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Dread Pirate Roberts

The Princess Bride
by yo go re

"McFarlane Toys today vs. NECA Toys way back then," round two. Fight!

The only thing known concerning the Dread Pirate Roberts is that he never leaves captives alive.

There's no character text on the packaging for these figures, but there's a bunch for the Dread Pirate Roberts on McFarlane's website... unfortunately, it's all just copied verbatim from the Princess Bride Wiki. What is this, Shocker Toys? Anyway, NECA made a Dread Pirate Roberts of their own back in 2008, but that's when the company's quality was kind of rocky - they hadn't started doing articulation yet, things broke a lot (for real: not like now when people say they do but they don't actually), etc. It's been a decade and a half since then, so McFarlane definitely has some room to improve upon what came before. Have they? Let's find out together!

First of all, the likeness is better. The skintone still isn't healthy enough (seriously, what is it with every company making blue-tinted white people lately?), but NECA's old figure looked like an older Cary Elwes, not a 25-year-old Princess Bride Cary Elwes, while this one looks appropriately youthful. The mask is done like The Lone Ranger's, where it's a separate piece over a deformed head beneath, to better create depth.

Naturally, the Dread Pirate Westley is wearing his familiar outfit: black mask, flowing black shirt, black sash around his waist, black pants, and hot pink day-glo boots. Okay, just kidding, they're black. Everything is black. He wears more black than Johnny Cash. And it's not just one shade, either! His shirt is a warmer black, while his pants and cooler - you can really see the difference where they overlap. Todd doesn't credit his sculptors, still, but the details are good. Despite being solid plastic, the shirt looks light and airy, and though at first the odd texture on the shoulders seems like a mistake, it's really not: the real costume had some sort of pattern there, so this toy just uses that to simulate it.

What isn't as good, though? The proportions. It's fine to have your small details be accurate, but they need to be on an accurately shaped frame as well, yeah? Can't quite pin down what the problem is; the torso feels too long, I think? Like, the belt is too far above the hips or something, giving him room for a few extra vertebrae in his spine. It's mostly noticeable when he's standing straight up (ie, as he does in the package), but it doesn't go away when you're posing him either.

There's one area where you already knew this 2022 toy was going to be better than a 2008 one, and that's the articulation. Yes, even McFarlane has finally recognized that an action figure with no "action" isn't a ton of fun. Roberts moves the way most McToys move these days, with a balljointed head, balljoint/hinge shoulders with a ring to hide the post, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel/hinge/swivel wrists, a balljointed chest, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel/hinge/swivel ankles, and hinged toes. It's enough to get him into the same pose as the old NECA toy, plus a second one if you like. Instantly superior! A lot of the hinges are very stiff - not "verge of breaking" stiff," just "made very securely" stiff. And I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of the Revoltech-style ankles and wrists, because I always have trouble getting them to leave the extremities in matching postions. In other words, I have trouble getting both feet flat at once. But that's me, you may be smarter.

The figure includes his sword. It's made from a very soft PVC, so it gets terribly bent by the time you get it out of the tray. Interestingly, the crossguard on this sword bends the opposite way from NECA's - up, instead of down. Looking at prop replicas, it seems this is correct. Since NECA's guard was only slid onto the sword, not molded or glued, it must have been assembled wrong, and no one ever noticed in all this time! Their sword was also far stiffer, so it gets the win in this category. Westley's scabbard is attached to his hip, and the sword can fit in, but being such soft plastic makes it hard to work in there - nearly as hard as getting it into his hand in the first place. You know what he really should have come with? Alternate gloves so he could fence left-handed.

NECA's accessory is better, and their paint, but McFarlane's Dread Pirate Roberts gets the win in almost every other category. Plus, unlike NECA, McFarlane isn't stopping here...

-- 01/19/22

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