Sideshow Aliens
Ripley, Drake and Hudson


"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Brant is back with another great guest review, this time covering the latest three Sideshow offerings for the Aliens license - take it away, Brant!

I’m telling ya there's something moving and it ain't us!!!

Famous Last Words. Aliens. What more can be said. One of those rarities in Hollywood where a sequel to a film not only breaks new ground, but actually does so without tanking the entire franchise (they waited for Alien 3 for that shark to jump). Alien, the first one, was a horror movie set in space, a slow, tension-building exercise in fear. Like a nightmare where you know something is chasing you, and know deep down inside sooner or later, its gonna get ya. “In space, no one can hear you scream”. In 1979 the only Aliens we were used to seeing on screen were guys with antennae sticking out of their heads, the freaks from the Star Wars Cantina scene, or floating globs of vaporous gas, which Captain Kirk would then attempt copulation with. But this film changed that, and gave us an Alien that nobody wanted to dry-hump. No SETI for You!

7 years later, in the middle of the 1980’s “Sequel Mania” days, Fox decided to cash in on their Alien franchise. But unlike so many sequels, and I mean so many sequels, this one not only went off in a new direction, but it did so WITHOUT SUCKING! This up and coming guy named James Cameron was given the reigns, and about 18 million dollars (a lot of cash for a Sci-Fi sequel in 1985). This movie had a tagline of “THIS TIME ITS WAR”, and was more like the kind of nightmare you have after a night drinking tequila out of the navel of someone you hope was a chick in Tijuana. Confusion, gunfire, screaming…and you aren’t even asleep yet!

Instead of the slow, tension-building exercise in fear with one Alien stalking a crew on a ship, we got a non-stop fear-induced adrenaline rush. We went from Horror Novel to Horror Fun House, and the most amazing thing was that it actually worked. It was a completely different film from Alien, but it still maintained the same core features: Terrifying E.T.’s, lots of scares, only this time with about a billion rounds of ammunition added to the mix and some super cool spaceships and gadgets. Drop Ship? Cool. Sulaco? Cool. Power Loader? Frickin Awesome.

Its worth noting that had this film been made today, it would star pretty people all aged 18, the soundtrack would be promoted more than the movie, and they’d vanquish the aliens with kung-fu and rap competitions. Thankfully, this sequel was not made today. 

Hot Toys has now released their second wave of Aliens figures. These are released under their Movie Masterpiece lines, which attempts to give us ultra-high detail 1/6 scale “models” of pop-culture movie licenses from the 80’s and early 90’s. The first Aliens release was groundbreaking. A few years ago, if you wanted 1/6 scale Aliens stuff, like Colonial Marines, you either chose Hasbro’s offering (which for $20 bucks wasn’t bad at all, but was still a toy and not accurate by any stretch of the imagination), or you went to one of the small-batch customizers who could release to you a pretty-accurate set of resin-cast parts, which you then had to paint, weather, and detail on your own. And it would probably cost you at least $200+ when you were done. Head sculpts? You were on your own. Uniforms? On your own. So when Hot Toys first announced these figures, and started selling them at $99 each (give or take $20), collectors went nuts. In this second release we are finally given ELLEN RIPLEY (played by Sigourney Weaver), private HUDSON (as portrayed by Bill Paxton), and private DRAKE (portrayed by Mark Rolston), the other “smart-gunner” character from the landing party. I’ll be covering all three today in this condensed (yet expansive!) review. 

Packaging - ****
Hot Toys knows how to make a box. They get five stars. Not only is the box, sturdy, heavy, durable, but it’s also eye-poppingly pretty. You get an almost-impossible-to-photograph outer sleeve that resembles a sort of metallic-etched product, almost like a hologram. Remove that outer sleeve and you are greeted with a flat-black layout, with a blurb about the character and more artwork (this time without the metallic-sheen of the outer slipcover). Open the flap and you get more shots of the figure, with a very cool cutout showing the specific areas of the tray where a weapon or armor is highlighted. Nobody makes a box as nice as Hot Toys, nobody. The saddest part is that I destroy all my boxes, and only when it comes to Hot Toys do die a little inside each time I shred one into bits before tossing it in my trash. <cry>

Inside the box you’ll get not two, not three, but FOUR layers of plastic tray packing. Now, this is awesome for durability, but does present one annoying problem: The trays are large, and when stacked are QUITE solid, and frankly…they’re a pain in the butt to throw away! There is a lot of cardboard and plastic here, and while the trays do an exceptional job of keeping the bits protected and on display, there is a lot of landfill material here. I’m no “greener” than the next guy, which is to say hardly at all, but all this plastic and cardboard does make me wonder what percentage of the figure price is going into covering this elaborate packaging.

But hot damn its ‘purty. These boxes are just made for display. In my case, they’re also made for the trash, but I digress…I’ve been collecting toys a looong time now, and like storing your boogers under your desk at school, storing empty boxes is something I had to break the habit of.

Sculpting - Weapons: ****, Bodies: ***1/2, Head Sculpts – Drake, Ripley: **1/2, Hudson: *
Ok, here is where we have to break things down just a bit. Lets get the equipment out of the way. They took the movie props, hit them with a shrink-ray, and this is what we get. No joke, Asian guys with tiny cutting instruments must have worked long and hard to get these things so unbelievably detailed. Museum Quality all the way. Every rivet, every surface detail, everything is expertly sculpted. I doubt you could make a ‘better’ 1/6 scale version of any of this stuff without having the end result look “overly done”. That’s the equipment and weapons in a nutshell, so close to perfect you’ll never care to buy an upgraded version.

The bodies get 4 stars because they aren’t perfect, but they are awfully close. Sure, they’re 1/6 with the standard set of joints, but Hot Toys always takes it up a notch. Drake, for one, has a huge muscular torso and arms covered in that rubber skin that their earlier Viet Nam era Navy Seal has (Reviewed here at MWCToys by me last year), that looks absolutely fantastic when posed…and, it holds its pose because its not wire-armature (ie: bendy) underneath, its locking joints. Even Ellen Ripley’s torso is covered with flesh, with an articulated torso underneath. Only her torso has smooth flesh, a navel, and SQUISHY BOOBIES! No joke, they gave her boobs and nipples made out of that rubberized flesh. Why? Well, remember….this is an Asian product, and those cats just can’t resist shipping every female figure with big old hooters and an optional French Maid outfit. But seriously kids, its so that way you can recreate Ripley from the end of the film when she goes off to hunt for Newt in nothing but her pants, T-Shirt, Web Gear and weaponry. PS: I’ve hunted for screen caps of Sigourney Weaver from Aliens to show this off, and while I’ve found some, it seems this figure gives her far more…ahem..Endowment than she was sporting in real life when she made that film. Again, horny Asian Sculptors.
But now, past the navel..past the squishy boobies..we move up to: The Heads. And here’s where it starts to fall apart. Simply put, if Hot Toys nails the sculpt, they ruin it with terrible paint ops. If Hot Toys blow the sculpt, they make it worse with terrible paint ops! Of the three, Ripley probably fairs the best. Her sculpt does look like Sigourney Weaver…sorta. But more like the older, less fit Weaver like, say, from Ghostbusters II, not the younger Sigourney Weaver from Aliens, when she was rail thin and tone. Of course, then they painted that sculpt..and now she looks more like cartoon hooker version of Sigourney Weaver :P Also, her sculpt is very calm, not serious, not the determined Ripley we remember from the movie. In other words, it’s the best of the lot, but only a repaint by a talented customizer can save it.
Drake fares ok in the sculpt department, but horrible paint ops ruin him too. Drake’s hair is brown, when it should be light, light blonde. Drake’s skin tone is suntanned, in the film he’s as pale as a World of Warcraft Nerd after a weekend spent questing in his basement. His head sculpt has long sideburns painted on, and a moustache. What the hell, Hot Toys!?! The character has no such sideburns and no such lip-o-piller in the movie!

Otherwise the eyes, nose and jaw all look great…but his expression makes him look more like the King of Queens than the king of alien ass kicking. Seriously, tell me that isn’t a Kevin James sculpt we’re looking at. They should have shipped him with a UPS label. Still… does kinda sorta look like Drake, probably with a good repaint it could really look like him. But…, he’s a gem compared to Hudson.

Hudson, Hudson, Hudson. Hudson Sucks. Nose, wrong (really wrong). Hair, wrong. Eyes and Eyebrows? Wrong. Lips? Sorta ok..but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the rest of this head belongs to someone else. Bill Paxton? Not even squinting with Vaseline in your eyes. Not even remotely close. Not even….did I mention it sucks?

Finally, Hot Toys needs to learn to sculpt the proper hairdo. The females (Vasquez and Ripley) have at least reasonable approximations of their hair from the film, but every other guy has long, flowing hair….all these guys in the film had high-and-tight crew cuts!!!! The helmets help hide some of the problem, but not all of us want to display with the helmets on. Again, this hair makes them look all kinds of wrong. These marines would be beaten with ashtrays if they sported those ‘do’s going into a firefight. 

Paint - Accessories: **** Heads: * (Ptooey!)
See the above sculpting blurb on why the paint ops on the heads are just hopelessly bad. The skin tones are all wrong, the eyebrow and hair paint is layered-on like you’d expect from HASBRO in 1995, the 5’oclock shadows that adorn the figures are also horribly done and look really artificial. Think “airbrush with a super-tight focus”, not soft and blending like it should be. Bad, bad, bad, bad bad bad.

But the Accessories and weapons? Very Good! The right colors, detailing and weathering, very nice. I would think my only gripe is that they use exclusively flat paints. Its obvious that some metal objects in the movie should have a metallic sheen to them, but with HT everything is painted in flat colors. There are a few items here that would benefit from a semi-gloss spray. Otherwise, they are nicely detailed, weathered and so on. If you want you can go nuts with a little silver dry-brushing to add to the metallic effect, but otherwise these are good to go right from the box.

Articulation - Ripley: ***1/2, Hudson: ***1/2, Drake:**
These guys all have standard variations on your normal 1/6 scale articulated figure, meaning they can get into more poses than you could ever hope to with your couch-potato body!

Ripley and Drake each lose points because they each have a varying degree of articulation loss because of the rubberized coating to simulate flesh on their Torsos (Ripley), or their Torso and Arms (Drake). Still, you wont miss it…’ll put Drake into his pose with the smart-gun and he’ll never leave that pose ever. So they’ve basically given him articulation you’ll never use! 

Real value-added stuff happening here…..lets just hope that over time that rubberized flesh doesn’t start to deteriorate or dry out. Drake is more severely limited in his motions, not so much in his arms, but forget about his torso, there’s just too much of that rubber flesh there to make that work.

Outfit - ***1/2
The outfits, in a word, are fantastic. Museum-Quality? I think so. The tailoring and sizing is spot-on, the pockets all look great, the weight of the materials is fantastic so it looks scale, and not like giant, oversized “doll clothes”. Sure you can improve, real true 1/6 scale zippers, or 1/6 scale buttons..I’m not a big fan of 1/6 scale laces on boots however, so I like my realism to stop at a certain point. But it’s hard, HARD to pick nits. Maybe one nit to pick would be that Ripley doesn’t come with the BDU/leather jacket that she wears over her 2 piece flight suit in the movie….for most of the film she wears what appears to be a short-cropped leather jacket, and that is conspicuously missing..but it’s the only nit to pick. I haven’t seen the film in some time so I can’t remember when she gets the jacket, but I think she gives it away to Newt at some point.

Drake comes with his armored vest, it even comes with a distinctive soft marine-issue cap (though it looks more army than marine!), and his appears to have…trinkets and baubles attached to it. I recall he wears the cap backwards in the film, and maybe he’s got key chains and bead-bracelets dangling off it? Could be, anyhow that’s what we get here….so its either a very cool thing that HT added, or its another of HT’s “creative licenses” at work, like their painted-on sideburns and moustaches. Ripley’s distinctive teal (my greens aren’t the greatest so this might be more light blue than teal….DAMN THESE EYES!) flight-suit and unique shoes are expertly done. And of course Hudson is decked out in standard marine rifleman garb with camo fatigues and a helmet and molded and weathered combat boots. Top notch tailoring all the way.

Accessories - ***1/2
If you aren’t getting hyper-accurate head sculpts for your $100 bucks, what ARE you getting? Hows about tons of the highest-quality mass-produced gear you can lay your hands on! Absolutely fantastic! Worth every penny. If you got these guys domestically for less than $100 each, it’s an even extra bargain. They come with just oodles of crap to outfit them with. Armor pieces that go everywhere, snaps, buckles, bags o’ grenades, weapons, clips, pistols, satchel bags…it just goes on and on! All the armor is customized with the right “graffiti” for the character, too. Hudson has his skull-and-dagger detail from the front of his chest armor in the film, even Ellen Ripley has the “pulse rifle/flamethrower” combination weapon done right. 

Not ONLY did they secure the weapons together with scale black “gaffers tape” like she did in the movie, but they EVEN included the tiny little Motion Tracker (to home in on Newt’s wrist tracker) and taped it to the top of the pulse rifle, just like in the Movie. No shit, Hot Toys needs to be hugged for paying attention to little details like this. Giggling French Maids for all!

Rather than break down all the gear, the marines come with what they are supposed to, and Ripley does too. There is a ton of gear with each figure and nobody is left wanting when you get them all kitted up. The pistols, bandoliers, grenades, ammo packs and of course the gigantic smart-gun apparatus for Drake (if you missed out on Vasquez it’s a truly impressive piece of equipment, moves in all the right places, etc). Last but not least, every one of HT’s Movie Masterpiece figures (sans ED-209, that is) has come with a stand-up display that includes the name of the character, which is very cool indeed. This way your dopey friends wont come up to your shelf and go “ooh, that’s the girl from…uhhh.. Terminator, right?” Imbeciles.

Just a couple of things to note: Hudson does differ from Hicks with a couple of equipment pieces, notably he has black padded-gloved hands, and his helmet comes with a camouflage cover, unlike the painted covers of Hicks and Apone. Also their webbing is configured a little bit differently, with Hudson having grenades along one side of his vest and a combat knife down the other side.

Fun Factor - **1/2
I tend to always rate my 1/6 figures the same way. 3 stars because they’re really “just fer lookin’ at” on your shelf. Nothing changes here, in fact with even more thin wire stuff and the chances of getting replacement parts almost non-existent, you might want to think about buying some of those $20.00 figure cases for these guys if you have little-ones in the house, or big dopey stupid friends who can’t keep they’re ham-fisted meat hooks off your prime shelf schwag! But toys? Not in your wildest dreams. Fun? Oh yeah… look at.

Value - ***
I give four stars because I bought them from Sideshow for less than $100 each. But even if you paid $120 or so on ebay, you’re still sitting pretty with high-quality display pieces that few will ever even knew existed until they see them on your shelves. Because they come with so much gear, they are easily worth the money. I will say however that the more of these high-end collectibles you buy, the easier it becomes to justify dropping hundreds on something as stupid as Action Figures. I mean, you can’t eat em and you can’t run your car on them. Still, if you’ve got the scratch, they’re all sorts of good for the $$$.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Be careful of the straps as they attach to things like slings and armor pieces. The leg armor needs to fit tightly against the legs to strap them on, and there are lots of very fine details (like slings on the weapons) that are one strong wind away from snapping, so be careful during assembly! Also, these figures require some simple assembly…ie: shove arm into arm socket. Done. Just make sure you don’t force anything and take your time, and you’ll be good to go.

Most Importantly, when fitting the flashlight pieces onto the rear of the armor plate, BE VERY CAREFUL! It’s very, very easy to snap the little tab that secures them off. I recall this being a problem on the earlier releases too, and its no better here. If you snap that tab off (the flashlight is removable with a handle), you’ll be breaking out the Superglue and permanently affixed to that armor until the end of time.

Drake is the biggest PITA of the bunch to get kitted up. His SteadyCam..err..I mean his Smart-Gun harness will fall apart in your fingers if you jingle it around too much. Mine fell apart and I spent about 30 minutes trying to get things to snap into each other again, replacing little Velcro pads here and there, putting the armor plate back on the front, etc. So tread lightly.

BE EXTRA CAREFUL with the Smart Gun assembly on DRAKE. The "stabilizer handle" that is attached to the gun assembly forward of the breech (ie: The handle at the front for his left hand) is secured to the actual assembly by a pin that is approximately the thickness of a human hair :P

I breathed hard on this part and it proceeded to break apart in my hands. Nothing the old Super Glue Gel wont fix, but its still an ANNOYANCE. Make sure you aren't putting any stress on that forward support handle for the smart gun, its about as fragile as Britney Spears' psyche these days.

Overall - ***1/2
What can I say, these things…minus the paint ops on the faces and perhaps some sniglets of questionable sculpting, are fantastic. If it says Hot Toys and Movie Masterpiece, you know its going to look like something you’d have paid $500+ for just a handful of years ago from some customizer molding his own resin parts. They are truly wonderful. 

This also represents the last of the big-name characters from the film. I can’t imagine them making a Paul Reiser figure (Carter Burke, that weasel)…nor do I see them making a Lt. Gorman or Ferro or Spunkmeyer or Crowe or Dietrich or any of the other clowns who buy it in the first 30 seconds of that firefight. I’d have liked a Bishop, but he’d come with zero gear (maybe a bag of spilled android guts!? Just add Milk!) and he’d still cost $100. So while I could very easily be wrong, I don’t see a lot of reason to shell out $100+ each for more of the guys we already own. As it is Hicks and Hudson are nearly identical, and Hudsons head sculpt doesn’t even remotely resemble Bill Paxton….so you do kind of get screwed there.

I suppose the fact that the alien Power Loader has now been announced we may be seeing the end of the Aliens line from HT, but the run has been SOLID and frankly we have very little to complain about. If you can spare the dinero, these are some must-buy collectibles.

MY FINAL SCORE: THREE AND A HALF STARS for being so blindingly awesome, so “No WAY will they EVER make ALIENS figures!” and then…they DO it! Since this is probably the last group we’ll see in the ALIENS line, since the other characters are just too obscure or will be re-hashes of what’s already out there, this is a fine second release. Too bad the head sculpts and face paint ops are what they are, I don’t even think a repaint can save Hudson. But with his helmet on….if you squint..and you’re drunk…maybe…

Packaging - ****
Sculpt - Weapons: ****, Bodies: ***1/2, Head Sculpts – Drake, Ripley: **1/2, Hudson: *
Paint - Accessories: **** Heads: * (Ptooey!)
Articulation - Ripley: ***1/2, Hudson: ***1/2, Drake:**
Outfit - ***1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - ***
Overall - ***1/2

Figure from the collection of Brant Rusch.

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