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Pacific Rim
by yo go re

Double-dipping. It sucks for albums, it sucks for movies, and it totally sucks for toys. Sometimes you have to make exceptions, though.

click to embiggen

Short refresher: NECA made a Knifehead in Series 1, but because of Walmart, it sucked. Now that WM is out of the way, things have drastically improved, and NECA is taking another crack at him.

Knifehead is the first kaiju that gave Gipsy Danger so much trouble in the opening scenes of the movie (ie, "not the flashback prologue"), just outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and is not afraid to use his knife head as a knife (head). The Series 1 toy had a moveable jaw, and this one retains that feature, but also does us one better: he has a moveable tongue! It normally sticks out, but can be pushed back into the throat so the mouth can close.

It's a fun idea, but it works poorly. Yes, pushing the tongue in is easy, but getting it back out is nearly a physical impossibility. I had to use a pair of needle-nose pliers to grab the damn thing, because tweezers couldn't get enough of a grip. And the first time, I managed to pull it out of the head completely; good thing it can be put back easily. Just remember that the "forward" position is just barely as far out as his teeth.

There were two major complaints about the Series 1 Knifehead: he was too small, and he didn't have enough articulation. Well, as soon as you see the gigantic clamshell he comes in, you'll know that the first complaint has been answered. This one is 50% larger than the old one, so they don't even look like they're in the same toyline, let alone the same scale. This is a monster worthy of fighting with your Jaegers.

In the film, Knifehead's CGI model was tweaked to create Trespasser, so it's no surprise that this toy looks so much like that one. They do share some parts - the legs, all four arms - but the torso, while similar, is entirely different. It's not just a question of putting on a different "backpack" piece, the chest is rougher and a different shape, and the neck points a different direction. It makes sense, from a story standpoint: Trespasser was the first kaiju, so of course a later model would make improvements on the design (creating a handy parallel between the movie and these toys). The neck/shoulders appear to be a separate piece that sits on top of the torso, which will make reusing this body for other monsters easier - Scunner, anyone?

To make purchasing this Knifehead feel like less of a, well, "twist of the knife" to the folks who bought the first one, NECA opted to make this one battle-damaged. It's not a sculptural thing, just paint (so don't be surprised to see a non-BD Knifehead at some point in the future) - there's bright blue kaiju blood all down the right side of the face and body. Or, actually, several tones of blue, not just one. They really wanted this to look organic, not like paint. It stands out nicely against his dark blue-grey skin. The inside of the mouth is the same color, which is how it was in the film. And of course he has the yellow markings running all over the place: in the logic of the film, they're bioluminescent markings specific to each creature, to track the different models; so if another Knifehead ever appeared, it would have different stripes.

The articulation is a massive improvement, as well. In addition to the jaw and the tongue, he has the same joints as Trespasser: a bendy tail, balljointed ankles, swivel/​hinge knees, balljointed hips and waist, balljointed wrists (all four of them), swivel/hinge elbows (big arms only), swivel/​hinge shoulders (times four), and a swivel head. The head is particularly surprising, since the design made it seem like a solid neck was a necessity - in fact, I thought the the solid neck was the reason they were doing the moveable tongue, but no! Above and beyond!

Since Pacific Rim Series 2 never really showed up at TRU, I preordered Series 3 from Amazon. I wasn't sure I wanted Knifehead (even though I didn't get the Series 1 release), but it was the right choice. It's amazing how well NECA turned this ship around.

-- 03/30/14

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