There were four R-rated action/sf franchises in the 1980s that captured young Poe’s imagination: The Terminator, Aliens, Robocop, and Predator. When I was a kid, my friends and I ran around our backyards just like any other kids from decades past. However, instead of Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians, my friends and I played Commandos and Aliens.
I’m not sure I could pick a favorite from among those four franchises, but there’s no question the original Predator remains one of my favorite movies, and the Predator himself one of my favorite aliens. In retrospect, the concept of making the hunter of the oft-adapted Richard Connell story “The Most Dangerous Game” an extraterrestrial seems like the most obvious thing in the world. Predator skipped the kidnapped-to-an-island scenario (later used in Predators) and instead pitted the alien against a team of U.S. commandos, thus creating the most badass, testosterone-soaked film in existence.
Predator received a 1990 sequel, Predator 2, which made the obvious change of setting to a city, but I’ve always found something about that movie less appealing. It seems more cynical, more sadistic, even a little sleazy compared to the first film. And the less said about the two Alien vs. Predator movies the better. Predators, from what I’ve heard, is pretty good, but to my everlasting shame I didn’t manage to see it before it was gone from the multiplexes (I just saw Toy Story 3 this past weekend, so cut me some slack). But I’ll see it as soon as it hits Blu-Ray.
In a somewhat surprising bit of fanservice, the filmmakers inserted a Predator based almost exactly on the original, classic Stan Winston design from the first film into Predators. This allowed NECA to finally give us a Classic Predator. Yes, we’ve had one before from McFarlane, but it was a heavily pre-posed and under-articulated. NECA’s figure was almost inevitably going to be an improvement; the question is, how much of an improvement is it?
Design & Sculpt: NECA has a stable of excellent sculptors, but when it comes to a classic character like this, you can be almost certain it will be lovingly crafted by Kyle “Tankman” Windrix–as this figure indeed was.
I’ve compared the sculpt to the Hot Toys Predator figure from the original movie, and somewhat surprisingly, it’s accurate down to the last detail, with one exception: the original Predator had a necklace of bones and skulls, while this one–being from Predators–doesn’t have it. It’s not something I’m really bothered by, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Of course, I have no complaints about the sculpt–Windrix is one of the best, if not the best, likeness-sculptors in the business, while NECA’s production process has become refined enough to reproduce the high-quality sculpting with little softening or deterioration. Windrix has captured the original Predator’s distinctive face, especially the eyes, with his usual admirable skills.
From a design standpoint, the figure has two great features: retractable wrist blades (pic) and an articulated plasma caster (pic), which comes on a removable mount that attaches to the Predator’s back. The plasma caster can come forward and down to lock in a rest position, as seen in the movies.
It’s a bit of a bummer the figure doesn’t have the flip-out panel on the left gauntlet for the bomb timer (as seen in the first film), which the McFarlane figure had; but that may simply be because it wasn’t featured in Predators.
Plastic & Paint: High-quality sculpts like these can be ruined by bad paint, and admittedly NECA still has a few misses among the hits these days. However, for the most part the Classic Predator looks sharp.
NECA found just the right tone for the metallic parts of the armor, while the yellowish flesh looks about right. I do have some complaints regarding the paint work:
- The wash on the tusks/teeth is sloppy.
- The black lines on the “netting” are uneven, especially near joints. This has been happening on Predator figures since the Kenner days, but still, it’s a little disappointing.
- The poorly-applied wash on the wrist blades.
- The odd gloss on the character’s chest and head. I suppose that slimy look may be film-accurate, but the first time I saw it I thought it looked wrong. I’m still not totally sold on it, but again, if it’s film-accurate I can’t really complain.
None of these complaints are anything near a deal-breaker for me, and let’s face it, it would be disingenuous to fault NECA too much on a figure with so many complex paint applications while giving a thumbs-up to so many MOTUC figures. That said, NECA is a victim of their own success in some ways, and I have to measure their paint apps against their own best work.
Articulation: See the photo at right for a breakdown of the articulation. The Classic Predator has those ball-and-hinge elbows I’m not really fond of, but I suppose this was done because it would have been too difficult to get the biceps articulation to work with the shoulder armor. The lack of an abdominal joint is disappointing and prevents a few of the cooler crouching poses from the film.
And of course, I’ve never liked V-crotches. While NECA has displayed no tendency to put ball-jointed or H-hinge hips on anything but their videogame figures, I still hoped we might have seen it here. That said, the swivel thighs and ball-and-hinge knees, combined with the ball-and-socket ankles, go a long way toward providing a wider variety of poses than you might expect.
Accessories: I suppose technically the plasma caster’s mounting is an accessory, since it can be removed, but I’m never planning to display my Predator without it. I haven’t seen the film yet so I’m not sure what other accessories he could have come with, but I would assume a bloody skull/spine wouldn’t have been completely out of the question?
Quality Control: No problems.
Overall: There are three things missing from this figure: an alternate masked head, better hip articulation, and abdominal articulation. I know a version with a masked head is inevitable and I’ll have to get it, at which point I will have as close to my perfect Predator as I expect I’ll ever get–unless NECA gets the license for the original film and is willing to give us ball-jointed hips.
Still, even without those features, I’m immensely happy with the Classic Predator. It was very satisfying to place him up against my Aliens figure–finally, near-definitive figures based on my favorite versions of each creature. The scale’s a bit off (I’m not sure the Alien should be taller than the Predator), but it still looks great.
NECA has given me one of my most-wanted figures. Now all I need is the masked version.