Matrix wave 2
Real World Neo, Niobe

For us in the states, it's more likely that we've seen the movie than the toys, but our lucky friends across the pond have been seeing the Matrix series 2 figures on the pegs for a little while.  Yik jumps in with a great guest review of two of them tonight...

“Everything that has a beginning has an end”

The start of McFarlane’s The Matrix line of ‘collectables’ began in March 2003 to coincide with the eagerly anticipated ‘The Matrix Reloaded’, the second instalment to the Wachowski Bro’s epic trilogy. With N2’s hopeless attempt at action figures back in 1999, Todd McFarlane Productions didn’t disappoint although some may argue that the likenesses of a few were lacking while the absence of useful articulation simply made these plastic statues. 7 or so months have passed and the final movie ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ has just started as I write this. With this movie comes the second series to The Matrix figures. Will this series decide whether it truly is the end for TMP’s successful line?

Reviewed are Real World Neo based on scenes from The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions and Niobe based on The Matrix Reloaded costume design.

SPOILER WARNING! - if you haven't seen the film, the Real World Neo has a big spoiler!  Stop reading if you want to know nothing!

Packaging - ***
Since the end of 1999/start of 2000, McFarlane have shifted their packaging from card-back blisters to clamshell. Everyone knows it. Everyone’s seen it. Its no big surprise and I don’t think I need to describe it in elaborate detail. If you bought first series, you’ll notice no change to the front of the inserts to the second series, so MOC collectors can simply place these next to series I on the wall. The background for these figures have the classic ‘Matrix code’ while the front and side clearly state the figure in question and the scene (if any particular) as well as the particular movie the figure is based on. The back has all new graphics, showcasing all six regular figures of the new series as well as sneak-peek pictures of the two elaborate box sets. The thing I like about clamshells is the sturdiness of them. Most of the time you won’t find these completely bent out of shape so MOC collectors don’t have check every figure to find one in mint condition.

Sculpting - RWNeo - ***1/2 Niobe - ***
Capturing likenesses shouldn’t be a problem for TMP. With their successful Movie Maniacs line, they’ve managed to obtain the reputation of best sculptors and I agree with those who gave them it. The images to series II were only released less then a week before I found them on pegs. Judging by the final pictures, I decided I would miss Real World Neo as I thought it didn’t appeal. Fortunately, I judged the figure too soon. The sculpt is almost perfect. Unlike the two Neos previously released, the likeness definitely shows that it’s a figure of Keanu Reeves, which shows that McFarlane definitely haven’t lost their touch (I hope it never does). Everything about the standard head sculpt is done so well, including the expression of clarity as he discovers what he can do. His sculpted pose is based on the final scene of The Matrix Reloaded where he stops a few Sentinels from killing him and the rest of Morpheus’ crew. The body is well shaped with immense detail on the clothes, with a large rip on the left while the undershirt is visible over his thin sweater. One thing I noticed about the figure is the lack of a plug or slight sign of one behind his head. I’m not sure if its visible in Reloaded but I would have thought we’d be able to see it. The only criticism I have to give is the scale of the figure. When next to Morpheus or Niobe, he seems a tad too tall. I’m not sure if this is affected as he is a part piece to the Sentinel boxset or not.

Niobe is also a great sculpt although the likeness isn’t as excellent as RWNeo’s. Dressed in her main costume of Reloaded, a leather skin suit, she’s posed with two pistols, ready to do some damage. The suit is sculpted with incredible detail, resembling a snake skin, with high heal shoes to match. Although I haven’t played ‘Enter the Matrix’ and am unsure where the pose is from, it works. As mentioned before, I can’t seem to see Jada Pinkett-Smith as well as I see Reeves with RWNeo. I’m unsure if it’s the sculpt or the paint or both. However, with the sunglasses accessory applied, it improves the likeness. The thing I like about the head sculpt is the crazy hairstyle Niobe dons in the Matrix. Although I’m unsure how she thought up a residual self image like that, its sculpted identically to photos of Niobe and it looks very cool. 

Paint - RWNeo - **** Niobe - ***1/2
The standard that TMP have achieved is also applied within the painting. I have noticed no slop or bleeding which is always a good sign. The reason RWNeo scores higher is the added dusty and dirt feel applied to his sweater, trousers (pants) and boots which makes it lighter then the main parts of the clothes. Niobe, although technically staying true to the world of the Matrix, doesn’t have this feature but has more of a maroon wash for her snake skin suit. I really like the different tones of colour for the hair. However, I still believe the paint for the eyes detracts from the likeness a little. Overall, some excellent paint jobs.

Articulation - RWNeo - ** Niobe - **1/2
As these figures are based on scenes, its not surprising that pre-pose would come into play with a low articulation point count. RWNeo has 7 points while Niobe has 8. 

RWNeo’s points aren’t awfully useful. The main purpose of the figure is to show him with his hand extended as if stopping the Sentinels. The arm for that hand can’t be lowered down to his side while the swivel joints for his boots are used to position his feet onto the base pegs. Niobe’s points of articulation are slightly more useful. The swivel joints in her arm are mainly used to position her arms to get a good gun trotting pose. A torso swivel joint is also present to position the direction in which she’s firing, although its quite an ugly joint if positioned 90 degrees from the standard position, making it clearly visible.

Accessories - ***1/2
RWNeo comes with two alternative heads as well as his standard and a base with two removable tentacles. Both the alternative heads are done as well as the standard head in sculpt and in paint especially the bandaged one shown. The other head I have not shown or mentioned much about as it’s quite a spoiler for those who have yet to see Revolutions but its pretty well done if not brutal. The base is also nicely detailed with a square mesh floor pattern.

Niobe is given a 3 part building base as well as her trademark sunglasses and 2 identical pistols. Although the base isn’t as detailed as the lobby scene bases from series I, its well sculpted with a fantastic paint job. The twin pistols are very small and are what you’d expect from in ‘The Matrix’ line. The guns have a slight warn metallic feel which matches the other accessories from this line.

Value - **1/2
The good thing about living in the UK is that most of the recent McFarlane Toys have reached us before the US. However, with that in mind, the price is the main downfall. This catergory is always hard for me to judge, living all the way in the UK with a different currency and different exchange rate. I paid £15.95 for RWNeo while I had to splash out £17.95 for Niobe due to her being short packed and the shop exploiting that knowledge. At £16, it seems a bit too much to be parting with. However, if you go online and manage to get these at £10.99-£12.99, add an extra star. If in the US, I’m sure when they hit Walmarts, Gamestops and TRUs, they should be $9.99-$11.99, which for such great looking figures, is excellent value.

Overall - ****
I’m a fan of ‘The Matrix’. Not the biggest fan, I couldn’t understand a word of what the Architect said to Neo. However, I do like these new figures a lot. The sculpting and paint jobs have vastly improved while McFarlane have kept the tradition of the line by providing large bases and some nice accessories. Although articulation is low, it would be expected if the standard of great sculpt is kept. To answer the question which I started off with, I hope that McFarlane attempt to continue releasing as many figures as the WB allow them to. Visa vie (did I use that correctly?), I hope that we’ll see pictures to series III in no time.

Where to Buy - 
UK – try Forbidden Planet International.
US – They should be popping up in typical places for McFarlane figures such as TRU, Walmart, Target, KB Toys and Gamestop in the next few weeks.

Figures from the collection of Yik Hai Chan.

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