Sometimes a film can be...less than great, but still produce some memorable character designs. For example, few people consider Legend a classic movie, but most people remember Darkness, as portrayed by Tim Curry. It seems that the Alien and Predator franchises, both founded on solid films, have sunken into the bad film/cool character design category. After viewing Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which basically moved both franchises into the teen slasher/torture porn genre, I was ready to turn in my fanboy card.
NECA knew, however, that regardless of the quality of the film, people would still crave AvP:R product. They snatched up the license to produce figures (among other things) and are giving us two mini-series of figures. The first series features an Alien warrior and two versions of the "PredAlien" (open and closed mandibles), while the next series features three versions of the same Predator (masked, unmasked with closed mandibles, and unmasked with open mandibles). Ever hear of interchangeable heads, guys?
It should also be noted
this is one of those ways NECA is sort of following in the footsteps of (or usurping, or copying, et al) McFarlane, who produced figures based on the original AvP. While those figures proved to be very popular (just check the secondary market value of those Preds), I found them to be extremely fragile. Both my Preds have long since broken. Not to mention that the Aliens and Predators were both retools of previous McFarlane figures from their Movie Maniacs 6 line. So I was pretty excited to get some new Aliens and Predators from NECA.
While I passed on the PredAlien, I did pick up the Alien warrior figure. I always found it funny that these are called "Aliens" when the Predators are just as alien. Nobody ever seems to know just what to call these guys...bugs, aliens, "xenomorphs"... the latter seems to be the most accepted nomenclature, but it's just a fancy term (meaning "foreign form") that the Colonial Marines of the film Aliens use to describe any non-human life forms they encounter.
The "xenomorph" design, though it changes from movie to movie, always features the same basic cues: elongated head, no eyes, second inner mouth, biomechanical exoskeleton, long pointed tail. NECA's figure seems to give us a great representation of the creatures from AvP:R, but seeing as how every glimpse of the Aliens in the film was a hyper-quick shot either in the dark, in the rain, or in the dark rain... I'll have to take NECA's word for it that they studied the actual props and costumes of the film.
Nevertheless, the figure looks great. AvP:R features a return to the "ridge-headed" creatures last seen in Aliens, but the design otherwise resembles the lithe, streamlined Aliens of the last AvP film. The detail is great; every inch of the figure is sharply sculpted with intricate lines and shapes. There's no softness or generalization anywhere, and considering
how complicated the surface of the creature's "skin" is, that's no small feat. This is probably the best-looking Alien in this scale, and it's not surprising it took three people to sculpt it: Kyle "Tankman" Windrix, Sam Lute, and Deidre Zahajkewycz.
The paint, handled by Geoffrey Trapp, is a fairly monochromatic affair of gunmetal with some dark washes and lighter airbrushing. It's nice to see that there's a gloss finish to the figure though. That's something McFarlane never managed to understand: these guys are constantly covered with slime... gloss is a must! Also a nice touch: the translucent plastic tendons on the jaw.
The articulation has good and bad. Kudos to NECA for giving us balljoints in the neck, chest, and hips, as well as hinged elbows, knees, ankles and jaw.
Boo to NECA for giving us simple peg joints in the shoulders and non-integrated pegs in the thighs and biceps, which leave ugly lines across the sculpt. The wrists are pegs, but that's okay. The tail is bendy, but not too bendy, and I'm happy about that. McFarlane's Aliens typically had tails that were so bendy it was impossible to get them to look natural. NECA's tail isn't as stiff as the one on Aoshima's xenomorph figure, but it's still enough to look natural.
The bug's only accessory is a three-part base. There are two rocky pieces, each with a footpeg,
and a slimmer rocky piece that connects the two by hooking into pegs on the underside of the other pieces. Sound overly complicated? You betcha! It doesn't look too dumpy though, and it gives you some variety in how you set up the base. At first, I was a bit annoyed that NECA hadn't included an Alien egg with this guy, but upon seeing the movie, I realized that NECA was being film-accurate. There are no flippin' eggs in the movie! Good job, "the Brothers Strausse". Still though, the movie has plenty of face-huggers, and NECA failed to deliver on that front. The guy feels pretty light on accessories.
So has NECA lived up to its claim of making the best Alien figure ever? In this scale, I'd say yes. It's not perfect by any means; those cuts are really ugly, and balljointed shoulders should be a given. Still, it blows the past offerings from McFarlane, Aoshima, and Kenner out of the water. The sculpt is definitely the best we've seen so far, and nice touches like the hinged jaw pretty much seal the deal. Hot Toys has produced some pretty spiffy offerings in larger and smaller scales, but NECA's Alien warrior is the king of 7 inches.