At long last we make it out of the "I went to way too many Toys R Us' while travelling" deluge and into what I've been up to in the month or so since then - all in a precious effort to get caught up to what I'm getting now, cause there ain't no time like 'real time.' Heeeeey, hooooooo. So, sit ye back, relax and take in this batch of "Rustin can't say 'no'."
DST - The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Battle-Damaged Spider-Man & Electro
Something really conspicuous and concerning is going on with the longstanding TRU/Minimate relationship. We used to get four 2-packs for every Marvel movie through that partnership, two of which would be exclusive (meaning four unique figures). But all of a sudden Toys R Us is passing on most of the movies, and so far it appears the only film they're carrying Minimates from is the very disappointing Amazing Spider-Man 2, and even then there are only three 2-packs and of which technically three Minimates are unique/exclusive (though only 1 feels like it). This set is one of those and is identical to a 2-pack in the Direct Market line-up except for Electro's hands and head which are now cast in translucent blue rather than painted metallic blue. This trans-blue looks good, though it's barely noticeable on the hands due to the gloves. I really wish they'd just done the whole body in trans-blue but kept the same tampo printing for the suit details thus giving us an "electric rage" version, but I'm sure there was a tight cost reason for why they didn't do that and I appreciate that they at least did this. The only real frustration with the figure is that it's REALLY tough to get him on the footpeg in the big blue electric base. Spider-Man is average, but I'm no Spidey fan.
DST - The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Flashback Spider-Man & Max Dillon
This was the most/only interesting set in the series as Max Dillon is the only truly exclusive Minimate in this TRU release, and he turned out great! He has an excellent likeness, complete with comb-over hair on top. Max comes with a removable jacket and alternate arms (totally unnecessary but quite exemplary attention to detail and passion for the format from DST!) plus an opening briefcase and a newspaper with a "Spider-Man is a Menace" headline on one side and an article about Dr. Connors on the other! This is definitely the best ASM2 Minimate, so it's a shame he's paired with a complete afterthought of a figure. ASM1 Spidey is effectively the same as the one from the first film, just sans muscle shading. "Normal" Harry Osborn would have been a much better fit here but I'm sure this 'mate/a Spidey was demanded by TRU, or cost, or something. It's so weird that TRU went with this film over Thor 2 or Cap 2 since those previous films' Minimates sold much better (at least from what I've seen) than the ASM1 Minimates, not to mention that there is a wild deluge of Spidey product right now, so it's easier for these to get lost in the noise. My guess is that this dialing back by TRU is a reaction to their overall declining sales, but that decision is INSANE. Carrying exclusive product is exactly what will get me to visit your store! Instead, they just keep bumping up prices (word is Mattel's 4" DC figures are now marked as high as $17.49 at some stores) which is exactly what will keep me from visiting your stores!
Mattel - Hot Wheels: Let's Go
This is a full-on Go-kart scaled to Lego minifigures!!! I love the design of it! I was impressed by the subversive nature of the FigRig, since it tied in to competitor product, but this one wears its intent on its sleeve so I figured that it may be intended to cross with the recent MegaBloks acquisition. But then I realized this car's name makes the intent pretty clear (LE
t's GO). There are two "supports" in the front of the car and a bar along the back of the spoiler all scaled to a minifig's hands. The engine also has two minifig handgrips on the sides, plus a stud on top and the exhaust is even sized to fit a stud! There are two studs in the seat plus the white roll-bar is gauged to minifig hands - that's a hell of a lot of options! The bad news is that all three studs don't connect very tightly, ESPECIALLY the two in the seat. The really frustrating thing, though, is that the roll-bar is too round of an arc to fit both hands of a figure, so ultimately the car can't really do what it's intended to. However, figs hang perfectly off of the spoiler, engine and front, so there's still plenty to do. I'm quite looking forward to future color variants.
Mattel - Monsters University: Frat Pack
Individually these are fairly unremarkable figures, but as a set they do a nice job of capturing "The Team" from the film. "OK" Sulley is an entirely unique sculpt with no shared parts from "regular" Sulley, which does him no favors. This version is very soft in terms of sculpt and though he looks rotocast he is not. We get a swivel cut at the neck and waist, great balljoints at the shoulders and limited ones at the shoulders. Mike is a reasonable repaint of "regular" Mike. Art, the big purple Muppet, is the best in this set with a solid sculpt and pretty decent balljoints above the legwarmers and next to the face, as well as at each arm. The hands are in a bit of an awkward "jazz hands" pose but you can actually balance him pretty well on them with the legs bent up (it just means his face is pointed at the ground). Squishy won me over in the "Scare Simulator" scene and this rotocast figure captures him pretty well, though we only get a swivel gut at the waist and shoulders. Terri & Terry, the two-headed monster, looks pretty good though we only get swivels at the necks, shoulders and waist. Pretty much they're just assembly joints, but I'll take any articulation over glued pieces any day! Don, that Dad-ish older guy, turned out pretty well too though he only gets balljoints at the shoulder and a swivel cut at the waist; and no, the glasses are not removable.
Mattel - Monsters University: Mike Wazowski
Mike gets swivel cuts at the legs and fairly limited balljoints at the shoulders. His eye is articulated but is shockingly limited. This photo shows as far low as his eye goes and side-to-side motion is pretty limited. It's REALLY annoyingly because that simple gimmick should have been lots of fun. And, yeesh... look at that mouth paint... These figures were 50% off and cost me $5, and frankly I'm not even sure the figure is worth that. But really, the most shocking thing here is that they were initially selling these for $10 apiece! I guess if you compare the size of these figures to most 4" lines (Mike is 4" tall at the top of his hat) maybe the volume of plastic feels like a better deal... but the quality of these figures is so low compared to Hasbro's 4" stuff, and even Mattel's own DC stuff, that these figures are just pretty rough cash-grabs from the company. I feel sorry for Pixar, who makes such generally good films, to get saddled with such a "bare minimum" merchandiser.
Mattel - Monsters University: Randy
Like Johnny, Randy was one the two carded characters not also available in the boxset and hence here is. He is also the best figure in the entire line. The sculpt is comparably fairly detailed with all of his scales and his body is even cast in translucent, clear plastic so that his tail fades out for "camouflage" effect. What really sets him apart though is the articulation - he's got a whopping (for this line) nine points! This includes the expected shoulder balljoints, but also a surprisingly good balljointed head and, shockingly, backward/forward hinges at the legs. I half expect this figure is just a re-release from a previous line that they actually spent money on. My favorite thing about the figure though are the glasses, which are removable, and once off reveal Randy's trademark squinty eyes - the true hallmark of a villain. This was actually the first gag in the film that made me feel like they were taking this prequel relatively seriously and not just cashing in. What a cute/clever gag for explaining the cliched villain squint and major kudos to Mattel for capturing here on this figures!
NECA - Godzilla: 6" Godzilla
Godzilla was one of my two most anticipated movies of 2014. Alas, I found it relatively "middle of the road" but boy howdy is the design for this Godzilla f**king AWESOME. This figure, which is 6" tall - and I am REALLY annoyed that NECA calls this figure "12 inches long Godzilla" rather than the normal terminology of "6 inch Godzilla" since figures are ALWAYS discussed in terms of height - is damn cool and much better than the Pacifc Rim figures. He's got balljoints all over the place and most of them work pretty well considering the bulky design. The only thing I'd change would be that I wish his head was a balljoint seated in the neck rather than over the neck. As is, he doesn't have much up-and-down range on the head which limits pose options. Speaking of which, the hips appear to be the double balljoint/bar-bell style and thus have A LOT of range. Paint is simple and subtle, effectively perfect for the design. I do feel like the sculptural detailing is a little soft, but it still looks pretty good. I am certainly looking forward to the 12" version (aka "24 inch long" version, because SIGH) too!
NECA - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Caesar
I found Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprisingly good so I am quite cautiously optimistic for the sequel. I'm equally jazzed that NECA picked up the rights and have done three figures for it (at least so far). Caesar stands a little over 6" tall when upright, which puts him at about Dutch's chin. The scale was very wonky and not very clear in the first film so I think this is probably accurate since they were mapping the character over Andy Serkis, but the figure does feel over-scaled when next to Dutch or when holding a machine gun. He comes with alternate open and gripping hands (though my gripping right hand is missing the warpaint) and a big, two part, 8½" long spear with a very cool looking spearhead. Every joint is a balljoint, though range of motion is variable. The elbows are particularly limited since, insanely, they gave him David 8 joints, with the peg going into the forearm, thus completely negating the balljoint. Sculpting is excellent but paint is only okay. I like the warpaint but it's the skin-tone that practically ruins the figure for me since it is so pronounced in tone and painted OVER the fur. Still though, all around, this is a pretty good ape figure.
NECA - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Koba
Koba is functionally identical to Caesar with the same articulation pluses and minuses. He too gets alternate hands and a spear, though his is 10½" long. Sculpting is equally great, and indeed he totally unique - no shared parts with Caesar! The weak point here is, again, the paint. I appreciate their intent, but painting skin tone over fur, especially on the forearms and chest, as if to suggest thinning hair, just looks awful. It's the antithesis of how great and realistic the Dutch figures look. In fact, I'd love to see them do a two-pack of these characters repainted without the warpaint, cast in dyed plastic like Dutch then with the fur painted on. I have a feeling that would look stellar. These figures are good, just the paint and articulation leaves room for improvement. I understand the "evolution of the ape" need for them to be upright, but I do wish they could be posed on all fours too.
NECA - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Maurice
Bam... NECA does it again with yet another contender for Figure of the Year. Amazing sculpt, excellent paint, very good articulation. This may "just" be a figure of an orangutan, but it's the figure of an orangutan! A really cool touch is his "waddle," which is cast in rubber and includes a fold that's glued to the underside of the chin leading to damn remarkable realism. He comes with a simple red book which sadly he can't hold, but the rest of the figure is so great it doesn't bother me much. The only thing I might change would be that the hands and feet be interchangeable. This is just a damn cool figure, and it makes me kind of wish NECA would just do an animal line - can you imagine how awesome a NECA rhino, tiger or crocodile would be!?