Through two series of Matrix action figures, McFarlane Toys showed both why they had become the kings of the industry and why they had been usurped. Though the license was hot and the sculpts were (mostly) beyond reproach, the figures were simply uninspired and uninspiring.
The first series had a remarkably terrible deluxe set - Neo in the Chateau - but the second series improved things a bit, offering two: a massive Sentinel and a small-scale APU. No, not the purveyor of fine Chutney Squishees; an Armored Personnel Unit, the big walking mech that had such fun shooting evil robots out of the sky.
Of course, "small-scale" is a relative term. While most of the Matrix toys are in the 6-7" range, this set is closer to the 1/24" scale of GIJoe and Star Wars. Still, the machine is about three times the size of the man inside, so this toy is approximately 12" tall.
The APU is one of the most mobile toys McToys released last year. The official press information says there are more than 40 points, but that's fudging things just a bit, counting every moving part, even if they both work on the same joint. At its barest bones, the suit moves at the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and wrists, but that's also misleading: a lot of those joints are doubled up to provide a greater range of motion.
The hips rotate horizontally as well as moving forward and back. The shoulders move the same way, but they can also be raised over its head. There are double elbows and bi-directional wrists, plus lots of little pistons, gears and spanners to help sell the look of this beast and really, it works.
McFarlane's plastic APU looks just like the Wachowskis' digital APU,
covered in bundles of wires and loaded with tiny details: nuts, bolts, hooks, wires, tubes, welds, dents, scratches, seams, dings, scrapes, levers, knobs, hatches, lights, screens, dials, pipes, shocks, struts, grates, screws, pistons and straps. Its big Sentinel-blasting guns are 5 1/2" long and the bullets that are fed into them measure 1/2" each. The two big gun belts that trail from the machine's back to its arms can't help but remind us of the spectacular Monev the Gale figure, especially knowing the debt The Matrix owes to anime.
Since the set is called "Mifune's Last Stand," you can probably figure out who's piloting the APU. Mifune is a permanently attached piece of the set, but he still has pegjoints at the shoulders, elbows and forearms so that he can grab the nicely articulated control arms, which move at eight points apiece.
Despite wearing his red vest and white shirt, Mifune doesn't have the best likeness McToys has ever done. Sure, you can kind of tell that's supposed to be Nathaniel Lees, but it helps that his name is on the box. He looks more like he's warming up for the Zion belching contest.
The APU was originally a $20 toy, but they're finally starting to hit the half-price mark. For that amount, this is an excellent figure. The APU shows how good McToys could be, and Mifune isn't really any worse than the other Matrix people.
McFarlane Toys used to be alone at the top of the toy-making world. They were the innovators, they were the pushers, they were the ones who scored all the big licenses. When you saw that McFarlane Toys logo on the packaging, you knew you were going to be getting something good. Though they've recently been unseated by several great competitors, they're not dead yet.
So this is an APU: what's your best backronym for MANJULA? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.