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NECA Reel Toys
by Poe Ghostal

For the last few years NECA seems to have made a concerted effort to stick it to McFarlane Toys by redoing figures McFarlane did for their Movie Maniacs line in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sculptor Kyle "Tankman" Windrix, who once worked for McFarlane and now sculpts for NECA, has often expressed disappointment or outright disgust at many of the McFarlane sculpts from the era. Reportedly Todd McFarlane would often dismiss concerns about film-accuracy on Movie Maniacs sculpts, claiming, for example, that no one really knows exactly what an Alien or a Predator looks like.

While that may be true for casual fans, diehard fans of any movie franchise, but especially those of the Aliens, Predators, Robocops, and Terminators of the world, are notorious for their obsession with detail (check out any Hot Toys discussion thread). NECA has striven to make their own versions of these characters more film-accurate, and for the most part they've succeeded; their Terminators and Predators have been superior to their McFarlane counterparts. Thus, we were all eagerly anticipating NECA's take on a 7" Robocop (they did an 18" version a few years back). Surprisingly, I'm not entirely sure they beat McFarlane this time around.

The McFarlane Robocop was a surprisingly good figure. Along with having a fantastic sculpt, it also features some useful articulation. It could move its head forward and back and side to side; the shoulders had swivel-hinges, allowing for some balljoint-like range of motion; it had balljointed hips; a swivel at the waists and swivels at the wrists; and hinges at the elbows, knees and ankles. Many of the articulation points featured ratchet joints that made a satisfying click when moved, and held a position easily. NECA beats that - but just barely. The articulation is almost identical to McFarlane's, except the neck is a true balljoint, allowing for a better range of motion, and the upper torso has a balljoint as well. The elbow joints on the NECA figure are actually more restricted than the McFarlane version, unable to come up to quite the same angle.

Honestly, we're not sure whether the sculpt of the McFarlane or NECA figure is more film-accurate. Windrix sculpted this figure along with Roger Mutt, and given Windrix's concern for accuracy, odds are the NECA one is more accurate to the film. And yet... when sculpting a figure in this scale, there's a certain need for exaggeration, for caricature, to bring out the familiar details. You could liken it to the exaggerated expressions that theater actors use so that the people in the nosebleed seats have some idea of what their emotions are. The McFarlane sculpt does a better job of that than the NECA one.

McFarlane wins the paint contest hands-down. There's really no question. First off, the NECA figure's paint has a ton of quality control issues. I had to return my first figure because of big splotches of white paint on the legs. But the figure I ended up buying wasn't much better; the silver paint is still splotchy and rough, with no real sense of a shine to it, and as you can see there's slop everywhere, especially on his chin. Where's the smooth, glossy shine of the McFarlane figure, the one with the blueish gleam? Now, technically Robocop was silver in the first film and blueish-silver in Robocop 2, but there was still a touch of blue in the first film as well.

Speaking of quality control issues, another reason I returned the first Robocop was because one of the little round clips on his shoulders was torn off in the package. Upon opening my replacement, the ankle piston on the right leg was simply missing. I've emailed NECA's customer service to see if I can get a replacement - I'd be happy with just the part, since I could just glue it on. [To be fair, McFarlane Robocop's foot broke off at one point, too --ed.]

But wait, there's more! The helmet of the NECA Robocop was sculpted, for some reason, as a separate piece, though it's not removable. The figure was also given a tiny nose. The helmet wasn't pushed down far enough when it was glued on, and so the nose is peaking out beneath the helmet. It looks terrible. Fortunately, it's easily corrected. You can pry off the helmet pretty easily. Then just warm it up with a hair dryer, stick some glue on the sides of the helmet, and push it down further onto the face.

QC issues aside, NECA does have more than just extra articulation going for it. First off, the McFarlane Robocop is a bit too tall to fit in with NECA's other offerings, whereas their Robocop is just right. And of course there's the gun, easily the biggest problem with the McFarlane version. There's no saying which of them is more film-accurate, but the McFarlane Auto-9 looks tiny in his hand. While the NECA Robocop is a tiny bit smaller than the McFarlane version, his gun is much larger, and looks 10 times better in action. The NECA figure also comes with the interchangeable "data spike" hand, which is a nice added bonus. All that said, the McFarlane Robocop came with a badass display base, so the accessories category is probably a wash.

So what's the verdict? The poseability, scale compatibility, and better gun give NECA a very slight edge over the McFarlane version. But clearly NECA has not solved the quality control problems that have plagued them for years, and this particular figure has suffered mightily for it. What could have been an amazing figure ends up being just average.

-- 09/23/11

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