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Plaster of Paris

The Spirit
by Artemis

You know what most people think of as the "traditional" belly dancing outfit? The one made from the world's tiniest bra, a g-string slung so low on the hips it needs to be glued on to keep from slipping down the thighs, and half a handkerchief's worth of gauzy veils? That was basically made up by horny Westerners, and adopted by the Middle East (at least, those parts of it that didn't outlaw it) because it's what the tourists expect to see. So you can see, sometimes it's better not to worry about historical accuracy - as the Persians say, lick up the honey and ask no questions.

Plaster of Paris is a type of building material based on calcium sulfate hemihydrate, nominally CaSO4·H2O. It is created by heating gypsum to about 150 °C.

See Mezco, that's what happens when you don't put a bio on your action figures. Plaster of Paris is in fact an eccentric assassin with a thing for belly dancing, and is the other half of The Spirit's action figure amazon brigade, along with Jakita Wagner's less interesting sister Sand Saref. This version, the natural colours one, is available solo; there's also a boxed set of her and Sand together, both recoloured in monochrome with pure red accents, since the whole point of the movie was "Look, we're kinda sorta like Sin City!" Since I'm not a fan of the monochrome look - on its own it can be artistically interesting, but with 500+ figures crowded together on my shelves, a monochrome one would just look like someone forgot to paint it - naturally it's the technicolour Plaster we're looking at here.

Considering the amount of naked Paz Vega (who's Spanish rather than French, as Plaster is - hence the name - but I guess they figured close enough) on show, there's a lot of detail on the small amount of costume she's wearing. It basically comes down to two categories though - veils and little shiny bits - and sadly there are issues with both. The shiny bits - bangles and anklets and chains looped over various piercings - are decently painted so far as they go, but they're bright metallics against a bright, shiny skin tone, and lacking a dark undercoat they kind of blend into the skin rather than standing out as they ideally should. The veils - two off her shoulders behind her, two at the front off her waistband, and a further small one off the waist at the back - really underperform. In real life they were light and semi-transparent, but on the action figure they're solid lumps of soft plastic. The little triangle of gold weave covering her crotch has the same problem - it's meant to be virtually see-through (there are panties underneath), but on the figure it's thick, opaque, and very soft in its sculpt.

The paintwork has its share of issues too. The veils alternate in colours, but since you can only see two of them at a time, they just look mismatched - to a point Mezco were stuck with that, as part of the costume design, but they could've fudged it a bit by making the colours more complimentary. The finish on the veils varies quite a bit - the peach on the front left is glossy, making it look half-dried, while the siena on the right side is much flatter - if it weren't for the thick, soft sculpt, it might look okay. Only the faces of the veils are painted, which means, from the front, you can see the unpainted backs of the shoulder veils, with no painted borders. Furthermore Plaster's skin has a glossy finish to it as well, which could be meant as a slight sheen of sweat - belly dancing is hard work - but with the other issues in the figure's appearance just makes her look more like plastic. (When I first saw her - knowing naught of The Spirit at that point - I wondered if the gloss could be a representation of some non-human quality, like maybe her body was actually semi-plastic or something, but apparently no, she's just a psycho with a sword.) It's all rather a shame, because there's a pretty sexy body in there (she's even got that slightly muscular stomach I like), but the bare plastic skin and fugly veils make it difficult to appreciate her.

Her face is, well, a bit generic. Paz Vega's Plaster smoulders, all dangerously dark stares and come-get-me pouting, but the figure is just kind of blank. The paint recreates her stylised eye liner decorations, although by necessity it's a lot thicker and less subtle at this size, but otherwise it's the same sad story: shiny, fake-looking plastic skin tone. She's got a gold star on her forehead, which is actually a piece of jewellery, but on the figure there's no sculpt for it, just the star painted directly onto her skin, and without a camera flash it's almost invisible - all that remains (to rub salt into the wound) is an additional shininess on the forehead.

She's got an odd assortment of joints, with a balljoint neck - reasonably mobile given the hair - swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, and swivel wrists (at the bangles, so the right is higher on the arm) all suggestive of a figure with posing potential. However all she's got from there down is a V-crotch, which with at least the right foot needing to be flat to the base is essentially useless. Her arms aren't really designed for much versatility either, especially the left, where the hand is arched inwards with the fingers bent back and the thumb tucked in - promo shots of the figure show the default pose for the arm, with the hand braced provocatively against the upper thigh, and there's really not much else you can do with it.

Plaster comes with a plain black disc base, which she can stand without - in fact it's better if she does, because while the base at first seems to provide good stability, with a very firm fit of the peg into her right foot, it lets you pose her with her centre of gravity off, and if you do that her ankle will slowly warp until she's leaning vertiginously off the base. Posing her without the base, while a bit more work, at least encourages you to leave her in a pose that won't have her over at 45° by morning.

She also has swappable right hands, to accommodate her choice of weapons. The one she's packaged with has a trio of tiny throwing knives (or one three-pronged knife, there seems to be some confusion on that; I haven't actually seen the movie) sculpted as part of the hand, held delicately between two fingers. The other hand is an accessory grip, in which she can hold her sword, a short falchion with ornate gold decoration. What with the limits of her articulation I don't find Plaster takes naturally to either weapon, much, but holding the darts up in front of her eyes at least has the benefit of being unusual.

Even without being a fan of the movie, this is a figure I had some hopes of - well, just look at the photo of Paz Vega in costume, c'mon. But the sad fact is she's just not a very good figure. The body is there, but the paint (or lack of it) is uncomplimentary, the thick veils obscure the body and are ugly besides, and the articulation is enough to muck up the look of her arms but not enough to actually make her versatile. So I'm still looking for a decent belly dancer action figure.

-- 07/15/09

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