Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Toy Review – Aliens Xenomorph By NECA

Oh, man. This is one of those action figures that almost calls for a celebration. I mean, not for its quality. I’m not going to give that away right here in the intro. No, this bad boy gets fanfare because NECA has been boasting about it for months now. 

Obviously those guys are proud of every figure they produce – and should be – but this one in particular was proclaimed to be special. Their first sculpt from Aliens and so much articulation it would choke a goat. The quality NECA’s releases has been getting better and better at a crazy rate for the past two years. That alone would be satisfying, but the thing is that their quality was pretty darn good in the first place. The only issues I have ever had with NECA’s figures are the paint on the faces and the fact that they used to make feet out of rubber, which resulted in the figures developing a severe lean over time.

As far as articulation goes, I would have liked more in the older NECA figures, but at the same time I understood that they were a different sort of figure. The company had different standards and made different decisions about joints than I would have. Of course, nowadays NECA is putting out some of the best articulated figures in the business.

And you don’t even need to wait for the body of the review to hear that this is one of them.
NECA is also very smart about reusing their sculpts. There’s a good chance we’ll see this exact same mold – or large parts of it – ten or more times in the next couple of years. Whether we see repaints or minor retoolings or whatever. And that’s totally fine because I want ten more figures of this Alien

Now I’ll talk about why.
First Glance: This thing really fills up the package. It is a large figure on first glance. Then you realize that it’s actually folded up into the blister a bit – it’s even larger than what you see. And the detail is just stunning – far too much to take in at first.
Articulation: The Xenomorph has an astonishing amount of articulation.

Head – ball joint
Jaw – pivot
Internal Jaws - slider
Shoulders – ball joint
Biceps - swivel
Elbows – double pivot/swivel
Wrists – pivot/swivel
Abdomen – ball joint
Tail – wire armature
Hips – ball joint
Knees – double pivot
Ankles – ball peg
Toes - pivot

The head joint might seem a bit limited at first. It is a bit sticky and is slightly restricted by the tubes that connect to the creature’s back. When I was first playing around with the figure I tried for the classic pose where the Alien is on all fours, poised to strike. But the head didn’t go far back enough (similar to the problems I encounter with figures that should be able to pose for flight). I could kind of wedge it to one side of the central spine protuberance, but it didn’t look right. Then I took a close look at that protuberance and noticed a fairly visible (for NECA) seam. On a hunch, I tried to wiggle the thing and sure enough it came free of the back. 

There was a peg holding it in place and it is clearly intended to be removable so that you can achieve the exact pose I was going for. Removing the part does leave a visible hole, but it is covered up when you push the head all the way back. Which is pretty much the only reason you would remove the part. Good job, NECA.

The jaw hinge is a bit flimsy. It works well and opens as wide as it needs to, but is you open it too wide it will come off. It goes back into place easily and doesn’t hang open or fall of on its own, though. The interior jaws slide out a satisfying distance and are attached quite well. Also, the mouth can be fully closed over the smaller jaws. It takes a bit of fiddling to get the little jaws out, but once you get a hold of them they are easy to move.

The arms do everything you could possibly want them to do and also look great. The joints are all sturdy, move easily, and hold poses. There just isn’t much more to say.

The abdominal joint swivels a full 360°. It has a bit of up-and-down and side-to-side mobility – enough for me. The tail is rubber over a wire armature. It is posable from where it connects to the body to about an inch-and-a-half from the tip. What this means is that you can pose the tail to do a lot of things. It is extremely well done. Only time will tell how durable and sturdy it is. The wires inside of all the bendy toys I had when I was a kid would always break over time. Or if it was attached to a more solid plastic the joint would separate. I didn’t get the feeling either of these things would happen. Check back in ten years and I’ll update you.

My only point of contention with this figure are the thighs. They just don’t quite move like I want them to, and I think a swivel at the top – like the biceps have – would have made a world of difference. As it is the legs work quite well and with a bit of a struggle you can achieve pretty much any pose, but the tops of the thighs strain at the rubber piece that was used to cover the lower abdomen. The rest of the leg joints are fantastic. The knees are strong and can achieve a full squat. The ankle joints are weird, as they are ball pegs but have quite a deep range of motion. I popped one of the feet off to look at it and still couldn’t quite figure out how they worked. The toe joints are also strong and – unlike any other toe joint I have ever owned – can support a stance.

Aside from the thigh, I honestly don’t believe NECA could have put any more articulation on this thing without affecting the profile negatively. There could be better articulated Japanese figures, but those releases tend to not worry about the shape and form of the character. I have a Japanese Batman that is easily the best articulated Batman I own, but it looks like a robot. It has large gaps in the sculpt where the joints are and little thought was given to making it aesthetically pleasing. This Xenomorph manages to combine a ton of poseability with a realistic profile.
Sculpt: The detail on this figure is absolutely insane. While I have to admit that the design of the Xenomorphs lends itself to articulation – similar to a robot – the joints were blended into the sculpt amazingly well. Just from looking at the figure in the package I could not tell how articulated it really was.

I’m not going to try and discuss individual parts since this design is so intricate as to defy description. I don’t want to sit here and say, “That tuberous part on his thigh looks just as good as the tuberous part on the arm,” over and over again. But I will mention several key portions.

The overall sculpt and texturing is absolutely true to the screen. All of the tubes, veins, and skeletal protrusions are accurately represented and properly proportioned. While the design does work well to blend joints in, some of the parts of the Xenomorph could have potentially interfered with certain poses. For the most part there are no issues. Some very subtle differences in positioning and size have made up for the figure’s rigidness versus the movie costume’s flexibility. 

The head has these awesome little ribbed tubes that run from behind the jaw to the top of the creature’s back. They look like they might interfere with movement, but they don’t. They are sturdily attached and made from a flexible but solid material. 

The jaw looks great and interacts with the rest of the head well. The tendons move up inside the head when the mouth closes and are sculpted to allow for a wide gape. The interior jaws are a flexible material and are just creepy. They look and work well.

The lower abdomen is covered with a sculpted rubber piece with just as much detail as the rest of the figure, making it virtually indistinguishable until you touch it or move the legs. It covers the hip joints very well and is flexible without seeming flimsy. My only concern is that over time the openings around the thighs could warp or tear.
Coloring: The Xenomorph required very little color. It might actually have more than I would have wanted. It’s always hard to say what colors a mostly-black creature from a movie should be. I think most people if asked would say that the Xenomorphs from Aliens were all black. But they do have highlights in the movie, even a brownish cast – similar to a cockroach (yucko). The highlights on this figure are very well done and compliment the sculpt fantastically, but I feel like they’re a bit too bright. I tend to think of the one from Alien 3 as being more this color. Don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t look bad by any means. But if it were me I would have gone for a darker brown.

But that’s another area of contention (as I have learned from extensive talks with costume designers; stay tuned for a lot of that during my Dragon Con coverage) – the colors to use for a reproduction of a movie character. Do you make it look like it does on screen with lighting and other factors affecting hue and shade? Or do you base it directly off of the original piece (whether that’s a creature or a dress or a pair of boots)? What we see on screen almost never looks like what the actors were actually wearing; color-wise.

My point is that it’s entirely possible the suits used in the movie looked exactly like this and that’s what NECA used for reference. I haven’t looked at my behind-the-scenes featurettes closely enough to know off the top of my head.

But the bottom line is that the paint does look good and we’re likely to see several more paint variations on this basic sculpt anyway.

The only real points of color variation are in the mouth area. The tendons, teeth, and interior jaws are all specific colors. The tendons are a light grey and are very tightly done. The teeth are that confounding metallic silver. They look appropriately menacing. The inner jaws are a disgusting yellow/beige hue – similar to what you expect from a Facehugger.
Flair: The removable spinal protuberance is as beautifully sculpted as the rest of the figure and fits into place so well that I have no doubt many people will never even realize it is removable. The coloration matches the rest of the figure.
Accessories: The Xenomorph doesn’t include any accessories. I suppose an egg or a Facehugger might have been cool, but honestly given the size of the figure and the sheer awesomeness of the sculpt and functionality I don’t need any accessories.
Packaging: The ol’ heat-sealed clamshell. I hate it, but what are you gonna do? The graphics on the package are quite nice and get me excited about the thought of a whole line of figures based on Aliens.
Good ol’ NECA also included credits:
Value: I paid $17.99 for this figure. Don’t tell NECA this, but I would have easily paid $24.99.
Overall: This figure is such an astounding accomplishment that I want very badly to give it a perfect score. But I think it could have been just a tiny bit better. When I give a perfect score, it is because I think a figure is the best possible representation of the character based on the line it is in and the company it is from. If I compared across lines or between companies, no DCUC figure would have ever gotten above a “3”. I think NECA will give us a Xenomorph with those thigh joints one day. If I did fractions, this would have been a 4 ¾ out of 5.

4 out of 5

If you want one of these in this color scheme, you should act now. I have a feeling these are going to be hard to come by, as this figure is essentially a neutral troop builder. I’ve already bought two myself and I have to tell you – if I find more I will likely buy them. I’ve found them at two Toys R Us stores so far. You can check their website, or BigBad and Entertainment Earth. Give Amazon a look, as well. But buy this figure. Despite my bitchy little nitpick about the thighs, it is excellent and one of those that pretty much everybody should want to own. 

-Phantom

2 comments:

  1. This figure is great.
    Also, mine has thigh swivels where they meets the balljoint hip.
    I suggest leaving it in the car for about 30 minutes to let it really heat up, then try to move them.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, but the swivel is up too far. I want one that moves independently of the hip joint - an upper thigh swivel.

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