I've seen three of the four BIG summer movies released so far - Spider-man 3 (worst of the three, but still not Hulk bad), Shrek 3 (worst of the 3), and POTC AWE. I have yet to see FF4: ROTS, and I'm in no huge hurry. My appetite is wet for Ratatouille right now, and that's the next summer flick I'll be catching, followed by Transformers, Harry Potter and the Simpsons all in short order.

POTC AWE was better than I expected. Oh, it wasn't eye popping, but I thought it was the best of the summer films so far, and a worthy addition to the trilogy. It was a tad goofy in places, and easily a half hour too long, but it was still good fun.

One of the new characters in the film is Sao Feng, pirate captain from the Far East, played by Chow Yun Fat. I've already reviewed the 12" Zizzle version of the character, but that was pre-movie. Now post movie, I have the NECA 7" scale version of the guy, and can better judge how well they've matched the on screen counterpart.

I found him at an FYE (during my search for the Family Guy exclusive Father's Day Peter Griffen, which I couldn't find. Thankfully, a good friend found one for me.), and I've also seen him at some Hot Topic stores. I paid $15 at FYE, and I believe he's $16 at Hot Topic. He's the only 'new' character in this assortment, with another Pintel, Ragetti and Jack rounding out the series.

Packaging - **1/2
The clamshells do what clamshells do - protect the figure extremely well, and show it off pretty darn good too. The insert is attractive, but you won't see much difference between this and the previous inserts, except for the change of the movie name and series number. The name sticker for the character is a little less appealing as well, looking a bit more plain and larger than the previous series/movie.

Of course, my favorite part is how FYE likes to stick their massive, oversized price sticker dead center over the figures face so you can't actually see if you're getting a decent paint job or not.  Thanks guys.

Sculpting - ***
Interesting, at least to me, is that this is the same sculpt score I gave the 12" Zizzle version of this character. In fact, I think the Zizzle version is the more accurate sculpt, but there is greater overall detail here that manages to bring the two in line.

Chow does have a rounder face as this character than he usually has. I don't know if the guy is just aging that way, or they puffed out his cheeks and jaw a bit for the character. But the NECA version is a tad too round, and he looks a bit like a gum drop when you look at him straight on.

Turn the head slightly, and it isn't nearly as bad. Some of the details are a little too harshly cut, like the smile lines between his mouth and sides of his nose, and there's something weird going on with the lips. In fact, the more I look at the head sculpt, the more I prefer Zizzle's. Unfortunately, Zizzle's paint job turned him into a zombie, but that's a whole different issue.

The body sculpt is pretty good however. I like the cool detail work on the outfit, especially in the funky collar and belt. Like most NECA products, this guy is more statue than action figure, but they've picked a visually interesting pose at least, and the articulation that's provided works quite well with the sculpt. He even stands on his own, at just under 7 1/2". He seems a tad overscale to me, but it's a minor nit.

Paint - **1/2
Paint has been the bane of NECA for awhile now, and the POTC figures haven't been immune. However, they have tended to be a better quality than some of the other lines.

There's a bit too much wash on Sao's face, dirtying him up a bit more than I think looks right. Yes, pirates tend to be a dirty sweaty bunch, but this is too dark and heavy. There's also some more of that weird slop with the lips that hurts the overall look of the beard and moustache.

The eyes are good though, as is the tampo tattoo on the side of his head. The body sports that brand of specialty market paint work made popular by Mcfarlane, where you throw a lot of colors at it with lots of feathering and bleed, and yet somehow it ends up looking realistic instead of sloppy. They've pulled it off okay, although not at the standard of the aforementioned Mcfarlane when they're doing their best work.

There's a little slop around the collar though, where the red and silver details really should have some definition and clean cuts. None of this is a major issue, and the paint work here is certainly better than some of what I've gotten with the Harry Potter line, but it's still relatively average for this price point and this market.  It's really the overuse of the wash that hurts the score for me, particularly in the face.  Manage to find one that's a little less abused, and you'll probably be happier than I.

Articulation - ***
If you're looking for oodles, you won't find it here. However, there's a couple key well done joints that boost this score.

First, there's that all important ball jointed neck. This is how they all should be. It tilts side to side, turns, and goes forward and back easily and with a great range. And it does it all while looking good.

The arms are where the articulation lacks. There's a ball jointed shoulder on the right arm, along with cut wrists on both arms. The left arm also has a pin joint at the left elbow, which means that the lower half of the arm can point out or down or some place in between the two extremes. That's actually pretty handy, but the solid upper left arm does mean it will always be behind him in this mid-battle pose.  And while I like the pin joint, had it also been a peg inserted into the upper arm, it would have been able to turn as well.  That would have really improved things!

The only leg articulation is the cut ankles, which allow the figure to stand without the base. If that was it for the articulation, even with the cool neck joint, he'd be at least another half star lower here, maybe even a full star. But there's another surprise joint that helps quite a bit with a number of poses - the ball jointed waist.

The joint is hidden by the large waist band of the outfit, but this joint not only turns, it tilts and leans too! It holds positions well, and really adds to the fighting stance pose possibilities.

This score is higher than I'd normally give a figure with these same number of points of articulation. But this time it's not about the sheer number, but the quality and usefulness of the joints that are here. Considering the sculpted pose and how static it could have been, the number of different AND good poses I was able to get this guy into was pretty surprising, and I'm not the master poser that some of you are. Once this guy is freed from his plastic prison, I think you'll appreciate the thought that went into the articulation.

Accessories - **1/2
There are three accessories - his sword, sheath and 'bath house base'. The base has a single peg that attaches to his left foot. He doesn't need the base to stand though, which is always a very good thing, especially with a sculpted pose that's dynamic. I'm assuming this base will line up with the other bases in the series since the other characters were all there as well, but this one is pretty plain in comparison to some of the past dioramas. Perhaps Ragetti's and Pintel's are more interesting, but there's not much here with Sao.  EDIT - turns out all the bases from this set appear to be repaints of past bases.

The sword fits nicely in his right hand, and the pommel pops off pretty easily to allow it to fit through the sculpted fist. Be careful that you don't lose it, as it does come off easier than usual, and is mighty tiny. The sword is well painted, although it does seem a bit under scaled.

The sword fits nicely in the sheath, but there's no place to put it once it's there. There is a small rubber loop on his left hip, but the scabbard is much to big to fit in this loop on my figure. I think that was the intention, but they got the size off in translating from design to production. I find it interesting that the photos of the product on the package leave the scabbard out as well. I took a shot with it in the picture, and decided not to use that one - I'll be tossing the scabbard in a box and forgetting about it. EDIT - I did hear from some intelligent readers who have slide the sword into the loop, and then slid the sheath on the other side.  It looks a little weird, but it does work!

The short pike in his left hand (I know that tool has a specific name, but I can't remember it right now - readers?) is NOT an accessory, as it is part of his permanent sculpt.

And if they were looking for something else to add, he could have certainly used his red scarf hanging off the ring of his left hand.

Fun Factor - **1/2
While the license has all the characteristics of fun (pirates, weapons, conflict), the lack of articulation hurts the ability for kids to do a whole lot with these guys. If you're looking for action figures based on the film that kids can enjoy, stick with the Zizzle stuff, or check out the Disney series. I picked up a Tia from the Disney series that I'll be reviewing sometime quite soon, but suffice to say that the articulation and play factor for those figures is a bit higher.

Value -**
The market isn't going to be able to sustain companies doing $15 - $20 figures, especially with three quarters of the line up is rehashed characters. These are $12 - $13 figures based on the issues around specialty market, but pushing them up another three or four bucks is going to further erode sales. Right now NECA has a ton of Pirates and Potter figures at just about any Hot Topic you go to, and it's solid product for the most part. But it's not going to move large quantities (or even moderate quantities) through the retailers they have. Unless they can get one of the big boys to pick this stuff up - and prove to them that there's actually a mass market for it - I see trouble a brewin'.

Things to Watch Out For - 
I wouldn't try forcing that scabbard into the rubber loop on his belt. There's no way mine was going to fit without damaging it, so I just figured the scabbard was going in the box o' accessories. Besides, he needs the sword in his right hand to look good with the sculpted pose anyway.

Overall - * **
With only one new character in this series, it was a pretty cheap deal for me. Still, $15 or more is too much for the market to bear, and I'm worried that the glut of DMC series 3 and now AWE series 1 at retailers doesn't hurt AWE series 3, where we should get both Tia and Jack's dad, Teague.

I wavered around a bit on this overall, and he almost lost another half star.  But after I messed with him awhile, and took some time to really look him over, I decided a B was about right.

Even with some likeness and paint issues, Feng will fit in nicely with the rest of the display. Of course I wish he'd been a home run, but if you're a fan of the movies and have been collecting the NECA line, he will fit in well with the entire set. I was particularly pleased with the design of the articulation, since I had expected him to be much more restricted in posing because of the sculpted pose.

Score Recap:
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt -  ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - **1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
You can find these guys at some Hot Topic and FYE stores, but online is your most straight forward approach:

- Toys and Cool Stuff have a good price at $15.50 CD for Sao, but they only have four in stock so he won't last long.

- CornerStoreComics has the set of four for $46, and that's the only way to get the Sao.

- Amazing Toyz only sells Sao in a set of 2 with Jack for $25, or in the full set of four for $46.

Related Links -
Other Pirate reviews:

- not too long ago, I reviewed the series 2 figures from NECA, and the Clanker from the newest series.

- then there's the 12" Sao Feng and Jack Sparrow from Zizzle, and had a guest review of the Will Turner.

- I reviewed the new cursed boxed set of Jack and Barbossa.

- there's a guest review of Elizabeth Swann and my review of the second cursed Pirate, as well as my review of Pintel at Movie Poop Shoot, and Regatti here.

- NECA did a full first series, including Barossa, Turner, Sparrow and a dead Pirate.

- they also did a terrific 18" version of Sparrow.

- Zizzle's line of 3 3/4" has gotten a review of some of the figures, along with a guest review of the Isla Cruces set, and the Pirate Fleet vehicles.

- Disney released some figures based on the actual park attraction, and not the film.

- Disney also has their own set of POTC figures out now at their stores, including Jack and Davy of course.

- Mezco recently released some very cool Pirate Mez-itz, not based on any license, but cool nonetheless.

- and if you like your pirates a little more 'real', there's always Blackbeard from Sideshow.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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