Friday, April 18, 2014

Toy Review – Pacific Rim Jaeger: Cherno Alpha from NECA

I didn’t realize how memorable the score from Pacific Rim is until I started editing pictures for this review. It immediately came to mind and is now stuck in my head – and I don’t mind at all. I don’t even own the score (though I probably will by the time you read this), but I’ve definitely watched the movie enough times by now to know the key music.

As I’ve mentioned many times – including in my review of the movie – I absolutely love Pacific Rim. I think it’s a nearly perfect movie and it actually far exceeded my expectations. It was breathtaking from beginning to end – not only in the scope of the epic Kaiju/Jaeger fights, but for its portrayal of the classics archetypes of genre fiction. None of the characters were groundbreaking or deep, but they were all pitch-perfect. Why am I talking about characters? I dunno. This is a Jaeger review.

Crimson Typhoon was my favorite Jaeger in the movie, but Cherno Alpha was a very close second. As a matter of fact, it’s entirely possible that I have claimed Cherno as my favorite at some points. I love the thick, tank-like design. I like that there’s no vulnerable “head”. And of course – the piston punch is awesome.

I don’t know that the extending fists are actually referred to as “piston punches”, but it sounds good.

I also love that Cherno’s pilots are basically Ivan Drago. Pacific Rim was not afraid to employ nationalistic stereotypes in the interest of narrative expediency. Which is another reason why I think the movie was so great.
I had no problems with the first Pacific Rim series’ Crimson Typhoon (I didn’t buy Gipsy Danger, so I can’t speak to that one; though I will be reviewing the one from the two-pack). Supposedly that first wave was designed with lower standards than NECA usually employs in hopes of getting the line into Walmart stores. As I understand things, Walmart expressed an interest in carrying Pacific Rim toys and NECA basically dumbed down their designs to keep costs Walmart friendly. Then after all of that I guess Walmart decided they’d rather shave another two feet off of their already pathetic action figure aisle and declined to carry the line.
Don’t take any of that is fact – it’s just what I’ve pieced together through various social media findings.
I did think that the Knifehead from the series was sub-par, but more on that when I review the apology NECA created for that figure (a new, huge version).

FIRST GLANCE

Cherno is instantly recognizable as superior to Crimson Typhoon. Like I said – Typhoon isn’t bad by any means, but Cherno Alpha is another level of craftsmanship. I don’t feel like we need a new Typhoon like we did with Knifehead, but this Russian Jaeger is impressive right out of the box. It’s heavy, sturdy, and has a ton of articulation. And the detailing is amazing.

PACKAGING

I hate clamshells, but what are you gonna do?

The graphics look nice and I like the designations of “Jaeger” and “Kaiju”. Although as you’ll see in the upcoming reviews of the new Kaiju, the differences are fairly apparent.

There are no creator credits on the Pacific Rim line, but that’s because the toys are all made from WETA scans. Or something. Whatever it is when the source is digital rather than practical.
LOOKS

To me the most striking thing is the paint. Obviously the sculpt and articulation look very interesting, but this paint job reminds me of the Star Wars style of making things look worn and real. There’s subtle and well-executed grime and wear all over the exterior. This figure feels like a massive thing that has been through some wars.
The sculpt and proportions are accurate to the movie design. In a movie filled with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Cherno is the one that looks the most like the classic game bots. I’m almost surprised its head doesn’t pop up.
That “head” is one big, thick piece mounted on the torso. The cylinders mounted on the shoulders are well defined and have sculpted fronts and backs. I say this because sometimes parts like these sort of melt into the surrounding area. The split that runs from the “chin” all the way over the top of the head and down the back is precise and has some detail sculpted in. The paint is also applied quite nicely. All of the markings are beautiful and straight. Not to trash talk NECA, but it amazes me that the same company that can’t make two eyes on a figure look in the same direction can produce tiny, detailed deco this precise.
The torso is a hinged, piston-driven thing that looks kind of like an engine. It’s the core of Cherno Alpha and representative of the Jaeger as a whole – purely functional. While Crimson Typhoon and Coyote Tango have a certain style and flair to them, Cherno looks like it was built to obliterate. And I like that a whole lot. Every bit of it is thick and industrial. The people that designed this thing made it purely utilitarian.
The arms are massive chunks of damage-inflicting power. I’m impressed by how angular every bit of this figure is – it’s all hard lines and edges. The fists are on the ends of pistons that retract into the forearms:
Do I even need to say anything about how fucking cool that is?
The markings on the arms are just as clean and precise as the ones on the head. The red circles on the elbows are actually a little blotchy, but that could be by design. Everything else looks so great that I’ll give NECA the benefit of the doubt on that one.
The legs are set wide apart to give the massive trunk and arms support. There are flaps and plates and gizmos and it all looks great. The feet are these crazy arched things:
Pappy Troublemaker is the engineer in the family, so he could probably explain these crazy, arched feet. I can’t. But they look cool and - like the legs – look like they are made to support the heavy upper portions of the Jaeger.
ACCESSORIES

There are all kinds of accessories that Cherno Alpha might have come with – a damaged head, pilots the size of dust particles, one of the gantry things the Jaegers were stored on, some helicopters – but it didn’t need to come with anything.
That being said, if NECA wanted to release separate accessory packs of any of those things I would buy them.
FUN

Cherno Alpha is absolutely packed with articulation, but before you get too excited let me say that it doesn’t all work as well as I would like. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very good and this figure is a lot of fun to pose and play with. But some of the joints don’t have quite the range I would like. Here’s the rundown since this is a unique new figure:
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Elbows – pivot/swivel (at bottom of joint near forearm)
Forearm – slider
Fingers – pivot
Abdomen – ball joint
Hips – ball joint
Knees – pivot
Ankles – ball joint
That’s a pretty awesome selection of articulated parts. I wanted more out of the head, shoulders, and hips; but to be honest I can’t complain. Cherno can’t quite achieve every pose I want, but this is still a very dynamic figure. Because of all the joints it takes a little doing to get it to look right just standing there (something I didn’t bother to do until a couple of days after I took the pictures), but you can get a lot of cool poses.
This Jaeger – and the rest of the Pacific Rim figures I ordered from BigBad – stayed on my desk for a few weeks. I just couldn’t stop playing with them.

OVERALL

Cherno Alpha is a fantastic combination of form and functionality. It isn’t as articulated as one from a Japanese company might be, but it probably looks a lot better and more faithful to the movie. As far as I’m concerned it’s a must-have. It could probably be a little bit better, but not for the same price. For under twenty bucks this is an outstanding toy.
5 out of 5
Buy one from Amazon and give me a little kickback!

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