One of the coolest museum exhibits I have ever seen was a "movie magic" exhibition held at the Boston Museum of Science. I was a lad of about 11 or 12. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a 15-foot Alien Queen prop facing off against the robot-like Power Loader from Aliens (both are now on display at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle).
To a young boy, this tableau was astounding. But perhaps even more enticing was the accompanying footage: a looped scene of Sigourney Weaver's character in the film, Ripley, fighting the Queen in the Power Loader. I can't remember the precise moment I became aware of the Alien franchise, but I will always remember that exhibit.
Soon I was visiting the New England Comics in the neighboring town of Plymouth (the store is long gone), buying the early Dark Horse Aliens comics (which were, admittedly, a little mature for me at the time). Naturally, I was also searching for an Alien action figure. I already had toys from other R-rated films, such as Kenner's Robocop line, so an Alien figure didn't seem unreasonable to me (nor to my parents, fortunately).
Unfortunately, there were no Alien toys to be had at the time. One day, at a flea market, I came across Kenner's famous 1979 12" Alien figure, mint in the box. I begged my parents to buy it for me, but even I knew that, with a $200 price tag, I was dreaming. In the ended, all I managed to get was a tiny 1" resin miniature that my father gingerly glued together for me. It soon broke, and I had to accept a world without Alien figures.
I was deep in my mid-'90s collecting hiatus when Kenner began producing new Alien and Predator toys (primarily on the strength of Dark Horse's comics). I picked up a few of them, and these were quite good for the time, particularly the Warrior Alien vs. Renegade Predator 2-pack (later recreated, in much greater detail, by McFarlane Toys). I was also very fond of the Gorilla Alien.
Once the "McFarlane Revolution" of the '90s was underway, fans started clamoring for a McFarlane-produced Alien. In 2002 they got their wish: an Alien/Predator two-pack. This was shortly followed by a slew of McFarlane "Alien"-related action figures based on every film from the franchise (including this year's mediocre Alien vs. Predator). Fans believed they had the ultimate Alien figure - and then some. But did they?
Though it's hard to tell without a screen-to-figure comparison, the McFarlane Alien figure is quite stylized (and here I refer to the figure from the two-pack, as well as the resculpted "Warrior Alien" from the recent "Alien and Predator" refresh line). I can't vouch for the certainty, but a post on McFarlane's message board by Yig Sothoth lists the following inaccuracies in the McFarlane sculpt:
- The head is too short.
- They gave it a bunch of extra teeth.
- They made it way too tall and out of scale with the Predator. Its entire lower torso and legs are out of scale with his upper torso.
- They made it in translucent plastic.
- They covered it in orange speckles.
- They added all kinds of embellished details in the pelvis, thighs, and legs.
- The segmented structures of its tail are different. It should have raised spinal columns [i.e., "vertebrae" --ed.] on the top.
- The tail is too short.
- The hands were totally revamped. They are no longer webbed and are now all spidery with "spawnish" fingers.
I have a few things to add to this: the Alien itself is too slender, and most significantly, the "tubes" that run over the shoulder are much too small.
The articulation on the McFarlane Alien isn't bad, particularly for McFarlane: it has balljointed shoulders, a head that can move both horizontally and vertically, and a bendy tail. Unfortunately, due to the intricacy of the sculpt, the peg joints look terrible. Also, I had a very specific problem with my Alien: the balljoint in the torso eventually lost its tenacity, and the upper half of my Alien would constantly tumble off like some Gigerian version of Darth Maul.
Fortunately, one has options. The Japanese company Aoshima has made something of a habit out of challenging McFarlane with concurrent figure releases; just when McFarlane's T-800 Endoskeleton from Terminator 2 hit the market, Aoshima put out their own.
Aoshima also put out an Alien at the same time as McFarlane. Now, just as McFarlane resculpts their Alien for a Warrior Alien, Aoshima does the same. (McFarlane's Robocop figure hits stores this month; Aoshima's should be out soon after that. Unlike McFarlane's figure, Aoshima's Robocop will be able to store his gun inside his leg.)
The figure comes in a window box but - note! - it is disassembled and must be put together by plugging in various joints. It's a quick and easy process, but may require some warm water to may the vinyl plugs more pliable.
For an Alien fan, the most striking thing about the Aoshima sculpt is that it's clearly more film-accurate. The shoulder tubes, which looked so rubbery in the film (one of the few hints that it was a suit), are nice and large. The chest is broader and the tubes larger. The legs are a bit thicker, and the tail is much longer. The head spreads out more broadly in the center before tapering just before the front of the skull; it looks like an insect's cocoon - or a big, fat larvae.
All is not perfect, of course; the hands, while "webbed," are too large, and the fingers too long. But overall, the sculpt is more accurate to the film. Whether this is important to the fan or figure collector is entirely up to them.
The paint is not quite up to McFarlane's standards; it has a silver sheen and gray and silver highlights, but the silver etchings on the head are a bit too thick and clumsy, for lack of a better term.
Where this figure really shines is in the articulation.
It features the same horizontal and vertical movement as the McFarlane head. The arms are intriguing; the shoulder aren't balljointed but have hinged joints that allow the same range of motion, while the ribs have a strange joint on both sides that allow the arms to open backward for a "grabbing" pose. The figure has pin-joint elbows and knees, balljointed hips, a (strong) balljointed torso, swivel and pin jointed wrists, articulated toes, and peg joints at the upper thigh and ankles. The tail is a bendy as well, though it's made from much thicker plastic and wire, and must be moved slowly; however, it looks much better (and should last much longer) than the McFarlane tail.
The figure also comes with a facehugger. The facehugger is better, in my opinion, than McFarlane's: it's flatter and looks like it's actually crawling.
Is this the definitive Alien figure? I wouldn't say so. The paint applications aren't as realistic and detailed as McFarlane's, and the sculpt, while good, isn't quite as detailed either. However, the figure is more accurate to the film, and more importantly, it feels a lot more like an actual action figure than a glorified statue. The shiny head and dark, solid plastic make it look more like the Alien I grew up watching. It also looks better in more poses (for instance, crawling on the ground).
However, it is not without its price; the Aoshima figures are imports and - if you can find one - cost at least $40 USD. I ordered mine from Digital Toys, but I have seen them in a few comic shops and specialty stores.
The price probably keeps this figure from must-buy range. However, I highly recommend it to diehard Alien fans.
Agree with this review? Disagree? Discuss it over at The Loafing Lounge.