Thursday, January 8, 2015

Toy Review – Aliens Alien Queen Deluxe Action Figure from NECA

NECA has earned an awful lot of my dollars in the past six months. Retro Misfits, Planet of the Apes (modern and classic), Aliens, Predators, and Pacific Rim – when I look at the “Toy Pics” folder on my drive and see all of the NECA stuff I actually get a bit queasy. There are bound to be better and more practical things I could have spent my money on.

That was my thinking when I decided that I wasn’t going to buy this figure. That and the fact that I already own an Alien Queen – the one that McFarlane Toys put out over a decade ago. It’s a nice figure and for a hundred bucks I didn’t feel like I could justify buying another one, even if it was bigger and more in line with the NECA aesthetic that has taken over my Alien and Predator collection.

I haven’t seen the figure at retail yet, but it’s shown up at online stores. Right around Christmas Mrs. Troublemaker saw a picture of it and said, “Oh, wow – that’s awesome. Are we getting that?” (she says “we” when it’s a toy she approves of and might potentially try to talk me into keeping upstairs). Any time this happens I’m pretty much going to buy whatever she’s talking about. While she is very supportive and accepting of my (ridiculous) toy habit, she doesn’t often get directly involved with it.

I got a little Christmas money and couldn’t decide between the Queen and the first wave of Figures, Inc.’s Batman Retro Television figures. I was leaning towards the Queen just because buying those Batman figures would be a gateway thing. I went on Instagram and Facebook and asked the Phantomaniacs what they thought and the Queen was the overwhelming winner there. I thought about it some more, considered the ramifications of starting that Batman ’66 line, and ordered the Queen from Toys R Us.

I’ve written plenty about the Aliens franchise. I’m sure at some point I’ll have more to say, but for now all that’s relevant to the Queen is that I love the movies and I think that the Queen is one of the best big monsters ever designed. To this day I still get chills when she is fully revealed for the first time. 
 
Also, I can’t wait for the Power Loader that NECA showed back at Toy Fair when they first debuted the Queen.

First Glance

This figure is massive. I knew the dimensions beforehand, but reading them on a piece of paper and holding the toy in your hand are two entirely different things. My arm got tired from holding this thing while loosening up all of the joints. I’m not that weak, it’s just that the Queen is heavy and there are a lot of joints, many of which required some TLC to get working.

The sculpt is mind-bogglingly intricate and there’s more paint than I realized there would be. This is truly an impressive sight to behold.

Packaging

The Queen comes in a sturdy cardboard box with three frustratingly shiny plastic windows. She’s heavy and huge, so there weren’t exactly a lot of options here. Now, you guys know that I open everything and throw (most of) the boxes away. This means that aside from judging how easy a package is to get into and how eye-catching it is, I really don’t care too much about this category. I find it interesting to talk about and all, but as far as I’m concerned all toys could come in plastic bags as long as they wouldn’t get damaged.

Having said all of that, this box is kind of dull. I get what they were going for – It’s sort of a diorama/background type thing that the figure is supposed to appear to be walking through. The windows are big enough that there really wasn’t a need to feature the Queen in the graphics on the front of the box. But what’s there is odd. It’s basically a picture of a toy that doesn’t exist. I suppose it’s possible that NECA might produce a diorama with those eggs and victims, but as of now it’s this weird thing that was made for this box and this box only. I appreciate the effort that went into it, but it just doesn’t look all that good. I prefer the graphics on the side that depict the interior of the U.S.S. Sulaco. It’s not the Queen’s natural habitat or anything, but it looks better as toy box art.

Inside the Queen is securely twist-tied into a plastic insert that actually works fairly well and did not warp my figure at all.

This box features credits as well and the team deserves every bit of it.

Looks

There’s so much to look at with this figure that this is one of those somewhat intimidating reviews. It’s always exciting to get toys of monsters from dark movies because you get to see all of the detail that wasn’t apparent in the movie. Sometimes that turns out to be a bad thing, but no in the case of this fantastically designed xenomorph.

Also, before I get any further I want to point out that my pictures have brightened this figure up considerably. She is much darker in person. Not black, as you might expect from the movie, but also not the powder blue and shining bronze that you see in this review. Photography is weird.


The carapace on top of the head is a large, heavy piece. It’s made from a thick, sturdy plastic that won’t warp or break easily. As with the rest of the figure, it’s full of the sort of detail you would expect from a Giger design, but might not be able to catch in a motion picture.

The head underneath that carapace is primal and terrifying. The eyeless form is covered in wrinkles and folds. The teeth and the tendons connecting the upper and lower jaw are a translucent plastic that makes them stand out from the surrounding area. It’s a menacing effect that was a brilliant choice in the monster’s design. The neck supporting all of this is a mixture of folded flesh and exoskeletal forms.

This connects with the body, which is much more snakelike and narrow than I had ever realized. The Queen is all head, arms, and legs. The torso is actually only a small portion of the overall creature. The sculpt is basically an armored ribcage sprouting arms on the sides and front and vicious-looking spines on the back, with the immensely long tail protruding from the rear. Thankfully we were spared the egg sac and related… er, area.

The smaller arms in front are still packed with detail. They’re a sturdy plastic that made me a little nervous when I was moving the tight joints, but that held up.

The larger arms are a heavier plastic with detail that is very similar to what is on the standard xenomorph figures, but more thick and plated.

The legs and feet match the rest of the aesthetic. I dunno – there’s just not much to say there. I do love the bronze-colored part of the thigh – it sort of looks like a tendon and there’s a sculpted space between it and the thigh.

The tail looks like a massively long spinal cord. It’s the best in bendy technology! The sculpted detail is just as good as it would be in hard plastic and the paint matches the rest of the figure perfectly. It’s heavy and strong, too. I had to grip it with my hand to pose it – it doesn’t just flop around.

Every part of this figure works with the whole. While there are many different textures and designs, they all work together and complement one another. I suppose a much larger scale Queen might reveal more detail, but this one is so evocative of what was on the screen in Aliens that I can’t help but smile every time I look at it.

The paint is some of the best NECA has done. There’s a base black color with the dark bluish-grey painted on top. The way the top coat is applied is very precise and uniform across the portions where it is used – by this I mean that it isn’t heavy in one spot and light in another; or doesn’t seem too random. It’s very organic. The bronze is used sparingly and in what look like the most mechanical/exoskeletal areas. I love the way it highlights certain portions of the figure and enhances Giger’s biomechanical design on the creature while still feeling like a living organism.

Accessories

While the stand is the only true accessory, the Queen also comes with two alternate interior jaws and six dorsal spines.

The spines actually have pegs at the base with ball joints on either end, giving them two points of movement once plugged into the Queen’s back. It took a few tries for me to figure out which way they went in, but the largest go in front with the plated portions curving towards the rear. These are sturdy and plug into the body fairly easily.

The interior jaws look great and have translucent teeth like the exterior ones. They plug into an l-shaped hole at the back of the Queen’s mouth and stay put nicely.

The stand is a little confusing, as there are no clear directions for how to use it or how it is supposed to interact with the figure. I finally came to the conclusion that it is supposed to interact with her however you need it to. The non-hinged clamp can hold the neck up and there are plenty of spots on the figure’s underside where either of the steel rods can be seated. You just pose the figure however you like and then figure out where best to stick whatever configuration of the stand works. And the stand is stable and quite sturdy.

Fun

This is the part that really surprised me – this figure is a lot of fun.

My assumption going in was that I would take pictures, get one pose, and then be done. I figured the Queen would be difficult to pose and fragile – something I would want to do my review stuff with and then stick on the shelf, never to be touched again for fear of moving something out of whack or just straight-up breaking something off.

I also assumed that posing would be awkward and difficult and that there just wouldn’t be that many satisfactory poses to achieve.

This is not the case at all.

While many of the joints do require the standard breaking-in, this is a surprisingly tough figure. If it weren’t for all of the sharp points I’d be perfectly fine handing it over to my son to play with. The figure poses easily once broken in and holds poses. There were several instances where I didn’t even need the stand and that is incredible.

Just because the Queen is a special case, I’m going to run down the joints:

Carapace – sliding joint
Jaw – hinged
Head – ball joint
Neck – ball joint
Base of neck – ball joint
Shoulders – hinged swivels (both sets of arms)
Elbows – hinged swivels (both sets of arms)
Wrists – hinged swivels (both sets of arms)
Dorsal spines – two-sided ball pegs
Torso – ball joint (or maybe a rocker)
Hips, Knees, Other Knees, Ankles – hinged swivels
Toes – hinges
Tail – swivel at point of attachment, bendy

That’s a lot. The ball joints from the head to the torso are somewhat limited, but they do as much as they really need to do. 
 
The hips and shoulders have fixed hinges and the limbs are attached on swivels. It’s a little different from how figures are usually made, so you have to get used to them only moving up and down in one direction. But the swivel on the limb makes up for what seems like a limitation at first. I think they were designed this way to make them sturdier and hold poses better.

The ventral arms have the same articulation as the larger ones. This really surprised me, as I’m used to these sorts of appendages being somewhat more limited.

This figure is just so much fun to play with and test just how many poses you can achieve. I stood it upright just to do it. Once it was there I thought it was interesting just how similar the Queen’s physiology is to the standard xenomorph’s:


Overall

The Alien Queen is a fantastic achievement and something that every single person that worked on it should be proud of. It’s the culmination of years of experimenting with monster toys and action figures and all of that development and design has paid off. This is, without a doubt, a must-have figure. NECA has delivered far above and beyond what I was expecting.

5 out of 5

I know it’s pricey, but I promise – you will not be disappointed. If you are a fan of the Aline franchise or just a fan of toys, you owe it to yourself to own this amazing, massive action figure.

And you should buy it here to help out your friendly neighborhood toy reviewer and his site:


One last thing - I took this picture for size reference to show my co-host, Beau:
 




5 comments:

  1. I do realize it's a bit late to make this nerdy correction, but Giger didn't design the Queen. It's a James Cameron's design.

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    1. Thanks for the correction! I realize now that I was aware of that, but I doubt it will ever take root in my brain. Cameron may have designed it, but it's definitely part of Giger's legacy. I'll never look at the Queen without thinking of him.

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    2. Oh, absolutely, I share the same feeling. I'm still sad over Giger's passing, I really admired the guy. Much as I like many alien designs, the xenomorph is definitely my favorite of all of them.
      Great review, btw. I got the Queen a while ago and I absolutely love her. I used to kick myself for missing out on McFarlane's Queen, but NECA's offering blows that one out of the water.

      Keep up the awesome work, your site is a lot of fun, and very informative too. As a fellow figure collector, it's one of my favorite sites to visit.

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  2. How did you make her stand without the support stand included with her? is yours super tight at the legs or is there some illusion going on?

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    1. It would probably be douchey to say that I've been posing figures for almost forty years and I think I'm just pretty good at it, but I think that's it. All of the joints on mine are solid, but I'm just very patient and I think I have a very good sense of balance. I have friends that are annoyed by it.

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