Where to go after you've tackled every Predator from every Predator film? (Yes, we know that NECA still hasn't given us the AvP Preds, but those are most likely coming by the end of this year.) So what's next?
Fan films, apparently. If you haven't seen Sandy Collora's independent fan short Batman: Dead End do yourself a favor and go watch it right now, then read the rest of this review. That's your warning, because this review will contain spoilers (seriously, it's not even 10 minutes, just go watch it).
The film isn't without flaws. It's not really heavy on story, but the point was for Sandy to show off his directorial skills, and it does that extremely well. The costumes look great, and the depiction of Batman is pretty much the only live-action version that's faithful to the comics, without looking totally ridiculous.
One of the most enduring images from the film is the "Big Red" Predator:
The unique red armor and brighter fleshtones distinguish the Big Red Predator from others in the clan. It is assumed Big Red has an affinity for the Samurai culture as evidenced by his ornamental belt and the 2 Katana swords that hang from his right hip.
Contrary to most Predators, his wrist blades are golden in color and are housed on his left gauntlet as opposed to the traditional right side location. Legend has it that Big Red has encountered many Xenomorphs and an infamous costumed vigilante during his hunt.
Big Red doesn't actually do much in the film (the Pred that actually fights Batman is essentially identical to the "Jungle Hunter" design), but his choice of weaponry and his striking armor color really made him the stand out design of the piece. The copy text on the back mentions the events of Dead End without being specific enough to anger DC, and instead of the usual image of the figure in the background of the cardback, we get some of Collora's original conceptual artwork for Predator 2, which influenced the Big Red design. This is pretty awesome, even if the initial design doesn't resemble the finished product that much.
Incidentally, when we asked NECA if they had to get approval from Collora to use this design, they responded that they were under no legal obligation to do so since 20th Century Fox owns the Predator characters and design, but they contacted him to receive his blessing anyway. Pretty classy move on their part.
From a manufacturing standpoint, Big Red is an attractive design for NECA, since it's extremely close to the classic "Jungle Hunter" design sculpturally. Indeed, the figure uses almost entirely the same sculpt as the Toy R Us 2-pack "battle-damaged" Jungle Hunter, with a few alterations. The helmet is very similar to the classic design, but features two raised circles on the lower forehead portion. Rather than just paint these details on, NECA has tooled the helmet to feature them as raised elements.
The bio text mentions that his extendable blades are on the opposite wrist compared to most other Preds, and to accomplish this on the figure NECA has simply taken the Jungle Hunter's forearms and switched them. It's a clever move, though it's not 100% accurate: it leaves a little bit of netting on the exposed skin of the right forearm,
and leaves the skin on the left forearm netless. The paint does go a long way toward covering it up, but it's visible upon close inspection. Additionally, looking at some photos of the Big Red costume, it appears that the gauntlets aren't actually switched, just the top part with the claws. The technical details on the costume's gauntlets seem to mostly match those of the Jungle Hunter, while on the figure they're reversed thanks to the forearm switching. It's not a big deal by any means - since this is never really obvious in the film and this is a fan-created character anyway - but considering NECA's usual attention to dead-on accuracy, it is worth mentioning.
The rest of the sculpt is straight from the Jungle Hunter, and you
can even see the holes where the tube that would have connected the left shoulder armor to the left (now right) gauntlet would have gone. He lacks a plasma caster and backpack, but he includes a new belt piece to replicate the ornate design from Dead End. Three metallic pleated segments descend like part of a skirt from the front of the belt, and the right side features two sheaths for his swords.
The paint faithfully replicates the garish bright red armor complete with black ornamental markings on the mask and silver metallic accents where appropriate, and gold for the wrist blades. The skin is molded in his distinct yellow, with dark brown mottling to accentuate it. The paint work is very nice overall, but as usual if you're a stickler, you'll want to examine as many examples as you can to choose the paint with the best matched up netting (and also the plates on the skirt).
The articulation, as previously mentioned, is the same as the recent two pack Jungle Hunter, which features
the improved hips and knees that match the standards of the Lost Tribe figures. All the joints work very well, though the hands pop off at the wrist just a tad too easily.
Speaking of hands, the figure comes with two sets: "splayed" and "grasping." The gripping hands allow him to hold the two included swords, one short and one long. They fit great in the hands as well as in the scabbards. This is more than we're used to with NECA's Predator figures, and if you were so inclined you could even include the figure's skull trophy sash as yet another accessory.
As much as we're looking forward to seeing
NECA take on the Predators from the first AvP film (McFarlane's versions are showing their age, and I imagine 95% of them out there are broken by now), the inclusion of Big Red in the line was an unexpected but very welcome surprise. Having a Predator from a fan film in the line means that, theoretically, no Pred design is off limits. Imagine getting Pred figures from the comics, or even updates of the funky Kenner Predator designs. In fact, here's a free idea for the folks at NECA: take the Shaman Predator head, put it on the Borg Predator body, paint the skin orange, the hair white, and release it as an update of the "Clan Leader." The possibilities are really endless!
But I digress. The implications of what Big Red means for the Predators line as a whole are intriguing, but that shouldn't overshadow the figure itself. It's a great representation of a very visually striking design, and one that many casual fans will probably be drawn to. Especially since he'll not only fit in with Predator displays, but Batman displays as well.