Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Toy Review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Maurice from NECA

I haven’t had the time to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet. I was going to see it Tuesday night, but the family was still out of town and I had to leave Mister Otis at home all day. I would have felt bad being home for an hour and then going right back out again.

But we all know these wacky apes from the prior movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes! It took me a long time to see this one. I just didn’t believe that it could be good. I can’t remember my specific complaints, but I know I was not interested. Then it came out and everybody loved it. Rise seemed to meet with almost universal acclaim. I was curious, but now the damn thing had been built up too much. My expectations were too high.

Sometime during Amazon’s crazy Christmas holiday sales they offered the Rise Blu-Ray for five bucks. I ordered it along with several other absurdly cheap movies and was surprised to immediately receive an e-mail informing me that I owned a digital copy of Rise of the Plant of the Apes that could be downloaded from Amazon. I have not, thus far, had good experiences with trying to download digital movies but I thought that maybe Amazon would provide a better experience. They did. I downloaded Rise with no problems and watched it that night.

Watching that movie was the same kind of transcendent experience as watching District 9. It was hard sci-fi, but there was a beauty and humanity to it that made it something more than a genre flick. 
 
I’ve got more to say, but I can’t use it all here. There are two more apes from this line to review and I need intros.

Today’s subject is Maurice, the orangutan who befriends Caesar and ever-so-subtly begins to display the wisdom that the Lawgivers of the classic Apes movies are known for. While Caesar was the runaway star of the movie, Maurice was my favorite supporting ape. The first time I saw these figures in a store I walked around with this one for several minutes before deciding I really couldn’t start collecting a new line. But Mrs. Troublemaker solved the problem by getting me this guy for Father’s Day.

FIRST GLANCE

What a thick, bulky, hairy figure! I love it. As Hasbro – long-time holder of the Star Wars license and creator of innumerable Chewbacca figures – can tell you, covering a plastic action figure with long hair can be tricky. Giving that figure a decent range of articulation is even trickier. It appears that NECA might have hit a great balance.
And look at that face! 
 
PACKAGING

The graphics and design look fantastic. I really dig the post-apocalyptic look and the primitive simplicity of the designs. I don’t dig the clamshell, but NECA just seems to have a thing for those.

NECA also has a thing for crediting its artists, which I truly appreciate:

LOOKS

Maurice’s face is incredible. NECA has this trick that for some odd reason nobody else has picked up on – they use a super glossy paint on the eyeballs of many of their figures. It gives them this lifelike glisten that’s almost eerie. 
 
Btu it’s more than just the gloss of the eyes – this head sculpt is just incredible. I think we all know what orangutans look like, and this is that. All of the wrinkles and texture add so much to what could have been a fairly generic sculpt. While I’m not going to claim that I could pick Maurice out of a lineup of orangs, there’s so much more to this face than just being a good representation of this species of simian.

I’m not necessarily familiar with the correct terms for the various portions of orangutan anatomy, but Maurice’s neck wattle is worth noting. The thick portion of flesh on his chest is a separate sculpt that is attached to the thin wattle under his chin. This piece is very soft and flexible and moves with the head. It’s a neat little piece of engineering.

The torso is two separate pieces with long sculpted hair that conceals the joints at the abdomen and hips. Oddly, the abdominal joint seems to have the same issue as my NECA Quarter Scale Batman. It sits slightly crooked and off-center. I don’t know why this happens, but it’s monumentally annoying to not be able to get the figure into a true neutral pose.

That aside, the sculpt looks fantastic. The hair has a weight and texture that gives it as realistic as look as I think you could get at this scale. The portions that are hanging over the legs blends nicely and looks natural. I was surprised that the bottom portion of the torso is a solid piece rather than a sort of hair skirt over articulated hips like the Predators and some other NECA figures use. Instead Maurice features a sort of standard ball joint connection point where the joint is recessed into the sculpt. I’ll talk more about this later.

The shoulder joints are a little more obvious, but there’s no avoiding that. NECA’s sculptors did a great job handling the long, dangling hair of an orangutan’s arms. It looks good in any pose, which is a major accomplishment in my opinion. The legs didn’t require quite the same degree of problem solving but have very good proportions.

The hands and feet look great. The texture and paint match the face. The hands are posed in a sort of neutral way that could be hanging at the ape’s sides, supporting weight in a four-legged stance, or grasping the included book.

The feet are creeping me the heck out. I know apes have hand-feet, but the way that these are posed for grasping is slightly unsettling. But also neat because you can hang Maurice upside-down from stuff:

For the most part NECA nails paint as long as they don’t have to deal with human features. Maurice looks fantastic. There are several colors both in his fur and his skin. I particularly like the highlights on his cheeks(?) and neck wattle. This guy has a beautiful paint job. 

Unlike the other two figures in the series – Caesar and Koba – I can’t detect any differences between the paint jobs on multiple Maurice figures at the store.

ACCESSORIES

Maurice comes with a little red book that I assume will have major significance in the new movie. I’m guessing it’s the beginning of the record of Ape law and history.

The book looks great for just being a little, red book. The cover has lots of wear and texture. The pages are distinct and not uniform. There’s even a nice wash to give them some age.
The book can fit in either of Maurice’s open hands but seems to sit better in the right one.

FUN

I have to admit to being disappointed in Maurice’s articulation. Overall it is not bad, but he can’t sit down. My fondest memories of Maurice involve him sitting at that first council of the Apes and this figure can’t do that. It’s because of the design of the hips that I mentioned above. If he had a more standard lower abdomen with a flexible hair skirt over it his hip joints would be more useful. But NECA has to walk that line between aesthetics and functionality. This time I think they erred a bit.

Otherwise the figure has an okay range of motion. Because of the long hair none of the joints bend quite as much as I’d like them to – the elbows and knees don’t have very deep pivots and the head is surprisingly limited. 
 
The hands and feet have just enough range to be okay, but I’m not a fan of NECA’s peg joints. I wish they would move to swivels and pivots, but I also appreciate the company’s efforts to keep it’s incredibly nice figures under the twenty dollar price point. I’m still amazed that this cost me $18.01 to obtain:

And that this cost me $35.29:

OVERALL

Maurice isn’t a super-articulated ape that’s going to bring you hours of posing fun and play, but he is a great looking orangutan and a good value. I feel like NECA’s first priority is to make figures that look great and that they work the articulation in from there. It’s a formula that works for the most part. I just wish this guy could sit down.

4 out of 5

Go buy an Ape and help out Needless Things!:


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