a better Arnold than Hot Toys ever gave us on a T-800), and the paint looks way better, since there’s a lot more room for subtlety.  Just like his smaller counterpart, this guy included the damaged grenade launcher.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Final Battle T-800 is the second NECA figure I ever owned, and it’s certainly the one that got me to notice them as a company.  I don’t recall exactly when I picked it up, but I do remember anxiously awaiting its release after seeing it on the back of the Series 1 packaging.  It’s a nice figure because unlike a number of other looks from the movie, the fully battle-damaged appearance really does warrant a whole figure to itself.

The larger figure was a Christmas present, given to me by my parents.  It was the year after I’d gotten the Hot Toys T-1000, and I was really wanting to have at least some version of the T-800 to go on the shelf with him and Sarah.  While I did eventually get the Hot Toys release when it came out (a whole three years later), this guy held me over in the mean time, and actually fit in surprisingly well with the two HT figures.  Looking back, he’s still a pretty awesome figure.  It’s too bad NECA never did any other characters to go with  him!

#1341: Robocop w/ Spring-loaded Holster

ROBOCOP w/ SPRING-LOADED HOLSTER

ROBOCOP (NECA)

Robocop.  He’s a cop and also a robot.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  I think he’s technically a cyborg.  Right?  I mean, he uses a real guy’s face, doesn’t he?  The movie sort of blurs the line, so it’s a little difficult to say if he’s a robot with the face and memories of a dead guy, or if he’s a dead guy with robotic enhancements.  All of this is my way of saying that I have no idea what to say in a Robocop intro.  So, there you go.  Anyway, I’m looking at a Robocop figure today, so let’s just get right into it, shall we?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

“Leg Holster” Robocop is part of the second assortment of NECA’s Robocop line.  After the basic Murphy did decent business, they decided to follow him up with a couple of variants.  While this guy is *technically* a variant, he actually improves on a few issues from the basic Murphy figure, and is kind of the “ultimate” Robocop, so to speak.  The figure hands a little over 7 inches tall and he has 16 points of articulation.  He’s not super mobile, but then, neither was the character in the film, now was he?  This figure mostly re-uses pieces from the standard Robocop figure.  The sculpt was a good one, and is incredibly faithful to the movie’s design.  One notable fix between this figure and the initial one is that this one’s mask has been pushed all the way down, so he doesn’t have the slight bit of extra nose protruding down like the first figure, which makes for an overall much better look.  What can be seen of the face is rather on the generic side (since Peter Weller has yet to grant his likeness rights to NECA), but it’s a tiny enough section of face that there’s not much of a likeness to worry about.  The main change to this figure is the right thigh, which has been designed to replicate Murphy’s built-in leg holster.  There’s a button on the back of the leg, which pops it open, revealing the “holster” (which is really just a set of clips which can hold the gun), and allowing for the gun to be placed inside.  Then you can pop the leg back together, albeit with a fair bit of effort.  When I got the figure, I was initially worried that the leg holster might interfere with the quality of the figure, and possibly be too gimmicky, but it’s really not.  It’s there if you want to use it, but once you clip the leg back together, it’s as if the spring-loaded feature isn’t there at all.  The paint on Robocop is pretty solid.  The base work is all nice and clean, and I particularly like the slightly iridescent finish to the silver sections.  He includes his signature gun, as well as an alternate right hand with his data spike extended.  Apart from an unmasked head (which obviously wasn’t going to happen), I really can’t think of anything else he’d need!

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I bought this figure whilst in the midst of my NECA summer, aka the first summer that I discovered NECA, where I was playing catch-up and getting as many of the older figures as I could.  This particular figure was purchased in response to Hot Toys announcing their own version of Murphy.  He was super cool, but I realized that spending $300 on a figure from a movie I at best kind-of-sort-of enjoy made absolutely no sense.  So, I got this guy instead, and I’ve been quite happy with him ever since!

#1317: Corporal Dwayne Hicks & Private William Hudson

CORPORAL DWAYNE HICKS & PRIVATE WILLIAM HUDSON

ALIENS (NECA)

“I’m Hudson, sir; he’s Hicks…”

Ever buy something you don’t actually need?  I know, I’m on dubious ground here, seeing as I run a whole site devoted to things I don’t technically need.  I guess in this context, I’m referring to figures that I more or less already own.  In terms of re-releases and the like, I tend to skip them.  Today’s review sort of violates that rule, in that there’s not *technically* anything new about either of the figures I’m reviewing here.  I’ve reviewed every single piece of both figures before (here, here, here, and here).

A little backstory: I got into NECA’s Aliens line on the ground floor, pre-ordering Series 1 a good couple of months before it hit shelves, and then picked up every single release up until Series 6.  This means I had both versions of marines Hicks and Hudson, who were in the first series and then each packed in a two-pack with a Xeno.  However, there are good number of people who didn’t enter the line until around Series 5 or so, when the Aliens version of Ripley was released.  This caused a significant jump in the aftermarket prices on both Hicks and Hudson, especially as more of the marines have been released.  Not wanting to leave fans missing two major characters from the movie, NECA’s taken advantage of the film’s 30th Anniversary to put out a special two-pack, which offers up both characters again at retail.  As I said, technically speaking, there’s nothing new to these guys.  So, why am I reviewing them?  I’ll get to that.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Hicks and Hudson were released as a two-pack within the 30th Anniversary Collection sub-set of NECA’s main Aliens line.  They are meant to compliment Series 9’s Vasquez and Frost figures, and they started hitting in March, wedged between Series 10 and 11.

HICKS

Hicks is perhaps one of my favorite movie characters of all time, so by that grace, he gets to go first.  If you’ve read my two prior Hicks reviews, you’ll know that this figure stands about 7 inches tall and has 30 points of articulation.  You’ll also know that I’m a pretty big fan of the sculpt, particularly the body.  None of that has changed, apart from the body having slightly sturdier joint construction this time.  This figure has both the un-helmeted and helmeted heads of the single and double-pack versions of the character.  Of the two, my favorite is definitely the un-helmeted head.  It’s more calm expression works better for the character, and lends itself to a more recognizable Beihn likeness.  The helmeted head is okay, but I don’t care for the screaming expression, and I feel the helmet sits a bit too high.  The real, important difference on this figure is the paint.  While it’s just cleaner in general, the major deviation is how the skin has been handled.  The Series 1 figures hit at a transition point for NECA, as they moved from painted to molded skin tones, and due to the size of the production and costs associated, the Series 1 Marines had painted skin.  It was far from awful, but later figures, most notably the recent Ripley and Vasquez figures, had the molded skin.  For the re-releases, NECA’s brought Hicks inline with the newer figures.  It’s really just a simple change on their part, but it makes for a major change in the quality of the figure.  The likeness on both heads is greatly improved by the lack of extra paint, and he looks far more lifelike in general, thanks to how the light hits plastic vs. how it hits paint.  In addition to the pair of heads, Hicks has his M41A pulse rifle, his shotgun for “close encounters,” a holster for the shot gun, a motion tracker, and a removable shoulder lamp.  Most of these pieces are identical to the original releases, but the shoulder lamp has been tweaked to make it much easier to get it placed on his back (a huge issue with the original figures).

HUDSON

Okay, I feel a little bad for Hudson, having just proclaimed Hicks one of my favorite characters of all time.  It’s okay Hudson, I still like you too!  When I reviewed the original figures, I had some issues with Hicks, but for the most part I was pretty solidly happy with both versions of Hudson.  This guy is essentially the same: about 7 inches tall, 30 points of articulation, and a pretty kickass sculpt.  Like Hicks, he has both helmeted and un-helmeted heads.  Unlike Hicks, I don’t really have a favorite of the two, since I find the likeness on both to be pretty solid, and the issue with the high sitting helmet is avoided.  He’s got the same tweaks to the paint as Hicks; everything is sharper overall (though there was a bit of errant paint on his un-helmeted head), and he’s got the new molded skin tone.  If I thought the figures were good before, there’s really no topping them here.  Hudson gets one more tweak on the helmeted head; the original helmet detailing was rather generic, and was missing Hudson’s character-specific graffiti.  This figure adds that back in.  It’s one of those things you don’t realize you miss until you see it, and then you really can’t un-see it.  Now the older figure just looks wrong (I mean, he always was, but now it’s a more nagging wrong-ness).  Hudson has the M41A pulse rifle, motion tracker, and removable shoulder lamp.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t originally plan on getting these, since I had the originals.  Seeing them in person at All Time Toys kind of changed my mind, but I didn’t have the money to buy any figures, much less ones that were so similar to ones I already had.  But, then my Dad offered to get me an action figure or two in exchange for helping to put down a carpet at my Grandmother’s house (both a resourceful bribe and a reference to the fact that he bought me an action figure the last time I helped put down carpet.  I was 4 at the time, but the point still stands).  And I also wanted to buy something slightly bigger than the $4 Gambit figure to help support All Time after the Main Street Flood.  And I was killing time in Ellicott City.  So, these two came home with me.  I didn’t really have super high expectations of either figure going in, but I was very surprised to find just how much of an improvement both figures are over the prior releases.  They almost feel like different figures.  If you missed the initial releases, then you’ll be very happy with these.  If you have the originals?  Well, it’s hard to say.  I might have liked to get a few extras that weren’t seen on the prior figures (headset head for Hicks, non-bandaged arm for Hudson), but I understand why they weren’t included; it’s not doubt to avoid forcing those who have the originals into buying them again, just for a new piece or two.  Ultimately, even without any new pieces, I feel this set is different enough to warrant long-time collectors picking it up, but it really comes down to how much of a Hicks/Hudson fan you are.

Aaaand I just wrote over 1200 words about figures I already reviewed.  Wow.

#1307: Amanda Ripley

AMANDA RIPLEY

ALIENS (NECA)

“15 years after the disappearance of the commercial towing vessel Nostromo, the ship’s flight recorder is discovered floating in deep space. Its owner, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, immediately dispatches a team of representatives to Sevastopol Station to retrieve it. Among their number is Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, the Nostromo’s warrant officer.”

It’s no secret that Aliens is my favorite movie of pretty much all time (though Guardians Vol 2 has given it some serious competition, not gonna lie).  As I was -6 when the film was released, I never saw it in theaters.  I instead caught it many years later when it was released on DVD.  On the DVD, the default version is the director’s cut, which adds 16 minutes of footage.  There’s a lot of simply cut lines, but a few whole scenes, and by extension underlying subplots, were cut.  The removal of Newt’s family and the other scenes at the colony is the biggest excision, but not far behind it is the removal of the pre-inquest scene where Ripley discovers the fate of her daughter, Amanda, who died during Ripley’s 57 years away from Earth.  All we get is a name, a picture, and her age at time of death.  28 years later, we got Alien: Isolation, a game centered on Amanda and her quest to find out what happened to her mother.  Real shocker here: she runs into a Xenomorph along the way.  Who could have foreseen that?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Amanda Ripley was released in Series 6 of NECA’s Aliens line, which was a whole series devoted to Isolation.  There were two Amanda figures in the set; this one depicts her in her main jumpsuit-ed look, which she’s sporting for a good chunk of the game.  There was also a figure of her in her compression suit, which I never got around to picking up.  This figure stands about 7 1/4 inches tall and has 26 points of articulation.  As it was supposed to be nearer in the timeline to Alien than to Aliens, Isolation took a lot of its design elements from the first film.  By extension, each of the three figures in Series 6 borrows liberally from prior NECA Aliens figures.  This Amanda figure is built using about 95% of the parts from the Jumpsuit Ripley figure from Series 4, along with a new head and upper arms.  The designs of the jumpsuits are close enough that this makes for a pretty decent recreation.  If you want to get super nitpicky, the pattern of the seams and “belt” on the pelvis section is incorrect, and she’s missing the leather pads on her shoulders.  However, it’s hardly noticeable; you have to be looking for inaccuracies (which, I as a reviewer am paid to do.  Oh wait, no I’m not.  There’s no money in this.  It’d be nice, though, wouldn’t it?).  The new pieces blend well with the old, and make her sufficiently different from her mom. The head does a suitable job of capturing Amanda’s likeness from the game; it does seem a tad on the small side to me, though.  Amanda’s paint work is decent, but it does have a few issues.  The overall application is pretty solid, and the colors all seem to match what’s seen on the screen.  She’s got painted skin, which I don’t like quite as much as the molded skin, but I guess it’s alright.  There are a few scuffs on my figure, and she’s got a weird splotch of discoloration on her forehead.  Overall, though, she’s really not bad.  Amanda is packed with a flamethrower (the very same one included with her mother), as well as her self-assembled motion tracker, and her backpack.  A great selection of extras all around.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The first Amanda Ripley figure I bought actually wasn’t for me, but was instead for my brother Christian.  My exposure to the game was watching him play through it, so I thought it was only proper he get the figure first.  Other things took priority over getting an Amanda for myself, so I just never got around to grabbing her.  Last summer, the day before Movie Stop went out of business, several of us went to see what was left.  Poor Amanda was one of about three NECA figures left, and I ended up getting her for something like 90% off.  She’s a pretty solid figure, thanks in no small part to being built on the same body as one of NECA’s best.  It’s just a shame we never got a Worker Joe to harass her.  Guess I’ll just have to make due with the Xeno….

Hey, look at that; I managed to go this whole Alien-themed review without mentioning my seething hatred for Covenant.  Good on me!

#1191: Ripley & Newt

RIPLEY & NEWT

ALIENS (NECA)

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Here we are at the finish line for the 2016 post-Christmas reviews.  I’m ending things the way I finished them: Aliens!  It’s hardly the Christmas season without a good helping of Aliens merch!

NECA’s a company generally known for doing the “impossible” when it comes to action figure licenses.  When they started off their Aliens line, Hicks, Hudson, and Bishop were the only guaranteed likenesses, and Ripley was most definitely not on the table.  That is, until she was.  But NECA swore up and down there was no way we were getting a Newt figure.  Not only was the likeness not available, but her unique sculpt would make her less than realistic for the line.  No way she was happening.  Until she did.  Yep, during last year’s big Alien Day celebration NECA and actress Carrie Henn unveiled the Newt figure.  She was set for a SDCC release, which made some collectors a bit worried, but NECA assured fans that everyone who wanted a Newt would get one.  They finally made good on that promise, albeit in a slightly roundabout way.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Ripley and Newt were released as part of the “Rescuing Newt” two-pack, which is sort of the last major hurrah of the Aliens anniversary product.  It was originally supposed to hit in November, but was pushed back until right before Christmas.

RIPLEY

ripleynewtneca2While clearly not the main focus of this set, NECA used this as an opportunity to get the Aliens Ripley out there one more time, for fans who missed her Series 5 release.  However, for those of us that have been faithfully following the line, they made her different enough to not feel like a total repeat.  The first figure depicts Ripley towards the beginning of her journey into the hive, and this one depicts her closer to the end.  I’ve looked at about 90% of this figure twice before; she shares everything below the neck with both the Series 5 Ripley and the TRU-exclusive Kenner Ripley.  I loved the sculpt the first time, and I loved it the second time, and I still love it the third time.  NECA really nailed the details for this look, and I can hardly blame them for wanting to get as much milage out of these pieces as possible.  But enough about the old, what about the new?  Well, Ripley gets a unique head sculpt, which reflects her more dilapidated appearance late in the film.  The hair’s a lot more pressed to her head, the eyes more tired, and the mouth ever so slightly open, showing she’s catching her breath after kicking all that Xeno butt.  I gotta say, I was a little underwhelmed by the sculpt when I saw it in the package, but after taking it out and looking at it from a few different angles, I’e warmed up to it.  The Series 5 version is still my preferred look, and has the better overall Weaver likeness, but this one’s a solid runner up, and, if nothing else, fixes the minor issue of the neck looking a bit underscaled on the last two uses of this body.   As similar as the two may look, the paint work on this figure is also a bit of a change from her Series 5 counterpart.  ripleynewtneca4The basics are all pretty much the same, but the stains on her clothes have definitely intensified from the last figure.  In particular, I think the sweat stains on the shirt look a bit more realistic this time around, which now that I’ve typed it out seems like a very strange compliment to pay something, but there it is.  My one complaint about the figure is something I feel certain is confined to my figure: they pupils are off center from each other, which makes her look a bit cockeyed from certain angles.  It’s not the worst thing ever but you can see it a bit in the shots here.  This Ripley includes the same flamethrower/pulse rifle combo from the first figure, but this time she also includes a nifty flame effect attachment, which is a nice touch that could have very easily been overlooked (it’s also compatible with Frost and Windrix’s flamethrowers as well, which makes it extra fun).

NEWT

ripleynewtneca3Let’s be honest, nobody was really buying this set for the Ripley figure (okay, that’s probably not true….)  The real star here is Rebecca “Newt” Jorden.  The set’s named after her and everything. This figure is a pretty straight re-release of the SDCC version (which is exactly what we were all expecting and what most people wanted).  Of course, I never got the SDCC version, so she’s all-new to me.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 26 points of articulation.  Her sculpt is a pretty solid one.  The face sports a strong Carrie Henn likeness, and the hair’s pretty not-terrible, which is quite a compliment when it comes to long, sculpted hair.  The body feels a touch too lanky to me, but it’s not like it’s really far off, just ever so slightly.  The incredible level of detail seen on the clothes more than makes up for it.  Everything’s got texture on this figure, and it really looks like she’s the character from the movie.  The only slight inaccuracy I noticed is that the tear on the right shoulder of her shirt isn’t quite as large as it is in the movie, and let’s be honest, that’s reaching pretty far.  One area where things could maybe be just a little bit better is Newt’s paint.  It’s far from bad, but there are a few sloppy spots, especially on the transitions from skin to clothing on the knees and wrists.  Her shoes are also not really symmetrical, with a lot of the paint on ripleynewtneca6her left foot missing sculpted lines almost completely.  Of course, each foot is about half an inch in size, so it’s not like it’s the end of the world.  Apart from those issues, the work is generally pretty good, and she’s at the very least on par with Series 1-3 of the line, so she’s not going to stick out or anything.  The SDCC version of Newt included her doll Cassie’s head, Hick’s helmet (which she’s seen wearing in one scene), a flashlight (just like the one included with Bishop), and her citizenship award that the Marines get her name from.  For this figure, everything but Cassie was cut.  While the other extras were certainly cool, Cassie’s really the only essential accessory for Newt, and this way, those that spent extra money on the SDCC version still get a few unique items.  I mean, it’s gonna eat at me from now until the end of time that I’m missing those three pieces, but such is my life.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had originally hoped to be able to get the SDCC version of Newt after the con, as NECA usually finds a few ways of distributing their exclusives, but for a number of reasons, they were unable to do that this year.  This was sort of freaky, because there was something of a delay between the SDCC figure hitting and NECA confirming exactly how they were planning on getting more Newt figures out there, and I almost caved and bought a marked up Newt more than once.  Fortunately, they finally announced this two-pack, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.  This set ended up being a Christmas present from my parents.  It didn’t actually arrive in time for Christmas morning, but it made it just a few days later, which gave me one last little burst of present opening.  Yay!  This is a pretty great way of not only getting Newt to retail, but also offering up another chance for people to get Ripley.  Both figures are strong additions to the line, and I’m beyond thrilled to add Newt to my collection (and, as an added bonus, now I’ve got an extra Ripley to pilot the Power Loader!)

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