Alien vs. Predator

Every year for the last five years, we've been treated to the terrific Movie Maniacs line from McFarlane Toys. This year was no exception, but due to the dock issues on the west coast, there were many delays. This year's deluxe set, the Alien vs. Predator, didn't start making it onto store shelves until December, well past the usual Halloween release.

Fans of the Alien series and fans of the Predator series of movies and comics have been clamoring for a big screen battle between the two for years. That may eventually come true, as the film has been in one stage or another for quite some time now. But until then, McToys has brought you the next best thing.

With this deluxe set you get both an Alien and Predator figure, done up McToys style, plus a nice display base with light up eggs and face huggers to spare. Retail runs from $20-$25 depending on where you find them.

Packaging - **1/2
Nothing to write home about, and that's due to it's rather generic nature.  Let's face it, just about any monsters could have been in this box.  It has some decent photos of the two ups, and it highlights the extras, but it doesn't show a lot of creative effort.

And no, it's not collector friendly, but I did like the softer twisty ties they used.  It was a hell of a lot easier to remove from the package than usual.

Sculpting - ****
The entire weight of this set rests on this category.  Both sculpts are excellent, with great attention to detail and design.  The Alien is the better of the two, but I suspect that's simply due to the design of the creature - he has more detail to begin with, so it allows for the sculptor to put more in.

The hand sculpts are great, allowing for a variety of menacing poses, and the facial expressions on both figures fit the diorama situation perfectly.  Here are figures that you can give open mouth, snarling facial expressions and they don't look constipated.

Paint - **1/2
It's a personal litany of mine - or is that dogma.  Whatever.  Great paint ops can elevate even an awful sculpt to something acceptable, and bad paint ops can gut the beauty of an excellent sculpt.

This set is a perfect example.  While the accuracy and quality of the application itself isn't bad - I had no real slop, bleed or color inconsistencies - the choices they made on design and style hurt the overall appearance.

The choice of the far too pink interior to the Predator mouth makes him look like he just popped a big old Bubblicious bubble.  Add to that the lack of paint detail in and around the mouth, and you take away the impact of one of the most visually stunning features of the monster.

Fortunately, you get all that detail on the head and around the eyes - but what's with the shiny top coat?  It appears to be only on the head, or certainly more prominent there, and both the shiny nature and the discrepancy between the head and body throw off the whole look.

While I'm picking on the Predator paint ops, I'll also mention that I found the air brush technique on the darker areas of his skin to obvious.  What I mean by that is it doesn't appear as though his skin is darker in a realistic way, but that someone ran an airbrush with brown paint over that area.

On to the Alien.  He's shiny, but here it's appropriate.  He was naturally a slimy fellow, and the shine is consistent across his whole body.

Actually, his overall paint ops are much better than the Predators, except for the silver on his jaws and teeth.  Mine are pretty sloppy, and look far too metallic.

Articulation - Predator ***, Alien ***1/2
Now here's an area that they did better than I had expected.  Although the Predator isn't quite as mobile as the Alien, they both have quite a bit of posing possibility.

The Predator has neck, ball jointed shoulders (although they range of motion is restricted by his armor), cut elbows, wrists, waist, hips and cut ankles.  He stands easily on his own without the base, and while the sculpt does restrict some positions, overall he's a fairly well articulated figure.

Oddly, the Alien is even better articulated, but can't stand on his own!  He has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders (again, with restricted movement due to the sculpt), cut biceps, cut elbows, cut wrists, cut hips, cut thighs, ball jointed waist, and ball jointed ankles.

All those joints mean you really can come up with a wide variety of poses, but you'll have to keep him on the base.  His foot sculpt doesn't allow for him to stand without it.

Accessories - ***1/2
Where's the human skull?  That's what I want to know!  Sure, there's a whole bunch of skulls around the predator's belt, but most of them look like squirrels and rabbits - jeez, where's the scary beasties he's killed?

I'm actually counting the base as the only major accessory, along with the three face huggers hidden in the eggs.  The little rubber huggers are nicely sculpted, with good paint ops, but don't show the underside to your Grandma.

The base is terrific, with excellent sculpting and a nice light up feature.  The light up feature works well, although you have to access it from the bottom of the set.  It would have been a little smarter and creative had they hidden the switch on top.

All three eggs also open (obviously, since you have to be able to get to the huggers) but the seam is relatively unobtrusive in the design.  There's really only one thing I'd alter about the base, and that is to make it out of sturdier plastic.  The softer, rubbery material they used makes it tough to move or carry it with both figures attached.

Additional Features - ***
There are three extra features on this set, two with the Predator and one for the Alien.  The Alien has a spring loaded inner mouth - push it back into his mouth, press a lever under his head, and the inner jaw springs out.  The Predator has his retractable blades on one arm, and his digital panel on his left arm that flips open.

I'm most disappointed with the one for the Alien, due to the reasons explained below in the quality section.  It's pretty tough to get it to work when it doesn't even come close to lining up.  But for this score, I'll just consider the design if all worked correctly.

Even there, it's a bit of an issue.  It's a neat idea, but didn't execute too well, since the trigger to activate it is hidden below the head, requiring the head to be tilted all the way forward just to reach it.

Both of the Predator features are neat, particularly the flip open panel.  I'll complain about the quality of the retractable blades in a minute, so instead let me mention here that they slide in and out extremely well, and look terrific as long as you're careful with them.

Quality - **1/2
Ah, the bane of McToys.  While their sculpting never ceases to amaze, their quality never seems to make the grade.

Here I ended up with two major issues.  First, the small retractable blades are EXTREMELY easy to break.  I damaged mine almost immediately, not realizing how fragile they were.  Be forewarned.

The second, and far greater issue, is with the spring loaded jaw of the Alien.  Mine is extremely off center, so far off center as to look ridiculous extended.  The inner jaw can't get past the upper teeth, so it renders the spring action useless.  This was tough to see from outside the packaging, as it's off left to right, not up and down, and so from a profile position doesn't look too bad.  But you can see from the straight on shots just how bad it really is.

A word to the wise - be extremely picky when selecting your set at the store, and try to check it out from all angles.

SPECIAL NOTE! A reader dropped me a note to say he had the same issue with his Alien, and fixed it this way - wrap a rubber band around the jaw and down around the left leg, pulling the jaw to that side.  After about an hour, he said it was back in place and working well.  Give it a try!

Value - ***
I paid $25 for this, and that's the price point I'm ranking him on.  If you pick them up at the $20 price point, you can add another half star.

Even at $25, it's a decent value considering the attention to detail in both sculpts, the nice base, and the extra features added in.

Overall - ***1/2
I was really looking forward to this set. The Alien and Predator films are some of my all time favorites, and the Movie Maniacs line one of my favorite McToys series. How could a combination of the two be anything short of spectacular?  I was expecting an oh my my, oh hell yes, mama put on that party dress reaction.

Instead, the set was *this close* to being a three star set, with only the sculpting really saving it. I think two things caused this drop.

First, the bar has been raised. If this set was released two years ago, or even last year, and it would have been four stars. But with companies like Palisades, Mezco and Art Asylum doing high quality work, and with Toybiz, NECA and others right behind them, McToys has far more competition at the top of the heap.

Second, McFarlane's quality issues really slammed this set for me. While there was only one real major quality problem, it is so obvious and detracts so seriously from the appearance of the Alien, that it damages the overall score more than usual.

Still, it's a very nice set, and looks terrific on the shelf. I wish it was the four star set I was expecting, but fortunately the great sculpting, articulation, and detailing overcomes most of the more serious issues.  If you're a fan of the films, and you're very picky about the set you take home, you won't be disappointed.

Where to Buy - 
I picked mine up locally at Media Play.  Tower Records is carrying these in their stores for only $20, but there aren't any Tower Records up here in my area any more.  On-line:

- Aisle Sniper has the set listed at $24.99 plus shipping, and they have them in stock.

- Entertainment Earth has them listed at $25.99 plus shipping, but oddly are still a pre-order.  You might want to call them first to see what's up. (MROTW Affiliate)

- Long time reader Brandon wrote to say he found these at Toybliss for $19.99 plus shipping.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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