Hot Toys Terminator Salvation
John Connor

   "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."

I'm way behind on my Jeff Parker guest reviews, so I'm going to do what I can to catch up this week, starting tonight! Take it away, Jeff...

“This is John Connor… if you are listening, you are the resistance!”

John Connor (JC), hero of the resistance, arguably THE most important character in the whole of the Terminator franchise. Without him humanity would have crumbled and lost in its battle against the machines… at least, that’s what the machines believe.

But ironically it’s the machines that Skynet manufacture that have saved his life in three out of the four Terminator movies so far… surely they’d realise if they never developed the T-800 it couldn’t save him… Ahhh, the bittersweet quandaries you get into with Time travel movies.

So as the Terminator timeline becomes more convoluted with each movie, the continuity is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. The thing is, when dealing with time travel, and a legacy of stories that are loved by so many fans; something’s got to give.
I have to admit, part of me is in the JJ Abrams school of thought, he said when taking on Star Trek he wanted to honour what went before, while reinventing it for a new generation without getting bogged down in all the minutiae of Trekkie lore. And so, using that device so beloved of modern Sci-Fi writers he played the quantum physics card, and to a degree so has McG, as John says… “This is not the future my mother warned me about”.

Now before we go too far, let me say this doesn’t bother me in the least. As long as the story pans out, and I leave the theatre feeling like I’ve been entertained then it’s all good for me, and while T4 didn’t have me punching the air with enthusiasm, at least I didn’t hate it!

The movie put forward Marcus Wright as a much more interesting, complex and intriguing character, and indeed it focused far more on his journey. John Connor played second fiddle, but it was still a far bigger fiddle than originally intended within the story.

In early drafts John was only to appear in the last part of the movie, and it was even rumored he was to die, being resurrected by having his flesh wrapped around the Marcus Endo to live on as the symbol of the resistance ‘a la’ El Cid.

Now obviously this didn’t end up being the final conclusion (part of me thinks it would have been an interesting direction, but hey).

No, when Christian Bale came on board, originally cast as Marcus, he soon decided he wanted the part of Connor instead, and so a whole series of rewrites started to help flesh out the role, making him a more integral part of the story… after all, what’s a Terminator movie without a Connor at its core?

And so it is that Bale has now taken the mantle of resistance hero John Connor, and here we have the first of two versions Hot Toys have planned for us. The second version has him in his ‘final battle’ fatigues worn on his sortie into the heart of Skynet's manufacturing plant at the end of the movie. That figure also comes with a rather cool Hydrobot, so if that version has more accessories, is this version still worth getting… what do you think?

Packaging ****
I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast on this line of packaging. I liked the first one I received, the T-700 dio, and I still like it just as much now with my recent additions, Marcus and JC here.

If you’ve either received any of the other figures in this line, or read any of Michael’s or my reviews, (of which they have been numerous, c’mon keep up already), then you know what to expect here.

Once again it’s the gunmetal Styrofoam case with engraved/machined effect outer, this has a full colour narrow sleeve baring photos of the figure on the front and his accessories on the back. Inside he’s held secure by the unique formed space on the tray, with a clear plastic cover to keep everything in its place. The opposite tray is loaded with his weapons and many accessories.

So, if you liked the other boxes, it’s very much more of the same, if you didn’t… tough!

Sculpting- ****
I’ve already given my review of Goemon Ishikawa the first sculpt done for Hot Toys by the master sculptor Kojun, I was pretty knocked out by it, and gauging by some of the feedback I’ve had since that review went up, so were many of you. But Y˘suke Eguchi wasn’t a face that I was familiar with, where as Christian Bale very much is, and I’m still pleased to say I’m very happy.

Here John is captured with a stoic, determined expression, eye’s focussed straight ahead, It’s another amazing sculpt from Hot Toys (but looking at their ever growing stable of creative talent why should that surprise us). I’ve been looking at a number of pictures of Christian Bale and this is definitely him from any angle. I have to admit I’m also seeing a little Steven Dorf in the lower half of this face I think it’s the chin, but mostly those cheekbones… Kojun certainly seems to have a thing for giving his heroes cheekbones that you could cut diamonds with!

The work on the skin texturing, with the slightly prominent veins and lightly furrowed brow is beautifully observed, and the gentle work picking out the beard growth, combined with fine details on the close cropped hair are amongst the best I’ve seen.

So ultimately this is most definitely another home run from HT, you really will have to try hard to find fault with this sculpt, but if you search hard enough I’m sure you could find some. However, if you look upon this with a moderately critical eye, I still think you’ll be pretty bowled over!

Paint- ****+
Back in mid June Toy Hunters, the showcase store for Hot Toys goodies in Hong Kong got the first batch of John Connor’s in for retail, and straight away they realised something wasn’t right with the paint apps. They immediately recalled the entire batch, so if you were amongst the people who received one, you could contact their customer services for a replacement and have one despatched to you as soon as they were available. I have to admit, at the time I saw pics of the first head and couldn’t see any major problem; in fact it looked pretty damn good to me. I’d go so far as to say I was concerned that the new version might not live up to expectation after all the fuss.

But I needn’t have worried.

When the new head was released a couple of months later it proved to be a vast improvement, where as the first one looked too swarthy and the finish was waxy and plasticy, the new one had far more convincing flesh tones and the skin was more matte, making for a far more convincing and realistic final look. The irony is of course that those early heads will now be as rare as rocking horse poop, possibly making them even more valuable… well to completist collectors anyway. So ultimately I was pretty impressed with the fact HT decided to put their money where their mouth is on this one, and I’m even more pleased that they delivered!

When I reviewed JC Hong’s paint work on the Kojun sculpt for the Goemon Ishikawa figure I said it was perfect, well guess what, this is even better!

You really do need to hold this in your hand to fully appreciate the complexities and subtle variations in the tones used. As solid as Kojun’s work on this sculpt is, Hong’s paint direction manages to bring it even further to life. This is very far from just using a flat flesh tone with a little tonal airbrushing mechanically applied in a factory. No, this actually manages to look like a top class customiser has hand painted it for you. This achieves a level of realism that I think it’s fair to say, we haven’t seen before in mass produced 1/6th figures.

The work on the eyes lives up to the usual standard, with crisp division lines and masterful work is also carried out on the eyelashes, eyebrows and his other facial hair. Even the hair on his head has some secondary tones, working well with the underlying sculpt, raising this heads paint apps standard a whisker higher than Marcus’, well for me anyway.

Put simply, this is a fantastic paint job! We truly live in amazing times to be a collector of 1/6th figures (this may sound a little over dramatic, but I’ve been in this game for quite a long time, trust me). Hot Toys have achieved a level of quality on a 12” figure that even exceeds virtually all statues and PF’s by a wide country mile. You may take exception to this remark, but can anyone honestly hold up an example where a mass-produced paint app could better this.

It simply screams four stars at you, with a plus for extra merit!

Articulation ****
John Connor comes on the classic True Type that we all know and love. His layered outfit does offer some resistance to a few of the more extreme poses you might want to put him in, but with patience and persevere you’ll even get him into most of those. And for your more casual stances, even holding his M4A1 with combined XM-26 LSS you’ll find this figure is more than up to the task. The head here has a sculpted neck, so all the articulation is at the base of the joint, but combined with the tightly strapped up sheepskin collar of his jacket it all still manages to pose very naturally. His boots are also of the solid sculpted variety so the ankles take a slight hit here. However it’s still hard to truly find much to fault this figure on in terms of general pose-ability!

Outfit ****
This movie is set in a post apocalyptic future, yeah, that’s right… yet another! So, as organized as the resistance tries to be, it’s still basically a rag-tag group fighters, scavenging what they can to challenge the might of Skynet.

This means we don’t get the regimented military look of Cameron’s original ‘The Terminator’, instead Mc G and his costume design department went for a far earthier, and I have to say more ‘real world’ look for the wardrobe that Connor, and indeed everyone else sported in the movie.

John comes in-
Sheepskin leather jacket with armband and patch
Camo combat trousers
Tactical full body harness
Combat assault boots
Oakley styles fingerless pilot gloves

The boots and gloves are sculpted elements, but both show plenty of detail in their construction and painted finish. The trousers are a typical tiger stripe BDU design with hard patched knee protectors. I can’t tell you much about the T-shirt, I know it’s there, but I’m not gonna risk screwing up the way all these clothes lay at the moment just to get a look at it… I’m sure it’s nice.

The standout piece in this wardrobe is the jacket, as the details here are just exquisitely observed. I picked up a book the other day on discount, Terminator: Salvation, the movie companion. Not the kind of literature I usually favour, but knowing I had a number of T: S related reviews in the pipeline I figured it might prove handy, and indeed it has. There is a whole section on the costume design with multiple close ups of Connors outfit, and this is just a beautiful 1/6th copy of his whole ensemble, but especially this jacket. I’ll try and take a couple of shots next to the book, because this is just so well executed. All the differing panels in there slightly different shades have been brought together with just the right amount of emphasis on the seams and stitching, the buckles and zippers are also incredibly well sourced, working fantastically, even at this tiny scale.

He has the red sash of the resistance tied to his left arm, and just above it is an embroidered patch. On his lower right arm he wears the small tactical knife tethered to a panel that attaches on Velcro straps. And lastly there’s the full body harness, this has many of the pouches attached to it, they should all be positioned thus.

The four open bottomed M4 pouches run along the back belt with the radio pouch to the left of them, the other M4 pouches with the camo fabric bottom panels, attach to the lower part of his left hand harness on the front, whilst the two pistol magazine pouches are worn on the upper part of the left side webbing harness also on the front… confusing, maybe, but the pictures should paint the thousand words I’d need to try and make it clearer. 
Suffice to say when he’s fully kitted up he looks the business.

Accessories ****
This is another area where John shines, he is quite simply laden with goodies, when completely suited and booted up he has the look of a PMC or bounty hunter, and by that I mean a total bad ass, this guy is packing enough heat to blow you into the middle of the next millenium!

He comes with-
Radio pouch
Radio with headset
M4 magazines x 6
M4 magazine pouches x 6
Pistol magazines x 2
Pistol Magazine pouches x 2
Demolition blocks x 4
Drop leg panel
M4A1 with tactical red dot sight
XM-26 LSS (Light Shotgun System)  (under-slung on the M4A1)
Line launcher with opening grappling hook
Tactical knife
Arm sheath

Many of the accessories are duplicated numerous times like the magazines and explosive blocks, but all carry plenty of detail. The tiny ear-piece at the end of the wire running from the radio fits snugly into and around the ear, but when posing you may still find yourself having to tuck it back on every now and then. His most impressive piece is his M4A1 assault rifle with the under-slung XM-26; this thing is just dripping in fine details and articulated elements. The stock slides back, both the magazines can be removed showing tiny representations of their ammunition inside, the targeting scope can be removed and both it and the side mounted flashlight have small transparent plastic lenses, the XM-26’s muzzle can extend forward and the manual pull bolt on its side can lift to move back and forth on a spring loaded mechanism. Lastly it has an adjustable strap with three sliding buckles that can be positioned to carry the weapon in all of the accepted field positions, plus a few I’m sure you can invent for yourself!

His final item is the classic Hot Toys black figure base, but John can stand just fine in any number of positions completely unaided.

Fun factor- ****
The robust construction of the True-Type base body on this figure and his beautifully observed outfit are more than up to hours of fairly exuberant play, I should know I’ve been playing with him a lot… sorry, I mean photographing him in my garden. But sadly his accessories are not quite as robust as the rest of him! The fine details on his gun and other tiny fiddly elements like the radio head set, line launcher, wrist knife and drop holster make this pretty un-child friendly. Luckily I’m not a child (though my wife may choose to differ).
However we are talking about a $140 figure here, so as I always say, till I’m quite frankly blue in the freakin face… This might look like a toy… BUT… THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT FOR CHILDREN!

If little Timmy wants to play Terminator, point him in the direction of the Playmates figures, for $10 a pop (probably a whole lot less on discount now) he could build an entire frickin army for the price of this figure.

But if you are of a slightly more discerning nature, you feel the need to have the best depiction of Christian Bale currently available to humanity, and you want him perched on your shelf in the guise of John Connor standing along side your collection of Endoskeletons, then your quest is over, he’s virtually perfect!

Value for money- ****
Well the RRP might be $140, but with a little sleuthing (actually I did it for you just hit the link to Alter Ego on the home page) you’ll find him for as little as $125.99 saving you a whole $15 that you can put towards a hulking great T-600 to stand next to him. So basing my score on this price it makes it hard to resist this particular resistance fighter… I’m sorry.

Overall- ****
I got both John and Marcus at the same time, and it’s hard to stick a cigarette paper between them in terms of quality, but it’s fair to say that both deserve a full score!
Most of JC’s outfit is fabric so he poses well, Kojun and JC Hongs combined skills have given us just about the best portrait of Christian Bale there is and if you manage to score one for around $125 then how can this be anything but a full score figure?

I’ll be interested to see if the V2 Connor in his ‘final battle’ fatigues has exactly the same head sculpt used with added cuts and bruises, or if they will modify the expression a little, either way, that cool base and funky light-up Hydrobot make it hard to ignore.

Where to buy
Sideshow did have John for RRP of $139.99 but he’s been sold out for sometime, so you can either try the waitlist or hit one of Michael’s sponsors, where you stand to save up to $15 or maybe even lose $10… (If you’re in the US don’t even bother doing the math on the Forbidden Planet price, it’s too scary!). I’ll let you decide!

Alter Ego Comics   $125.99 pre-order 
Big Bad Toy Store $134.99 pre-order
Urban Collector $149.99 (ouch)

- or you can hit ebay looking for a deal.

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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