Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Toy Review Toys R Us Exclusive Predator 2-Pack By NECA

This thing was fucking elusive (an elusive exclusive). For a while there I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to find this set.
I finally found one on my way to a great Platinum Championship Wrestling show, but before I get to them I want to talk about Predator.
Ha! Just kidding! I did that yesterday. Well, I talked about the first one anyway. And I’ll be covering the rest of the Predator-related movies and probably the comics a bit as well over the rest of the week. So now I have no intro.
Except that I can talk a bit about the history of Predator figures.
          
            Kenner got the license to do action figures based on the Alien and Predator movies back in the early 90’s (I think). It seemed kind of crazy at the time, as there was no kid-oriented media to go along with a toy line. Just a bunch of violent R-rated movies. This wasn’t the first time toys of the Xenomorphs had been produced, but it was the first time you could go and buy a plastic Predator. I might discuss the Aliens some other time, but this is Predator Week.
Kenner released a decent variety of Predators. They were a little hard to find at first, so the first one I bought was the first one I found, even though it wasn’t the closest to a movie design. Actually, I think many (if not all) of the figures were taken from Dark Horse’s comic books. But the first one I got was Scavage, who came with a gigantic net-shooting gun. These were toys aimed at kids, so coming with a big, gimmicky weapon was going to happen. I also had Cracked Tusk and one that came in a 2-pack with an Alien. The one from the 2-pack was closest to being just a regular Predator like the ones from the movies.
The pride and joy of my Aliens/Predators collection was the mail-away Stealth Predator – a clear plastic variant that came with vac-metal accessories. It arrived in a clear plastic baggie with no backboard and included a mask and a bladed weapon that clipped onto the figure’s hand. It’s one of my favorite toys that I’ve ever owned and I wish I still had it. I do, however, have this:
Which I guess is okay too.
That Kenner line lasted a few years and even became one of the classic Kaybee Toys Clearance lines. Overall it was a great line with decent sculpting and apps and great play value. Ideal for kids despite the nature of the source material. The Predators and Aliens were all colorful and had dynamic designs that were fun to look at. These figures were also sturdy. Sporting an average of five points of articulation, no fall off of the shelf was going to hurt them. Now that I think about it, I wish I had all of the figures I owned from this line, not just the mail-away.
The next contender to enter the Predator toy market was the legendary company that changed the toy industry forever – McFarlane Toys.
The entire sixth series of McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs line consisted of Aliens and Predators. It was the first time a whole wave had been dedicated to a single franchise, with previous waves featuring characters from several different movies. This was also the first time a toy company had put out Alien and Predator toys since Kenner. Hasbro briefly held the Alien license when Alien: Resurrection was released and made some very nice figures, but the figures McFarlane released were at a whole different level.
Each figure featured numerous points of articulation – almost comparable to Marvel Legends and much more aesthetically pleasing. I bought everything. Not only did they look fantastic; unlike most other McFarlane products they didn’t fall apart. Between their durability and just general awesomeness, this set of figures is one of the few that I’ve never packed away when I was moving or rotating through my collection. Even the massive Movie Maniacs series spent some time boxed up when I was in the last apartment I lived in.
Which brings me up to the current NECA line. 

 I believe NECA got the license back when Predators came out. I didn’t buy any of them because I was in a weird place with NECA at the time. I loved the things they were putting out, but I had too many figures from them that pissed me off. I have a whole wall of horror toys.
I mix NECA and McFarlane and it works fairly well except for the fact that the following figures are either leaning or I have had to figure out some method of support to prop them up:
Professor Loomis
Angus Scrimm
Elvis Presley
The mummy from Bubba Ho-Tep
Four figures may not seem like a big deal out of that whole wall, but the latter are three of my favorite figures. And the problem is that NECA decided to make the feet on those figures out of rubber. To this day I can’t figure out why they did that. And it bothered me so much I wouldn’t buy their stuff for a while.
And then Halloween came around one year and I was running short on posts. I bought a figure of Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th remake to review. Say what you will about the remake (I liked it), but the figure is great. I decided I would give NECA another chance, which was a good thing because that’s around the same time they announced their Evil Dead 2 line and really started cranking out fantastic Predators. I missed out on the ones from Predators – though I stopped and looked at them plenty of times – but I finally caved and bought one when they offered a version I simply couldn’t refuse – the SDCC Exclusive Stealth Predator. A veritable remake of the Kenner figure I had all those years ago. Granted, this one didn’t have vac-metal accessories, but it was pretty awesome.
Since then I’ve been buying NECA’s Predator releases pretty regularly. Not everything, but the ones that I like. I picked up a couple of members of the Lost Tribe from Predator 2a green one and... another green one – and couldn’t resist Big Red from the Dead End fan film.
But I’ll get to him on Thursday. Today I’m going to review the most recent Toys R Us Exclusive 2-pack – battle damaged versions of the Predators from Predator and Predator 2.
First Glance: These guys are obviously loaded with detail and articulation. I immediately liked the blood spatter on the City Hunter. 
I immediately did not like the fact that the seam on his removable forearm was so noticeable. Also I can’t help but think of the Prometheus Penis any time I see that silver “Toys R Us Exclusive” sticker now.
Articulation: Both figures feature the same articulation, and tons of it. Since it is the same for both figures, I’ll just do one list:
Head – Ball joint
Shoulders – Ball joint
Elbows – Swivel/pivot
Wrists – Okay, these and the feet are stuck onto pegs with balls on the end, so they have a bit of rotary movement, but not as much as a proper ball joint. I don’t know what to call this.
Waist – Swivel (Jungle Hunter) Rocker joint (City Hunter)
Hips – Ball joint
Thigh – Swivel
Knees – Double pivot
Feet – Same as wrists
Due to the shoulder armor, neither Predator’s left arm moves a whole lot. The City Hunter is a good bit more restricted than the Jungle guy.
The double-jointed knees are nice, but the ankles don’t move enough to make them as useful as they could be. We still don’t have a Predator capable of actually squatting down. But we’re getting close.
Amazingly, none of the armor and stuff hanging around the figures’ hips interfere with posing. You do have to play with things a bit to get certain poses, but it all moves easily and is sturdy enough to withstand some pushing around.
As with the other Predators I have reviewed, the dreadlocks hardly interfere with head movement at all. They do make it a little tricky to move the shoulder cannons, but I’ll get to that.
The hands and feet do pop off easily during posing, but they go right back on. And they do stay on if you’re just moving the figure or handling it normally.
Honestly, the only thing I can think of to improve on these guys is a better ankle joint. Which I think we’ll probably see someday.
Sculpt: These two may have almost the same articulation; they do not, however, share much at all in the way of sculpt.
The Jungle Hunter is a new unmasked head. It’s taken from the scene where it shows Arnold Schwarzenegger its War Face and it looks amazing. The mouth claws (or whatever you call them) are tiny and detailed, and made from a firmer plastic than you might expect. They still have enough flexibility that you don’t have to worry about them breaking off. The rest of the face is squinty and menacing.
The dreadlocks are separate but attached pieces of very soft but well-sculpted plastic. There are actually a couple of layers of these things. Once you get up close its an impressive sight to see how NECA designed them.
Most of the rest of the body is covered in that netting that is so weird but that gives the Predators such a distinctive look. Not only is the netting sculpted rather than painted, there is also sculpted texture on the skin underneath.
The armor plating is all accurate to the movie, right down to the wiring on the left arm. The wires are soft plastic and do restrict movement a bit, but the only alternative would have been to make them ridiculously long. They feel sturdy enough, but I wouldn’t tug on them too much.
The wrist armor/tech pieces are nice and chunky without interfering with the movement of the hands or elbows. 
The right wrist features a pair of extendable blades. I am terrified of these breaking off, but they have already survived a drop to the floor, so they’re apparently pretty sturdy. They also have a bit of wiggle room in the housing, so they can move around a bit. The left arm sports the computer thing. The panel doesn’t open unfortunately, but it does look good. The hands are awesome. There are glove-like coverings on the backs and the fingers are each distinctive and detailed.
All of the business in the crotch area looks good. The belt is cool and the skirt is a soft plastic. The thigh plates are actually separate pieces from the legs that are raised slightly at the top. This allows the skirt to go underneath so that it doesn’t interfere with posing. The knee pads are similar, in that they are attached but separately sculpted pieces. The lower leg armor looks good and does a good job of hiding joints.
The feet are kind of funny, but they appear to be modeled exactly after the movie costume rather than being streamlined at all. I approve of this. They’re all clunky and boot-looking. The City Hunter has better looking feet, but I’ll get to that. I am definitely okay with NECA sticking to the design rather than massing with it and giving this guy fancier feet.
The City Hunter Predator – who looks nothing like a little white car – also has a new head. This one features the respirator mask it uses after Danny Glover takes its regular mask off. The detail on the mask is great. The top of this Predator’s head is a good bit different from the other one. Its spikier and has scalloped edges. The dreadlocks are very similar and are layered in the same way.
The City Hunter’s upper body armor is quite a bit different from the Jungle Hunter’s. This has plates going down its upper arms and a lot more gimmickry on the shoulders and back. This one also has a built-in shoulder cannon rather than the big clip-on piece. What I like about the design here is that this looks like different gear rather than more advanced gear. The only thing on the two different Predators that is significantly noticeable as an improvement in the technology of the Predator costume is the feet. Everything else just looks like different stuff. I hate it when costume/creature designers get carried away with advancements when they handle sequels within the same franchise and the monsters or whatever are visibly different in that way. It’s jarring and takes you out of the narrative. The best example of this is Yoda. And I understand that a puppet Yoda simply could not have done the things that the character did in Attack of the Clones, but even children are bothered by the difference in puppetry and CGI.
Granted, that’s a rather extreme example as it deals with different mediums of effects rather than actual practical design, but I think you get what I’m saying.
City Hunter’s body features similar detailing to Jungle Hunter’s. The netting has a slightly different look and so does the skin texture. I didn’t mention this above, but it is outstanding that the net continues into the joints. Even when the knees are bent on these guys the netting is there.
This guy’s wrists sport the same devices as Jungle Hunter, they just look a bit different. The right one has a retractable dual claw and the left has the little computer gizmo, again without an opening panel. This time it’s more acceptable since that arm pops off to simulate the damage the character sustained in the movie. This gimmick doesn’t work as well as I’d like. The seam is very visible on the arm, even when it is aligned properly. You can even see a bit of the green blood. But the big problem is the way they designed the peg. Rather than putting the peg on the hand – which falls away into an alley and is never seen again – they put it on the arm so you have it just sitting there sticking out in an utterly unnatural way:
I can’t fathom why it was designed this way. Time and again NECA’s designers have come up with ingenious ways of doing things and this arm feature flies in the face of that. I would have totally displayed this guy sans hand, but I don’t want to look at that peg. It’s even more of a shame because there is actually sculpted gore and gristle around the peg. It would look so awesome otherwise. Yeah, I could cut the peg off, but I don’t want to mutilate my toy and I would like to retain the option of using the hand or not.
City Hunter has a bit more business in the waist/crotch area, but it also has a significant problem – the crotch and hip joints are not detailed or painted. They’re just a very dark brown that looks fairly terrible head-on. You can pull the figure’s loin armor or codpiece or whatever down to cover it a little bit, but it’s still there. Otherwise the area looks good. The belt is cool and has plating on it as well as a couple of pouches, one of which is connected via tube to the respirator.
City Hunter has the same style of thigh pieces as the other figure - so that the plating on the belt can slide underneath – but the right thigh sports the holster for the Death Frisbee rather than an armor plate.
The knee and leg armor are very different on the City Hunter. I think I like this version more. The left leg has the medical kit attached to it. It has slots on the top and bottom that look like they could hold something, but I’m not sure what. There might be another version of this character with some sort of feature there.
The feet are the most significant difference between the Jungle and City Hunters. The City Hunter feet are much more detailed and have distinctive big toes(?) and dew claws(?). They look great.
Coloring: It’s nice to finally have a Predator from the second movie in the right colors. I’ve always preferred figures of the original, but only because McFarlane never got it right on their figures. Now we have a proper City Hunter and it looks great.
There’s almost too much detail to really talk about. I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes I just don’t know how to talk about a really excellent paint job. The head has those great patterns on it that all blend in together. The skin has similar excellent blending. It’s really amazing to look at the netting and realize that none of the black on it bleeds onto the skin at all. The blood is nice and bright and placed in the correct spots to reflect the damage the creature suffered in the movie. This figure's skin almost seems to have a sort of translucence to it. It's a cool effect.
The armor and technology looks worn but not rusty. There is some great paint blending going on there, as well.
Again, the only real problem is that crotch. The dark brown just sticks out so badly.
The Jungle Hunter is lighter and stands out a bit more, despite the larger amount of day-glo blood on the City Hunter. A lot of that has to do with the difference in armor. While City's is a metallic brown, Jungle's is silver. Jungle also has much earthier skin tones. The face, netting, and claws are all fully detailed. I love the way the wear on the armor was done.
Jungle has some blood deco on its right leg, where it got shot in the movie. It looks good and is placed well. The only problem with this guy is the pins in his knee joints. They're matched with the lightest color of its skin and they stand out pretty badly. I think black might have looked better.
These guys both have excellent paint jobs. An amazing amount of detail and no errors that I could see. Just a couple of decisions I don't agree with.
Flair: The Jungle Hunter has three bone necklace things. They're on black thread that works for this purpose. The sculpting on the bones and skulls is very good. They're sick-looking little ornaments. The spine one bothers me the most.
The City Hunter has a pouch and a sort of loincloth thing. The pouch is on black thread and is what it is. It's a pouch. The loincloth is on elastic thread, so it can be moved down a bit to cover up the ugly crotch. It also has a moveable shoulder cannon. 
It is supposed to be able to move down a slot onto the Predator's back, but mine isn't fitted quite right. I could probably mess with it and get it aligned properly, but I don't feel like it.
Accessories: This set comes with two trophy skulls and the Jungle Hunter's shoulder cannon.
The skulls are from alien (not Alien) species that I can't identify. They look cool. The sculpts are intricate and the paint detailing is nice. They'd look great on the forthcoming trophy wall if I was willing to spend the money to get it.
Jungle Hunter's shoulder cannon is a nice piece that snaps onto the figure's back armor. The points of connection are almost undetectable, yet work very well. The figure looks great with or without the cannon on.
Those things would all be perfectly fine except for one thing:
There's no Smart Disc. D'oh. 














Packaging: It's a blister card. But at least it's a nice blister card. There are brief bios, and most importantly NECA actually credits its creative team:
I give the company HUGE props for that. And for producing all ten members of The Lost Tribe:
  Holy shit.
Value: At $29.99 this set is an EXCELLENT value.
Overall: Despite the minor flaws, I love these guys. They were worth the time and effort I put into finding them. If you see them, buy them. They only lose the point because of those deco decisions I didn't care for. I know I should take something off for the missing Smart Disc, but I kind of don't care.
4 out of 5

You might not be able to just walk into a Toys R Us and buy the set, but you can still order it from their website. I recommend you do so.

-Phantom

4 comments:

  1. Have you tried finding that mail-away Predator on eBay? I'm sure you could. That's how I recently bought the mail-away Earthworm Jim action figure (Earthworm Jim in a black and green costume which made him look like a member of the Green Lantern Corps) for really cheap (in fact, cheaper than getting a normal Earthworm Jim still in package by a wide margin.)

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    1. I used to have all of the Playmates EWJ figures. That was a fantastic line - a step above their Turtles, even. I haven't been on eBay in a while. It's too dangerous with the toy nostalgia I've been experiencing lately. Bad enough we're going to a toy con this Sunday.

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  2. Great review of a great set. Apparently you can email Neca with a proof of purchase and they will mail you a smart disc. I am not sure how well it works, I've sent them two messages (one to twitter@necaonline.com, the other by messaging them through their website) with no response. However, I did email them about missing throwing knives a few years ago for their Ninja Gaiden figure and never got a response, but the knives just showed up in the mail one day.

    I highly suggest doing a quick mod on your city hunter's plasma cannon. Heat it up with you preferred method, and barely start to pull it off of its balljoint, just enough to stretch the hole a little. Let it cool and then push it back on. This just loosens it up making it easy to pose. I've had to superglue the post back twice on one of mine because it twisted off while trying to position, so I did this to all of the other figures that share that cannon and it works great. You can also easily reshape the cannon's track in the armor, allowing it to slide up and down smoothly.

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    1. I'll try contacting them. I'm curious to know if the Disc might have some blood on it.

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