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Power Loader

by yo go re

You bought the Queen. You bought half a Bishop. You would have bought a Newt, if she was available outside of SDCC. But now it's time for the centerpiece of the collection.

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Whether you're leading heavy ordnance or fighting a terrifying alien queen, the P-5000 Powered Work Loader has the extra muscle you need to get the job done.

The way James Cameron integrated the Power Loader into Aliens was very smooth. Introduced as just another piece of cool future technology, there was no indication it would come back as one of the most iconic weapons in the entire film series.

Kenner made a Power Loader back in the '90s, but you know it wasn't very screen-accurate. It had tank treads and a rocket launcher, for pete's sake! But NECA is better than that, so this time the Caterpillar P-5000 Work Loader is exactly as it was in the film. The toy is sold in a surprisingly small box, with some decent photos of the set - no windows to let you see it before opening. After the Queen's packaging was designed to look like her egg chamber and the elevator, I was kind of hoping the interior of this box would look like the ship's airlock. No such luck.

The reason there's no window is clear: the toy is just held in place by a two-piece clamshell tray, no fancy poses or anything. A bit of assembly is required once you open it - plugging in the two antennae above the shoulder joints - but otherwise you're ready to go straight out of the box. Fully assembled, the Loader is more than 11" tall. Though Ripley is not included with the set, it's sized perfectly to hold her - almost as if they planned it that way! Hardly a shock, considering who we're dealing with here.

Getting a figure into the driver's seat (well, "driver's back-pad," but that doesn't have the same ring to it) is a bit of an ordeal. Unfasten the three-part harness, slip the feet into the stirrups, and close the harness around the figure's chest. Sounds simple so far, right? Well, it is, and you can even leave Ripley's bandolier on if you want to. No, the problem comes with what's next: the hands.

The set includes a new pair of hands for Ripley, ones designed to hold the control sticks of the Loader. So you pop the existing hands off, slip these on, and you're good to go, right? Well, in theory. In practice, there's no way to get the hands on her wrists and get them to hold the sticks. Your best bet is to put the figure in the Loader, put the hands on the controls, and then try to position them in such a way that you can attach the hands to the arms. You may have to settle for just having the hands near the arms. That's disappointing.

But enough bad; let's get to the good! The sculpt, by Jeff Richard, is excellent. Every little bolt, weld, panel and seam seen on the movie prop has been duplicated here. If you compare the toy to the real thing, there are a few differences you can pick out: the roll cage sticks out a little too far, the leg pistons don't attach to the calves in the right way, things like that. It's nothing major, and certainly nothing that should impede your enjoyment of the toy.

A lot of the details you won't even be able to notice, because they end up hidden beneath all the wires and tubing that spider their way all over the body, making this look like a machine that works via pneumatics and electricity rather than magic. There's netting over the top of the roll cage to protect the driver from falling debris. It looks like it's been zip-tied in place, as have the wires that control the Loader's welder attachment. There's a light on the top, but this time NECA didn't pad the cost with electronics, so it's just for show.

The toy's articulation is great. If the movie prop could move some way, the toy can too. It has hinged ankles, hinged knees, balljointed hips, a hinge for the roll cage, a swivel for the welder, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, hinged wrists, and swivels for the hands. There are big pistons for the major joints, and they move around as you reposition the limbs. The clamps are mounted on rails, allowing them to close on whatever you choose. The control sticks also slide back and forth, to theoretically help with posing, but the fit is so tight that moving them is tough. The Loader's knee joints don't quite line up with the pilot's, so be careful when posing it.

The paint is nice as well. The Power Loader looks like a piece of construction equipment that's seen heavy use over the years, just as it should. It's done in yellow, of course, but it's not as vibrant a shade as most Caterpillar vehicles - perhaps space travel bleaches paint? Black hazard stripes adorn the arms, feet and clamps, though there should also be some on the top of the shoulders. There's a large number 2 painted on the upper arm (which should be larger than it is) and a "Block C" logo on the leg (used from 1967 to 1989). There's a nice weathering applied to the whole surface, but of course you can't compare it before you buy. Judging by that picture we found of the prop, the ankle should have a few more paint apps - silver on the foot, black in the center of the joint - to be completely accurate, but overall this is quite nice.

The Power Loader retails for about $100, which feels like a lot. If it could have been $70, like Otachi, it would be a lot easier to recommend a purchase. But the fact is, if you're a fan of Aliens at all, you're going to want this one, no matter the cost. NECA did an oustanding job on it, and isn't that really the most we could hope for?

-- 07/23/16

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