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Movie Masters Neytiri

by Artemis

I have many ambitions in life - some achieved, some realistic, and some wildly improbable. One of the more far-fetched ones is that something I write becomes a runaway success a la Harry Potter, with movies and merchandising and so on, the standard artistic vision - more money than you know what to do with. A small but enjoyable sideline to that fantasy is the day that Mattel invites me over to their offices to discuss a toy deal: I don't want to waste too much time with details, but if you picture me in front of all their top executives, holding up two middle fingers and cackling "F**k you!!!", you get the gist of it.

This Graceful, fierce and intelligent member of the Omaticaya clan is rightfully wary of humans. Yet Neytiri has become an unlikely ambassador to the earthly colonists on Pandora.

Clan Position: Daughter of Omaticaya clan leaders Eytukan and Mo'at. Clan leader-in-waiting.

Skills: Mastery of most Na'vi weapons, including various bows, spears, bolas and knives. Banshee and direhorse rider. Hunter. Proficiency in English.

The packaging also helpfully gives a potted summary of Avatar - or James Cameron's Avatar as it's being marketed, which suggests a little 80x80 jpeg of him - and what we're basically looking at is Our Hero (a Captain America type, idealistic but crippled, and offered a new lease on life) signing up to defend Earth's interests abroad (in space, that is, not on the Riviera), only to discover that Earth's interests involve slaughtering the natives and taking their land. It doesn't take a qualified historian (which I am - no, really, got a degree and everything) to say: ya think? Still, you don't have to be original to make money in Hollywood - more often the reverse, in fact - so even though two-dimensional neo-colonialism doesn't quite sound like the stuff of the next Star Wars, I'm sure it'll turn over a decent profit.

Neytiri here is our main gal on the native side of things, a fairly standard example of the whole "noble savage" idea that no one refers to by name since it stopped being okay to call people "savage," but is still how most people like to think of the underdogs in colonial endeavours. Her lot, the Na'vi, are placeholders for any number of tribal peoples here on Earth, with some restrained catgirl thrown in to pretend we're not just doing Cowboys and Indians again (with a dash of oil wars) - you don't want your aliens to be too alien, since it then takes effort for the audience to relate to them, so she's basically a tall, lanky human with a vaguely feline face, wearing an assortment of primitive accessories on the theme of vines and leaves.

The sculpt is quite capable, although the lack of sculpted-in clothes means that it's difficult for the joints to hide, so while Neytiri has the proper proportions (for her, I mean, not a regular human) she doesn't look especially sleek or graceful (or even capital-G-Graceful, as the bio text would have it) - just gangly and slightly awkward. Her vambraces, bicep bands, choker, and the band beneath her right knee are all sculpted in, leaving the main outfit - the usual natural-materials loincloth-slash-bikini - to be represented by soft plastic add-ons. Neither top nor bottom are removable, thanks to loops encircling the right shoulder up top and the tail below, and there's nothing of interest underneath anyway. It's worth noting, though (not worth noting for any good reason, just as a bit of trivia) that she's one of the few figures who don't have sculpted undies beneath her loincloth - even Barbies get a textured "panty area" presumably to stop people getting ideas - but she's alien, so maybe her bits are somewhere else anyway.

Her face is a so-so rendition of the CGI model - the broad features are there, but she's lacking in any sort of fine detail or artistic flair that'd bring out her character, leaving her looking like, well, a toy. Her eyes have a yellow backing to the black pupils, but it's not very strong, and doesn't have any of the depth of the real thing; her lips don't get any paint at all, and with the painted stripes and dot patterns perfunctory at best, there's no saving grace to an ordinary sculpt. Her hair is quite nicely detailed, with overlapping dreads in back, each with little beads in them, but aside from the garish flower on her right ear, there's no paintwork at all to bring out these sculpted decorations.

Her body suffers likewise - the CGI model features faint stripes, which would be a fairish challenge to a toy manufacturer to colour and pattern, but Mattel manages to pick the worst of both worlds, with stripes just faint enough to be nondescript, but still visible enough that the lack of artistry in their application is obvious. The pale blue dot patterns are around here and there, but very sparsely, and all in all they do nothing to enhance the look of a very plain-looking paint job. The clothes fare little better, with everything but the top painted or cast in a single colour - the lime green loincloth is especially cheap-looking - and even the multicoloured feathers on the top look fake, with too few colours to pull off the proper effect.

Neytiri's articulation is familiar-looking, since she's essentially just a DCU figure who hasn't eaten enough: balljoint neck (rendered merely a swivel due to the tight housing and hair), swivel/pin/swivel shoulders, pin elbows, swivel wrists, pin sternum, swivel waist, swivel/pin hips, swivel thighs, pin knees, pin ankles. The lack of double-pin joints is annoying as always, especially at the elbows where she can't even manage 90° of turn. Her lower legs are also a sore point, with the thin joints - and the plastic quality, which feels somewhat soft and cheap to me - giving her ankles a tendency to sag over time. Each foot has a small peg hole in its heel, but she has no base.

What she does have is a bow and arrow, a single-piece accessory cast in brown with drab green on the grip, lime on the feathers, and a slightly lighter brown on the arrowhead - it's not going to win accessory of the year by any measure, but at least with the string pre-drawn she can be posed as if about to fire. Her articulation is just up to that, but despite having the edge over, say, DC Direct's usual fare, she's far from a highly poseable figure.

Neytiri also comes with an "infotag", which is a cheap little plastic panel with a photo of her stickered onto it. This thing can evidently be recognized, via a webcam, by some attached promotional website, which will then provide access to a 3D model of Neytiri, which can probably be rotated and tilted and gotten bored of in 30 seconds. I haven't got a webcam anyway, so I can't confirm this, but I'm not holding my breath.

I had a look at the smaller-scale Avatar figures when I bought this, and was unimpressed to the extreme - any line where I won't bother getting a Sigourney Weaver figure isn't worth the time of day. This larger figure is presumably the one for "serious" toy fans, but eve if you relax the standards as much as possible, it doesn't have much to show for itself. The decent (if unremarkable) sculpt is thoroughly sabotaged by poor paint, and the overall impression is that a lot more thought has gone into making this as cheap as possible than making it as good as possible.

-- 12/20/09

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