REVIEW: Round 2/ MPC's ALIEN Model Kit
1979 Classic Makes A Surprise Comeback...
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When asked to name rare action figure collectibles based on Ridely Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror film ALIEN, Kenner's 18-inch Alien usually tops the list. Notable for being the first figure based on a R-rated movie (and subsequently pulled from shelves because of it), the Kenner Alien also had the honor of being one of the first figures created based on H.R. Giger's horrific creature design. I say "one of the first" because there was another Alien figure that saw release around the same time in '79: MPC's Alien Model Kit. Because assemble is required, one can argue that the MPC Alien isn't a true "action figure". However, once fully built, the Alien kit DOES feature limited articulation at the head and arms. Action figure model? Regardless of what you call it, MPC's Alien Model Kit and Kenner's 18-inch Alien action figure both hold the distinction of being the first two mass produced sculptures of Giger's now iconic beast. And while getting your hand's on a mint Kenner Alien can be tricky (and very expensive), Round 2 has just made it a whole lot easier (and affordable) to obtain the original MPC Alien Model Kit.
While best known in the action figure industry for Captain Action, Round 2's status in the model kit building community is legendary. Name a classic model kit company and Round 2 most likely now owns it: Polar Lights, AMT, Lindberg, Hawk Models... MPC. It is the latter and Round 2's recent acquistion of the Alien (and Aliens) license that has allowed them to reproduce and re-release the classic 1979 MPC Alien Model Kit. Due out this month priced at around $16, this kit allows fans old and new to own a piece of historic Alien memorabilia. It also just happens to be a really nice model kit, despite it's design being over 30 years old.
Around 1999, AMT/Ertl re-released this kit in a more "modern" packaging featuring the Alien model bursting through the box. While the model inside was accurate to the '79 kit, the slick graphics were a far cry from the hand drawn box art of the original. Round 2/MPC's Alien kit captures all the awesome nostalgia of the vintage model's packaging: from the inviting movie stills on the front and side panels, to that amazing Alien illustration. I miss those days when true fine art sold a product. It grabbed your attention and in many cases was far cooler looking than the item inside. While I'd die for a model kit (or action figure) that looked 100% like the MPC Alien cover artwork, I must say that this is one of those rare occassions where the product justifies the art. They both look good.
Equally attractive is the instruction booklet. Where the AMT/Ertl re-release once again used new, modern graphics, Round 2's Alien kit faithfully replicates the classic 1979 artwork. Here you get a great line drawing of the Alien on the box cover, along with the "Alien" logo and numbered steps drawn in this striking organic script. It's rather neat that the artist was allowed such creative freedom on the logo. Today's strict style guides would have nothing to do with that.
Speaking of the instruction booklet, this model kit is Skill Level 2 (ages 10 and up), meaning that pretty much anyone with rudimentry modeling skills can build this kit. Glue is required, but there's not much to glue together. Want a fun way to pass an hour? Then this is the model kit for you. Aside from glue you'll probably want a sharp knife handy, preferably an X-Acto blade or razor, to trim away any excess plastic, or "flashing".
Seven building steps later and you'll find yourself with a 9-inch tall replica of H.R. Giger's gorgeous movie monster. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, this model kit is unique in that it features some limited articulation. By adhering the two halves of the Alien's body together over the assembled head and arms, movement is allowed. It even has a retractable inner jaw!
Another nice touch is the addition of a clear head dome. As any die-hard Alien fan knows, the top of the creature's long phallic cranium was translucent, revealing a human skull beneath. I painted over mine with some black, and while it's hard to tell from the photos, I painted it so that in the correct lighting you can still see some skull underneath. Speaking of painting, the Alien kit is cast in black plastic to give you a nice base color to start with. I guess you could skip painting all together if you were so inclined, but the end result looks, well, like a plastic model kit. Buy some flat and/or gloss black paint along with some silver for details (nails and teeth) and you'll be surprised at how much better your kit will look.
For a 30+ year old model kit, MPC's Alien stands proud in my collection of modern Alien collectibles. It's not the hyper-realism of most action figures on the market today, but there's a lot to be said about a toy you build and paint yourself. In a nutshell, it's FUN.
Like the film that inspired it, Round 2/MPC's Alien Model Kit stands as a true classic. Get yours later this month wherever fine model kits are sold priced at around $16.99.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Sample Courtesy of Round 2