NECA Harry Potter Series 2

When I was a younger man and Alan Rickman was a much younger man, I occasionally was told that he looked like me. Actually, since he was famous, rich and talented, and I was one degree of separation from nobody, they said I looked like him, but I prefer to think of it the other way around. Since this happened more than once, and these people were complete strangers, I assumed there was at least a passing resemblance, although I never saw it.

But I mention that because it caused me to pay more attention to his career than I otherwise might have, and it turns out that he's one Hell of an actor along with being a damn fine looking man. I guess the resemblance is stronger than I thought.

Snape has been a critical character throughout the Harry Potter series, and I suspect (as does most of the free world) that his role in the final book will be hugely important to the overall seven book story arc. Therefore I'm thankful that someone as talented as Rickman was given the role, and for me, he defines it so well that when I'm reading the final book in a few weeks, it will be Rickman's version of Snape that I see in my mind's eye.

NECA had Snape scheduled for series 2 of their action figures based on Order of the Phoenix, but worked out a deal with Borders. They packed some special cases for them containing series 1 Voldemorts and Harrys, along with an early release of Snape. He'll still be released in the fall as part of series 2, but the only difference will be in the insert. This current version shows series 1 figures on the back, while the later version will showcase the series 2 figures.

You can pick this guy up at most Borders stores right now for $15, along with some other HP goodies that are exclusives. There's a three pack of the NECA 3 3/4" figures (Harry, Ron and Hermione), and an exclusive Bust Up as well.

Packaging - ***
He has identical packaging to the other series 1 figures, and even shows those figures on the back of the insert. The package shows him off well enough, and you know I'm a fan of clamshells. I like the painted appearance of the background graphics as well, which gives it that old world style.

Sculpting - ***
Hiding under a pale thick coat of paint is a great Snape sculpt, I just know it. The proportions are there, the detail is there, the expression is there. I suspect that if the paint was better, I'd be giving this figure a higher sculpt score than this.

But even if you agree with me on the head sculpt quality, you'll notice other issues. Both hands have a very soft sculpt, without much detail to the fingers. The body sculpt itself is fairly detailed, but is the selected pose is awkward. It's not that the pose of any one area is an issue but in combination - arms, legs, torso - the overall effect is quite awkward.

It doesn't help that the cloak is made from a very thick, heavy rubber. There's a LOT of cloak here. It's heavy, and certainly gets in the way of much posing. Because it's thick, it doesn't flow down onto the ground, but pushes up around the shoulders, making any poses with the arms down look odd. Nope, I'm not really feeling the cloak.

Now, it's removable, which is a good thing. But even though I found posing him without it to have more options, I'm not a big fan of how he appears without it. The flowing cloak is a defining feature for Snape, so in the end there's really only one defining pose you can use (the very first photo in the review), and that's about it.

He fits in scale-wise with the rest of the series, standing about 7 1/4" tall.

Paint - **1/2
I'm betting there's a much better Snape sculpt under that paint than we can see. The final paint work isn't as bad of course as the close ups might make it appear (small lines or imperfections are naturally magnified), but that zombie appearance, where the expression seems slack and without life, is still quite obvious in person. And while I know Snape isn't exactly a sun worshiper, the skin tone is too pale, making him look more vampire than wizard.

There's a little slop here, mostly around the eyes, and of course that's going to hurt the appearance some. There's also some inconsistency in color (why are his hands orange again, like Ron's? Is there something in the movie about a Cheeto fetish that I don't remember from the book?), but the skin doesn't have that nasty cheap plastic look. The clothing is a tad shiny, but they wisely gave the shoes a high gloss black finish, which offsets the appearance of the slight gloss in the clothes.

Articulation - **
At this point, the lack of articulation in the NECA series shouldn't be a surprise, but this time it's a bit more difficult to work with.

In my recent review of NECA's POTC Sao Feng, I noted how even with a limited number of joints, there was still quite a bit of posing that could be done. This was due to the smart design of the few joints that were there.

With Snape, it didn't work out quite as well. He has the ball jointed neck, but to make him look right in the thick, bulky robes, the neck has to be fairly elongated. That makes it look odd in many tilted poses, taking away some of the usefulness.

There's a cut joint on the right shoulder, and a basic ball joint on the left. Both wrists are cut joints, as is the left elbow, but the right elbow is a pin joint. Finally, there's a cut waist and cut ankles. These only have a very limited range of movement.

Obviously, all the posing is with the arms and head. The head is a bit restricted by the collar, and looks a bit odd being so long, but it pretty much works as expected.

While I see where they were trying to go with the arms, it didn't quite work out as well. Like Feng, they were trying to put in joints that would give the most arm poses with the least cost. By flipping the biceps around and twiddling with the elbows and wrists, you can get the arms in quite a few poses - but most of them looked a bit awkward. It was close, but no cigar.

Accessories - **1/2
There's either two or three accessories, depending on your point of view.

There's the includes base, which is nice for consistency but really isn't necessary. The figure stands fine on his own with our without the cloak over his shoulders, but the base provides a little extra security.

He has his wand as well, which (like the rest of the figures) is matched quite well to the actual Snape wand. Considering the scale, that's quite impressive. It did come out of the package warped (as you can see in the photos), but that's quite easy to correct with a little hot water bath followed quickly with a cold water bath.

His cloak is also removable, which is a plus. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not thrilled with the thickness and clunkiness of the cloak, so being able to remove it (and to some degree, reposition it) is a big help. The only downside is that we rarely see Snape without it, so having the figure that way looks a bit odd.

Fun Factor - **
These aren't really action figures designed to be 'fun', but rather to look good on the shelf. Oh, enterprising kids will still find ways to use the limited articulation and sculpted poses, but these are more for the tween and older set who are looking for a Harry Potter collectible that's a bit fun as well.

Value -**
At $15, I was surprised he was actually cheaper than some of the specialty stores have been selling series 1.  Still, he's a couple bucks above average value, especially considering the lack of accessories.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Spend some serious time comparing the Snapes that the store has, looking for the very best paint. I noticed quite a bit of difference between the three I saw at the same location, and picked the best of the bunch.

Overall - **1/2
Awkward was a word I used a lot in this review, and it's not one I usually use a lot.

There are several things that taken completely in a vacuum aren't all that bad, including the sculpt. But combined together, they ended up making a rather awkward looking figure that's difficult to pose even with added arm articulation. I wouldn't recommend you skip Snape, since he's such a crucial character, and will add to the display. But I am disappointed that he didn't turn out better, perhaps more on par with Sirius from the first series.

I do have to give some big props to whomever decided to give this new retailer option a try.  I don't know if NECA thought to go after Borders, or if the guys at Borders (and I know there's some collectors over at corporate) had the idea to go to them, but this is exactly what I said back when Mcfarlane did Lost figures.  The audience that might buy these aren't going to find them in the toy aisle at Wal-mart - they need to see them next to the books (or in the case of Lost, next to the DVD's at Best Buy and Circuit City) to buy them.

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

Where to Buy -
Right now, Borders is the place to go. But if you want to simply pre-order this guy and get him with the rest of Series 2, you have some other online options:

- Dark Figures has the full set available for pre-order (which includes Snape, Harry, Dumbledore and a couple Death Eaters) for $70.

Related Links -
Other Harry Potter collectibles include:

- there was the guest review of the Tonner dolls

- I also reviewed the first series of figures from NECA, along with the first series of OOTP.

- there's the other mini-busts, including Voldemort, Hagrid and Mad Eye Moody, Ron and Hermione, Snape and Dumbledore, Dobby and Dementor, and a guest review of Harry and Sirius.

- Gentle Giant also did a statue of the Hungarian Horntail, and the Riddle Grave.

- the Noble Collection has done some nifty wands.

- just case you forgot how bad some of Mattel's figures were, here's Extreme Quidditch Harry and Dueling Club Harry.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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