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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
by yo go re

I've never seen any Planet of the Apes films. I'm familiar with the major spoiler at the end of the original, of course (thanks, Spaceballs) - oh, and I saw the Marky Mark one, but that doesn't really count, does it? The point is, NECA's done it again.

This figure is Luca, a gorilla. That's what I know about him. Or her. Presumably he lives on the second floor. He lives upstairs from you. Yes I think you've seen him before.

I do know there was a gorilla in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I don't think this is the same one - like I said, I haven't seen it, but since the trailers showed him leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge and into a police helicopter, the odds of him surviving to the sequel probably aren't very good. But who cares about the monkey's backstory? This is a plain gorilla toy made by NECA.

And when we say this is a plain gorilla toy, we really mean it - no goofy armor, no wild paint... just a gorilla. They've even captured the typical gorilla ambulatory posture, thanks to the short rear legs and long arms. Luca has a slight dip in his back, just between the wide butt and the broad shoulders. He's almost entirely covered by thick fur, especially down the forearms, but the chest, hands and feet are bare - nothing there but the leathery texture of skin. Naturally, his stomach is larger than his chest. Gorilla intestines need that extra room because they're very large, to help digest all the vegetation they eat.

Luca's face is just as generic an offering as the rest of his body - but don't take that as an insult! Alex Heinke is the sculptor, and he's delivered a truly excellent standard gorilla face. It has the overhanging brow and the long snout, and a very calm, pensive look - clearly, no one has been making direct eye contact with this gorilla.

However, if that's too tame for you, the figure includes a second head with the mouth open to bellow angrily. The interior of the mouth is glossy pink, so that it looks wet, and it's open so wide that you can see down to the back of the throat. Did you know gorillas have two sets of teeth, just like humans? Baby teeth that fall out, and adult ones that replace them.

The paint is quite good. The majority of the toy is a flat black or dark grey, with a darker, glossier black on the face(s). The pointed sagital crest on top of the head is given a slight brushing of brown, and there's light gray all down his back - it's not quite "silverback" light, but the intention is clear.

The name "gorilla" has a rather odd etymology. An American missionary named them that in 1847, based on the Greek Γόριλλαι (gorillai). That word is the plural of gorillae, which comes from the Greek translation of a Carthiginian navigator's account of his trip around the northwest coast of Africa in the 6th century BC. Hanno, the navigator, wrote of a tribe of wild, hairy people living on an island within a lake within an island, and said that was the word his interpreters called them. So basically, it's an "African" word, translated to Libyo-Phoenician, translated to Greek, translated to English. Seems legit! It does make you appreciate all the work that went into Luca's hair, though.

The articulation is what you would expect from an action figure of a gorilla: balljointed head and neck, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, balljointed wrists, swivel/hinge torso (very tight - barely moves), swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and balljointed ankles. Other than the torso joint, everything moves fine; he doesn't even have the screwed-up elbows that the chimps did! The right elbow swings freely around on my figure, but odds are that's a one-off thing, not endemic. His lower torso is covered by a rubbery skin, so it will flex out of the way when he's on all fours. Although you can pose him standing upright, he's so top-heavy that his hip joints don't want to support it for long, and he'll just tip over again anyway.

NECA says retailers only want Caesar, not the other apes - but that just tells us retailers aren't paying attention to their own shelves, because in Series 1, Maurice the orangutan was the hardest figure to find, and in Series 2, it's Luca. Whoever's telling them we don't want plain monkeys is off their nut! Heck, if you have (or plan to get) any of the NECA Godzillae, call this King Kong and have them throw down. (Like you need an excuse to buy a plain gorilla action figure.)

-- 12/27/14

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