REVIEW: NECA's Pacific Rim Series 2
More Awesome Jaeger Versus Kaiju Action...
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The last time we took a look at Pacific Rim, the film was gearing up to assault theaters and NECA had just released their first assortment of action figures (read our Series 1 review HERE). The spectacular giant robots versus giant monsters movie is now on home video (I have my copy!) and NECA continues to fill the Jaeger and Kaiju ranks with new figures. Pacific Rim Series 2 - in stores now - consists of a MASSIVE new ape-like Kaiju called Leatherback, the return of the heroic Gipsy Danger, this time with a nice battle damaged deco and packing two awesome wrist blades, as well as an all-new Jaeger sculpt: Austrailia's leading Kaiju killer, Striker Eureka.
I'm not a big fan of action figure variants, especially in a line I'm investing heavily in. For me, it's all about getting that next exciting new character, not a rehash of one I already own. Yes, I understand the purpose of variants from a smart business perspective - retailers love stocking that main hero to keep selling to casual collectors and the reuse of tooling is a great way to keep production costs down and fill-out a wave. That said, Series 2's battle damaged Gipsy Danger is an exception to the rule; this variant is actually a welcome improvement over the original. It's all about those killer wrist blades... and the new deco is pretty cool too.
Am I the only one that wondered why - instead of tediously fighting Leatherback with bare fists - Gipsy Danger didn't deploy swords from the get-go? It's not until the Gipsy is near destruction that the pilots dumbly realize "hey, we have swords built into this thing!" I can only assume that the swords were an upgrade to the rebuilt Gipsy that Raleigh wasn't aware of, but Mako was... which still leaves one curious to why Mako didn't immediately use them. Ah, so many unanswered questions. Anyways, it was the Gipsy Danger's extending chain blades that made the robot totally badass for me. It's like Evil Dead 2's Ash: ho-hum human suddenly becomes super groovy with a chainsaw hand. Let's face it, giant robots NEED weapons to be cool. NECA's new Gipsy includes two such weapons, each blade attaching rather snug into a slot on each wrist. It's a good connection, but if you pose your figures alot or - *gasp* - decide to play with your toys, the blades can get knocked off. Since I plan on having my Gipsy Danger with wrist blades permanently deployed, I glued mine in place. Leatherback watch out!
The other big difference on the new Gipsy Danger is its war ravaged paint deco. It's kind of hard to fully appreciate this new weathered color scheme by the photos, but in person it looks wonderfully worn and gritty. Drybrushed black paint gives the Gipsy's armor a realistic soot and smoke stained appearance, while the ample use of silver flecked in all the right spots shows the Gipsy Danger has been beaten, battered and bruised. Some folks may prefer Series 1's clean and pristine Gipsy Danger, but for me the battle damaged look has tons more personality. Articulation on this figure is identical to the first release (read my review HERE), though I did discover a joint I missed before (due to it being partially stuck by paint): a hinge on the heel of each foot! It allows for some more dynamic stomping poses.
Final verdict: If you're new to the series, then this is the Gipsy to get. If you already own the first Gipsy Danger, then you still need this new figure - the chain swords and dinged-up deco make this a variant worth owning.
My absolute favorite Jaeger is Russia's Cherno Alpha. Its robot form is so blocky, brutish and unique looking. A close first place contender, however, is the familiar manga/ anime mecha aesthetics of the Striker Eureka. The first and only Mark V Jaeger, the Striker Eureka was purposely designed to be sleek and more modern in appearance. One glance at the Striker tells you this robot is fast and lethal, it's dual wrist blades ready to dish out piercing Kaiju death.
Squat and built like a boxer, the Striker Eureka strides into battle painted granite gray. Like the Gipsy Danger's naval blue, the Striker Eureka's color scheme continues that cool WWII warship vibe. I love how nicely the silver joints and gold visor contrast against the drab gray body. Speaking of the gold visor - the Striker's headsculpt is awesome looking - the most mecha-looking of all the Jaegers - like something out of Armored Core or Macross. Another great feature is the twin fin jet pack. Where the Gipsy Danger and Crimson Typhoon just have some nondescript exhaust ports on their backs, the Striker Eureka's winged ensemble screams flight (actually more like a speed booster or jump pack, Jaegers don't fly).
All this talk of speed brings me to the topic of articulation. While the Crimson Typhoon still reigns supreme in the articulation department, the Striker isn't any slouch. The figure features a head that rotates side to side, ball-jointed shoulders for extreme combat poses, hinged elbows, pivoting wrist blades, hinged/ swivel thighs, hinged knees and swivel ankles for more solid stances. Not too shabby; a swivel waist being about the only joint I'd fully recommend for improvement (and an opening chest for missile launching action! Hey, one can dream.) I will point out here that I find the articulated wrist blades unnecessary. Originaly I thought that the blades folded back - out of sight - into the arm. Alas, they only flip back so far, working more like a pair of scissors. That's great if you want snipping action, but in the movie the blades simply slide out and lock forward into place - like bladed brass knuckles. Personally I found it extremely frustrating that the blades kept knocking out of alignment when I played with the figure, so I glued them down, problem solved. However, I have read reports that the blades can be detached - which might explain the articulation somewhat. Regardless, it's not a big deal, the Striker Eureka still looks amazing and is still my favorite figure in the Pacific Rim assortment so far (until Series 3's Cherno Aplha dethrones it!)
The really great thing about Pacific Rim is that it's a film about colossal robots AND colossal monsters. It's like the REESE'S Peanut Butter Cups of movie nerdom. To appease the adoring legion of Kaiju fans, NECA went big - quite literally - with their newest Kaiju creation. You just don't find action figures as large as Leatherback anymore, certainly not priced under $25. Like his movie counterpart, Leatherback resembles a giant gorilla with almost comically small rear legs and huge bulging forearms that pull the creature along. Despite ample articulation, it's Leatherback's four-legged nature that restricts the figure somewhat in the posing department. For starters, the monster's massive bulk requires at least one of his large arms on the ground for support. The rear legs, while multi-jointed, act primarily as stilts to help prop Leatherback up. Despite these display limitations, Leatherback's articulation works well for a multitude of other cool poses, from lumbering forward in a variety of ape-like ways to grabbing a Jaeger with a boulder-like clawed hand... with four fully articulated fingers!
Another excellent inclusion is Leatherback's opening and closing snapping turtle jaw. That one joint - paired with a head that swivels left and right - works many expressive wonders. Here's the full articulation breakdown on Leatherback:
- swivel head (360 degrees, though his stiff plastic "hair" restricts it somewhat)
- hinged jaw
- swivel shoulders
- hinged elbows (for Kaiju ape action!)
- swivel wrists
- hinged fingers (four on each hand, including the thumb)
- swivel thighs
- hinged knees x2 (double jointed)
- swivel ankles
Leatherback's paint work is similar to Knifehead's, with a predominantly charcoal gray body broken up by electric blue tribal whorls. The blue extends to Leatherback's "hair" tendrils, the trigger for his devastating EMP blast attack.
Pacific Rim didn't perform in the U.S. as well as I had hoped. However, Pacific Rim's powerful overseas comeback coupled with strong NECA Series 1 figure sales proves the film has a loyal fanbase. NECA's Pacific Rim Series 2 figures appear to be selling well too, as many retailers are already sold out (or prices have been inflated). While frustrating for fans just now collecting the series, NECA has done a good job of keeping up with demand by refreshing assortments and offering figure 2-packs. Best of all, the popularity of these toys only ensures more. A third series has just been confirmed for a February/ March 2014 release to include three all-new sculpts: Cherno Alpha, Coyote Tango and Axehead. And let's not forget about the towering 18" tall Gipsy Danger and Knifehead on the way! If imaginative robot and monster action figures are your thing, then NECA's Pacific Rim figures are for you. I can't get enough...
All Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of NECA