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Dog Alien

by Monkey Boy

Alien 3 is not a good movie. It would probably best be described as "flawed." The story itself is shaky, revolving around quite a bit of questionable logic that had to be retconned in all manner of expanded universe sources. How does a queen lay an egg without its ovipositor? How does a single Facehugger implant more than one embryo? On a huge ship like the Sulaco, is there really no method of containing an electrical fire without jettisoning the passengers in an apparently very dangerous escape pod?

But the movie had some endearing qualities as well. The cast is excellent, and a lot of the characters get some pretty good development. Particular standouts include Charles Dance (aka that guy) as the prison planet's medical officer and former morphine addict; and Ralph Brown (aka Ric Olie the Naboo pilot from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) as an assistant to the superintendent, who the inmates mockingly refer to as "85" after sneaking a look at his IQ test results. There's also Charles S. Dutton, Pete Postlewaite (who you'll remember from freaking everything), and Danny Webb, who I've never seen in anything else but absolutely kills it in this film.

And then there's the titular creature. For better or for worse, the radical departure from previous designs that appeared in Alien 3 would go on to shape the design of the xenomorphs in every movie in the franchise that would follow. The digitigrade legs, the low profile streamlined dome, the overall less-humanoid body shape suited for quadripedal and bipedal locomotion... it all started with the third film.

Of course, such a radical departure makes a certain amount of sense, since Alien 3's monster bursts from the chest of a non-human host: a dog (or an ox, depending on which cut of the film you prefer). In addition to its more beast-like qualities, it also sported a more "organic" looking skin, and lacked the the dorsal tubes and spines seen on all other Alien types.

NECA has gotten around to fitting the Dog/Ox (or the "Dragon" as it's referred to in the film) into their third set of Aliens figures, and as with many of their offerings from this film series, it has a McFarlane counterpart. McF's Dog Alien was clumsy and awkward, with its anemic sculpt and the forced pose of its unarticulated arms. NECA's is just the opposite: it's extremely lithe and agile-looking.

The sculpt captures all the detail from the film design, and the overall proportions are reproduced very well. The Dog isn't my favorite xenomorph design, but it may be my favorite xenon that NECA has made, because it does an incredible job of replicating what we see on screen. And as an added bonus, it looks natural among my other figures, and not poorly composited into the shot the way it does in the film.

The close-up shots of the Dog were filmed with Tom Woodruff in a suit, but the full-body shots used a small-scale puppet, which was merged into the live-action shots in post production. I remember it looking pretty obvious when the movie was fairly new, and after recently watching the "Assembly" cut of the film on Blu-ray, I can tell you that time and high definition technology have not been kind to it. But hey, the figure looks great!

While there was always some controversy over the color of the xenomorphs in Aliens, there's no disputing that the Dog is brown. NECA's dog is a coppery reddish brown all over, no fuss, no muss. There's a black paint wash that is applied pretty heavily, but it helps bring out the detail and makes a fair bit of sense on a slimy monster terrorizing a gritty prison planet. The translucent dome on the figure's head is mostly clear, allowing you to see the ridges beneath, but it darkens to black toward the front, and much of the brown piping running along the side of its head is actually a sculpted part of the dome. The teeth are a yellowish off-white and the inner mouth is gray, and that's the extent of the non-brown painted areas.

Unlike McFarlane, NECA's Dog is very well articulated. The breakdown is as follows: the always appreciated hinged jaw, retractable inner mouth, balljoint mid-neck, hinge at the base of the neck, peg/hinge shoulders, double-peg/hinge elbows, peg/hinge wrists, balljointed chest, peg and hinge hips, peg thighs, double-​hinge knees, peg/​hinge ankles, peg/hinge mid-foot, a peg joint at the base of the tail, and a wire through the length of the tail for maximum bendiness. You can get some really great bipedal and quadrupedal poses from this figure, particularly due to hinge at the base of the neck. It's easily overlooked, but once discovered it allows the head to tilt back much further, allowing it to face forward in four-legged poses.

To assist in posing, there is an included clear base with a post that features a hinge with a C-grip that can technically fit around the waist, though it's pretty tight and I wouldn't recommend stressing the plastic so much. I prefer to have it support the figure at the base of the tail, which can help keep the figure upright in two-legged poses. It's the only accessory, though that's more than we usually get with xenomorph figures. A "queen" facehugger pack-in like the one seen briefly in the assembly cut would have been cool, but it's not exactly necessary.

As a sequel to one of the best sci-fi/action movies ever that was itself a sequel to one of the best sci-fi/horror movies ever, Alien 3 had some big shoes to fill, and I don't think anyone would argue that it came close to actually filling them. More than anything else, it was simply unnecessary. But it did give us a pretty memorable and unique xenomorph design, even if that uniqueness was later diluted by sequels that had no real basis for having quadrupedal aliens with digitigrade legs emanating from human hosts. And NECA's figure, unlike the flawed source material, is a pretty amazing figure.

-- 06/20/15

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