Monday, February 24, 2014

Toy Review – Lava Planet Predator from NECA

I haven’t bought all of the Predator figures that NECA has released, but I do have a nice little collection. As with almost every line I collect, I tend to pick and choose what I buy. I am able to pass on figures that look too heavily farmed or just don’t interest me, but when they’re vastly different or just zany-looking I can’t resist.

This one is definitely the latter.

The Lava Planet Predator is part of a series that is made up of updates of Kenner Predator designs – the NECA equivalent of Masters of the Universe Classics. I bought this one and the Nightstorm Predator. I passed on the Hive Wars version because it looked like a repaint of old parts. Granted, this one is mostly old parts, but it has the second most magical of toy features – TRANSLUCENSE! If they ever make a glow-in-the-dark Predator I will flip my shit.

I owned a bunch of the Kenner Predator and Alien figures. I started with the Aliens because the third movie had totally sold me on the idea of different xenomorphs as a result of which creature they gestated in. The gorilla alien was my favorite. I’d love it if NECA would redo some of those as well, but that would require all-new tooling and I think they might be a bit too niche for that.

Now that I think about it, I had a lot more of the Aliens than I did the Predators. While the Aliens had a good reason for lots of variety, the Predators tended to look kind of goofy if they strayed too far from the movie look. Back in those days, for instance, I never would have bought a translucent red Predator because I would have thought it was too goofy. I needed my toys to be serious, dammit.

FIRST GLANCE

Beautiful. What really makes this one work is the deco. I probably still would have bought it if it were just the translucent red, but those paint apps really give it a strong look – more than just a clear variant.
PACKAGING

The whole blister card is a throwback to the Kenner figures. From the artwork to the grid on the back, this is very much what those cards looked like. It would have been neat if they had gone so far as to Kenner-fy the NECA logo, but I guess the ReAction line has cornered – or is that Kennered? – the market on that.

I love that NECA actually explains what the deal is with this guy rather than just throwing a Predator that looks like a lollipop on the market.

Also – creator credits! Love ‘em.
LOOKS

I’ve got the Stealth Mode Predator that NECA released as an SDCC Exclusive, but this one is a major step up. Not just for the paint apps (the Stealth Predator was translucent with no paint), but the quality of the figure itself. Most of the figure is made up of parts from previous releases, but a new head and right forearm make a big difference.
 
The new head features the same flexible and detailed dreadlocks as other Predators. I’m still amazed at how little these interfere with head movement. I mean, they obviously do, but not nearly as much as you’d think. Most figures with hair (or whatever) this long would have immobile heads. The new mask is very insectile. The sculpt has a segmented look and the mandible pieces look like something from a beetle. It’s a distinctive and interesting style that sets this Predator apart. The paint here is interesting as well. I like the black wash on the flat red.
The body features some fairly standard armor. The right side matches the mask deco and the left is a more traditional gunmetal. The torso has the netting sculpted on over the musculature. The armor on the back is a new piece with similar features to other releases. The shoulder mounted cannon is on a track that allows it to retract onto the figure’s back.
It’s a little tough to move, but works okay. The other side has a large hose that connects to the gauntlet on the right arm. The hose is much thicker than what other Predators have and is just another detail that sets this figure apart. It looks cool and distinctive – like it’s insulated against the hostile environment.
 That arm has a new housing for a new and different set of blades. Rather than the standard dual blades, the Lava Planet Predator has a sort of dual pronged claw that fits in with the insectile look of the mask:
It extends just like the other Predators’ weapons:
The left gauntlet and both hands are parts we’ve seen before. The paint on the upper body is restricted to the front. This probably saves on costs and is explained with the line in the bio about “constantly moving and shifting”. So the back just happens to be camouflaged at the moment.
The belt, loincloth, and legs are all parts we’ve seen before but that’s okay. Like the rest of the figure, the colors make it work. All of the pant apps below the neck are designed to look like the undulating camouflaging of the Predators, right down to there being “shimmering” edges on the armored portions. The leg armor is painted to match the mask and has what is actually the coolest deco because it is the most apparent for the effect.
ACCESSORIES

This native of Yautja Prime comes with a distinctive machete with a wicked looking hooked end. The blade is an almost metallic red and the hilt is wrapped in dark… um… wrappings. The figure can hold it in its left hand and it fits perfectly. It’s not hard to get into the hand and it isn’t too loose once it’s there.
FUN

While the Lava Planet figure is loaded with articulation, NECA still hasn’t managed the perfect Predator. Like all of the others they’ve released, the shoulders and ankles of this one just don’t quite do enough. The double-jointed knees are great, but they’re only so effective when combined with ankles that barely pivot.

The rest of the joints all work quite well and the figure can still achieve a pretty wide range of poses. It’s always fun to test the limits of these guys and see if NECA has made slight improvements in range from figure to figure. This one – using the shared parts – is still pretty much the apex of what they’ve achieved.
 
The translucence added a lot of fun and value to this figure for me:
It adds a whole new visual dimension that made it fun to inspect this thing while posing and taking pictures. This is one that will still be cool long after it has been opened.
OVERALL

This is a must-have for nostalgia nuts. Anybody that’s buying the video game styled figures or Masters of the Universe Classics should be interested in these Kenner throwbacks. Even if you’re just a fan of gimmicks this is a great figure.

It isn’t perfect. The ankles really limit this range and I do wish there was some kind of paint on the back. But I’m stoked to own this guy and found him to be well worth the eighteen bucks I spent to get him.

4 out of 5

Amazon and BigBad are probably your best bets, but you might still be able to find this one lingering in stores. You should buy one. It’s a fun figure and a big step up over NECA’s last translucent Predator.




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