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300: Leonidas

NECA Reel Toys
by Monkey Boy

Imagine George W. Bush fighting on the frontlines of the war in Iraq, instead of cheesing on the TV about supporting the troops. Now, imagine that our forces are ridiculously outnumbered by a highly trained and efficient Iraqi army. Sound ridiculous? Welcome to 300.

Frank Miller's graphic novel 300 obviously takes huge liberties with the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, but the battle itself was still badass. 300 Spartans (along with several thousand other troops) fought a contingent of between 60,000 and perhaps two million Persians, and managed to hold their own and inflict heavy losses on the other side. And King Leonidas of Sparta was right there fighting alongside his greatest warriors.

NECA has pretty squarely usurped McFarlane as the go-to purveyor of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy action figures. McFarlane, however, seems too busy to notice, what with its focus on sports, sports, sports, and Hanna Barbera cartoons. NECA, meanwhile, has nabbed the license to 300, producing action figures as well as prop replicas, a first for the company.

I was initially less than wowed by the prototype images of the first series of 300 figures. The photography, with all its fancy lighting and staging, still left me wholly underwhelmed. Then I saw the figures on the pegs, and suddenly they jumped out at me in person in a way that the proto-pics never had. King Leonidas, in particular, seemed to more than merit a purchase.

Leonidas, played by Gerard Butler in the film, has an excellent sculpt and the likeness is instantly recognizable. His armor (what little armor he has) is pitted, his cape is a sculptural masterpiece, and his muscles are totally ripply. Seriously, the cape is probably the best cape sculpt I've ever seen. The individual fibers are visible on close inspection; it's that detailed. There's not much more to really say about this sculpt except that it's all around awesome. It's much more dynamic than the promo shots made it look, which in this case is a good thing.

The paint is mostly done very well, but there are a few areas that stand out in a bad way. But first, the good. His armor is nice and bronzy, and the skin is handled nicely. There's a nice application of air-brushing to give it some different tones. The cape is also painted well, with a deep red base and some overlays of dark brown to make it look dirty and weathered.

Now the bad. Leo's hairline could have less slop, and the same goes for the back of his legs. The leg-backs are particularly horrible, with colors going everywhere. Flesh bleeds onto armor and cloth, it's a ridiculous mess. Luckily, this area isn't very visible due to the cape, but it's still a sore spot on an otherwise great paint job.

This figure doesn't break any new ground in NECA articulation, and it seems they've found a groove that suits them just right. And that groove is balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, peg wrists, peg waist, and peg ankles.

This is NECA's way of finding a middle ground between statue and action figure, apparently, since balljointed shoulders and necks are the least obvious joints but also some of the most useful to have on a figure. While a super articulated Leonidas would be a dream come true for many fans, we probably won't get one any time soon.

Leonidas comes with two heads, one helmeted and one not. The snarling, helmeted head is particularly awesome, and shows off some of the best detail in paint and sculpt. That's not to say the more serene bare head isn't good as well, but how often are you going to display your Leonidas peacefully resting? He also gets a shield, a spear, and a sword. The shield looks like it would be difficult to attach to the figure, but I found it looked harder than it actually was. There's a large sleeve for the figure's forearm to fit through, and a small handle for the hand to grasp. The sword features a removable pommel so that it can slip in and out of his hand better. Lastly, Leonidas gets a plain black oval base. The footpegs are uneven, as Leonidas is in a slight half-step. Even so, he stands just fine without the base, thanks to his cape.

a very spartan assortment

NECA really shines with this figure. They've come a long way since being labeled a McFarlane imitator with better licenses, and whose figures had bad hairpieces. Not only has the hair improved, but just about everything else has as well. The entire 300 line, much like Cult Classics 5, really shows NECA putting their best foot forward. Let's hope they keep it up.

-- 03/12/07

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