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Neo in Chateau

The Matrix Reloaded
by Shocka

The Chateau fight took place in the middle of the movie, after Morpheus, Trinity and Neo met up with the Merovingian and Persephone betrayed him, taking them to the Keymaker. Just as they free the Keymaker, the Merovingian arrives with his henchman in the lavish Chateau and confronts the group, mad at Persephone, and then sets his henchmen on Neo.

What follows is a long wire-driven fight sequence, as Neo faces off against all the henchmen (AKA: old programs) in the chateau, leaping around and using weapons and fighting for several minutes. It's a nice little scene, but it's overshadowed by some of the other more impressive scenes from Reloaded, like the Agent Smith fight and the immortal Freeway sequence that follows on after this.

What was impressive though was the setting - the Chateau itself is a lavish set, and an ideal place to stage a fight sequence. When I heard McFarlane Toys was to be doing a box set based on this very scene as part of their Matrix line, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, I'm feeling less than impressed with the final result - a small diorama called "Neo in Chateau" with an average Neo toy posed in mid-air, kicking an average Henchman toy posed in mid-air, on a base which only resembles about a quarter of the Chateau itself and is thoroughly unplayable.

Let me say right here, right now, if you know what you're getting with this boxed set, if you've already seen the pictures and know that it doesn't move, that it's just for display, and you still want it, then you should get this set. Neo in Chateau has been specifically made for a group of collectors, and they know who they are - they'll love this set, and I recommend it to them. However, I just feel really disappointed, and I'll now go on to tell you why.

The set features half of the Chateau, as seen in the pictures - it measures approx 11" wide, 14½" tall (slightly taller when considering the staffs) and about 11" deep. It's not really a small set by any means - it completely dwarfs any Simpsons playset - and it's very nicely sculpted and detailed.

The statue is sculpted accurately to look stunning, while the walls and staircase have great paint apps. The tiled floor is a giant sticker, but the effect is nice and the whole set has a few nice little tidbits. The first is that all of the swords and weapons are removable, so you'll be putting the whole set together when you buy it (using these instructions) - it includes a shield with non-removable spears/staffs, then a nice big spiked staff (as seen in the movie) which attaches to the wall, and finally seven swords of different varieties which fit onto the wall via holders. All stunningly painted and detailed, they lose lots of points because the figures can't actually hold them, rendering them useless aside from display (akin to the whole set).

Next, the statue has a good and bad break-apart action: the good is that it comes apart in four places and allows clear tubing to make it appear that the statue is broken apart in mid-air; the bad is that it's not a break-apart action at all - you can't throw a figure into it and have it explode (which would have been awesome, might I add) - it just sits there, in mid-action. Not overly exciting, though a bonus for those looking for more from the diorama.

The figures included in the set are in the 6" - 7" scale; Neo is posed in a slightly strange kick in mid-air. He's got an unexpectedly poor face sculpt, made even odder seeing as though he's wearing glasses - shouldn't the sculpting be easier when a nice portion of the face is blocked out via dark sunnies?

The cape-like coat is the best part of the figure - it floats in midair and looks good. Neo is (uselessly) articulated at the shoulders, neck, wrists, left elbow and legs, though none of them allow much movement, because he's clearly not going anywhere. Disappointing - where's our super-articulated Neo figure?

The henchman figure is twisted into a pose of perpetual pain - kicked through the air, he's got decent paint apps and sculpt, and I don't recognize which character he was from the scene, but never mind. He has articulation at the neck, wrists, legs and shoulders - the shoulders allow a bit of twisting of his arms, so you can make him look in more pain. I like that.

Both of the figures are held in mid-air via black plastic pieces that attach to the base. This is different from the clear plastic pieces as seen in the promo pics, but it doesn't detract from the overall look.

Usually, McFarlane Toys' boxed sets are excellent toys of the highest quality, always with a twist of ingenuity and a love of toymaking combining to create impressive new sets, the likes of which haven't seen before - see: the ToY-Award-winning Sleepy Hollow Headless Horseman set, Alien and Predator, Cy-Gor 2, the recent Alien Queen, etc. What's great about all of these is the combination of excellent sculpts with usable movement to create a playable, poseable, fun toy that's ideal for display on the shelf and for posing and playing.

(Yes, there have been exceptions, like the Jaws set, but that's ignorable.)

Since the inception of McToys' Movie Maniacs line, many fans have complained about the lack of articulation in figures - with the recent series, McToys have improved this - and now, we come back to the Chateau set. This seems to be a step back in every way for McFarlane Toys and their tradition of fun playsets. It's just an expensive three-dimensional statue, with below-average character sculpts. Rewatching the movie, the exact scene that you see depicted in this set doesn't actually happen in the film. Watched for it; didn't happen. If McFarlane had taken the initiative, they could have come up with something really cool. Imagine this:

The full Chateau staircase set up, possibly detachable to two pieces in the center, all with the same level of detail and paint as seen in the base of this one, featuring several figures - a super-articulated Neo (with a better sculpt and a soft rubber cape for the trenchcoat, which can be posed in different positions), able to get into all kinds of fighting poses and movements, then figures of all the bad guys/programs from the scene, detailed and articulated (perhaps not as super-articulated as Neo, but able to get into all kinds of poses nonetheless).

The same attachable weapons on the Chateau, which would fit into the figures' hands so they could fight with them, accurate to the scene. Then include a bunch of plastic stands that allow the figures to float/kick/dioramatize the entire playset, having them floating in air in various poses, like in the screencap at the top of this review. Top it off with that statue actually breaking if you throw a toy into it, and you'd have one of the most kick-ass playsets ever - even though the fight itself wasn't top notch, this playset would be one of the most fun toys ever, and you could display it beautifully as well as play with it, pleasing everyone.

No doubt the cost would be a lot higher than the current playset, but with more figures and a bigger playset, that's to be expected. More than that, it would be worth it for a superarticulated Neo. This will always be the dream - unfortunately, we're stuck with what we have.

What I would like to see done in the future of the Matrix series by McToys is a nice set from "Final Flight of the Osiris" (as seen in The Animatrix), with the two characters fighting at the beginning in the simulation - McToys could do this really well, with some nice articulation and removable clothing (those who have seen the short will know what I'm talking about).

I don't recommend this set - I think it's below average and not nearly as interesting as it could have been, especially for the price. Others have liked the playset a lot more than myself, but it's a wasted opportunity, and not worth your money. Although I'm sure my review isn't going to sway those who were already going to buy the set, I still give this the thumbs down, with the suggestion to McToys to go all out with the next series - don't give us statues, give us something fun!

-- 06/07/03

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