Thursday, July 17, 2014

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

Rise of the Planet of the Apes combined the best elements of many different branches of sci-fi. There was shady corporate conspiracy, genetic experimentation, post-humanism (of a different sort than we normally see), and a celebration of discovery of the new that I think is specific to science fiction. The human performances were brilliant, but the star of the movie was Caesar – an amazing blend of CGI and Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance. I still can’t quite believe that technology has gotten us to the point where such a creation could be the star of a live action movie.

I’ve always had a fondness for simians. After seeing the movie I was tempted to buy one of the Japanese figures of Caesar. After all, I have a monkey shelf to populate:

It’s been a long time since I’ve bought anything specifically for the monkey shelf. It started as kind of a coincidental thing where I realized I was buying monkey figures from lines I didn’t necessarily collect and also happened to already own a ton of monkey figures. Then I got to a point where I was actively sought out simian action figures. I remember hunting down the Fisher-Price monkey family and that monkey figure that’s in the space suit. 
 
I managed to resist the Japanese Caesars. There might have actually only been one, but it seems like every successful (and some unsuccessful) American sci-fi franchise gets three or four figures from various Japanese toy companies – Hot Toys, Medicom, Bandai, and who knows how many others. The specific one I was considering looked cool but was around forty bucks. I generally try not to spend forty bucks on 6” scale figures.

By the time I finally saw Rise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was already underway and shortly after that I found out that NECA had the license for both the new movie and the classic movies. I had no doubt that there would be plenty of Ape figures in my future.
After Mrs. Troublemaker got me Maurice from this line for Father’s Day I couldn’t very well go without Caesar and Koba, could I?

FIRST GLANCE

While I love the Maurice figure, Caesar and Koba are definitely more exciting to look at. The designs they have painted on them add a new dimension to the figures. Also, the chimpanzees don’t have the long hair that Maurice had, so there are more opportunities for meaningful articulation.

Of course, the painted designs also mean there are more opportunities for NECA paint boo-boos. All of the Caesars and Kobas I have inspected at retail have looked very different. This isn’t a huge deal, as the designs are rough and primitive, but you’re going to want to compare figures and find the one you like best.

PACKAGING

It’s an ugly, hard-to-open clamshell with nice graphics and creator credits:

LOOKS

This is not the innocent, slightly mournful Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This Caesar looks intense and slightly angry, with his teeth just visible through his lips. The facial detail is tremendous. The lines and wrinkles are well defined and the shape of Caesar’s face is quite distinctive. This is definitely the star of the movie. I’d almost like to have a version without the facepaint just to see what the face would look like without the skull accents.

Caesar’s torso is two pieces that are sculpted to incorporate the joints as smoothly as possible. The upper torso uses the basic shape of the chest and rib cage and the lower torso is narrower. I like how NECA worked the abdominal joint into the natural contours. The fur has a texture that is realistic and natural – it doesn’t all grow in the same direction and it looks layered. 
 
The arms are thick and muscular with the same fur detail as the torso. The paint detail on the forearms is done well, showing flesh where the hair is thinner.

Caesar’s hip joints are a little more visible than Maurice’s thanks to his shorter hair. 
 
You guys – I am finding that there is not much to say about a well done Chimpanzee action figure. And I have another one to review at some point.

Caesar’s hands and feet have the same paint and sculpt detail as his face.

From a purely aesthetic point of view Caesar has a lot of subtle but visible joints. His proportions are great and the overall shape of the figure just feels right. It’s a chimpanzee shape with a human posture, if that makes sense. 
 
ACCESSORIES

Caesar comes with an extra set of hands and a spear that comes in two pieces.

The hands are open fists meant for holding things. They pop off of the pegs easily. They’re made of a softer plastic and hold the spear well.

The spear pieces don’t fit together completely. There’s a male and female side with a raised notch to make sure you put them together correctly, but the male won’t go all the way in. The spear still looks good, though. I like the distinctive head and the detail of the haft and wrappings. The wrappings are painted a different color, which makes this crude implement look much nicer than the accessories of certain other toy lines.

FUN

Caesar has a solid number of joints, but they are all limited. This is not a super-articulated action figure. It is a very nice looking figure with a number of joints.

The head is a simple ball joint with a good range that can actually pop right off. The shoulders have a good range while the elbows seem oddly limited. This is a result of the swivel being below the pivot joint rather than above it. The simple peg joints on the hands work surprisingly well.

The hip joints look like they are going to be great, but are limited. Because of the sculpted fur extending over them from the torso they can’t go very far in any direction, though they do swivel just fine.

The knees are restricted similarly to the elbows and the feet work as nicely as the hands.
The figure can achieve a lot of very Caesar-y poses. It can’t sit and it can’t do anything that requires deep pivots below the waist, but it does look very good doing the things that it can do. Caesar can do a little more than Maurice, but not as much more as I expected when comparing their builds.

OVERALL

I like this figure a lot. The paint looks great and the proportions and overall shape are very nice. But I am left wanting a super articulated version. I feel like a chimp should be more poseable than this figure is.

But once again I am reminded that NECA walks a fine line between form and function and at the same time manages to maintain very reasonable price points. This might not be the ultimate Caesar figure, but for under twenty bucks it is a very, very good one.

4 out of 5

Hey kid – wanna buy a monkey?:


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