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Captain Jack Sparrow

Pirates of the Caribbean
by Monkey Boy

A movie based on a themepark ride? Sounds like a terrible idea, right? And yet, it worked. Once. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a surprise hit, but the next ride/movie, The Haunted Mansion, proved to be a flop. What made Pirates so good? A number of things contributed to the success, but above all other factors it was the superb and unorthodox performance of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow that made this movie so much fun to watch.

While Disney execs were initially skeptical and deemed Depp's characterization too "homosexual," his Keith Richards-meets-Pepe LePew approach to Sparrow eventually got the attention of the Academy, and Depp was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 2003.

[We just want to take a second to stress that. Really let it sink in. Academy Award nomination. Movie based on a themepark ride. About pirates. And zombies. Sorry for the interruption. Back to the review. --ed.]

NECA nabbed the license to produce 7" scale Pirates of the Caribbean action figures a while ago, and they're finally beginning to hit shelves. Now, guess which fig is the most popular?

Jack Sparrow is an eccentric and seemingly incompetent pirate, although one suspects his heart is in the right place. The deposed captain of the ship known as The Black Pearl, Jack sets off with a ragtag group of pirates and misfits (including the young Will Turner) to reclaim his ship (now cursed) from the treacherous Captain Barbossa and his crew of undead pirate-zombies.

NECA's 7" Jack Sparrow is a scaled-down version of their talking 18" version, and just like that figure, he's available in two head styles: smiling and serious. Both versions seem to be evenly packed, though the serious face (which is the focus of this review) seems to be more popular and thus sells faster. The face sculpt lost little in the shrinking process; this is still one of the best human likenesses captured in plastic form. The head depicts Depp as Sparrow well - thick mustache, eyeshadow, braids in the hair and in the beard and spilling over the top of the bandanna.

It's all well sculpted and painted, but one thing is slightly bothersome. The main braid on the left side of his head looks, from some angles, to be floating on the side of his face. It's flat on top and doesn't really appear to be sprouting from any specific spot on his head... it just sort of sticks to the rest of the hair. It's strange, but it's not an isolated error, as every figure on the pegs, both smiling and serious, seem to share this oddity.

The rest of the sculpt is interesting. It has its ups and downs, but overall it's very good. The figure's jacket and belts are soft, rubbery plastic layered over the main sculpt, which more accurately recreates the appearance of the multiple layers of clothing the characters wore in the film. The sculpt of the fabric is appropriately wrinkled and looks quite believable, but the paint is inconsistent; it works with and against the sculpt in different areas. For example, the wash on the jacket and boots looks good and gives the plastic a convincing, weathered look. But then the lack of sufficient matte paint on the pants makes them look shinier than the rest of the outfit. It's not terrible, just uneven.

What is terrible, however, is the paint wash (if you can call it that) on his white shirt. The thick paint has collected and dried in the sculpted wrinkles and it ends up looking like gray polka dots on a white shirt. It's the only really inexcusable thing on an otherwise nicely done figure, and fortunately only a small bit of the shirt shows through the rest of the costume.

Jack is articulated with a balljoint at the neck, balljoints at the shoulders, and peg joints at the elbows, neck, waist and boot tops. NECA seems to be getting into a groove as far as articulation goes: most of their figures have balljointed shoulders and/or necks, but they usually don't get involved with much below the waist (yeesh, that sounds dirty... but it's not, I swear). This leaves you with some decent posing possibilities above the belt, but anything below is for balance purposes only. The pre-posing on Jack isn't too bad, but his stance is a little plain. He just looks like he's standing there, although if you play around a little with his boot articulation, you can point his feet inward, which leans the figure back and makes him look somewhat drunk. Quite an appropriate look!

On a related note, Jack comes with his flask (drinky drinky), his hat, his sword and his pistol. The flask fits nicely in his left hand, and the right hand is sculpted to hold the gun. When not in use, the gun can slip easily into a gap between Sparrow's belt and waist. The hat is made of soft rubber and fits reasonably well on the head. The sword fits decently in the scabbard on Jack's side, but it doesn't really seem right in either of the hands. Ultimately it fits better in the pistol hand than the flask hand.

The sculpts and paint apps on all the accessories are very nice, particularly the sword, which is rusty and dull, unlike those vac-metalized monstrosities we got in NECA's Kill Bill line. Jack also comes with the compass he uses to locate La Isla de la Muerta (the Black Pearl's base of operations), although it's attached to his waist by a string which technically makes it not an accessory. In the 18" version, the compass opened, but here it's just a solid piece of plastic.

All in all, his complement of accessories is not bad, although there are a few questions that should be addressed. First off, 18" Jack had an alternate hand, so where did that go? Next, Will Turner's figure features an interchangeable head in the package, but to get Jack's other head you have to buy this body twice. Why? Lastly, this line was originally supposed to feature bases that linked together to form the treasure chest room in the lair of the cursed pirates, but these bases are not present in the final product. It's not too much of an issue though, since a second series of PotC figures is in the works, and NECA has announced a box set with new Jack and Barbossa figures that features the treasure stockpile as a base.

This figure (and the PotC line as a whole) show that NECA is committed to making quality figures and pursuing quality licenses. Jack can stand with his balljointed head held high among his Johnny Depp action figure peers like McFarlane's Edward Scissorhands and Ichabod Crane.

-- 03/17/05

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