Hot Toys Alien

"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."

Jeff Parker is back tonight with a great review of the latest Alien from Hot Toys - tell us all about it, Jeff!

A big thank you as always to Michael for letting me, let you good people know my thoughts on the latest 1/6 treasures to hit our wallets. 

Now I’m a big fan of the Aliens design, I’ve never tried to hide that fact. It has a biomechanical, uneasy beauty that up until the first movie’s release had never been seen outside of H.R.Giger’s paintings and sketchbooks. It was big, black, slimy, vicious, sexual and all importantly only occasionally glimpsed making it all the more alluring and threatening. 

Ridley Scott was the only director of any of the Aliens franchised movies to actually work hands-on and closely with Giger, each successive director after him chose for their own (or 20th Century Fox’s) reasons not to use him as directly as Scott. 

The reasoning behind the successive movies seeming to want to distance themselves from Giger has never been fully explained, but I would imagine it was partly that Giger’s images are often disturbing, unsettling and overtly sexual in their nature, just check out some of his sketches here - and this doesn’t always sit well with a lot of people. Whilst Giger is undoubtedly an artist he’s also a perfectionist, a brilliant technician and though open to his brief changing and evolving, he ultimately wants his designs, his visions to be as closely translated into the costumes and props as they can be. And ultimately most directors want an art department that does exactly what they tell them to (Jar-Jar  Binks…anyone… anyone?).

David Fincher hired Giger early on in production of Alien 3, but due to restrictions put on the artist and the fact that a creature design and special effects department had been given free range to ‘adapt’ his designs, that relationship soon soured.

Between the original and this happening, James Cameron picked up the reins for the first sequel Aliens to be released in 1986. He had no involvement from Giger at all, he explains his reasons for this in a letter to the artists representative here.
It has also been said that because Aliens was a far more action-orientated movie based more on terror rather than horror, the creature needed some revisions to allow the stunt actors wearing the costumes a far greater range of movement. And the removal of the shiny domed head was, it was said, to cut down on the amount of fingerprints and smears the stuntmen would encounter during filming and also the fragile nature of a semi-opaque material would be too fragile to stand up to the rigours of heavy-duty stunts and combat. 

However, in ‘The Winston Effect’, a book cataloguing all the motion pictures, the special effects and monster creator Stan Winston has worked on, there is a direct quote saying that Cameron fully intended to go down the ‘smooth head’ route originally, but after seeing the amazing sculpting Tom Woodruff had done on the new head, and the fantastic paint job that had been applied (fully intending it to go under an opaque cowl), Cameron decided it was too cool to be hidden and said these were to be “another generation of the Aliens- slightly mutated” and all that detail work was to be fully on show. The body of the beast also underwent some ‘evolution’ the biomechanical nature of Gigers original was toned down to try and fuse the mechanical and organic into a more cohesive beast. And although we are all fooled into believing there are literally hundreds of aliens loose in the colony, the budget only stretched to 12 full adult warrior outfits to be constructed, but they are used to full effect.

There’s no denying that apart from a few tweaks here and there, Cameron’s Aliens were still incredibly close to Giger’s vision, and still followed the same horrendous life cycle set up by him: -
1. Egg
2. Facehugger
3. Embryo
3. Chestburster
4. Adult drone/warrior

The biggie Cameron threw into the mix, and the thing he deserves most credit for, was the introduction of a queen, designed by himself and the legendary Stan Winston. Showing us a whole new area of the Xenomorphs complex hive mentality.
But back to the matter in hand, Hot Toys have already given us the amazing AvP Alien a figure, which I gave a well deserved, full four stars back in November of last year (2006). I was so impressed I went on to get both the Blister (grid) and Sideshow (brown) exclusives. Now HT have revisited the creature with Cameron’s re-designed ‘Aliens’ Alien. 
Can it live up to the standards laid down by his predecessor? I have to admit, part of me almost hoped it wouldn’t be as good, if only for the fact I could use the title ‘Aliens…this time it’s poor!’ 
But alas it is far from poor, in fact it's… well, lets get the lowdown!

Packaging - ****
It has to be said, Hot Toys owe a debt of gratitude to Stan Winston, without his outstanding work on the Terminator, Predator and Aliens franchises the Movie Masterpiece Series (MMS) wouldn’t be anywhere near as extensive or interesting as it is. 

Anyone who’s got any of the MMS line, especially the AvP Alien sited above, will know what to expect. A reflective sleeve slips over a flap-fronted box. All panels are covered in a wealth of photos of the product; drawing your attention to his many design features. Inside he’s laid in exactly the same position as the previous Alien, so is still in a semi-kit form. But it’s a cakewalk to put together. 
Simply snap on one arm and leg, push in one foot and hand, stick his various appendages into his back and voila a few short minutes later you have your battle-ready Alien warrior. 

I’ve found with most MMS figures as long as you take care and are firm but gentle they’re all pretty easy to take apart again for re-storage. In fact the only one I couldn’t face ‘deconstructing’ was Hicks, as with all the male USMC figures (bar drake with his ‘muscle’ torso) you have to construct the actual base figure from scratch.

Sculpting - ****
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this head design is my least favourite from the movies, but I know for a fact a lot of people disagree with me, and to them this is THE Alien! 
That, however, hasn’t impacted on HT’s ability to reproduce it accurately as a scale model. In fact this version of the bug has without a doubt the most detailed head of the lot, it’s cockroach-like chitinous ridges and sinews make it a perfect subject matter for a skilled sculptor, and dare I say it Joseph Tsang has done an even better job on this than on the first one.

To keep costs down some manufacturers might have been tempted to re-use elements from the previous figure. In fact, looking at the two Aoshima Alien figures I have on my desk of the original and Aliens version, apart from the head and hands they are identical. 

But true to Hot Toys mentality, which seems to be ‘reproduce exactly what is seen on screen’ they have gone away, studied the subject matter through archive photos, models, props and costumes and made another little work of art. All the elements of this figure are completely new sculpts.

The detailing on the exoskeletal rib cage and shoulders is even deeper in its tooling and where this all seamlessly blends up through the neck to its head and jaws is astounding. Not only in its fantastic detail but also in the very clever use of materials. The soft silicone skin feels great and moves fantastically when you turn tilt and pose it, and it buts up brilliantly to the rigid top part of the head. Like the first model this figure also has the working inner jaws, and because this version of the beast was slightly more mechanical looking in its biomechanical nature than the AvP version the sculpting reflects this. You can see some great pics of the figure by toy photographer extraordinaire ‘Edwint’ over on Medi World in this link; you’ll also find some links there to even more of his fantastic photos. 

Paint - ***3/4
To some the paint job may seem a little extreme, but if you look at the source material (two invaluable reference supplies are the wealth of extras on the special edition Aliens DVD and ‘The Winston Effect’ book I cited earlier). 

Hot Toys paint shop have reproduced faithfully the colours and paternation from props and screen-worn costumes. It was decided to over-emphasise certain aspects of the Aliens physiology in the paint/make-up application because all the scenes involving the creature would be dark with extreme lighting. This, coupled with clever filming techniques and choreography, all added to the ‘Alien-ness’ of its biology and movements.

Painting onto rubber and silicone is always going to be tricky. But HT have pulled it off. All the surfaces seem pretty stable. No problems at all with the hard plastic, that being the arms, legs and upper head. Even the paint on the silicone covering the body seems pretty hardwearing. The only slight area for concern is where paint is used on the rubber hands, feet and tail, don’t worry however, it doesn’t come off, as I just experimented by scrapping one of the hands with my fingernails. It’s stuck fast, but it is a little tacky to the touch. But apart from that one minor gripe it’s faultless.

Articulation - ***3/4
They’ve managed to improve on his AvP brother on the whole. The elbows and knees now bend further than before, the shoulders have a slightly better range of rotation and reach, wrists and ankles now swivel and tilt better and the spine and neck are just as impressive as before. The only area he’s not quite as agile as the AvP is his hips. You still get a great range of movement in rotation but they don’t open away from the body as far. This is all movie accurate though as actors portrayed the bugs in Aliens, where as puppets and CGI were used much more in AvP, meaning the beasties could get into positions no actor in a suit ever could. So I give him a ¼ star more than his predecessor but there’s not much in it. Not far from perfect, but not quite there.

Accessories - ****
Well, an Alien is an Alien, what would he need apart from other Aliens. But you get an alternate set of rigid hands, which is a bonus, as you didn’t get any with the first. I prefer these to the bendy ones as the pose is more dramatic and the spare hands are rigid plastic so the paint isn’t tacky. I suppose a face-hugger or egg might’ve been nice, but I think we might see one of those with an exclusive further down the line. 

I’m guessing a battle-damaged ‘exclusive’ would make the most sense, as they get pretty beat up and squished by the marines in the movie.

Note; the 1/6 Alien eggs used in a few photos do not come with the figure. They can be purchase separately and are in effect the case/container the HT small Aliens snap-kits come in.

Fun Factor - ****
Whoa Nelly, this is one cool and very tactile figure. The articulation has improved since the last one but the paint apps mean a little more care might be needed, especially for those more ‘extreme’ poses. But on the whole this is a robust figure that could stand up to a fair amount of play… if you know any kids that get $120 plus figures to ‘play’ with.
But for us big kids… sorry I mean serious collectors, it’s a bona fide gem!

Value -  ***1/2
The RRP on this seems to be around $130. You’re getting a great highly articulated and engineered figure for that price, but it’s still a lot of money. I know they have to be imported, I know there are licences to be paid and I know they are made in limited numbers, but if they could retail for around $99 it’d be 4 stars.

Action Feature:
Like the last Alien in the range it has the opening jaw and extendable tongue, all very well engineered. 

Things to Watch Out For - 
The paint apps are much more detailed on this version and stand up to handling very well, but be aware and take care not to scratch or tear the skin. 

It’s also worth noting the tail isn’t as thick or substantial as the AvP figure, so make sure you’re happy he’s posed securely if you plan to leave for any period of time, as sadly he doesn’t come with a stand.

Overall - ****
I didn’t want to come over too sycophantic, but I love this figure, sure there are always going to be some areas you’d like improved (hip articulation), but at this time, at this price-point I think this, along with the first AvP version, are the best pose-able Aliens money can buy.
Now HT have ‘GOT TO’ do the original Giger ‘big chap’ and my money is still on them delivering an Alien queen at some point further down the line…come on Hot Toys… you know you want to… but more to the point, you know WE want you to! 
I’d also love to see the canine/bovine bug from Alien 3 and maybe the aquatic versions from Resurrection. And with the new AvP movie due out later this year, maybe our friendly neighbourhood xenomorphs will have undergone another evolutionary leap.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpt -  ****
Paint -  ***3/4
Articulation - ***3/4
Accessories - ****
Fun Factor - ****
Value -   ***1/2
Overall - ****

Where to Buy -
All your usual Hot Toys suppliers should have it now or very soon. Plenty are floating around on ebay for around the $120 to $140 mark, and Sideshow have it on pre-order for $129 as do Forbidden Planet for £99.99 and the older AvP figure for £89.99. Other sponsor options:

- CornerStoreComics has the green Warrior for $110.50, and the brown for $116.50.

- Alter Ego Comics him on pre-order for $117 (brown version).

- Amazing Toyz has the brown at $117 as well.

Figure from the collection of Jeff Parker.

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