Pirates of the Caribbean
Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbarosa, Skeleton Pirate

Pirates of the Caribbean was a surprise hit for Disney, and proof that even the daffiest ideas on paper - making a movie based on nothing more than a well loved but basically outdated theme park ride - can manage to turn out well in the right hands.

NECA picked up the license to produce figures as an afterthought, particularly after the announcement of a second film.  In 2004, they released the 18" talking Jack Sparrow, with both a serious and laughing face.  It was a huge hit, and was on many top 10 lists, including my own.

Now they've released the first series of 7" scaled figures, including a serious and smiling version of Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, Will Turner and the Skeleton Pirate.

Sorry to say, Will Turner didn't do much for me, so I left him hanging on the peg.  It's not that he was terrible, just not a particularly exciting character.  Tonight's review will cover Barbossa, the Skeleton, and the serious Jack.

I picked these up at Hot Topic for $13, but you should find them at Media Play, Suncoast and other stores soon, and I have some online suggestions at the end of the review.

Packaging - ***1/2
It's pretty well known that I love the clamshells.  They are sturdy as hell, easy to store, and allow for some terrific graphics on the insert.

However, NECA doesn't include an interior page on the insert, unlike McToys.  That would be a nice touch, especially if they could show shots of other lines or upcoming figures.

But the graphics and text that is here is great, and each insert gives some background on the specific character, rather than all having the same info.

Sculpting - ***1/2
I waffled around on this score for awhile.  There are only a handful of companies that produce this level of realistic sculpting, particularly in this scale.  These figures can go toe to toe with any others for facial accuracy and fine detail work.

Now, I couldn't have said that about Will, who I thought wasn't quite right.  It seems that getting Orlando Bloom just right (I wasn't all that thrilled with the 18" Legolas either) is a bit of a problem, but Jack Sparrow and Barbossa are spot on.

Geoffrey Rush, who played Barbosa, has a big head.  It should then be no surprise that his action figure does as well, along with his almost trademark snoze.  If it was anyone else, I'd say that the head was out of scale for the body, but that's poor Mr. Rush's cross to bear, and I can't fault NECA for capturing it perfectly.

Jack matches the 18" version exactly, and I mean exactly.  This is a smaller version of the quarter scale version, with the partly fisted left hand, rather than the open left hand.

There's a ton of super small detail here, especially in the hair and babbles.  The braids and beads are all there, and even the bracelets on the right wrists are sculpted and painted.  I do have some issues with how some of the braids were handled though.  For example, the obvious braid/beads on the left side of his head was glued on up inside the hair, but here they were glued on the front, which looks a little odd.  Also, the braid of his beard on the right side isn't as long as the one on the left, again unlike the 18" version.  I suspect this is due to the change in scale, rather than specific design changes.

I preferred the serious Jack in the 18" version, and I preferred the serious version in this scale as well.  However, if you were a big fan of the smiling larger version, you may find the smiling small version right up your alley.

The dead pirate is another amazing piece of work, with tremendous detail and realism in the boney body.  This is one of the most realistic appearing skeleton bodies I've seen, particularly the legs and arms.  The sculpt also works extremely well with the articulation, which is surprising since you'd figure it would be tough to hide.

If you paid attention to the early photos, you probably knew there'd be no way those boney little legs were going to hold this guy up long term.  NECA did what they could by using very sturdy plastic, but even that isn't going to be enough to help long term.  I was able to get him to stand on his own out of the package, but I could tell it wasn't going to last, and he was going to suffer from the 'wilts' fairly soon.

NECA knew that was going to happen though, and planned for it by including a clear plastic display stand.  That's a great move, and is one of those 'extra miles' that a company doesn't HAVE to do, but does because they know they should.

All the figures have perfect hand sculpts designed to work with their accessories.  Even small items like Barbossa's knife fit nicely in at least one hand.

Paint - Barbossa ****; Sparrow, Pirate ***1/2
The paint ops are excellent, and well above average.  The small detail work is amazing, and Barbossa has some extremely intricate and complex paint work.

The skin tones are excellent on both the skin covered characters, but Sparrow uses a little too much of the 'wash' effect.  It's not terrible, but they did go a little overboard with the darker wash, trying to bring out the details.

The only other negative is on the dead pirate's shirt and rib cage.  The colors of the two are too close, making it tough to tell the difference, and making the sculpt appear less detailed in that area.  In general, the skeleton has far fewer details, and lacks things like a silver belt buckle, or detailed colors on his jacket, that exist on Jack and Barbossa.

Articulation - Dead Pirate ***1/2; Jack, Barbossa ***
All the figures sport above average articulation, but some of it works better with the sculpts than others.

Jack has similar articulation to the 18" version.  There's a ball jointed neck (my favorite single articulation point, giving you the most posing options of any), ball jointed shoulders, cut joints at the lower sleeves, wrists, waist and at the boot tops.  There's no hips or knees, but that's not surprising since those joints would have broken up the sculpt quite a bit and been very obvious.

Barbossa also has a ball jointed neck, but his hair restricts the range of movement much more than Jack.  He also has ball jointed shoulders, a cut right elbow, wrists, waist, hips and boot tops.  There's that slightly weird bend to his right leg, but the articulation works well with it and allows for him to stand very easily on his own.

As a matter of fact, that's really the key to the lower body sculpting on both Sparrow and Captain B.  What joints are there are clearly intended to make it possible to keep the figures standing by finding the sweet spot.  They aren't there to give you a bunch of posing options.  That's where the upper body articulation comes in.

The dead pirate is a bit different.  He has a ball jointed neck, pin jaw, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, cut wrists, waist and hips.  The jaw is a great addition, and if you use the clear stand as intended, you'll be able to do some interesting poses with both the upper and lower body.  Be careful with the wrist joints though, as they are very easy to break if they are painted tight.  There might also be joints at the boots, but I didn't want to try to force it.

Accessories - Barbossa ****; Jack, Pirate ***1/2
Barbossa has the upper hand here, with the largest number and coolest set of accessories.

The Dead Pirate has his sword, hat, flintlock pistol, and clear stand.  The stand fits inside a hole on his lower back, and is somewhat adjustable.  It works quite well, and is a nice addition.

The flintlock looks great, but I had a small problem with the cutlass.  Someone at the factory put the hand guard on the wrong side of the sword, but I'm going to try to remove it without breaking it and reversing it.  Hopefully I got the weird exception, and this wasn't a regular error.

Jack has his hat as well, along with the flask, sword and pistol.  He also has the compass on his belt, but unlike the 18" version, you can't open it.  I thought he'd also have a second hand just like the 18" version, but I didn't get one with mine.

That means Barbossa gets the home run.  He has his hat, with a large, billowy feather, cutlass, flintlock pistol, small knife, and Jack the monkey.

The knife fits nicely in his right hand, and Jack the monkey has a peg on his ass to connect to Barbossa's shoulder.  Unfortunately, this peg/hole combination just didn't work well for me, and I couldn't keep Jack sitting up there for any period of time.  Fortunately, he does sit okay on a flat surface even with the peg.

Value - **1/2
I'm assuming you're paying around $12 for these.  Pay more and take off another half star - pay less and add a half star.  At twelve bucks these are a fairly average value.  You won't feel bad about paying it, but you'll only be buying your favorite characters.

Overall - ***1/2
These are awfully close to four star figures, but each had slight issues holding it back.  If I could have gotten Jack the monkey to actually work on Barbossa's shoulder, he would have had four stars.  If the sculpt and paint on the light cloth hanging off Jack's belt had been a little more realistic, he would have gotten four stars.  And if the paint on the shirt and chest of the Skeleton Pirate were a little less similar, he would have hit fours stars as well.

If I had picked up Turner, I suspect he would have been in the three star range, with his poorer likeness pulling his score down below the others.

I'm extremely happy with these though, and my nits are pretty small.  If you're a fan of the film, I'm betting you'll overlook most of them and be happy as a pirate with his hands full of booty.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Be careful with the Dead Pirate's wrist joints - if they are painted tight, you'll want to take it easy breaking them free.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - Barbossa ****; Sparrow, Pirate ***1/2
Articulation - Dead Pirate ***1/2; Jack, Barbossa ***
Accessories - Barbossa ****; Jack, Pirate ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
There are several online options with site sponsors:

- Fireside Collectibles has the set of four figures for $44.50, along with a number of other collectibles based on the film.

- has the individual figures for the great price of $12.50 each, or the complete set of five (including both versions of Jack) for $61.50.

- Killer Toys has individual figures for $13, or the full set for $48.

- CornerStoreComics has the set of four for $49, or the individual figures for $13.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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