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by yo go re

Okay, we may be in a little bit of a dry spell (for everything that's not Marvel, at least), but I've still got things I bought at Toys "Я" Us and haven't reviewed yet. Plus there's this running gag I've been stewing on for a while, so let's do this.

A classic hero, kind-hearted, strong and brave, Major Valerian has a sixth sense for tactics and is an extraordinary warrior. He makes a huge ffort to follow his superiors' orders to the letter and is destermined to go as high and as far as he can in his military career.

Though it's not at all known in America, Valerian was a popular French-Belgian comic that ran for more than 40 years. It's kind of like a mix between Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Men in Black: there's an intergalactic empire with Earth as its center, because humans invented time travel (which allows, along with the obvious advantages, for near-instantaneous travel between galaxies); having time travel means they also need to have some time-cops to protect the Sacred Timeline [wrong comic universe, Owen Wilson --ed.] and that's what Major Valerian is a major in. At least, I think that's his rank, not his name? Could be either, really. But probably is only one of them. So we're going with the former, and the idea that his full name is "Valerian," a mononym rather than a first or last name.

Valerian, in the movie, was played by Dane DeHaan, aka Amazing Spider-Man 2's Harry Osborn. He looks like a young Benicio del Toro the same way Timothee Chalamet looks like a young Tom Hiddleston. Actually, a young Benicio del Toro might have been a better choice for Val: since the story is set in the 28th century, after catastrophic climate change nearly doomed humanity, so he's some sort of mixed ethnicity that resulted from centuries of everybody getting it on - more mixed than Dane's Dutch/​German/Italian/English/Welsh/Scots-Irish background. Trust an artist: mixing white and white still gives you white.

Luc Besson directed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, so whatever other flaws it may have had, it was going to be boldly colorful and proudly fashionable, so of course NECA opted to do a toy of Val wearing totally generic gunmetal grey armor. Wow, can't imagine why these toys didn't fly off the shelves. It's not that it's bad armor - costume Olivier Bériot used Jean-Claude Mézières' comic art as the starting point, and NECA sculpted the hell out of it (no credits on the box, or we'd be telling a specific person they did a good job) - but it could be any spacesuit from any sci-fi property. The movie isn't even five years old at this point, but if someone showed you this armor with no context, no person inside it, you'd never be able to peg what it was from. A third-tier Halo Spartan armor? Some Star Wars videogame enemy? Dune stillsuit? It doesn't stand out as its own thing.

Valerian and the House of 1,000 Corpses was released in 2017, and the toys came at about the same time, so the articulation is very much a showcase for what NECA was doing at the time. Valerian's got swivel/hinge/swivel ankles, swivel/hinge knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, swivel/hinge wrists, swivel/​hinge elbows, swivel/hinge shoulders, a balljointed chest, and a balljointed head. The knees feel like they're built too low into the legs - like, the kneepads stay with the thighs when you bend the joint, rather than going with the shin. All the arm joints are very stiff, and the left hip doesn't want to raise at all.

Valerian includes two accessories: a gun and a knife. The gun is a nifty little white and black ray pistol designed by Marc Simonetti, and it can sit in a minimalist holster on the right leg. The knife is... not something memorable from the movie. Also it can't sheathe anywhere, so he's got to hold it. That's crummy.

I definitely had not yet seen Valerian and the Title of A Thousand Words when I got these figures - it was just the fact that NECA made them and the store had them. I did see it, eventually, which is how I know there were better, more toyetic costumes that could have been chosen and would have made Valerian stand out on a shelf instead of looking like the plainest thing to ever plain. Maybe if the movie had been a hit we'd have gotten a second series, but no such luck (on either count).

-- 11/20/21

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