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Terminator Salvation
by Poe Ghostal

I'll always fondly remember Terminator 2: Judgment Day as the first R-rated film I saw in the theater. At the time, I went through a whole Terminator obsession, which was very much enabled by Kenner's Terminator action figure line.

T-Resistance Infiltrator Prototype. This is the prototype for the Terminator that John Connor knew was coming - The fierce, unrelenting cybernetic machine that Skynet was preparing to mobilize. It's the machine that will lead to the Terminator Connor knows all too well. The one that hunted his mother, Sarah. Killed his father, Kyle and protected him against the T-1000 when he was a boy. Connor understands the implications of the T-RIP and he is sure that if Skynet puts it online ["puts it online"? --ed.], the war is surely lost. Just like the T-800 tried to do in 1984, Connor must end this battle before it even begins.

In the 1980s and '90s, Kenner was the only game in town for action figures based on R-rated films. The T2 figures weren't all that great, even for the time, but the notable exception was the Endoskeleton. Robots are always easier to sculpt accurately than fleshy, round humans, so the Endoskeleton came out pretty well. Add a light-up eye feature (via a light-pipe) and a neat head-mounted gun and you had one of the better action figures of the early '90s. At the time, my only disappointment was that the figures were over 6" tall, meaning they didn't look right next to my Robocop or X-Men figures.

Of course, Kenner's offering has since been eclipsed by superb Endoskeletons from McFarlane and NECA, but the subject of today's review - the T-R.I.P. from Terminator Salvation, by Playmates - has more in common with its Kenner predecessor. For instance, both toys were made for the mass market, and both feature light-pipe eyes.

When I ran across the 3¾" and 6" Salvation figures at TRU one weekend, I decided to pick up T-R.I.P. - who's the closest thing in the line to a traditional Endoskeleton - for old time's sake. That, and the idea of having a 6" Endoskeleton ostensibly in scale with my DCU, Movie Masters and Marvel Legends figures was appealing. As it turns out, it's a little too small for DCU and ML, but is just about perfect for the (similarly undersized) MM figures.

T-R.I.P. (I'm just going to call him TRIP from now on, because typing the hyphen and periods is annoying) comes in very traditional mass market-style packaging that reminds me of Kenner's packages on their "Aliens vs. Predator" toys from the early '90s. That's keeping with the general theme of this toy, of course. However, the package's flavor text leaves a bit to be desired:

Set in post-apocalyptic 2018, John Conner [sic] is the man fated to be the leader of the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. The future he was raised to believe in is altered by the appearance of Marcus. Connor must now decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past.

Look, I know it's often considered impolite to point out someone's typos, spelling mistakes and poor grammar. But first of all, I don't care. And second, all serious businesses should have at least one copyeditor on staff who checks this crap before it goes out. I think it speaks to the overall nature of Playmates' production process on this line that the little description on the back spells "Connor" two different ways, starts with that odd "Set in post-apocalyptic 2018" sentence fragment (read as-is, "John Conner" is the subject of the sentence and therefore, he is the thing that is "set in the year 2018"), and ends with a line that makes no sense and reads like borderline Engrish to me.

Finally, I'd swear the photo of the T-RIP on the trading card is actually just a picture of the Hot Toys endoskeleton.

After the McFarlane and NECA versions of this figures, the only real question is whether Playmates could produce a mass market figure that could at least look respectable next to those versions. Ultimately, I think they've pulled it off - but just barely.

Playmates has clearly taken a few cues from NECA and McFarlane by using flexible, rubbery pieces on the "tendons" and wires around the neck, back, shoulders and torso of the figure, allowing them to move with the articulation (rather than being static parts of the sculpt, as with most of the Kenner figure). In all honesty, I think the detail of TRIP's sculpt good for a mass market figure. (The human figures in the line appear to be another matter entirely.) Obviously it's not as good as the McFarlane or NECA versions, but this toyline is clearly geared toward kids more than collectors.

TRIP is painted in a flat silver, with a bit of a dark drybrushing to give it a slightly worn look. It's as good as you'll see on most mass market figures, and I'm satisfied with it. His eyes light up via the exact same "light pipe" feature the Kenner figure had but the hole on the top of his head is pretty unobtrusive. TRIP has swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, waist, and ankles. He has hinge joints at the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. There is no wrist articulation.

The neck and waist articulation is completely hampered by the rubbery "tendons," and they will always snap back to their front-and-center position. The shoulders have a decent range of motion thanks to the swivel/hinge combination, but you have to be careful about the wires attached to the back of each shoulder - push the arms too far up and you could break them (though they're pretty durable, frankly).

Given that they couldn't compete with McFarlane or NECA in terms of sculpting, Playmates should have used their more robust style to their advantage by adding ball-and-socket joints at the hips and a balljoint for the head (I would have traded the rubbery neck-tendons for a balljoint neck). Also, the lack of wrist swivels is a disappointment, particularly since the figure has ankle swivels.

TRIP comes with a futuristic gun and a length of lead pipe. The pipe seems a little random, but it's nicely sculpted and is the sort of prop I like to have for use with my other 6" figures. The pistol, on the other hand, looks more like a paint spray gun than a futuristic firearm. But assuming it's an accurate depiction of a weapon from Terminator Salvation, one can't blame Playmates for that.

One place Playmates has it all over McFarlane and NECA is durability. While the McToys and NECA Endoskeletons will tend to come apart with the slightest posing, you could probably throw TRIP against the wall a few times with little or no damage. The rubber parts are tough (much tougher than those of the Kenner figure, which I remember breaking as a kid). One problem with my figure was the left arm, which is twisted a bit at the forearm - probably due to being pulled out of the mold too fast or too early.

I was initially more disappointed with this figure than I am after a couple days with it. While the lack of good articulation at the neck and hips is definitely disappointing, the quality of the sculpt has grown on me - and again, it's nice to have an Endoskeleton in the 6" scale. I picked this up for $9.99 at Toys Я Us. If it had been $7 or $8, I would've liked it that much more. If you buy any figure from the 6" Terminator Salvation line, make it an Endoskeleton (or maybe the T-1, which looks pretty cool too).

-- 12/12/09

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