Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Spring Loaded Holster RoboCop Review

Spring Loaded Holster RoboCop

Company: NECA

Series: RoboCop

RRP: approx. $29.95 AUD


The Background

On one level, RoboCop is a standard sci-fi action film, distinguished from dozens of others primarily by its cool-looking main character and a level of violence which still shocks almost three decades after release. On these merits alone, RoboCop would probably be considered a classic action film of the 1980s. 
But scratch the surface, and it holds up to deeper examination. Like most good sci-fi, it says a great deal about the time it was made, framed within a (mostly) believable future world. It is laden with social commentary, parody and religious symbolism, yet never forgets to entertain.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of the film’s original release, and as a result, a bunch of RoboCop merch began to appear on store shelves – NECA’s figures among them. NECA has released four figures in this series – Robocop, Battle-Damaged Robocop, Night Fighter Robocop, and the subject of today’s review, Spring Loaded Holster Robocop. The series isn't finished yet, either – a fifth is to come early next year, based on his appearance in the RoboCop NES videogame. With the upcoming remake next year, I suspect that there will still be more of Alex Murphy to come.
The Packaging
In June this year, I purchased Night Fighter RoboCop. The box art for that was great, an obvious and loving tribute to the Kenner RoboCop toyline, which was in turn based on the 1980s RoboCop cartoon. This packaging is a little plain, by contrast – it’s a standard NECA clamshell case, with the art consisting of some close-up details from RoboCop’s armour panels (chest and right leg, I believe) and helmet. It does the job, but it doesn’t “pop” for me. Still, I open all my figures, so the point becomes moot shortly after purchase.
The Sculpt and Articulation

The sculpt looks virtually identical to Night Fighter RoboCop, with the exception of the right thigh, which now acts a holster for his gun. This reuse is a good thing, as the sculpting on that toy was excellent. And now I’ve got a “regular” RoboCop in addition to the glow in the dark version, I’m noticing all sorts of little details on his sculpt that I hadn’t realised were present before, such as the Omnicorp logo on his left leg.  
The head and upper legs are ball-jointed, the knees and elbows are hinged, and the shoulders are swivel hinges. My favourite articulation feature comes in the form of the pistons on his ankles. Though the ankles are hinges only, the pistons actually move up and down within their casing as the ankles move. Just be gentle – they’re a thin plastic and could break easily in rough hands.
Overall, articulation is solid, but not spectacular. This would be a minus for some figures, but seems okay for RoboCop, given his rigid and…robotic…movements in the film.
The Paint
The paint work is quite good, for the most part. The original NECA RoboCop seemed to have the torso as a slightly different colour to the arms, but this looks to have been resolved here.
The armour isn’t actually plain silver either; it’s got some of the highlights that are seen in the movie paint job worked into it as well. I’m not quite sure how they pulled it off – it may be some kind of two-tone paint, I suppose – but it looks good. It’s also pretty smooth, though you’ll never mistake it for real metal.
However, the chinstrap area is another story. Some of the flesh-coloured paint around the mouth has spread to the black jaw. Fortunately, it’s not noticeable at a distance and it’s nothing that a pot of paint and a fine detail brush shouldn’t be able to fix.  

RoboCop comes with the same two accessories that he uses in the film – the Auto-9 pistol and the dataspike. The Auto-9 is made of a nice hard plastic, not the rubbery stuff that’s often used for toy weapons. Though the sculpt is a good one, I think it would have been better off with either a light metal drybrush or maybe a glossy black finish like his gloves/chinstrap/etc, rather than plain black plastic. Still, no real cause for complaint.
The dataspike is on a separate right hand, and looks more or less as it does in the film, with the hand in a clenched pose. Unfortunately there’s no Clarence Boddicker figure with removable throat, so re-enacting that part of the film will be a little tricky.    
Whether it’s an accessory or not may be up for debate, but the main feature of the figure is the right-thigh holster. This is one of his coolest features in the film, and it’s almost a little surprising that the original version of the toy didn’t include it. I like having the holster option, but I don’t think I’ll be using it all that often. It’s a little tricky to get the gun in there at the right angle, and similarly tricky to get out again – though it should be pointed out that I have quite large hands, and this may be part of the problem. As a purely aesthetic point, the inside is quite plain, just bare plastic. There are probably logistical reasons for this, but it was a little disappointing nonetheless.   
A removable helmet would be nice, but its absence was not a deal-breaker for me. In the original film, the mask’s removal acts as an important symbol of Alex Murphy reclaiming his humanity, but I still get a little disconcerted when I see him without it. It was, and remains, an impressively disturbing piece of prosthetics work. So removable helmet or no, mine would be getting displayed with it on. 
The biggest issue I had was with the right arm. The armour at the elbow was a little warped, bending outwards. It’s not particularly noticeable when the arm is bent, or pointed straight ahead, but when he’s got his arm hanging straight by his side, it’s quite obvious. It was one of the first things I noticed in the box, and had I been picking it up in-store instead of online, I would have looked for another one before purchase. Still, these are issues that can occur with softer plastic – one of the small “hooks” on his upper chest was also a little warped.   
The other main issue was the right knee. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the hollow thigh, but the right knee seems particularly stiff – I’ve been a little hesitant to bend it too far, as I don’t want to break it.
Alex Murphy, haunted by the ghosts of his past
As happy as I was (and am) with Night Fighter RoboCop, I’m pleased to have the “real” version joining Predator and Dutch on the shelves. Though he has a couple of issues, I’m still quite satisfied. I’m not sure if he’s completely identical to the previous versions, but he’s similar enough that I probably wouldn’t buy this one if I already had the original. But it if you’re after a RoboCop and don’t have money for the forthcoming Hot Toys version, this bad boy is ideal.
"You and me, Metalhead...we're going to clean up Detroit!"



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Lego Review - The Werewolf (9463)

Set:  9463 – The Werewolf
Series: Monster Fighters
RRP: $29
Pieces: 243

Build Time: 1-1 ½ hours


The Background
Well, I know I said I didn’t think I was going to get any more of the Monster Fighters range – but the Kmart near my work still seems to have a whole bunch of in stock, and I am a bit of a sucker for werewolves. So a month or so ago, I found myself walking home from work with the kit tucked beneath my arm and an excited gleam on my face. A werewolf to accompany the Swamp Creature was an exciting prospect, as was the idea of having a regular minifigure-sized werewolf to accompany my giant Lego CHIMA werewolf.

The Minifigures

The Werewolf, front and side-on
When I first saw this kit’s Werewolf minifigure about a year ago, I was not particularly impressed. I had previously owned the Werewolf from the collectible minifigures (series 4), who was styled after the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolfman, and was quite endearing. This one is a little more Dog Soldiers in its approach, which was part of the reason for my caution. Non-standard heads are very hit and miss when it comes to minifigures. Also, oversized Wolverine claws? Even if they did glow in the dark, I wasn’t quite convinced. Though I prefer the wolf-man hybrid look in most other forms of media, I thought the 1940s approach was probably the better one to take when it came to Lego.
But almost a year and several close inspections later, I’ve changed my mind. As I’ve mentioned before, my Lego purchases tend to be very minifigure driven, and this one definitely fits that pattern. Of course, my love of all things glow in the dark definitely gives my overall enjoyment level a boost – I’ve changed my mind about the claws, and think they’re a nice little touch, and they do glow in a highly satisfying manner.

                                                              Major Quinton Steele

The Monster Fighter – Major Quinton Steele –has a stern, colonial look about him. I suppose he’s meant to be a bit of a Van Helsing-style mentor figure for the Monster Fighters team. He’s somewhat older, presumably highly knowledgeable about the subject of monsters, and though his best combat days are behind him, he can still kick a good bit of butt when push comes to shove. He’s not bad – but I already have the Explorer from series 2 of the collectible minifigures. They’re definitely two distinct figures, but it does feel like there’s a lot of similar ground covered between them. Still, the Major does have a badass rifle – a cool toy gun will make up for a lot of other shortcomings.  And as you’ll see, he does have a pretty cool car.

The Build

There are two builds contained within the kit – Major Steele’s hot rod, and a tree which incorporates the Wolf Moonstone.
We’ll tackle the hot rod first. I don’t really “do” cars. I know virtually nothing about them, only got my Provisional license earlier this year and I don’t really enjoy driving. But with that said, I can still appreciate a cool-looking car. This particular vehicle is exactly that. It looks somewhere between FAB-ONE (of Thunderbirds fame) and one of those hot rods that you see at tattoo or rockabilly festivals. No doubt there are many flaws more knowledgeable people than I could pick with it, but I think it looks pretty cool nonetheless. 

Major Quinton Steele's Hot Rod

The only real letdown is its colour. While I appreciate it’s meant to be functional rather than edgy, I think it would have been better to have it as a reddish or metallic colour, rather than a similar shade of beige to the driver’s outfit. Nonetheless, it remains a very cool piece - close observers will note that the hood ornament is actually a frog.

The tree, though, is the true centrepiece of the kit, and I’m quite pleased with it. It’s one of the more unusual Lego builds I’ve seen in an official kit. While it’s obviously intended to have an eerie, low budget horror vibe about it, I think it works just as well in a fantasy setting.
Conan discovers the lost secret of the Wolfstone, after slaying countless hordes of evil monsters.

The Wolf Moonstone is placed in a vaguely altar-y setting, though with a little tweaking it becomes a wolf-throne – or if we’re going for the fantasy vibe, a wood-elf throne. Additionally, it works quite well with the little piece of swamp that came with the Swamp Creature set. Going off the box art, it looks like 9467 is driving through a swampy area, too. I can only infer from this that the Swamp Creature and the Werewolf live quite close together. As a bonus, it’s got an action function which allows the werewolf to “jump out” from among the leaves. Not a feature I’m overly fussed about as an adult, but I would definitely have appreciated it as a kid.

The Werewolf poised for launch


I still have fairly mixed feelings about the Monster Fighters theme, but it has grown on me a lot. I do like the Ghost Train (set 9467), but it’s primarily because of the abundance of glow-in-the-dark pieces on the kit. I could see myself picking up a glow-in-the-dark ghost or two, but buying the (very expensive) set itself would be quite hard to justify.  
With this said, I have heard rumours that Lord Vampyre's Castle may be on the way for Christmas...
The minifigures receive a combined score of 6/10. The Werewolf is great on his own, but I’m not really fussed on Major Steele – he’s not a bad minifigure, just not really the sort of minifigure I prefer. As for the build, I’m giving it a 7.5/10. It’s far from the most difficult one I’ve ever done, but it’s certainly one of the most unique. The car is pretty boss, and the tree lends itself to a variety of different settings.  All in all, $29 I’m quite happy about spending.

The set in its entirety