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Leatherback

Pacific Rim
by yo go re

Before Pacific Rim opened, the first series of toys was languishing on the shelf at TRU - they just didn't look that impressive. After the movie opened, though, they blew out so fast that I couldn't even get Crimson Typhoon. Now that Series 2 is beginning to ship, I wasn't about to miss out again.

Each series features two Jaegers and one Kaiju. The monster this time around is the hulking brute called Leatherback.

When designing the film's various kaiju, the artists based them on real animals - sharks, bats, crabs, etc. Everybody would work within those general guidelines, then get together to vote on which design worked best in each; you know, like "put all the crocodiles into a pile this week. Who wins? Raiju wins! Let's start making Raiju!" Doing it this way gave every monster a unique silhouette, making them easier to identify at a glance. With that in mind, Leatherback is clearly the king of gorilla mountain. He was designed by David Meng, and has long, thick arms and wee little legs.

One of Guillermo del Toro's directives for the kaiju was that, even though they would all be fully digital creations, you should still be able to look at them and envision them as a man in a suit, like the old Toho monsters all were. You can easily imagine some unknown stuntman hunching over inside Leatherback, using arm extensions to reach the ground while he walks. Way to honor your roots!

The texture on the figure is amazing. From a distance he looks fat and wrinkly, but when you get up close you can see small scales. It really helps sell the scale of this beast - even if he's only about 7" tall, you can tell he represents a creature that's inconceivably larger. Being cast in plastic and standing on your desk allows details of Leatherback's design to come through that were never visible in the dark rainstorms of the film. Look at his cute little armored tail, for instance, or the small spikes coming off the back of his neck. The packaging doesn't have any sculptor credits, but the toy even includes the strange little nub on his back - too bad it's not articulated to do its little "hammer strike" thing. Also, it would have been neat if the tendrils poking out of his brain were squishy, rather than stiff,

Leatherback is a very dark figure, and lacks the variations in tone seen on Meng's original maquette. Look at that thing: it's kind of a light blue, with a greenish-brown used for the bony armor. The toy, though? Dark grey and dark grey. That does mean it looks like what we saw on-screen, though - it's like the difference between NECA making their Aliens brown or blue. If they'd done the toy the color it was actually designed with, everyone would be complaining it was too bright. I do wish there a way that the blue lines could look like an internal glow rather than surface tattoos, but how would they do that? The inside of his mouth is metallic blue, his eyes are silver.

Part of the reason I didn't get Knifehead was that his articulation was sad. Some people joked that NECA was homaging the old vinyl toys kaiju used to get, but there's actually a real reason for the sub-par articulation: it's Walmart's fault.

NECA was working on a deal for Walmart to carry the Pacific Rim toys, and one of the things WM wanted was a super-low price. Then WM backed out of carrying them, and NECA had to scramble to get the toys back up to par. So Series 2 is better than Series 1, and Series 3 will be better than Series 2. Leatherback has balljointed feet, hips, wrists, and shoulders; hinged ankles, knees, elbows, and fingers; and a swivel neck. The jaw also opens and closes. Since the figure is so heavy, you'll need to make sure you've got his arms in a steady position to support him.

Leatherback definitely corrects the flaws the earlier figures had. Knifehead you got because of the movie; Leatherback you get because he's a good toy. He's giant, he's chunky, he's got good articulation... he's worth what NECA's asking for him. You can get him to be a standalone monster on your shelf, but be warned: Leatherback will make you want some Jaegers to fight him.

-- 10/27/13


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