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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
by yo go re

The first series of NECA's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes figures was hard to find, and the second series was even worse. My TRU never got any in at all, so thank goodness for market six!

The first figures were tempting, but their crazy war paint was a turn-off (a sentiment the buying public at large seems to have shared, since the first of the three figures to sell out was Maurice, aka, "the unadorned orangutan"). NECA took note, too, because all three figures in Series 2 are plain apes.

This is Caesar, the "main" monkey in the series. He's the one played by Andy Serkis wearing "digital makeup," and therefore the only ape who anyone cares about who mocapped him. Proving that stupidity is an infinite reservoir, there are actually idiots out there mad that Serkis wants recognition for his acting abilities. Does Ron Perlman's acting not count, because he wears prosthetics? Does Johnny Depp not count because he wears facepaint? Sigourney Weaver for putting on eyeliner? Hugh Jackman wears contact lenses, is he out? If we're going to discount Andy Serkis because he's "wearing" animation, what's the lower limit for accepting someone's performance as real? Dimwits.

[According to my uncle, Miss Springfield isn't as beautiful as she seems. Word is she uses appearance-altering cosmetics! --ed.]

Back on topic, this figure is the same sculpt as the Series 1 Caesar, just done as a plain version. This isn't quite the "zoo replica" that Luca was - that figure could pass as a plain, unlicensed gorilla toy, while this one is a little less "scientific model" and a little more "exaggerated for effect" - but it's still an outstanding sculpt. You can't quite get him into a truly panine stance, but every lovingly crafted tuft of fur and wrinkle of skin looks just perfect. There is what appears to be a bald spot on his right breast, but it's meant to be a pale birthmark on his skin, and thus under the fur. While the first Caesar was calm, this one is much more furious. His mouth is open and he's baring his fangs, which brings us to the paint.

As we keep harping on, this Caesar is a plain chimp, rather than one all done up in war paint. His fur is dark brown, and his skin is either tannish pink, or pinkish tan. You absolutely must examine the paint in person before you buy the figure, however: the dark wash that brings out the details on the face varies a ton from figure to figure. Fortunately, the "thin fur" paint apps on the arms are better this time around (at least on mine). I still think Rustin has the right idea: the apes should be molded in their "skin" color, and the fur painted over that. It would probably be ridiculously expensive, though.

There is one bad thing about this being the same mold as Series 1, and that's the articulation. Now, most of it is fine - all the balljoints and swivel/hinge combos you could want - but there's one spot that makes no sense and is a huge disappointment.

The swivel/hinge elbows seem to have been designed backwards, with the swivel part sticking down into the forearm instead of up into the biceps; that leaves the lower arms unable to do anything except turn in line with the limb, when they should be able to cross in front of the torso. This is the exact same problem we saw two full years ago on David 8, so why is it being repeated now? NECA clearly recognizes it's a problem, because Luca (a new sculpt) got arms that moved the right way, so how did this issue happen in the first place?

The issue is particularly troublesome here, since it impacts the usefulness of Caesar's accessory. Unlike Luca, who only came with an extra head, Caesar shows his evolution thanks to an alternate set of hands and a Remington 870 "Witness Protection" shotgun. Since the arms don't turn the way they should, it's very difficult to get the gun into the hands: there's really only one pose where it fits.

The best thing about Caesar is that he's, fundamentally, just a plain chimpanzee toy, done to NECA's usual high standard. You don't need to like or have even seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to appreciate the work that went into making this awesome. The elbows are poorly conceived, and you need to compare paint in person before you buy him, but when else are you ever going to see a toy of a chimp made this well? We'd merrily buy any plain animal toys NECA chooses to make, regardless of a movie license or not.

-- 03/21/15

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