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by yo go re

Let's all tke a moment to appreciate the timeliness of celebrating the 40th anniversary of a 1979 movie at the end of 2020.

In a remote region of the galaxy, the United States space tug Nostromo, carrying a cargo of mineral ore, makes its return journey to Earth. The ship’s crew - five men two women and a cat - are awakened from their hypersleep chambers when Mother, the on-board computer, monitors a strange transmission. According to Company law, the crew must investigate any signal indicating possible intelligent life. What begins as a routine search mission quickly escalates into a nightmare of unimaginable terror when the crew discovers and brings aboard an extraterrestrial lifeform.

Yes, it really has been forty(-one) years since Alien premiered, and NECA is celebrating by releasing a bunch of new figures. Also a bunch of old ones, which is why we're starting with Ripley. In the original movie, Ripley was about as far from being a typical "final girl" as you could get - not only was the character bossy and unsympathetic, the actress portraying her was basically the least famous person in the cast (and there was a dearth of female protagonists in sci-fi at the time). Even when they got to that point and she was the last one standing, contemporary trends in horror movies meant audiences were likely expecting a total downer ending, where even she died. (And she would have, too, if not for studio meddling. See? It's not always bad.)

The majority of this figure is just a re-release of the one from Series 4 of the Aliens line - which is fine, since while Rustin found her, that was the era when getting any new merchandise stocked was a total crapshoot, so this release is the first time I've ever seen her. The entire body, other than the upper arms, was also used for her daughter Amanda, so it's not like this is entirely new, but still. The crew of the Nostromo were working-class heroes, so the jumpsuit she wears is fully practical, as useful for crawling around ducts trying to fix a loose wire as it is for sitting down to a crew meal. There are zippered pockets on the legs and chest, adjustable panels for a better fit, and a zipper down the front. It looks like an industrial uniform, which is what costume designer John Mollo was going for. It would have been nice, for this release, if NECA had redone the upper chest, showing the suit unzipped more to show off the white button-up shirt she wears beneath it, and the green T-shirt she wears beneath that. She's definitely seen like that in the film, and it would have added more value for fans who already had the original release.

The one thing they did change was the likeness. It's a minorly new sculpt - the original had her mouth closed, while here the lips are parted slightly - but the big different is the paint. This is the first figure on which NECA has opted to use that photo-realistic paint printing that has served Hasbro so well. One of Rustin's few complaints was that the paint was thick enough to hide the sculpt, but you don't have to worry about that any more! Unfortunately, this seems to have come at the expense of any detailing on her Weyland-Yutani wing insignia patch - unless mine missed an app, it's just the same color as the rest of her suit.

Articulation is unchanged, because why wouldn't it be? It was good at the time, and it's good now. She's got a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, balljointed wrists, a balljointed torso unrestricted by a silly over-sheath (sorry, Bishop, that idea just didn't work), swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and balljointed ankles. Everything moved okay right out of the package, though the hinges are a little stiff - just enough to make sure she'll mold her poses, not so much you'll worry about breaking them when you move her.

Like the older toy, this Ripley comes with an "incinerator unit," aka the flamethrower Parker rigged up. It's got a gray body, with a dark grey nozzle at the front, and two small tanks mounted vertically beneath it in the center: one brick red, the other beige - presumably two things that need to be mixed, or one for fuel and the other for propellant. It's difficult to get her to hold the flamethrower in a natural pose, because the wrists don't move as far as they'd need to in order for her to get at the twin grips. A large black strap is attached to the top of the gun, allowing it to be slung over a shoulder.

Next we've got the motion tracker Ash designed to track the Alien. It's a big ugly green box, hastily cobbled together in a commercial tug's science lab (though the novelization has Ripley comment that it looks like it was assembled with factory precision, a subtle bit of foreshadowing). The accessory is decently detailed, right down to the ice cube tray on the left-hand side, but it's not screen-accurate. It's quite apparent someone (fabrication is credited on the packaging to Anthony Minichino and Roger Fernandez) used collector Bob Burns' copy of the tracker prop as the source for this piece, because it copies several of the errors from that: the gully cover on the right side is on upside down, it's missing the key on the top and the cord that wraps from the cover around to the front of the handle, and there's a black grill on the front that wasn't there in the movie. So while the average fan will be perfectly happy with this, the super-obsessive ones will be disappointed. It's Bishop's shoes all over again.

The Series 4 Ripley included Jonesy the cat, and this one does as well. Actually, there were two Ripleys - one in her jumpsuit and one in her spacesuit - and they both had Jonesies. But the one in this set is new. He's not walking calmly or arching his back to hiss at the Alien before the humans realize it's there, he's sitting down. His colors are painted nicely, not so "blaze orange" as the old ones were, but we can't tell if he also uses the photo-real technology to look so cute. His head is balljointed, and there might be a joint for the tail, but if there is, mine is stuck fast and I don't want to risk ripping it off.

Jonesy even gets his own accessory: the cat carrier Ripley had to finagle him into before escaping the ship. It's a suitably futuristic piece, all beige with molded greeblies and clear panels on the front and top. The carrier does open: slide back a panel near the rear, and you can then hinge the front open. Jones can sit happily inside, though you may have to reposition his head slightly to make sure the lid will close again. While the carrier does have the Three World Empire sticker that was applied to it in the film, it's missing the Weyland-Yutani wings.

40th Anniversary Ripley is an improvement over the last one, but not by much. NECA could have done more to make it worth existing fans buying her again, but for those of us who didn't have the opportunity before, this is a terrific offering.

-- 10/24/20

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