Monday, January 26, 2015

Toy Review – Reel Toys Alien Kane from NECA

I’ve mentioned before that I saw Aliens before I saw Alien, so the slow burn horror of the original was something I had to adjust to. It’s a credit to Ridley Scott, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett and the cast that I wasn’t turned off by it after the fast pace and loud action of the sequel. I’ve never been a person that is patient with storytelling, so it’s somewhat remarkable when I can enjoy something with a slower pace.

Now that I think about it, I might have even seen John Hurt’s performance in Spaceballs before I saw Alien. I remember getting the joke, but I don’t think I had the direct reference. Hurt’s presence in Mel Brooks’ parody shows just how impactful his performance in Alien was.

Personally, I think Hurt’s big scene in the movie is one of the best ever shot. It’s absolutely perfect in its depiction of horror. There’s no fighting what’s happening – no external adversary to repel. This creature is emerging from Kane and there’s nothing he or anybody else on the crew can do about it. Not only that, what’s happening is an utter shock and mystery to all of them. This isn’t getting shot or being decapitated or hit by a car. This is a new, unfamiliar horror that none of them (or the viewer) has any sort of frame of reference for. This is discovering a new species as it is murdering your friend.

There aren’t many scenes in genre or in cinema at all that are as impactful and horrifying as that xenomorph infant bursting out of John Hurt’s chest.

Sadly, it looks like NECA couldn’t seal a deal to use Hurt’s likeness as they did with Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt, so we won’t be seeing a figure of Kane that reenacts that scene. Instead we get Kane with his face obscured by a facehugger while wearing his admittedly awesome-looking space suit.

Side Note: I find it very odd that Underground Toys was able to secure the rights to use Hurt’s likeness in their Doctor Who line:

But that NECA could not for what is likely Hurt’s best-known role. Obviously there are dozens of factors that I don’t know anything about, but this just strikes me as strange.

Anyway, what we’ve got is Kane in the space suit – based on the designs of Moebius - and I thought it looked cool enough to buy.

First Glance

I am not one to notice details in movies. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been surprised by an action figure that revealed a staggering number of details and colors that I would never have otherwise spotted. I’ve seen Alien dozens of times and I never realized how colorful the space suits were, or that they were different colors (as we’ll see with the upcoming Dallas figure). I also never noticed the nameplates on the front.

While the attached facehugger is certainly a point of interest, I find myself much more compelled by the many parts of the space suit itself. When I first heard that NECA was producing figures of Kane and Dallas in their space suits I was not enthused. They’re only in them for a small portion of the movie and in my head they look like mattress pads with fishbowls on top. I would have much preferred the crew in their jumpsuits. But now that I’ve seen this in person I’m excited to have it.

I was a little surprised that the helmet was off. I hadn’t expected it to be removable, so that’s a nice extra.

Packaging

A yucko clamshell. I suppose NECA is going to stick with these. This 35th Anniversary Alien line would have been the perfect opportunity to drop this irritating and dangerous style of packaging and switch to a much more rational blister card, but I guess they are attached to their clamshells for this line. It must really annoy the MIP collectors that the Predator line is on blister cards now amongst all of the clamshelled horror releases.

The graphics are, of course, nice. Rather than a bio for Kane we just have a synopsis of Alien.

And there are also the credits for those that worked on the toy, which is something NECA does that I really appreciate.

Looks

There isn’t one part of this figure that doesn’t fascinate me with the amount of detail it reveals.

That may not be John Hurt’s face under there, but NECA still made the facehugger a separate piece. It doesn’t come off, but the fact that it has so much definition from the head adds a lot. And the facehugger isn’t just a part of the figure. It’s packed with detail and looks very accurate to the movie – lots of joints and wrinkles and sculpted lines. It’s a fairly monochromatic creature anyway, but there’s a wash of brown to bring the details out.
The head underneath is fairly generic with its brown hair, but those ears are somewhat reminiscent of a certain bafflingly ordered Time Lord’s.

The base of the space suit is all quilting, padding, and laces. This is the stuff that stood out in my mind and made the suits somewhat unremarkable. And while the design isn’t exactly sleek and exciting, the amount of detail NECA has captured is staggering. It’s not pretty, but it’s interesting.

What’s on top of that base is the stuff I never consciously picked up on. There are straps, plates, control boxes, tubes, valves, and all kinds of cool stuff. And it all has tons of character thanks to the excellent paint apps. It all has a very Steampunk look to it.

Each piece of armor or equipment has a strap with a buckle. The colors on the metallic portions are just fantastic, as they’re all bronze with oxidized green washes to show aging. I don’t know what any of this equipment is supposed to be – and the designers probably don’t really, either – but it all has a real-world look to it. The wrist devices have painted indicator lights that are a nice touch. The chest armor is segmented and has the aforementioned nameplate, complete with “KANE” in a cool 70s sci-fi font.

The shoulder plates also have a segmented look, along with these cool, hexagonal bolt designs. They’re attached at the shoulders to allow the arms a wider range of movement.

The backpack isn’t as mysterious as some other parts, as it is quite clearly a breathing device. I love the garden spigot wheels on top. The lights are sculpted and painted brightly. The labels on the canister portions are particularly well done, as they are distinct but look as worn as the rest of the suit.

The gloves are also very cool. I like how you can see the gloved hand under the outer padding. The wash may vary from figure to figure, but I think it creates an aging effect very well.

The boots seem a little more advanced than the rest of the suit. They have an interesting strap design and the soles have a narrower profile than the uppers, with a tread that looks very much like modern footwear. Plus there are three paint apps here(!) – a base, a wash for wear, and the stripe. That’s a lot of paint for shoes. Unfortunately the backs of the knees have pretty bad paint issues:

That’s just not acceptable.

As dull as I originally thought this figure would be, it’s ended up as one of NECA’s more interesting and visually arresting figures. I spent quite a bit of time just turning it around in my hands and looking at all of the fantastic detail.

Accessories

Kane comes with a helmet, a lantern, and a pistol.

Thanks to Future War Stories, I know that the gun is a prop that was not used in the film. It is known as the “Nostromo EVA Pistol”. It was, however, seen in the film. I definitely recommend clicking the link and giving the article a look. Apparently it is supposed to be stored on that loop on the figure’s side. The loop seems permanently closed to me and I couldn’t get it into the figure’s thick, gloved hands, either. I’m not sure what to do with this thing, but it sure does look neat. Two colors of paint on an accessory is something I get excited about.

The lantern has a shiny silver sticker on the front that is probably meant to reflect light the same way that Strobo does in order to simulate a light source. This one doesn’t work nearly as well. But the lantern looks great and has some nice paint on it. And the figure can hold it, so that’s nice.

The helmet is beautiful. I can’t even tell you how much I love the design of this thing. The hoses from the figure’s backpack plug securely into inlets on the back. Getting the helmet onto the figure is a bit tricky. I had to turn the head to the side, put the helmet on, and then push the helmet into place. It stays put nicely, but then I had to stick my finger into the melted faceplate and do my best to turn the head back so it was facing forward. This was kind of a pain, but it was better than having some unsightly method of splitting the helmet open or something. 
 
The sculpt of the mechanisms on the back is awesome and the paint apps are as well. The greenish oxidation is nice and thick around the details and the lights are all painted precisely. The faceplate is actually a bubble that is around the entire head. It’s a wonderfully clear plastic that mimics the movie version nicely. The sculpt of the melted hole is perfect.

Fun

The head, shoulders, wrists, torso, hips, and ankles all move fairly nicely. The knees are a bit limited and I couldn’t get the bicep swivels or elbow pivots to move at all. Not even a little. I don’t know that I’ve ever had joints stuck this badly. If they weren’t so obviously joints I wouldn’t think they were meant to move at all.

The good news is that this is a guy in a big, thick, unwieldy spacesuit and that he isn’t exactly supposed to be doing ninja moves. I’m sure I can heat up the stuck joints and the rest give you about as much posability as John Hurt probably had in the real suit, if not more. And really, at this post-face-hugged portion of his life he shouldn’t be doing much more than laying around.

The accessories are fun to mess around with, but the most enjoyment I’m getting out of this figure is from just looking at it. It’s a very intricate, detailed piece.

Overall

This is another instance of NECA making a figure that is what it needs to be and then some. The removable helmet is a great extra and the inclusion of the EVA pistol is neat, even if I can’t get it to interact with the figure. Overall the figure looks great and delivers beyond what I expected, though the missing paint on the knees knocks a point off.

4 out of 5

I find myself hoping that this is just the most exciting version of the character and that NECA actually does have the license for Hurt’s likeness. Not only would I like a version with Chest Burstin’ Action, I’d like an undamaged version of this space suit. I know Dallas and Ripley are both on the way, but I sure would like to have a full set. Of course, then we’d need Lambert as well and I don’t know if they have the likeness rights for Veronica Cartwright, either.

If you, too would like a figure of John Hurt being impregnated by a vile monstrosity, why not order it through our webstore and help the site out?:

2 comments:

  1. Nice review.

    My guess is that for a project like Doctor Who, the actor's likeness rights are part of the package (most genre films and entertainment properties anticipating toys and such seem to do this now) while with the original Alien nothing was ever secured. Remember, Lucas getting actor likeness rights for the characters for merchandising was a pretty unusual concept back in.1977, thus creating the Star Wars juggernaut, but it's pretty standard now.

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    1. Good call. Star Wars really did change the way licensed products were looked at and made.

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