Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Toy Review – RAMBO John J. Rambo By NECA

I saw Rambo long before I saw First Blood. If you know these movies, then you know that means that First Blood was a total surprise to me. I was not expecting the grim, desperate drama of the movie. 

I love the movies that followed First Blood for their blown-up action and over-the-top violence, but the original is so much more than that. It’s actually a for-real movie with character development and story and all that stuff. I can’t say that I like it less than the others, but it doesn’t have the same replay value for me. 

If NECA had released versions of Sly from any of the other movies I would have bought those over this one. And this isn’t a bad figure by any means, but I think if you asked most people to describe John Rambo you’d get what he looked like in Rambo. And that’s really the one I want. Well, I’d also buy terrifying, old Rambo from the most recent one.

I have to say I was a little hesitant about buying this guy because the face looked a little weird to me. I had just recently parted ways with Diamond Select’s Barney Ross figure, which had an excellent likeness, but unfortunately a painted-on mustache. NECA has already displayed their Sly sculpting skills with their Rocky line, so I was surprised that this Rambo didn’t immediately inspire a positive reaction in me.

Is the sculpt better than I initially thought? Read on…
First Glance: As I mentioned above, the popular image of Rambo is of a ripped monster in fatigue trousers, combat boots, and a red headband. That version is so ingrained into my consciousness that it was actually odd to see this version in its jeans and tank top. This is an impressive looking and detailed figure though.
Articulation: Rambo’s articulation is basically in line with what I would consider to be NECA’s “standard human”. The company is very smart about using articulation, so it varies a bit between releases depending on what the character demands and the profile supports. As long as the figures maintain a common aesthetic value, I’m okay with variations in design.

Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Elbows – swivel/pivot
Wrists – ball peg
Abdomen – ball joint
Hips – ball joint
Knees – swivel/pivot
Ankles – ball pegs

The points of articulation are about as subtle as you can get. No jointed figure is going to look like a statue, but Rambo does have a very nice profile.

The figure’s hair interferes with head movement, but not so much that the joint is worthless. The neck and head area still look good and the figure can look around.

The upper body joints combine to create a lot of posing options. The shoulders have a good range of mobility. The swivel/pivot of the elbows is my favorite way to do that joint right now. It gives the deepest pivot while allowing full rotation of the forearms. It would be nice if the bicep swivel could be a thing of the past. The abdominal joint is kid of ugly and I’m not quite sure why it isn’t covered by the shirt like we’ve seen on other figures, but it does allow for a lot more posability than a covered joint would. And it’s still tons better than a waist swivel.

The crotch area is very well done. Every figure since Jason has had a little more streamlined sculpting on the rubber part that covers up the hip joints. Rambo’s hips have a good range and his knees – while not double-jointed – are pretty good. I don’t have much desire to make Rambo squat anyway. The ball peg ankles are meh. Not good, not bad.
Sculpt: The head sculpt is dead-on (we’ll talk about the paint in a minute). The hair and headband look absolutely perfect and are proportional to the cranium (sometimes this kind of hairstyle looks too poofy on figures). The face is undoubtedly Sly. The sculptors captured the tortured expression he wears throughout most of First Blood. I’m not sure this face is quite as good as the Rocky figures, but it’s solid.

The body nailed it. This is younger Stallone. Back when he was leaner and looked more like a dangerous fighter than a bodybuilder. The tank top isn’t super-tight (or painted onto the body like many companies would have done). It has a great weight and sculpt. Lots of wrinkles and folds.

The jeans look good. They have that 70s look to them and the joints blend in well. The seams add a lot to the fact that these are jeans rather than regular trousers. Like the tank top, the folds of the fabric are done well. The boots have a ton of detail. The soles, eyelets, and laces are all quite distinctive.
Coloring: Okay, so the paint on the face. It doesn’t look bad. It’s just off somehow, and I can’t quite figure out what’s wrong. I’ve really been examining this thing and all I can think is that the eyes just aren’t right. And if NECA figures are going to have a problem, that’s usually it. When I buy a new NECA figure, I have learned to look at every one the store has in stock and compare them because the quality is not consistent. While I will say that the quality was consistent on all of the Rambo figures when I bought this one, it was consistently… weird. Or whatever.

The rest of the head looks great. The hair has highlights and layers, the headband looks like the filthy rag that it is. The face is appropriately dirty. Everything seems like it should come together well.

The figure has an outstanding paint job. Everything is tightly colored and no areas bleed into other areas. There’s no blotching at all. And the work done to make this guy appear filthy was great. There’s an even layer of grime over the whole thing, but with slight variations so it doesn’t just look like the colors are washed out. This is clearly a dirty man who has been running around in the woods.

There is some very specific blood detail on the figure’s face and right arm. It’s been a while since I’ve watched First Blood, but this is clearly very specifically from the movie. It looks good when the figure is in the exact right pose, but the blood on the arm doesn’t match up when the arm is posed. It’s not terrible, but it’s something I noticed. I do like the gloss, though. It makes it look fresh.
Flair: Rambo has the now-standard NECA crotch piece made of rubber. This design has improved a ton over the last two years and Rambo’s looks great. The soft material is nearly indistinguishable from the hard plastic of the legs. The sculpt of the fly and all of the pockets is sharp and not too mushy. The sculpted belt and attached knife sheath look awesome. The sheath has the little pocket for the sharpening stone and a knot at the bottom. Very authentic.

The figure also has three ammo belts. Two are removable and I’ll talk about those in a minute. The third is not and that bugs the crap out of me. This is the one around the waist. It looks fantastic and features tremendous paint and detail, but the closure is glued together. I don’t get it. This is the one ammo belt I would actually like to remove because it looks kind of goofy, and I can’t. Weird decision.
Accessories: Rambo comes with a heavy machine gun, two removable ammo belts, his trademark survival knife, and an extra right hand to hold that knife.

The knife is awesome. It may not have acquired its true trademark status until the second movie (though that was obviously a different knife), but NECA knew people would be focusing on this accessory. It is made from a firm but not brittle plastic as opposed to the rubber so many lesser toy companies are using for accessories now. The sculpt and paint are awesome, and it fits perfectly into the extra hand. Kudos to NECA for providing that alternate hand rather than just giving us an accessory that the figure can’t really interact with.

The right hands can be switched out easily and the knife hand holds the knife well.
The ammo belts are great. Like the one on the waist, they are wonderfully detailed and painted. 

The machine gun looks awesome. There is a level of detail that I expect from sixth scale figures. The strap looks great and is a soft plastic. Most importantly, the figure can hold the weapon in a number of different ways and none of them look awkward.
Packaging: I hate clamshells. I don’t think action figure packaging should be dangerous. I just cut my finger open the other day trying to get into NECA’s Aliens Private Hudson figure (review coming soon, and you might be surprised). 

It still makes me very happy to see the creator credits on NECA’s packaging.
Value: $17.99 for this figure is just right. It doesn’t feel like a steal like some of NECA’s other releases, but it is definitely fair.
Overall: The slightly off (but not bad) face and the non-removable ammo belt were the only marks against this otherwise excellent figure. I’m not quite sure where I’m going to put him (Movie Maniacs shelf, maybe?), but I’m glad to have him. That being said, he’ll probably go up on eBay when one from Rambo: First Blood Part II comes out.

4 out of 5

These are still easy to find in Toys R Us stores, but you can also order from your favorite online retailer is you are so inclined. 

-Phantom

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