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Engineer (Chair Suit)

by Poe Ghostal

Let's get one thing out of the way first: Prometheus is not a good movie. It's a bloated, pretentious, incoherent mess of a film. However, the aesthetic aspects of the movie were great, and that's where this figure comes in.

I had high hopes for Prometheus. I've been a fan of the Alien franchise since I was 8 or 9 years old, and one of my favorite mysteries of that universe was the story behind the so-called "Space Jockey" (Prometheus calls them "Engineers") in the chair on the derelict spaceship.

This unexplained and yet crucially important part of the Alien universe was so compelling to me. What was that thing? Was that long nose the trunk of an elephantine alien, or simply a breathing mask of some sort? Why was its bio-mechanical body, particularly its ribs, so similar to those of the xenomorph? What was that giant cannon-like structure it was sitting in, and why did he seem to be organically fused to it? Prometheus promised to answer some of these questions. And it did, I guess, but in an at best incomplete and at worst completely unsatisfactory way. And it was really poorly written, too.

But no matter - we're not here to review the film. The fact is, regardless of how it got here, we now have an action figure of the Space Jockey - something I've always wanted but never imagined I'd have. Now that we've got him, you can imagine he's whatever you want him to be.

NECA was kind enough to send along samples of its two Prometheus figures released so far. This is a review of the Engineer in his Chair Suit; yo go re has reviewed the Pressure Suit Engineer; and Monkey Boy actually paid for his figure, so maybe his opinion will carry more weight.

The Engineer was sculpted by NECA's go-to guy for all things Alien and Predator, Kyle Windrix, and by Trevor Zammit. NECA always offers great sculpts, but it seems they go the extra mile on their movie properties (especially these two), and the Engineer is no exception. The sculpt is amazing. One thing that should always be appreciated about this sort of figure is the texturing - it's very well-executed here. There are also a number of small rubbery tubes, and while we can't help but worry they might tear or break, they seem to have been designed with just the right amount of slack. Sure, they could still tear, but you'd have to be doing something dumb with your collectible toy for it to happen.

The figure stands 8½" tall, which is just about in line with NECA's usual 7" scale. Of course, an important thing to remember is that this is a sculpt of the Engineer from Prometheus, not the actual Space Jockey from Alien (who would have stood nearly 20 feet tall and was completely fused to his chair). It's very close to the Space Jockey, but it's definitely not identical (and not, y'know, fossilized.)

Fun fact: while working on the original Alien and searching for a design for the pilot of the derelict spaceship, Ridley Scott told painter and Alien art designer H.R. Giger to just design something like this image from Giger's Necronom V. It's really rather impressive (and also creepy) how well Giger's weird art translates to three dimensions.

The Engineer is mostly composed of hard plastic except for the torso. The "ribcage" going up to the back is made from a more rubbery material that goes over the main block of the torso (like armor on a MOTUC figure) and allows the figure's balljointed torso and the trunk of its balljointed head to move relatively freely. It's hard to tell what color it was molded in (we're guessing dark gray/black), but the entire surface of the body has a fantastic dry-brush that gives it a look of burnished iron.

While well-executed, there's not a lot of variation here, which means there's also no places for slop or other painting errors. The head lacks the silver highlights and has a rougher, more organic look, though the eyes are glossy black, in keeping with the design. The rubbery torso armor was evidently molded in white, because you can see a few tiny spots where the paint has flecked off. This was easily corrected with a black Sharpie, but excessive use of the torso and head articulation might cause this to happen more often. For an adult collector figure like this, it's not too problematic given how well the armor is executed. Just use common sense when handling it.

I'm not exactly sure what adventures you might take a character like the Engineer on, but he's very well-equipped for them. As mentioned above, the head and torso are on ball joints and can move freely thanks to the rubbery plastic used for the torso. The Engineer also has balljointed shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, balljointed wrists, balljointed hips, hinged knees, and balljointed feet. It's a ton of articulation, though much of it is a bit limited by the sculpt. The most disappointing joints here are the hips; due to the V-shape of the pelvis, they can't really be moved directly forward. Still, it's a lot of articulation, and the balljoints allow for a good variety of posing and adds a lot of character to the figure.

There are no accessories - which is a bit disappointing, though I've been trying to think of an appropriate accessory and can't come up with anything. It's a large figure, too, so the lack of an accessory isn't surprising. Plus, even without an accessory, the figure will run you $15-$20, which isn't bad at all when you consider the figure has an entirely unique, detailed sculpt and lots of articulation.

This is NECA at its best. Whatever you think of the film or the character, it's been perfectly executed here. As a fan of the original Alien if not Prometheus, this was a figure I would have bought even if NECA hadn't sent us the sample. The design is just that cool, and NECA made one hell of an action figure out of it, going above and beyond when they probably could have gotten away with half this amount of articulation.

-- 10/21/12

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