Predator 2 - Shadow Predator (2011 Exclusive)
Hot Toys

   "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 rings up another look at a great Hot Toys Predator - take it away, Jeff!

A big thank you, as always to Michael.

I’m not even going to try and remember how many Hot Toys Predators there have been so far, but suffice to say it’s a lot. And as with most things ‘Hot Toys’ what comes next is invariably better than what came before. Of course there are elements of older releases we sometimes hanker for (yep, I was one of the few hardcore who actually enjoyed the sweat invoking practice of building my ‘model kit’ Preds from scratch). And some folks even say they’d like the individually wired dreads resurrected…. though you can count me out on that one!

But whatever stage of Hot Toys Predators odyssey you enter in at, you can guarantee there will be elements kind of mixed and matched from all those earlier incarnations, be it a mandible here or a shin guard there. They’ve kind of created the ultimate ‘Frankenpredator’ kit, whereby they can create virtually all new monsters from parts on the shelf. Of course this practice is most evident in the ongoing series of the Lost Tribe.

Over the last few years we have now had three of the mythical clan (only briefly glimpsed in the closing scenes of Predator 2) as Toy Fair exclusives.

First we had the Lost Predator - then the Guardian Predator - and here we are now with what Hot Toys have christened the ‘Shadow Predator’ (though I warn you now there are other ‘geek’ names that he goes by like Snake for example).

Most of the Lost Tribe (and I use that term as a collective) have been loosely based on the actual ‘hero’ Predator from the first and second movies and the Elder from Predator 2. This is following the lead of Stan Winston studios that when designing the Tribe based the clan members on parts from the original suits and masks created for these characters.

And with the recent release of the various ‘super’ Predators from the latest movie, we know also have an all new body design for Hot Toys to play with, giving this guy quite the new buff physique.

Packaging - ***1/2
Like the other Predators so far, the various packaging has been as diverse as the contents within. But the three Lost Tribe Predators have followed a very similar pattern.

So here we have the classic old school metallic, full colour printed sleeve with pics of the figure on front and back. This fits over an acetate fronted window box. Within this the figure and accessories are all sandwiched between layers of vac-formed plastic to keep everything safe and sound. No twisties are used, so everything is as collector friendly as it can be.

Sculpting - ****
I know the hardcore Pred-heads can give just about any release a hard time, but unless you are the kind of person who sits poring over countless freeze framed images (OK, I am sometimes) you will find that the actual Predator this is based on in the movie is incredibly hard to get good images of, but just for your delectation, check this out and you’ll see what I mean. This is meant to be the dude on the right, so it gives Hot Toys more than a little license to get creative with the poor reference available.

I really shouldn’t have to go into the minutiae of how good the various bits are here. If you are up to speed you will know!

The head seems to be for the most part a re-use of the Classic Predator reviewed here with mandibles more like those of the Elder here (even though he came before the swap-over roaring mandibles were introduced), and the head is then fitted to what appears to be the first outing for the new ‘Classic Predator’ style body as seen in the spec for that figure here. It has taken the blue-print of the new super Pred body and re-sculpted it to fit the old school physique. Joseph Tsang has shown his worth time and time again, and the fact that this figure brings together various pieces of his work onto one kick ass Predator definitely gets my thumbs up.

And for those of you that feel upset I took for granted you would already know how good the component parts were I’m sorry, but let me elaborate insomuch as to say, its all good… I mean, just look at the pictures!

Paint - ****
Predators seem to come in every colour of the rainbow, but this guy is mostly autumnal shades of brown and taupe. And I guess the fact that the other moniker this particular Pred is known by is Snake, should give you an inkling as to the kind of paternation he has on his head.

So we get the usual top to toe paint app giving this guy his specific colour scheme, and all the work on the body looks nicely applied and executed. It is however the finely observed details on his noggin that stands out the most in the application. The base colour is a taupe/beige tone and over this are deep reddish brown details, then a third black tone is used to add definition to the division lines, it is also used to accentuate his quills and spots. His beady eyes are picked out as two sinister looking yellow rings and then lastly the interior of his mouth is given fleshy pink gums and ivory teeth and tusks.

Arguably there is nothing here that Hot Toys haven’t delivered many times before. However under the watchful guidance of Joseph Tsang who is on paint duties here as well (its nice to see JC get some time off), we still get a factory applied application that is pretty special, and I personally find hard to fault.

Articulation ***1/2
This has a very similar body design in terms of ‘engineering’ to the ones used on both the Berserker and Falconer (and indeed the Tracker, but I haven’t reviewed him yet), so you get the best of both worlds, an old school Predator on a new style body.

So, what can you expect, well firstly the nature of the design on the new bodies means they are much stiffer to pose. So when you first get him out of the box I’d advise spending a good bit of time just gently manipulating and bending the joints. This will have the double bonus of freeing up any stiff connections and also getting you familiar with its range motion.

Once you are happy with its flexibility you will find the elbows and knees can achieve a 90-degree bend, there are swivelling ball jointed shoulders and hips, a waist that can swivel and tilt, peg jointed wrists and a neck joint with a rather excellent range of motion. So not quite up there with the old style bodies that were basically Predatorised True-Types. However they still exhibit an amazing range of naturalistic poses.  And unlike the figures from ‘Predators’ this guy is not wearing boots that cover his ankles, meaning we get some more useful articulation there as well.

Outfit - ***1/4
Once again we have a Predator that adheres to the rule of less is more. We know they like a hot climate, and we know they like to run around a lot, so I guess it makes sense to strip down to your Predkini when you plan to get your wild-thang on for some impromptu man-hunting (and no, that is not a gay bar euphemism).

So we get some re-use and some original elements, first off the torso and legs are covered in his ‘chameleon’ invisibility mesh… or fishnet body stocking depending on your terminology. I’ve always liked this aspect of Pred attire, and found it sorely lacking on the new super Preds chosen wardrobe. Over this he wears his various ‘armour’ panels. This consists of a pair of shin guards and kneepads borrowed from the hero Pred in Predator 2 (but without the net-caster). Then he wears a kind of trunks/loincloth combo. The front panel that hangs down from these is a new design and the rear has a leather flap to cover his ‘modesty’, but all the other aspects, like the side thigh panels and discus holder are again cribbed from the earlier Preadator 2 figure, as indeed are the armoured shoulder guards. Now that’s where the ‘borrowed’ elements kind of end, but to be fair that’s like 80% of his outfit anyway.
This guy has no solid chest armour; instead he has a faux fur panel over his left pectoral muscle that sweeps up over his shoulder. This is actually glued to the figure, so if you don’t like it… tough! He also has fur strips glued to his belt and sculpted ‘leather’ lace-up gauntlets strapped to his lower arms.

This kind of makes him look more feral and less ‘techy’ than his brethren, and he even lacks the armoured ‘computer’ and bladed gauntlets and the shoulder mounted plasma canon that are often considered part of the trademark Predator look. Another thing lacking (much like on the Lost Predator) is the bio-mask. Of course this is screen accurate as in that fleeting scene at the end of the movie both these characters were indeed maskless.

So that’s it, and yes there is a lot of re-use, but after having read and looked at the pictures in the Stan Winston studios book ‘The Winston Effect’ (highly recommended) it would seem that that’s the way the Lost Tribe were constructed anyway, so no problems from me on that score. My only slight misgiving is the fact that the fur panel is actually glued directly to the figure. If it had been a removable garment I think he might have scraped much closer to a full score.

But whichever way you consider it, he looks bloody great when standing next to the rest of the tribe, and lets face it, that’s what its all about.

Accessories - ***
Again we get a lot of the goodies from the old Preds, so expect the same cool telescopic spear and his signature blade-discuss-frisbee-shuriken (whatever its called) thing that the Predator 2 had and also the machete that came with the Elder Predator. That’s pretty much it in terms of weaponry, and even though we’ve seen it all before its still top-notch stuff. The spear alone is worthy of special mention, as it has a killer ultra-detailed sculpt and is double telescopic at both ends. Meaning it opens from a length of 6” when closed to an impressive 13 “ when fully extended.

The other item that is now part of the ‘Lost Tribe’ tradition is another specimen for the trophy cabinet. With the Battle damaged Predator 2 we got the classic Xenomorph skull, and each subsequent tribal member has come packing another one of the skulls of the ferocious quarry displayed in the macabre cabinet on the Predators ship. This new one has lots of great detail on the pitted bone texturing, the top half looks like an over sized simian skull with a large trauma ‘blast’ wound on the rear left hand side, while the jaw is extended with four horny tusks protruding from it. You can see some great reference of this particular one here.

We also get the extra mandibles so we can have him roaring, they swap over easily and when pushed in firmly the division line is virtually invisible.

Lastly there is the figure stand, it’s the classic black oval design with the ‘Toblerone’ nameplate, it’s nice, it does its job, and it’ll stay in the box!

So, we’ve seen most of it before, but it’s still perfect for the subject matter, and within the ethos of the character it’s just about perfect!

However, the fact we get no mask does detract a little (yes, I know he never wore one… but a little creative license might have been nice). So we end up with what feels a little like a Pred-lite.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Although pretty heavy and robust, I wouldn’t want to see this in the hands of a kid. I think the basic figure could actually put up with quite a bit of punishment, but his accessories (especially the spear) would only last seconds in the wrong small hands.

However, if you are a serious Predator collector, and lets face it you’d have to be if you’re splashing more than a couple of Benjamin’s on an action figure, then this is another very cool addition to your ranks. Of course in real terms he is no more than an extra in the movie, seen more briefly than most of the aliens in the Star Wars cantina. But as any fan of Star Wars will tell you, its not the screen time, it’s the impact!

Value for money - ***
This is always the bone of contention when it comes to exclusives. By their very nature they always end up expensive. Over on the Sideshow site this is strangely still available to pre-order for the RRP of $224.99 (at the time of writing 23/09/11). Well, I say strangely, but $225 is a whole bunch of wonga whichever way you look at it!

In the past most Predator figures, let alone ‘exclusives’ have sold out within days, sometimes hours. But I guess the present economic climate coupled with a release schedule (that is ever more prolific) has forced people to make difficult decisions. However, I still have a strong feeling that this wont be hanging around for too long. But it’s still a sign of the times that it’s hanging around at all!

I guess if this had been around the $170 to $180 mark this might have sold out a lot quicker, and also scored another full star. But as it is, this does feel like a figure that’s a full $50 over priced… and $50 is a big deal these days.

However, as an aside, the only one of the sites sponsors I could find this with was Big Bad Toy Store, and they have sold out at jaw-dropping price of $324.00… and with eBay prices standing at between $330 to $450 at the moment, perhaps the retail price (still available with Sideshow) is actually far more appealing. I guess its up to you!

Overall- ***1/2
Once again it is purely the price that robs this figure of the full score!

I personally think the re-use of the Joseph Tsang sculpt is totally justified and the paint app is strong enough to make this end up looking like a reasonably unique figure when viewed next to the rest of the tribe. 

So, in a nutshell, if you’ve liked the Hot Toys Predators so far you’ll find little here not to like here. However, it is still…. as I hinted to earlier, basically a re-formed Frankenpredator. Apart from a few pieces of strategically placed faux fur, an alien skull and a snazzy new paint job this is all off the shelf stuff. I can respect and still enthuse about that… can you?   

Where to buy
Sideshow still has him available for pre-order at the (what increasingly looks like a bargain) price of $224.99. 

As I said above, the sites sponsor Big Bad Toy Store have already sold out, which just leaves that dark realm of poison and shattered dreams that is eBay, where buy it now prices are between $330 to $450. The hunt is on!

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This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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