Category Archives: Film

NECA TMNT x Universal Monsters Michelangelo as The Mummy

Grrr….pizza….

As the toyline and cartoon series started to go long, Playmates Toys turned to other ideas to keep the good times rolling on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Long thought to just be some quick fad, the turtles outlived all expectations into the 90s spawning multiple films and video games and a cartoon series that would total nearly 200 episodes. Such longevity was basically unheard of for such a blatant kid’s property and I have to think some of it is due to the creativity of Playmates. There were lots of variants of the turtles starting with different costumes and the introduction of action features into the toyline. Playmates would double-down on wacky variants with some featuring action features, like the sports turtles, or different gimmicks all-together like the beach turtles that could spit water. Talking turtles, mutating turtles, boxing turtles – basically everything was on the table. And when that started to run dry, Playmates turned to another tool: the brand mash-up.

In 1993 Playmates introduced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Universal Monsters line. It featured Michelangelo as Frankenstein’s monster, Leonardo as The Wolfman, Donatello as Dracula, and Raphael as The Mummy. It was apparently successful enough that Playmates would come back with a second wave the following year. Playmates would also combine TMNT with Star Trek and make an effort to cross-brands with various properties at Lucasfilm including Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In later years, there were other mash-ups with the likes of Ghostbusters and WWE so there is apparently an appetite among TMNT fans to see their favorite heroes combined with various other brands. It’s become a recognizable aspect of the IP to the point that when NECA announced it had acquired the Universal Monsters license basically everyone and their mother started asking “So, are you going to do TMNT X Universal Monsters?”

Mummy ninja pose.

NECA initially responded to such questions in a non-committal fashion, but it’s now clear that was always on their mind because it didn’t take long for NECA to unveil Raphael as Frankenstein’s Monster. Other reveals, and releases, have followed and NECA’s approach to the famous combination has become clear. It should be noted, that when both NECA and Super7 were awarded a license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the two individuals most in-charge of the direction of the lines, NECA’s Randy Falk and Super7’s Brian Flynn, got together to get a sense of where each company was going with the line. When NECA said it wanted to do toys based on the cartoons and movies, Super7 was delighted because their aim was to basically re-create the vintage toyline. It could be that gentlemen’s agreement between the two that is the reason why we’re not seeing the same turtle and monster combinations in NECA’s line as Super7 also has a Universal Monsters license and might recreate those old toys. Or, it could simply be NECA’s desire to do their own thing that is driving the creative process with this line.

Mikey found someone to help him strengthen his impressions.

And that process is to take the designs and likenesses from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and combine those with the film depictions of the Universal Monsters. It’s a great idea on paper as it takes a realistic depiction of the turtles and combines them with a realistic depiction of the monsters. The past versions of these figures (and Playmates revisited it in the 2012 line) were all cartoon-based and the realistic visual fits NECA’s strong suit when it comes to their Ultimates line of figures. It also opens the door for a version of April to feature the likeness of actress Judith Hoag and if any other human characters are featured it’s assumed they too will feature an actor’s likeness. NECA also seems to have deliberately avoided the past turtle and monster pairings. For the first time Raph got to play Frankenstein, Leonardo is Ygor the Hunchback (a character previously unexplored by Playmates), Donatello will be the Invisible Man, and Michelangelo the Mummy. Splinter is also onboard to play Van Helsing, and April has the distinction of being the only repeat pairing as she is once again the Bride of Frankenstein. More figures are expected and it will be interesting to see if NECA doubles-down on the turtles and gives everyone a repeat release as a different monster. There are certainly plenty of unexplored monsters by NECA and plenty of opportunities for more figures.

Now I personally am not a big fan of the Universal Monsters. I never bought any of the Playmates figures, and I wasn’t sure with this new line. When NECA announced Raph, I did pre-order it immediately, but I would eventually cancel it. I didn’t have an obvious place for it in my collection and I was certainly helped by my favorite turtle, Leonardo, having an unappealing mash-up. I have seen all of the released figures so far in stores and I think they look fantastic for what they’re going for, it just wasn’t something I felt I needed. Until I came across Michelangelo.

There’s some nice sculpt work on the shell, though the turtle glyph on the right is unpainted and I have to assume it’s a factory error.

I already said I’m not much of a fan of Universal Monsters, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be The Wolfman. That was the only figure I was tempted by back in the 90s since it was my preferred monster with my favorite turtle, but ultimately I decided I could do without. I don’t know where I’d rank The Mummy amongst the other monsters, but definitely more towards the bottom than the top so it’s a bit of a surprise that this is the one figure that moved me to make a purchase. It’s also just a testament of how good it turned out. Taking the 90’s costume for Michelangelo and dirtying it up with a mummy aesthetic is surprisingly brilliant. This figure looks amazing.

For starters, the textures achieved by sculptor Tony Cipriano looks incredible. The many wraps that adorn Mikey look like they could be soft goods to the point that it’s almost jarring to actually handle the figure and feel that they’re made of plastic. The texture of the skin on Mikey’s head has this very dried out and weathered appearance. His lips are cracked, there’s creases in the forehead, and various warts mar the skin. The bandana has a dark wash over it making it appear dirty and old and he has one eye that’s closed, or possibly missing, and another looking off into nowhere. It’s important the face capture an unsettling expression since Michelangelo is typically the comic relief and least threatening of the four turtles. The shell of the figure has more of a wood look to it as it’s washed out. It’s also adorned with various carvings like a couple of turtles, a Foot logo, ninja stars, and what might be a reference to the ooze canister. What’s visible of the plastron on the front is very cracked and weathered, but it’s mostly covered in wraps. The belt has a nice leather look to it with a gold scarab on the buckle. It’s sculpted throughout with more glyphs and weathering and looks terrific. The elbow and knee pads from the film are present and look as good as ever. They look a little bigger and bulkier when compared with the movie releases, but it’s also possible these will be on the Secret of the Ooze figures to come.

How ’bout a kiss, cobra?

Michelangelo looks amazing. I can’t get over how well this figure came out. If this were a 60 dollar boutique release I think I would still be satisfied, but it’s a $36 or $37 figure from Target which is mind blowing. There’s really nothing for me to complain about when it comes to the sculpt and overall look for this figure. What nitpicks I can come up with are basically paint-related. There’s a spot at the top of the wrap on the right thigh where the beige paint bled over to the skin. There’s a little of that down by the knee of the same leg as well. In the hands or around the heel there are small spots where the paint for the wraps was missed, but it’s all in areas that are only noticeable when you’re looking for such things. Since there is a wash on basically every spot of this figure there may be some figures where that’s missed or too heavy. There’s one glyph on the shell that’s missing the wash, but from what I have seen around the web, this is an error on all of the figures. The wraps inside the shell don’t feature a wash, but they’re areas that really aren’t visible unless you’re holding the figure in-hand and really inspecting it. The small paint imperfections seem acceptable to me at this price-point. The only cause for concern I see is that this is a complex figure and paint job so it might suffer from inconsistencies from figure to figure, but that’s not something I can predict with any degree of certainty and it’s personally not something I would be concerned with. Plus, that’s what window boxes are for!

“Whoa dude, I’m going to have to recommend you don’t smile.”

The Mummy is basically known for one pose: a shuffling walk with arms outstretched. Because of that, it would have been reasonable to assume NECA would not prioritize the articulation on this guy, and while NECA definitely does indeed prioritize aesthetic, this figure still moves pretty well. The head is on a double-ball and has good range in basically all directions. The bandana knot just pegs into the head so you can rotate it if need be to help the figure look up. The default head is a little loose fitting on mine, but holds a pose. The neck is independently articulated as well, but mostly just helps the figure look down. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side just fine. The shell is going to get in the way a bit with rotation, but that’s nothing unfamiliar for TMNT fans. There’s no biceps swivel, and instead the figure has NECA’s double-jointed elbows with the hinge and swivel above and below the elbow. Because of the elbow pad, he can just barely bend the arms 90 degrees, but the swivel works fine. The hands swivel and hinge horizontally. At the waist, there is a twist, but it barely does anything. The hips are ball and socket joints and come out to the side for splits, but kick out and to the side when coming forward because of the plastron. The knees are double-jointed, but because of the knee pad, can’t quite hit 90 degrees. There is a swivel above the knee and the thigh also swivels, but just barely. At the ankle we have a hinge and rocker which works fine. It’s basically the same articulation as the movie figures, only with the double elbows. It’s not the thing the figure does best, but if you want your mummy in more “ninja” poses it’s certainly feasible.

You may think a mummy doesn’t need much in the way of accessories, but NECA apparently feels differently. For starters, Mikey comes with three sets of hands: “mummy” pose hands, gripping hands, and fists. The default, mummy, hands are basically posed how one would associate the mummy when it’s walking and reaching out towards a victim. They’re kind of curled and misshapen and since the thumb is under the fingers they can be considered loose, gripping, hands if you wish. As for what he has to hold, we have a set of nunchaku. Only now, the handles are gold-painted ankhs with brown tape around the handles. They have real chains, and there’s a gap on each side of the shell between the belt and shell they can be forced into if you like weapon storage. Mikey also has two pre-posed wraps that can be clipped onto a leg or arm for a little added effect. There’s a giant cobra which has a bendy wire through it that Mikey can hold, or have draped over his shoulders, or just have hanging around nearby. It’s in a hissing pose like it’s ready to strike.

The cobra makes me think of the Playmates figures and their “buddy characters” that can with so many figures.

Lastly, we have the best accessory: Mikey’s decaying, alternate, head. An image of a decaying Leonardo mask from the third TMNT movie has been floating around online for years, if not a decade. I believe it originated from an auction and it’s pretty damn hideous. Other images of decaying turtle costumes have followed, but that one is the most memorable and widely seen. Mikey’s alternate head is a clear homage to that one as the lips have been rotted away revealing two rows of big, flat, teeth. The flesh around the eyes has also receded leaving the face wide-eyed and a bit crazy looking. There are also chunks missing from other parts of the head and the bandana tails are a bit more wild looking. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to swap the knot between the heads, but as far as I can tell, they just peg into the head so it’s theoretically possible. The alternate head fits a little more snug than the default one and swapping them is pretty painless. It’s really hard to settle on one, though I feel like this alternate head captures a little bit of that Mikey humor inherent in the character and it might be the look I go with.

This figure actually presents a lot of display options. Classic Mummy pose? A Mikey nunchaku pose? Something with the snake? Default head or crazy, rotting, head? I’m planning on making Mikey a Halloween decoration that may live in his box (which I didn’t even talk about, but it’s beautiful) 10 months out of the year so it will be impossible to get all of these display options into one season. Maybe I’ll just need to find a place for him a little out of the way for the rest of the year. If you can’t tell, I love this figure and I absolutely recommend it. I don’t think it’s convinced me to buy the rest of the line, but if they hit clearance maybe I’ll reconsider. I think this guy displays just fine on his own, and if anything I’m more likely to invest in the accessory set for The Mummy than more TMNT x Universal Monsters figures.

Now the only thing left is to figure how to pose this guy on the shelf.

This figure was part of the Fall Geek Out event at Target. It was online as well, but I’m guessing that by the time this post goes live it will no longer be available there. This is the one and only Mummy Mike I saw in-store so it doesn’t look like he’s being shipped in the same vast quantities as the Leonardo figure from this line, but I could be wrong. If you missed the Target release, don’t fret. This figure is available to preorder in many of the usual places online and should be showing up in those same places eventually. Hopefully in time for Halloween.


Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that Dragon Ball Super has been the thing I’ve loved most that I never knew I wanted. I was done, or at least content, with Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball GT wasn’t good, but I didn’t need it so it wasn’t something that bothered me. Then Battle of Gods came out which ended up being the start of something new for Dragon Ball and here we are. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is the second Dragon Ball Super movie following 19 volumes of manga, 131 episodes of the anime, and the movie Dragon Ball Super: Broly. And really, the last two Dragon Ball Z films were basically Dragon Ball Super since they were adapted into the anime in a longer form. The original Dragon Ball anime will likely always be my favorite, but there’s something to be said for Super which is more self-aware and comes across as being very confident in how to depict these characters, some of whom have been around almost 40 years. It’s funny and willing to poke fun at itself without resorting to more meta humor or fourth wall breaking. And it’s still action-packed and contains all of the tropes of Dragon Ball Z that have somehow become more charming as the years go by, maybe because of the nostalgia. Probably because of the nostalgia.

Super Hero is written by series creator Akira Toriyama and it’s very much a film a designed to place the spotlight on the B-team. When Toriyama was writing and illustrating the Cell Saga for the manga, it was conceived as a passing of the torch, and even a finale, from Goku to Gohan. Obviously, that changed quickly as Toriyama was convinced to keep going and we got the Buu Saga which basically returned Goku to the top of the mountain while Gohan trended towards a more peaceful existence and characters like Piccolo, Krillin, etc. settled further and further into the background. When Super came around, it largely followed that with the only difference being Vegeta moved into an almost co-lead with Goku, but when the anime came to an end, Goku was firmly back at the top.

The Red Ribbon army is under new management.

Now, the anime ended a few years ago, but the manga has continued. We basically have two different canons going on now. While there was always some differences between the two, they were often subtle and inconsequential. Now we have Broly and this film while the manga has gone in a very different direction. This film even features a time-jump that I don’t think has taken place in the manga. I’d have to go back and look, but regardless, there will likely be debate on what is and is not canon and I think the simple answer is we simply have two timelines at this point until (if?) the anime comes back.

Needless to say, this one takes place after the events of Broly and Goku (Sean Schemmel), Vegeta (Christopher Sabat), and Broly (Johnny Yong Bosch) are now comrades. They train together on the planet belonging to Lord Beerus (Jason Douglas) and it’s implied that Broly still has a ways to go in order to get his temper under control. Elsewhere, Piccolo (Sabat) has taken to training Gohan’s daughter Pan (Jeannie Tirado) in martial arts, though the young girl is having some trouble learning to fly. Gohan (Kyle Hebert) has immersed himself in his work neglecting his training and even fatherhood, which it’s hard to say what irritates Piccolo more as he and wife Videl (Kara Edwards) have become more and more reliant on Piccolo as a babysitter of sorts.

Gamma 2 (left) and Gamma 1 are the latest in android technology.

Brewing in the background is the threat of danger. The Red Ribbon army has been re-assembled by its new leader, Magenta (Charles Martinet), who is dissatisfied with being a mere pharmaceuticals producer and longs to restart the androids program. In order to do so, he turns to the great grandson of Dr. Gero, Dr. Hedo (Zach Aguilar), a young prodigy in robotics who was recently incarcerated. Despite the fearsome origin, Hedo is a bit childish and enjoys cookies. He also doesn’t aspire to be a great villain like Magenta and would prefer to create stylish androids in the model of a super hero. Magenta is able to woo the young scientist to his side by claiming that the individuals who took down Cell years ago are aliens out to conquer Earth and Hedo is willing to go along with this since it means money for his research.

With Dr. Hedo onboard, the Red Ribbon army successfully restarts the androids program leading to the creation of the twins Gamma 1 (Aleks Le) and Gamma 2 (Zeno Robinson). It’s Gamma 2 that comes into contact with Piccolo, whom he confuses for King Piccolo (we get a running gag of people referring to Piccolo by one of his former aspects throughout), and picks a fight since he fancies himself a super hero. Gamma 2 makes the mistake of thinking Piccolo was defeated and inadvertently leads Piccolo to the Red Ribbon HQ where he makes a startling discovery. Unfortunately, Bulma (Monica Rial) is unable to get ahold of Goku and Vegeta so it will be up to Piccolo and a rusty Gohan to save the world this time.

Daddy’s not coming to save you this time, Gohan, time to power up!

And that’s basically what it feels like this film waned to do. Unlike other Dragon Ball films, Goku is not going to swoop in at the end to save the day. This is Gohan and Piccolo’s fight, and both are going to power-up to new, largely unexplained, heights. Do we care that these new forms are unexplained? No, because they’re both fun and expected. There’s a fair amount of fan service at play, especially with callbacks to some of the forgotten lore of Dragon Ball’s past, and the sort-of return of an old villain. That’s actually the one criticism I have with the fan service elements as the returning villain is more like a shell of its former self with no personality. It would have been fun to see that personality rekindled and its reaction to the current state of this universe, but oh well. The story is fun, and Piccolo’s infiltration mission he undertakes creates a surprising amount of plot for a Dragon Ball feature. Usually it’s just bad guy shows up, and a long fight ensues. This one actually has pacing and needs things to happen in order to get to the fight. And we’re also dealing with villains who think they’re the heroes, which adds a different twist. It might be less action-oriented as a result so some fans may dislike it, but I found it rather enjoyable and it definitely gave the film more of a Dragon Ball feel such as when Kid Goku basically did the same with the old Red Ribbon army.

The character and story are certainly familiar and a whole lot of fun, what’s different is the production. This is the first Dragon Ball film to be rendered in 3D. It’s a 3D that can look like 2D in some parts and it’s something the past film did in certain shots. This one, outside of 2D flashback sequences, sticks with the 3D throughout and the results are mostly fine, but there’s some ugly parts. For some reason, Goku seems to look the worst in this style and comes across far too much like a character from a video game. I guess it’s a good thing then that he’s not in a lot of this one. There are a few other shots and moments where it gets “video gamey” and it is distracting. And a lot of those shots happen early in the film which is unfortunate because the film begins with a 2D refresher that looks awesome and made me wish the entire film was animated in such a fashion. I would prefer this, and any future episodes of the anime, to look more like that, but I suspect this is the wave of the future for Dragon Ball so I better just get used to it. I do like the use of colors and light with this film going for a manga look. Scenes pop and some of the tracking shots and angles this film goes for are dynamic and really engaging. Director Tetsuro Kodama has done a fantastic job of presenting Dragon Ball as there’s a great energy to the animation and a real weight to the blows.

Piccolo is the film’s heart, and as a longtime Piccolo fan, I approve.

Another strength of the film rests with the audio. The voice performances are all as expected, which is pretty great, while the soundtrack is maybe the best Dragon Ball has ever had? There will always be plenty of fans that love the old stuff from the 80s, but this one has a terrific presence. Composer Naoki Satō really got the message across that this one should sound heroic. There’s a lot of super hero sounding compositions and the music is very dramatic. There were no odd moments, like chanting which was used in the last movie, that took me out of the moment at any time. Some might be disappointed with the lack of more familiar songs, but I for one really enjoyed this soundtrack and found it quite suitable for what the film wanted to present.

Dragon Ball Super – Super Hero is another great addition to the Dragon Ball universe. It continues this high quality return for the series which has really seen the film version of the franchise taken to new heights. Before, Dragon Ball Z films felt like filler. They were simple stories that basically were like the Cliff Notes version of the main series with placeholder villains standing in for the real thing. These last four have felt more like full-fledged movies and I suspect that’s because those involved in the creation of them wanted that to be the case. Dragon Ball has become this warm blanket for me that always shows up. It would have to be really bad to be a disappointing experience and this film is far from it. Because I seem to ask so little of the franchise to entertain me, it’s become harder to decide what’s best among these films, but easy to say that they’re all good. If you’ve ever liked Dragon Ball definitely check out Super Hero. Dragon Ball on the big screen is an experience in and of itself so this gets a strong recommend from me. And Bandai, if you’re reading, we need some more figures based on this one. You know what I’m talking about!


S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Son Goku Super Hero

Wait! Don’t go! I swear this is a Goku worth talking about!

Back in the early 2000s I was a collector of Irwin Toys’ Dragon Ball Z line of action figures. When I started collecting that line, I just focused on my favorite characters which were primarily Vegeta, Trunks, and Piccolo. Gradually, the collector impulse took over and I started buying entire waves as they came out even if I never would have imagined I’d buy a figure of Yakon or Yamcha in a yellow suit. Anyway, what happened is my collection was surprisingly light on DBZ’s main character: Goku. Irwin was also pretty bad at keeping popular figures in circulation, they basically made a wave of figures and then moved onto the next one so late adopters were pretty screwed (and maybe that’s partly why they went out of business during the line’s life). I would eventually get the Series 4 standard Goku, but only because I found it on clearance for 4 dollars at a KB Toys (it was a pretty bad likeness), but I never got a Super Saiyan Goku or others. I did get some of the later Goku figures that Irwin and Jakks Pacific (who bought the license from Irwin when it went bankrupt) released, but my collection was definitely light on the legendary Saiyan.

I lead-off with that nugget of info because I’m partly amused, and partly shocked, that Goku dominates my collection of S.H.Figuarts based on Dragon Ball. This latest release based on the new movie Dragon Ball Super – Super Hero brings my total of Goku figures to 5, which isn’t a ton, but it’s amusing to me because I have only 1 Vegeta, 1 Piccolo, and zero Trunks. I’m also not including in my total of Goku figures my Goku Black and the two Kid Goku figures. Perhaps more amusing to me, the only other characters I have multiples of are Krillin, Master Roshi (one as Jackie Chun), and Bulma(!). I’m pretty sure the me of the early 2000s would be quite surprised that I would have more Bulmas than Vegetas, but that’s where we are. This obviously wasn’t deliberate on my part to make up for my lack of Goku 20 years ago. It’s largely the result of me getting into this line very slowly. I initially only intended to collect the figures from Dragon Ball, but they’re so few and far between that I started branching out to Z and Super and event GT! There are figures of Vegeta and Trunks that I’d like to have, but they’re no longer in circulation and I’m just not willing to go secondhand on them. Maybe one day, but for now Goku gets to dominate.

I wouldn’t normally advocate for buying a figure just for a new face, but I might for this one.

So why am I adding another Goku to my collection? Well, I didn’t have a base Goku having passed on the Saiyan Raised on Earth release and when this particular figure went up for solicitation I just happened to like it. The color palette for the new movie is based on the manga and the promotional images just made this figure look nice. Rather than a red-orange gi, this Goku is sporting a much lighter shade of orange. The promo images did a good job of making the figure look like it had more of a matte finish, and the portraits looked really sharp. And since it was being solicited at the bargain price of $35 I figured “why not?” And I’m happy to say the figure is more or less as expected. This is a Goku after all and it’s on a body that we should all be plenty familiar with and those promotional images ended up being honest about some parts of the figure, and less so about others.

The yelling expression is also on point. Whatever Bandai did differently with this one, keep it up!

First of all, the portraits for this Goku look terrific. In comparing them with past releases, I’ve narrowed it down to a few things that seem to make them “pop” better than before. For one, Bandai painted all of the lines including the ones under the eyes. They also used black instead of that brown shade they often use on the faces which helps to better reflect the anime. The eyes also look to be larger and the eyebrows have a little more shape to them. That’s pretty much it, which isn’t much, but the end result looks so much better. These are the best portraits of any Goku I have and it’s also helped by the selection. There’s the usual smirky face, plus a side-eye smirk that’s a little redundant. Then we get a yelling face which looks great because they made sure to round off the eyes, as Goku is often depicted, and the paint is so sharp that it really feels like Goku is screaming at me when I look at the thing. The fourth portrait is more of a frightened or surprised look which we’ve seen out of Goku plenty of times, usually in more comedic moments. It’s my favorite of the bunch and since it’s so different from the other figures I have it’s likely I go with this look in my display.

I’ve expressed my displeasure with this butterfly joint in multiple reviews, but I don’t think I’ve ever photographed it.

Aside from the faces, this Goku is pretty much like all of the others. There are actually subtle differences among the Goku figures I had before this one. Super Saiyan God Goku has a slightly leaner mold in places while the absurdly long named Goku had a different torso due to some battle damage while Super Saiyan 4 Goku is very much its own thing. This figure though is exactly the same as the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I reviewed a while ago. That’s both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the figure is a solid representation of Goku from the anime. It looks pretty good, the proportions are okay, and it mostly moves well. It’s just getting long in the tooth. There are some things it doesn’t do well, like move at the hips out to the side or much at all in the torso. If you wanted this Goku to be positioned in a true flying pose where he’s parallel with the ground it wouldn’t work because he can’t bend his head back far enough. The butterfly joint also isn’t the greatest and this figure has the same problem as that prior Goku in that the inner portion of the butterfly joint was molded in a flesh color instead of orange so it looks like his shirt is ripping. He also has the old shoulders which seem to be getting phased out and they feature the sleeves pinned to them which I have never liked. The ankles are also still on ball-pegs and they’re not great either. That’s what it doesn’t do very well, but what it can do is allow for enough posing that someone with many Gokus on the shelf can still find variety here.

A sampling of Gokus. This figure and the one on the right (the figure’s left) are pretty much the same.

I don’t feel the need to dive into the articulation anymore than that given this is a reused figure covered before. The only other thing to talk about are the rest of the aesthetics and accessories. Given this is a $35 release, it’s probably no surprise that the accessories are limited to the face plates and hands. It’s always a bummer when we don’t get something extra, but thems the breaks. The hands are fairly standard: fists, open, martial arts pose, Kamehameha, and one right two-finger Instant Transmission posed hand. The gi is sculpted in that lighter orange and I like how it turned out. There’s still a bit of a glossiness to it, but it seems to be less severe than usual. The same can be said for the other parts of the figure like the flesh tones and blues. The painted bits are color-matched well and applied cleanly. The undershirt and sleeves are painted better than my other Goku figures and the boots are nicely done. There is some shading, but it’s limited to the lower parts of the legs. I’m not sure I quite understand what Bandai was going for here. Do they think it works best for an aura type effect? You basically have a darker orange at the shins that gradually blends into the light orange by the time it reaches the upper thigh with little shading anywhere else. There’s a hit of it on the orange part of the sleeves and maybe a tiny bit on the abdomen, but it’s so subtle that I’m not sure if my eyes are playing tricks on me or if it’s really there. Aside from that, the only other criticism I have for the paint is the opacity on the symbol on both the front and rear of the gi could have been increased. What looks very nice though is the hair which has a matte finish to it. I don’t know if they hit it with a clear finish or if the plastic is a little different as it feels softer than the black hair on Kid Goku. Whatever they did, keep it up because the hair turned out wonderful.

Goku is at least a character worthy of multiple releases. If you want a base Goku, this is the one to get.

The Super Hero version of Goku is likely a figure most fans will know if they want it or not the moment they see it. If you have a standard Goku already, it’s probably something that can be ignored. However, at $35 it’s quite cheap for a Figuarts release and that might get people to double-dip on base Gokus just for the new portraits. If you’re like me and don’t have a version of Goku like this, I think this is the superior release when compared with the Saiyan Raised on Earth version. That is largely a subjective opinion though as I prefer the more orange gi and I like the faces better. You may have the opposite opinion. At the end of the day, it’s certainly nice to have options.


NECA TMNT Secret of the Ooze Ultimate Shredder

“There is only one thing next…”

For the first time in a long time we went a week without a blog entry here. That’s because I took a much needed vacation and didn’t schedule anything. I’ll probably be backing off a little bit as we dig deeper into 2022 since there’s a certain holiday I need to get crackin’ on if I don’t want to be chained to this blog in December. I’m still committed to reviewing all of the fun toys I buy and today we’re going full Turtle Tuesday with a look at the latest from NECA Toys: The Secret of the Ooze Ultimate Shredder!

NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles family of products has expanded exponentially over the past few years, but the movie line has been far more steady. The company has pretty much exhausted product for the first film which means it’s time to dig a little deeper into the 1991 sequel The Secret of the Ooze. The Secret of the Ooze is definitely one of those films many loved as children, but upon a revisit in adulthood it doesn’t hold up particularly well. That’s largely due to the shift in direction to pivot away from the gritty format of the comic book and more into the Wacky Town antics of the cartoon that really launched the TMNT franchise into the stratosphere. Many parental groups took issue with the violence of the first film and supposedly actress Judith Hoag wasn’t really onboard for it either nor was Jim Henson whose Creature Shop provided the sophisticated costumes to bring the turtles to life. Golden Harvest and New Line Cinema were able to convince Henson to return for the sequel (he would unfortunately pass away before the film’s release) while Hoag was replaced with actress Paige Turco and the sequel was fast-tracked for a 1991 release to capture on the fad before it burned out.

Considering we never see his face in the film, NECA really didn’t have to go after the likeness of actor François Chau, but it did and as usual completely knocked it out of the park.

A less obvious recast for the sequel was actor James Saito in favor of François Chau. I don’t think there was any real reason for such a decision beyond the sequel being put together quickly and some actors likely having other commitments. Like Saito, Chau is just asked to put on a costume and emote while the voice of the character was actually dubbed later. I guess neither was able to do a menacing Shredder voice. As a kid, it was not a surprise to see Shredder return for a sequel since he was the big bad guy in the cartoon, but when viewing the film franchise on its own it’s a bit surprising to see him back since his defeat at the conclusion of the first film seemed pretty final. The guy fell off of a building into the back of a garbage truck. Maybe the fall didn’t kill him, but Casey Jones (who also didn’t return because some felt his character was too violent) activating the crushing function of the truck surely would have! No matter, this is a story about mutated turtles after all, so Shredder is back and he’s got a new look to show off as well, hence why we need a proper action figure.

There’s a lot of old with this figure, but also some new including something I would not have expected.

Ultimate Shredder is the fourth “Ultimate” release in NECA’s movie line and just the second release for The Secret of the Ooze at retail, not counting the Super Shredder variants. Tokka and Rahzar were released as a web exclusive while the actual Secret of the Ooze turtles were put up for preorder earlier this year and are not expected to arrive until early 2023. Considering how turtle-heavy so many lines associated with TMNT have been, it’s pretty cool to see Shredder be the first one out of the gate here and not just once, but twice! This Shredder follows the release of the same character from the first film and utilizes quite a few parts from that figure. And even though Shredder just basically storms around a garbage dump screaming about babies for most of the film, NECA still crammed the box full of accessories to make this a worthwhile release.

Of course, the biggest change is in the design of the helmet.

Shredder comes in the standard five-panel window box packaging that’s largely adorned by photographs of the figure itself. He stands right around 7″ to the top of the head and beyond that if you factor in the entirety of the helmet. Shredder is depicted in his film-accurate costume which featured a purple suit and swanky new helmet. Like the first Shredder, the paint job on the costume has a slight shimmer to it which bounces light very nicely. The black belt returns with the fabric strip over it to make it sort of functional if you want to stash a weapon or accessory in it. The arms and legs are reused from the first Shredder release as are the bladed bits on the forearms, shoulders, and shins. What’s new is obviously the head as this Shredder helmet featured serrated blades while the helmet portion has gold-tinted panels affixed to it (I think this was supposed to make the helmet look repaired in the film). The faceguard is the same, but underneath that is Chau’s likeness and it’s far more beat up than previous. NECA did a fantastic job with the painting of the face and for trying to piece together what Shredder’s face was supposed to look like now given that we never see it, we just see hints of the damage in the few closeups we get. Also new is the torso which is a bit of a surprise. I’m not sure why they felt the need to sculpt a new one, but I’m not complaining.

Shredder and his super form(s).

Shredder looks good placed among the few other Secret of the Ooze releases we have. He’s well-sized and the appearance of the figure looks very screen accurate. There isn’t much to find fault with from an aesthetic point-of-view, but I can find something. The blades on the helmet look like they could be angled down a bit more to better match the film and the box cover image. The only other very minor criticism I can levy at this one is that when viewing the figure from the side it’s clear there’s flesh-colored plastic in use inside the torso, which should be purple. The shoulder pads basically hide this when posing the figure and it’s only something one notices when inspecting the shoulder articulation, but this is a review and it’s something I noticed. Otherwise, I am quite satisfied with how this guy looks.

“Mama!”

And it’s good that I’m happy with the visuals here because they do come at a cost. NECA always prioritizes the aesthetics of the figures in this line when it comes to adding articulation. The company usually includes a lot of joints, but it’s loathe to cut into the sculpt in some places if it will result in the figure looking “off.” And since this Shredder is very similar to the past one (and the Foot Soldier), it has the same limitations. The head is pretty locked-down because of the cumbersome helmet, but he can look down and gets some side-to-side rotation, but he doesn’t really look up much or feature much tilt. The shoulders are able to come out to the side fine, but the shoulder pads have to be worked around when rotating them. The elbows are the same, funky, double elbows NECA uses from time-to-time that few seem to like. As is always the case with these, they looks passable for sleeved characters and Shredder’s loose fitting attire works even better than some others. The joint features two hinges with a swivel point at each one so he can bend past 90 degrees. The wrist also swivels and all of the included hands have a horizontal hinge, a bummer when it comes to gripping hands and melee weapons. The waist just features a twist with nothing in the torso, the biggest shortcoming this figure has. The legs are the old-model ball-hinge that pegs into the crotch. They feel surprisingly loose on my figure and he can nearly do a full split. There’s a thigh twist there that’s rather tight with double-jointed knees below that. On both legs, the lower hinge is pretty tight, but I got both to move with just force. The ankles are hinged and can pivot, though the feet are pretty small so he doesn’t always stand as well as I’d like him to in more dynamic poses, but that’s what stands are for.

Remember Shredder, stupid babies need the most attention.

The articulation is passable and this particular Shredder really doesn’t need to do much. As mentioned before, he doesn’t really do anything in the second film. He doesn’t fight the turtles or even handle a weapon. Still, if you prefer to do something more dynamic with the figure it’s certainly possible it’s just not great at doing sword-swinging poses or two-handed poses beyond just holding a staff in front. It was something more frustrating with the first Shredder as I tried to recreate certain shots from the first film from the rooftop scene, but with this figure I’m left feeling more content and satisfied and I’m glad that NECA didn’t cut a diaphragm joint into this guy.

This version of Shredder doesn’t call for many accessories, so of course he’s going to get this flower.

Even though Shredder has little to do in the film, NECA still stuffed the box full of accessories. For starters, Shredder’s faceguard can be removed and it just snaps into place. It’s a little tight and tricky to get in there, but once seated it looks great and it’s not going to move on you. The figure also has a removable cape which comes attached in the box. It has that wonderfully, ludicrous, swirly pattern from the film and it affixes to the figure via a wire that just wraps around the shoulder pauldrons. It’s a clever way to do it and less messy and bulky than the first film Shredder though I fear that I won’t be able to get it back on as neatly as the factory so I have yet to actually take it off (just watch one of the many video reviews likely floating around if you’re curious). Plus, I like how the figure looks while wearing it. In addition to those attachments, Shredder has three sets of hands: fists, open, and gripping. As stated previously, they all feature a horizontal hinge which is a bummer for the gripping hands.

This is the only accessory he truly needs, though unfortunately, his grip isn’t very tight on it.

NECA made sure to include some fun accessories as well giving Shredder all that he needs, and even some stuff he does not. Shredder comes with a TGRI canister of ooze, the same canister we’ve seen come with all of the Secret of the Ooze releases up to this point. I guess it didn’t cost much to include again, so I now have a bunch of these things. He also comes with arguably the only accessory the figure needs: the last vial of ooze. This is from the scene in the night club when he pulls out a little test tube of ooze to threaten some woman with. This is the ooze he eventually consumes to becomes Super Shredder. It can be stored neatly in the fabric belt or held in a gripping hand. A word of caution though, I placed one of the larger gripping accessories in the figure’s hands overnight which stretch them out a bit and now the vial doesn’t fit well as the grip is too loose. The hand might return to its tighter shape with time, but if you want to display Shredder holding this, maybe keep one hand reserved for it. In addition to that he comes with two weapons. These may not even exist in the film, and if they do, they were held by other members of the Foot or seen in the background. The first one is a short sword that fits into a sheath. The sheath could be wedged into Shredder’s belt, but it’s pretty bulky and would probably look dumb. The sword is the same one that was included in the Shadow Warriors pack making it a katana, per Splinter’s flashback, though it doesn’t really look like one. The second weapon is a large spear. It’s different from both the Super Shredder release and first film Shredder. It looks fine, but again, the character never used this so I don’t plan to display him with it. Lastly, we get the mutated dandelion that Freddy delivers to Shredder as proof of the existence of ooze. It’s fun and appropriate, though I can’t see myself displaying Shredder holding a massive flower.

NECA’s Ultimate Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is an excellent release in what is arguably the best subline from NECA. Just about every release in the movie line has been a knockout and Shredder is no exception. Considering the company is running out of character’s to do, this one feels like an essential figure for the collection for those collecting the figures from The Secret of the Ooze. And we know it won’t be the last as we have the turtles to look forward to and Keno has been confirmed as well with a full reveal expected soon (probably at San Diego Comic Con). I was able to import my figure for this review from a seller on AliExpress as it showed up in China first, but it’s also currently shipping out to Walmart stores in the US with some already finding it. Like Ultimate Casey Jones, it appears to be shipping in frustratingly low numbers for now, but hopefully that changes or NECA just makes it available on its website for those who can’t find it (the company has yet to do that for Ultimate Casey Jones). Even with shipping factored in, the total I paid to import the figure was less than what I would have paid if I had purchased it from NECA’s webstore, so if you want it and don’t want to stalk Walmart, keep your eye out. You’ll have to wait a few weeks for delivery in the US, but it is convenient. The price has likely climbed though and so far the secondary market is rather high here in the US making Walmart potentially the preferred option. It’s a pain, but hopefully everyone that wants this figure is able to find it for retail. Resist the scalpers and good luck!


Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)

The Rescue Rangers are back, but maybe not as expected.

Nostalgia is an easy thing to market and sell, so when a piece of media comes around that’s really going hard after the nostalgia market I feel like it’s my duty to weigh-in. And when it comes to 90’s nostalgia, I am as qualified as anybody to talk about it and such is the case with the new Disney+ movie Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.

If you’re reading this, I can probably go ahead and assume that you’re familiar with the television show of the same name which premiered in the late 80s and ran into the 90s. Just in case though, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers was one of the inaugural Disney Afternoon cartoons and it starred the characters Chip and Dale from Disney’s classic collection of shorts and paired them up with some newcomers in Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper. As the theme song informed us, they basically solve the crimes and help those who are not being helped by the usual law enforcement operations out there. It didn’t really make much sense for the characters of Chip and Dale to star in such a program, but the same is easily said of the classic characters utilized in most Disney Afternoon shows. It was just a way for Disney to leverage its own intellectual property and sell shows that at least had some familiar faces in them. And it seemed to work rather well. While I will say the show Rescue Rangers doesn’t really hold-up when viewed as an adult in 2022, it’s at least quite gorgeous for a TV show and no one would question the production values. Plus that theme song is still a banger.

In this universe, Rescue Rangers was an actual show like it is in “the real world” and all of the characters were played by living, toon, actors.

It was announced some time ago that Disney wanted to bring the show to the big screen as a live-action/animation hybrid which is all the rage these days. It turned out, Disney was actually aiming a little smaller as the film was ticketed for its streaming platform Disney+ pretty early in the reveal. Unlike a lot of recent films, I do not believe this was kicked to the streaming service because of COVID. The film was written by the team of Dan McGregor and Doug Mand, two guys mostly known for their work in television. With Akiva Schaffer as director and Andy Samberg onboard as the voice of Dale, the title basically started being referred to as The Lonely Island Rescue Rangers. The third member of The Lonely Island, Jorma Taccone, is also here doing some small voice roles too. Given their presence, I found myself quite curious how this movie would turn out. It was obviously going to be a comedy, but the initial trailer also revealed it was going to set its characters in a world inhabited by toons and real people like a certain famous 80s film about a rabbit. Inviting such a comparison is almost a death sentence because how is a film in 2022 with a streaming budget going to measure up to the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s a fool’s game to try to match that film, Disney can only hope this one proves it’s worth existing.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is neither a reboot nor a sequel to the television show. It actually views the characters from the show as actors who played those roles. Early in the film we’re shown how a young Dale (Juliet Donenfield) met a young Chip (Mason Blomberg) at school and instantly became friends. From there, they became a comedy act that was eventually given its own show making these versions of the famous chipmunks quite different from the characters in the theatrical shorts. Much of the movie is set in the present and centers on Dale (Andy Samberg) as he tries to recapture his glory days after a falling out with Chip when the Rescue Rangers show came to an end.

The setting established by this film is one in which humans live side-by-side with animated characters from various mediums (and owners beyond Disney) with seemingly little in the way of conflict between the two.

It’s when we catch-up with Dale and eventually Chip (John Mulaney) that we see how this world sort of works. This isn’t a lore-heavy film like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Toons exist alongside humans and over the years toons have changed. Dale at some point got surgery to make himself look like a CG generated character, while his co-stars did not so they’re presented in a more traditional manner. Cartoon stars are basically all real and much of the film relies on that. The general plot is that Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) has gone missing and Chip and Dale fear he’s been caught in a bootlegging ring. For a toon in this world, that means he’s going to be modified surgically so that he only resembles his old self and shipped off to somewhere in Asia to star in bootleg films against his will, which sounds pretty horrifying. The rodents will work with a human police officer in Ellie (Kiki Lang) to try and find their friend before he’s presumably sent out on a boat which is expected to take roughly 48 hours making this the Chip ‘n Dale version of The Frist 48.

An older, less cute, Peter Pan is one of the film’s villains. Some feel his portrayal is in poor taste given the real world tragedy that was Bobby Driscoll who voiced Pan in the Disney film. I personally don’t think any malice was intended and feel the character works as an imagined future Peter Pan that aged out of a role not unlike many child actors.

The plot is surprisingly high stakes if you place any sort of value on the life of Monterey Jack, but despite that the film is squarely a comedy. Chip and Dale play-off of each other with Chip being the straight ‘munk and Dale the more carefree. It’s admittedly odd to hear the two voiced by actors who aren’t being pitched way up to do the squeaky voice. That is canonically revealed to be an act from the old show and just a funny voice they did. Their interplay is fine and mostly amusing, but things slow way down whenever the plot has to involve Ellie. There it becomes a poor man’s cop show where little of value takes place. Working against is the performance of Lang as Ellie because she comes off as wooden and distant. Working with actors who aren’t physically present is a skill, and maybe that’s the reason for it. The script also isn’t very interested in making her into much of a character so that’s not helping matters. Aside from the pair, the movie relies quite heavily on references to generate laughs. This means the film is a case of diminishing returns from the start as most viewers will likely be charmed by the cameos at first, but come the second hour the novelty has largely worn off. The film is definitely intended for an adult audience that grew up on the Disney Afternoon, so if you loved Rescue Rangers there’s a bit of payoff towards the film’s climax, but this film is largely a riff on that show which might rub some the wrong way.

This is the type of film that wants you to pause it frequently to try and catch all of the easter eggs in the background.

The entertainment value derived from the humor and references can only take the film so far. Unfortunately, what doesn’t add a whole lot are the visual effects. The CG characters, like Dale, look fine. Dale’s model is not on par with Disney or Pixar feature films, but I suppose he looks no better or worse than the chipmunks from the Alvin and the Chipmunks films. The 2D characters, on the other hand, mostly look pretty unimpressive. There’s no attempt at shading them to make them plausible as 3D beings, but they’re also clearly not hand-drawn. For some characters, like Gadget oddly enough, the model is too obvious and the character ends up looking like a cel-shaded model from a PlayStation 2 game. I got some real Sly Cooper vibes from Gadget and I’m not sure why it is that her model suffered the most. Maybe it’s the hair? Either way, the 2D characters just don’t impress, but we are talking about a film with a streaming budget so it’s not surprising to see. I am left to wonder if the film would be appreciably better with more money attached to it. The other aspect of the film’s production that might rub some the wrong way is the inconsistent casting choices. Tress MacNeille was allowed to reprise her role as Gadget, but few others were granted the same opportunity. Jim Cummings is in this film voicing some cameos, but for some reason was recast as Monterey Jack. Zipper was also recast to Dennis Haysbert basically for a gag, but I can’t say that bothered me too much since it fit with the choice for Chip and Dale. And I suppose there are folks out there who would have preferred them to have their chipmunk voices and I don’t know if I’m one of them. I definitely would have been fine with that approach, but I didn’t hate Mulaney and Samberg in the roles and I actually adjusted to them much easier than I expected.

The film has its moments when it comes to the brand of humor it’s going for, but mostly I found myself wishing it had a bigger budget so that it would look better than it does.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is the sort of vapid, of the moment, streaming movie designed to be digested, meme’d for a weekend, and then mostly forgotten. It doesn’t really do anything unexpected and is mostly smart to keep the running time under 2 hours and to lean heavily into nostalgia-laden jokes and cameos. How much you’re amused by the cameos and references will influence how entertained by the film you are. I would even go so far as to say, for adult viewers, you need to be familiar with the era the original Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers aired during to get much out of this. For kids, that’s probably not necessary if my own children are a reasonable barometer as they seemed to like the film quite a bit. As for me, the film was fine. It was no better or worse than I expected, though actually if I’m being fair it was better than I initially expected when I heard a Rescue Rangers movie was in development. I definitely do not want or need a sequel or reboot following this, nor do I really want to see other Disney Afternoon properties get the same treatment (unless it’s with a much bigger budget). If you go into it wanting a poor man’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that’s more interested in meme culture than celebrating classic era animation then you’ll likely not regret the hour and a half spent. If you’re expecting something more sincere or on the same technical level as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? then prepare to be disappointed.


Super7 Disney Ultimates! Prince John

“Too late to be known as John the first, he’s sure to be known as John the worst!”

Our third and final figure of the inaugural wave of Disney Ultimates! from Super7 is the most surprising of the bunch: Prince John, the phony King of England! Super7 often surprises with its deep cuts, and Prince John certainly fits the bill. While it’s hard to argue much from Disney could be considered a true deep cut, it’s certainly surprising to see the villain of Robin Hood in the first wave of the line without the film’s protagonist. This supposedly caused some confusion in the Disney fanbase which had little familiarity with Super7 prompting founder Brian Flynn to take to the internet to assure the fans that Robin Hood himself was coming, he’s just not in Wave One. Prince John is apparently Flynn’s pick and it’s a character he has a lot of affection for and when you run your own toy company you get to do stuff like put Prince John into the first wave of Disney figures. As someone who grew up watching the film over and over, I can’t say I’m disappointed to see the prince so early.

He certainly fills out more of the window than Mickey and Pinocchio.

Prince John stands a full seven inches making him, by far, the largest figure in the first wave. He absolutely dwarfs Mickey and towers over Pinocchio. I suppose that’s appropriate considering he’s a lion and all, but it will be interesting to see how he scales with the upcoming Robin Hood. Prince John, or PJ, is not particularly big in the film. Robin is pretty close in size while Little Jon and the Sheriff look down on him. That’s an issue for another day, for now, he looks great at this scale and his big, soft goods, robe is particularly lovely. What’s not, and stop me if you’ve heard this criticism before, is the lack of paint. The body of PJ is cast in a yellowish plastic and with no shading or embellishments I can’t help but feel that it looks an awful lot like those Lion King toys from the 90s. Those things were probably five bucks at Toys R’ Us, but this is a $45 collectible and it just needs something more. Beyond that feeling, the head looks nice and his crown is painted well with gold paint and gems, but he’s missing his whiskers on all three heads. His hands feature the gemmed rings and his default expression is rather neutral. Beneath the robe is his soft, blue, gown (I guess that’s the proper term?) that’s all sculpted. Unfortunately, there’s already some color transfer from the robe to the gown and I don’t know if that’s likely to get worse or if it was mostly an issue of being confined to a box. Since the robe hides it, it’s not that great an issue, but hardly encouraging.

It’s a bit hard to photograph, but you can see some red on the under garment of John from the robe.

Excepting the feeling of a lack of paint, PJ really looks the part. That robe goes a long way in adding to that which is soft and just the right shade of red. The trim is more dense as the white is clean and the black dots within look nice. As was the case with Mickey, it’s also plenty big to allow the figure to move underneath it. Unlike Mickey, the robe doesn’t close with a belt, but it’s heavy enough that it basically closes on its own. Most importantly, it behaves as it does in the film and since it’s comically large on PJ it’s practically a character all on its own.

It is a bit odd how much of this character is just non-articulated torso. The hips begin way down at the bottom of the robe.
Where would John be without Sir Hiss?

And speaking of characters all their own, we have Sir Hiss! And not just one Sir Hiss, but two! The first features a smiling Hiss partially coiled up that can sit on a surface. He has a ball-hinge at the base of his neck so he can swivel and look up and down, but is otherwise non-articulated. He’s very well painted, and the likeness is quite possibly the best of any character in this first wave. The same can be said for the second Sir Hiss which is elongated and features a strangulation expression. This is for John to grip and it’s pretty damn funny and also a little surprising that Disney let them do this, but since it’s from the film and the violence is bad guy on bad guy I guess that made it okay. As much as I love these additions, I feel like we need a Sir Hiss accessory pack! Or more versions with other characters from the film. Flying Sir Hiss, drunk Hiss, scared Hiss – the possibilities are nearly endless!

He’s rather fond of admiring himself.
Hiss can also hold the mirror for his lord.

Aside from Hiss, PJ doesn’t come with much else. He does have his mother’s mirror, which has a slightly reflective, foil-like, sticker for the mirrored surface and the back of the mirror is well painted and sculpted. PJ can hold it with his lone, right, gripping hand or you can finagle it into the coils of Hiss. PJ has open hands in the package, but can swap to two different sets of fists: one with the gems in his rings, and one without from when Little Jon steals them. As for heads, we have two extra: angry John and a perplexed John where the crown is tipped forward covering his eyes. His neutral head has a removable crown which pegs into his ears, but the other two feature a permanently affixed crown. I do like the comedic one, but I feel like the angry one could have been embellished more. He gets really mad in the film where as this expression is more menacing than angry, and maybe that’s what they were going for? What’s missing though is plainly obvious: no thumb-sucking hand or expression! Considering how much Flynn seems to love the character, I am shocked that Super7 didn’t give us the pieces to recreate those scenes from the film. This line is called Ultimates because it’s supposed to represent the ultimate expression of the character, and how can you do Prince John without that?! Did they honestly prefer these portraits to that, or did they just find it too hard to get him to suck his thumb and tug his ear? Not only should we have gotten a proper thumb-sucking hand, but we should have got a second one with mud on it! It’s just baffling.

Don’t make him mad!
It feels like we won’t get many strangulation accessories in this line, so cherish this one.

The last thing we need to talk about with Prince John is also the least impressive: articulation. Same as it was with the other two figures in this line, PJ doesn’t move all that well. He has the same, bland, ball and socket for the head that lets him move in all directions, but without tremendous range. He can look up a bit as well as down, but there’s no reason for him not to have a double ball peg given the presence of the robe. The shoulders are ball-hinged and he can almost raise his arms out to the side, but more importantly, he can rotate just fine even with the robe. The elbows are tight and single-hinged with swivels and they’re somewhat buried in the sleeve of his undershirt or gown. They’re fine, and his hands rotate and hinge in-and-out. The torso features nothing, and bizarrely, Prince John is like a tube of plastic. His hips are way down there and I guess it makes sense considering he’s a lion. Though if he were to go on all fours his rear legs would be comically short. He can rotate at the waist at least with ball-hinge hips, single-hinged knees that swivel, and ankles that hinge and rock side-to-side. His knees are basically sculpted to always be bent so the range isn’t great and the ankles are definitely more loose than I’d like. He’s able to stand okay, though my kids running into the room where his shelf resides was enough to cause him to fall over so his ability to stand could be better. He also has a ball joint for his tail, but it doesn’t do much aside from just letting you control which side it trails off towards. It’s basically the same story though where there’s not a lot of articulation and some of what is there is just too loose. I really wish Super7 could at least figure out the loose issue as so many figures suffer from it.

This might be the most elaborate posing he can achieve.
This goofy head might be my favorite.

Overall, I do think Prince John turned out well enough when judged on what is actually there. The sculpt is solid, I like the robe, I just wish there was more paint and tighter joints. I don’t need him to do ninja kicks, but I do need him to stand. The color transfer issue is also concerning. Mostly, I can’t help but look at this guy and feel like Super7 really missed an opportunity to deliver a truly ultimate version of Prince John. Who else is going to make a Prince John figure? The lack of a thumb-sucking pose is a real bummer. Maybe they’ll come back to him when the cast of the film is a bit more fleshed out. They could do a throne that comes with the needed parts or maybe do a pajama version of the character or blue-robed variant. Do I want a variant of PJ? No, not really, but maybe I could do the throne. Considering they’ve already solicited thrones for other lines and they’re around $45 though, I’m a little less enthused about that prospect. Super7 tends to make things right when they get something so fundamentally wrong, and so I do feel like this may be one of those things. The fact that PJ is a favorite of Brian Flynn gives me a little more optimism. As released, Prince John is fine, but he could have been so much more.

Overall, PJ turned out pretty well, but he should have been better than that,

Super7 Disney Ultimates! Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Do bad things always happen when the mouse puts on the hat?

The first figure from this line of Super7 action figures based on characters from Disney’s treasure trove of animated characters was Pinocchio. In that review, I mentioned how Disney wanted to outdo itself with Pinocchio and sunk a lot of money into that film’s production. Well, the only other film from that era that might compare is 1940’s other feature: Fantasia. Fantasia was Walt’s passion project as he saw the marriage of animation with classical compositions as high art. I think he was mostly happy with how it turned out, but not happy with the reception as audiences didn’t seem to appreciate it the way the company figurehead did.

How come Mickey gets a special sticker, but Pinocchio doesn’t, when both films were released in 1940?!

Even so, there’s no denying that at least one segment from Fantasia has impressed and delighted movie goers for generations and that’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That segment starred Mickey, who was still a pretty big deal in 1940. He was voiceless in the film, but was arguably never as expressive as he is in the short segment because no Mickey cartoon before (or likely since) had the budget of Fantasia. It truly is a delight and one of the best cartoons of all time and it’s no surprise that Super7 turned to Fantasia, and Mickey, with its first wave of Disney Ultimates!

Doesn’t get much more iconic than this.

The direction of Super7 founder Brain Flynn with this Disney line is to not simply do characters from Disney in their most recognizable forms. For Mickey, that would be classic red trunks and yellow shoes. The thinking from Flynn is that you can get that Mickey anywhere so Super7 should do something else. Now, doing Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t exactly breaking new ground either, but it’s apparently enough for Flynn who basically conceded that they needed to do something a bit more expected and generic for this first wave as Disney collectors are probably pretty new to Super7. And since the figure did sort of coincide with Fantasia’s 80th anniversary (curiously, so did Pinocchio but that one didn’t get a fancy sticker on the box), it makes perfect sense to have this Mickey in Wave One.

Careful, he doesn’t like it when you call him short.

Being a 7″ scale line, Mickey comes in on the small side for an action figure. He is not, however, as small as Pinocchio and I think most collectors are likely going to be pretty happy with the sizing of the mouse. To the top of where his head would be he’s nearly 4″, and once you factor in the hat he’s basically a 5″ figure. His proportions are fairly small, though more substantial than Pinocchio, and he does feature the trademarked oversized gloves and shoes. This is a figure that largely features no paint. There’s the blue on the hat with the painted silver runes, Mickey’s eyes and mouth, and the black lines on the back of his gloves. Under the robe, he does have blue trunks which are a mix of colored pieces and painted ones and the brown boots are colored plastic. It’s largely fine, as his entire body is covered by the robe, but where paint is sorely needed is on his face. The flesh-tone plastic is just not saturated or warm enough for the character and it has a glossy characteristic that is off-putting. Some have gone so far as to say it ruins the look of the figure, but I’m not willing to go there. Instead, it’s just an unfortunate shortcoming. Simply painting that area of the face would do wonders for the look of this guy.

Mickey’s feeling pretty good in that snazzy robe.

I mentioned in the Pinocchio review that one of Super7’s goals with this line is to incorporate soft goods into each release. For Pinocchio, the inclusion was a minor one, but for Mickey the soft goods needed to be something special and I’m happy to say Super7 pulled it off. Mickey’s robe is a touch darker than it is onscreen, but it has a shimmery quality to it that really imparts a sense of quality into the release. It’s cinched with a simply knotted rope, and it’s appropriately sized for the figure. It doesn’t look overly baggy, and the roominess of the design allows Mickey’s articulation to function as intended. Like a lot of collectors out there, I’m not often partial to soft goods, but here they work and they work well.

Things always start off well enough when tossing magic at a broom.

As for that articulation, I’m happy to say it’s better than what we got with Pinocchio, though it’s still hardly a strong point. Mickey’s head sits on the same ball peg design as Pinocchio so there’s no neck articulation and what you get out of his head just depends on the amount of range on that single ball. It’s sufficient as Mickey can look up an okay amount, but there’s really no reason why they couldn’t a double ball peg. The shoulders are ball-hinged and Mickey can raise his arms out to the side just fine and he can even rotate around with the robe on. He has single-hinged elbows with swivel and his hands rotate and feature horizontal hinges. Once again though, we have no torso articulation. Not even a waist cut, which is a shame because, again, the robe would hide everything! Maybe it’s a size issue – I don’t know, but NECA’s done figures at this size with more articulation so I’m not willing to allow that as an excuse. At the hips, we have the usual Super7 ball-peg hips and they’re fine. The knees hinge and swivel and Mickey can at least bend 90 degrees. The ankles are, once again, rather floppy and the oversized shoe means the ankle rocker isn’t as useful as it could be. The right ankle on mine isn’t as bad, but the hinge is pretty tight. I actually have a hard time getting both legs to appear the same length as the knee hinge is loose on the left leg. There’s also a ball-hinge at his tail giving that some movement. He can hold a pose at least, and hasn’t fallen down like my Pinocchio, but there’s room for improvement.

Eventually though, things take a turn and it’s time to break out the axe!
There’s certainly a nice assortment of stuff here, and I didn’t even place all of the extra hands into the shot.

On the accessory front, we pretty much get all that we need. The default head is an open mouthed smile and Mickey can swap to an angry head or a standard smile. Both extra heads feature a bend in the cap which is nice for a little added personality. I probably could do without the smile though in favor of a scared expression because it feels redundant with the open smile. All of the heads also feature the ears sculpted into the hat, and I feel like Super7 missed an opportunity to change the ear position so we could have a screen accurate way to present Mickey from the side as he is on the back of his box or as he was in the often seen tag before every Walt Disney VHS release in the 80s and early 90s. A scared expression would have been really nice for the giant book accessory that Mickey floats on towards the end of the segment. The book is just a big slab of plastic, and it’s cool, but without a scared head I really don’t know what to do with it. There’s also a single, animated, broom with a pair of water buckets it can hold. There’s no articulation on the broom, but both it and the buckets are very well-painted. And for when Mickey gets angry with said broom, he has an axe to chop it up. To go along with all of that, are numerous hands. Mickey has open hands in the package to go with fists, gripping hands, pointing hands, and a more relaxed open set of hands. With the hands, the only criticism I can make is the hinge on the gripping hands isn’t going the right way, but otherwise this is a fine set of expressions.

There’s probably a lot of people wondering how they can get more of these guys.
The book is neat, but this would work so much better with a scared expression.

Objectively, and subjectively, Mickey succeeds far more than Pinocchio did at making the jump to plastic. The articulation could be better, but that’s often true of every Super7 release. My main critique is in the lack of paint on the face, and if not for that, I’d consider this a homerun. As released, it’s a solid line drive for a double and I think it will please both action figure fans and Disney collectors. It’s very on-model, and the soft goods robe adds a touch of class. Plus, it’s an iconic version of an iconic character. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Super7 roll with The Band Concert or The Brave Little Tailor version of Mickey, but at least we’re getting that with the ReAction line and I can’t fault them for doing this version. It’s both safe and pleasing for the audience and an easy recommend for Disney enthusiasts.


Super7 Disney Ultimates! Pinocchio

The little wooden boy is now a little plastic boy.

It seems I keep setting personal records this year for longest duration of a preorder and the new champion is Super7’s first wave of Disney Ultimates! These figures went up for preorder in August of 2020 likely closing sometime in September. At the time, the expected release was somewhere around June 2021, but a lot happened in-between. Super7’s relationship with Disney was just starting so perhaps there was a feeling out process between the two. I know for a fact that Disney had some revisions in mind for the packaging (they wanted the three figures to be unique in that regard) and it’s clear the figures underwent changes between the initial renders and final release. And then, of course, there were the shipping delays and factory closures to deal with all stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like a perfect storm struck and thus the figures were delayed all the way until April of 2022! The wait is over though, and the first one we’re going to take a look at is Pinocchio!

Disney apparently had some mandates on the packaging and I’m left to assume one of them was “Make it shiny!”

Ask me what I think the highwater mark for Disney animation is and I won’t hesitate to say it’s 1940’s Pinocchio. Disney was riding high following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and seemingly in a bid to top that picture, a lot of money was sunk into Pinocchio and it shows. Every scene looks like it was meticulously crafted to be the best it can be and for a medium such as hand drawn animation, it’s possible we’ve never seen that kind of dedication since. In terms of plot and performance, other animated films from Disney certainly compare and likely exceed what Pinocchio, but visually? It would take a convincing argument from someone to make me change my mind.

Pinocchio and his animal buddies.

For that reason, it probably comes as no surprise that I pretty much adore Pinocchio, and when Super7 made the title character part of its first wave I was over the moon! A collector line of Disney animated characters was a grail line for me, and to see Super7 embarking on that path and kicking things off with a beloved character was almost too good to be true. The initial renders did leave something to be desired (look these figures up on most retail sites and you can still see them) as Pinocchio’s head looked off-model, but I preordered with the hope that it would turn out better in person and it’s nice to see my faith has been rewarded.

And who could forget Jiminy?

Pinocchio comes in the standard Ultimates! box Super7 is known for, only the outer box is very glossy depicting a starry night with a silhouette of Jiminy Cricket descending from the clouds. The inner box is themed to fit the film and reminds me of the Pinocchio restaurant in Disney World in terms of color palette. There’s a write-up on the back with character art and the figure and all of the accessories can be seen through the window. Pinocchio comes with a quite a bit of stuff, but in a first for me with an Ultimates! release, he only requires one insert to properly store everything. And there’s a pretty obvious reason for that: Pinocchio is small!

He’s a little fella.

Super7’s Ultimates! are a seven inch scale line, but it tends to be rather fungible across lines. They seem to prioritize certain lines to fit that scale, lines that collectors might display together or in close proximity of one another. Other, more stand-alone lines, seem to inhabit their own scale which is the case with Super7’s Ren and Stimpy. For Disney, they appear to be in the 7″ scale, though since we’re dealing with characters from different movies, there is a subjective element at play. Pinocchio himself is barely 3.5″, and since he’s a little, wooden, kid, I suppose that’s fine. It’s still odd to see him so much smaller than Mickey, and the third figure in the wave, Prince John, towers over him. And it’s not just the height, everything about him is just small. His arms, in particular, feel almost delicate as a result. And to Super7’s credit, he seems to scale well with the contents of his box. Should the company ever return to the film to produce a Geppetto or Honest John then I suppose we’d be able to evaluate the size further, but on his own I think he’s fine. Some will likely balk at the concept of paying $45 before tax and shipping for such a tiny figure, but if the scale is fine then I’m okay with it on principle. Especially since there’s still a lot of unique tooling here that likely will never benefit Super7 again and that’s where the biggest costs lay.

Naturally, he has portraits for his longer nose.
And then there’s the super long version, which mine unfortunately has an ugly, red, dot on the side of Pinocchio’s hat where one should not be.

Aside from the diminutive nature of the figure, the overall look is pretty good. His default expression is a smile, and Super7 did a great job of translating the head into 3D. It would be easy to go overboard on the cheeks as Pinocchio is often drawn to get wider in that area, but as we saw with the original renders, that can just make him look like a fat head. Most of the features on his head are painted like the hat and the inside of his mouth and the only criticism I have is the shape of his nose seems off. It could be straighter and a touch more elongated, but he looks pleasant enough. The rest of the figure is mostly colored plastic. We have red on the torso with a big, blue, bowtie and red-brown down on the shoes. His hands are cast in white with sculpted lines on the back that Super7 declined to paint black. Part of the goal with this line is to incorporate soft goods into the figures and for Pinocchio that takes on the form of his black vest. It looks nice and it doesn’t hinder anything, though the faux velvet texture is sure to accumulate dust. It’s also not removable by nature. If one were to pop off the arms then it could come off, but I’m not willing to try. I do wish Super7 did something with the bare portions of the arms and legs to give them a less plastic look. It’s a bit tricky since the film didn’t exactly go for wood grain, but some shading might have done the trick. They did paint little, silver, nail heads into the joints which is a nice touch, but took it no further.

This might be the most elaborate pose I can get him into.
This is all that’s providing the head articulation.

Where Pinocchio is not likely to impress at all is with his articulation. We know Super7 prioritizes neutral posing with its figures and shuns complicated joints, but even this is pretty underwhelming for a Super7 release. Pinocchio’s head just sits on a rounded ball peg. There’s no hinge or secondary ball below it so the head just kind of rotates there and can tilt a little. There’s very little range looking up or down, and given that the bowtie provided an easy way to hide a double ball peg, it’s a shame Super7 didn’t go for it. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but he can barely raise his arms out to the side. Inside the sleeve is an elbow joint that can swivel, but the plastic is thin and kind of gummy so bending the elbow really seems to stress it. The first time I tried to work the joint I couldn’t tell if it was working as intended or if the plastic was just bending. The fact that little, rough, pieces of plastic started to protrude from it gives me little confidence in utilizing it for much. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges. There’s no torso articulation, and the hip joints just rotate a little so that his legs can go out a bit, but not really forward or back. They feel pretty useless. Because of the odd shape of his knees, Pinocchio gets very little range there, maybe 45 degrees, and the ankles are very loose. I think if not for the fact that his shoes are rather large I’d have a hard time standing him. He’s really only good for the most basic posing. I’m assuming his small size is partly to blame, but other aspects just feel poorly engineered. With Super7, I always get the impression that when they run into a tricky spot they just choose to not address it rather than figure out a more creative solution.

Jiminy looks okay, but obviously it’s hard to paint something so small and have it look clean. Also, I don’t know why they positioned his umbrella in such a fashion as it makes him impossible to stand.

In terms of stuff, Pinocchio comes with a lot, but also a little. He has two additional heads he can swap to: elongated nose, and super elongated nose with bird’s nest and birds. Neither head is a surprise, though he doesn’t have the cage to be placed in to truly do the iconic scene justice, but at least they look nice. He has a shocked expression on his face, and there is a subtle difference between the two so Super7 didn’t just sculpt one head and two noses (though that might have been a better approach). He also has one set of extra hands. He comes with gripping hands attached and can swap to open ones. He also has a trio of mini figures: Figaro, Jiminy, and Cleo the goldfish. Of the three, Jiminy is the most on-model, but being a tiny figure, Super7 had to use a lot of paint on him and it’s pretty messy. They also positioned him with his umbrella poking out below his feet so he’s pretty much impossible to stand on his own. He’s a soft plastic, so I found I have to hook that umbrella onto something in order for him to stand. Cleo is placed in her fish bowl and Super7 filled it with transparent plastic. I do wish they added a touch of blue to the water somewhere, but she looks fine. Figaro is the most off-model as his head is just too big. It’s the one thing I wanted to see changed from the prototype that didn’t happen. His head can rotate and he looks okay, but he could be better. Pinocchio also comes with his school book and an apple for his teacher and both look fine. Lastly, there’s an axe, which I initially thought was Stromboli’s, but it’s actually the axe Pinocchio is seen holding for all of 3 seconds on Pleasure Island. Are people really going to pose Pinocchio wielding an axe? It’s also just plain, brown, plastic for the handle with no sculpted wood grain. I could definitely do without.

He comes with an axe. Cool?

That’s a fair amount of stuff, but it feels like Super7 just could have done better. Why not more hand options? Fists, or maybe a pointing finger on fire and the candle to go with it? That would have been nice to have and I definitely would have traded that axe for such. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t let them do a smoking head or a drunk one, which is too bad as both would have been visually amusing. What I think most though are surprised to not see included is a donkey head. Pinocchio with big donkey ears and an optional tail would make sense and even encourage a second purchase. Maybe Super7 will do Lampwick and figure out a way to get those accessories for Pinocchio into the release, but he lacks a hole for the tail to go into so that would certainly be a challenge. Also, it’s highly unlikely that Disney lets Super7 do a proper Lampwick as he definitely needs a cigar and a mug of beer. I also would have loved a second Jiminy that featured a frowning face so he could admonish Pinocchio. The hand waving and smiling one we got feels more like licensing art Jiminy as opposed to the character from the film.

He’s flawed in more ways than one, and I think this image does a good job of showcasing my nitpicks with the nose, but I’m still happy to have an action figure of Disney’s version of Pinocchio.

I do have a lot of nitpicks with Super7’s Pinocchio and part of that is certainly coming from a place where I’ve seen this movie a lot, I love it, and I have a lot of opinions on what the best scenes are for the character in it. It’s likely that Super7 could not have totally satisfied me with the accessories, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have done better. The issues with the articulation are less nitpicky though as this figure is pretty poor from that aspect. There aren’t a lot of points of articulation here, and what is here isn’t of the best quality as we have floppy joints or joints that don’t seem to work as intended. As a result, I don’t know that I can give this figure as strong of a recommendation as my heart wants to. As a Pinocchio lover, I am happy to have this, but if I allow myself to be objective I have to acknowledge that this figure does have problems and it doesn’t feel like a premium, collector, figure. The quality doesn’t feel far removed from a Jakks figure you can find at Target for 10-12 bucks, except this one costs $45. The soft goods vest is nice, and the packaging is flashy, but the figure doesn’t really measure up. Only get this one if you’re a big fan of Pinocchio and are willing to accept its flaws.


S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Event Exclusive Color Edition Super Saiyan God Son Goku

Goku has officially ascended to godhood.

The last of my San Diego Comic Con 2021 exclusives has finally arrived and it’s the event exclusive version of the Bandai/Tamashii Nations Super Saiyan God Goku. Now, Dragon Ball fans might quibble with my title for this article as I called it Dragon Ball Super when this form technically debuted in a Dragon Ball Z film, Battle of Gods, which would then be adapted into the anime series Dragon Ball Super. I’m just going with what’s on the packaging, folks, but if I had to place a label on this version of Goku I would say it does feel more like a Dragon Ball Super thing. At any rate, it’s the same film that featured the debut of Lord Beerus, who we looked at last week and it was my desire to add Beerus to my collection that prompted me to just get Goku too. The two clash in that film, and this figure felt like a good one to pair with Beerus. I’m not actually too keen on the Super Saiyan God transformation, but maybe this figure will change my mind.

Super Saiyan God is characterized by Goku getting reddish-pink hair and remaining rather lean. Not quite early DBZ lean, but certainly leaner than Buu Saga Goku.

Super Saiyan God was the latest power-up introduced in Battle of Gods and it would be quickly eclipsed by the Super Saiyan version of that, the mouthful Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan. Or, Super Saiyan Blue for short. I don’t really understand the specifics of the whole thing, but basically, in order for a Saiyan to attain this form, he needs to have five other Saiyans lend them their energy which somehow becomes divine and leads to this transformation. The actual transformation gives the Saiyan a firey red aura, turns their hair a red-pink, and actually causes them to slim down as opposed to bulk up. Since the shape of the hair remains the same, they don’t necessarily look like a Super Saiyan, which is this form can then go Super Saiyan and become the blue version. How Goku (and later Vegeta) learn how to use this form without the added step of having other Saiyans lend them energy is either not explained or not explained well. Either way, it wouldn’t be Dragon Ball if there wasn’t some element of things being made up as they go along, would it?

You do have to fiddly with angles and those damn sleeves to get the best look. Here I failed as you can see the flesh colored piece inside the joint, which should be orange.

This version of Goku should feel pretty familiar to anyone who has handled one of the many recent Goku figures that Bandai has released. It’s the same body as the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I’ve already reviewed and Bandai has been able to get a lot of use out of this buck. The only difference I can see with that figure is the arms are actually smaller and leaner, which is appropriate for this form. I’m not sure if they’re the same as the Saiyan Raised on Earth Son Goku figure, since I don’t have that one, but it is nice to see a subtle difference between the two godly Goku figures since it makes sense. Outside of the biceps and forearms, the other difference really is just in the paint job and belt. This figure has a lighter orange to the gi likely to account for the aura and because it’s the event exclusive color edition. The belt is the Cell Saga era belt too which doesn’t feature a knot and the boots are a much brighter shade of blue. The laces are also painted red like the piping as opposed to brown. The choice of colors, combined with the translucent, pink, hair, does really help to create the illusion that Goku is glowing. It’s neat, and I think it works well for this form.

The paint flaw on Goku’s left sleeve might seem like a minor thing to someone reading this, but for a figure with very little paint on it, it’s a bit ridiculous they can’t get it right. This is also the best pic for seeing how the vest and crotch are a different shade of orange.

Beyond those changes, a lot of the figure feels the same. There’s some shading on the front of the pants and abdomen, but that’s basically it. The other painted areas are the flesh color on the chest and the blue trim on the sleeves. Unfortunately, the left sleeve on mine was not painted particularly cleanly. The plastic on the face also doesn’t match the neck and chest as well as it could, otherwise, the painted details on the face look good. The plastic inside the butterfly joint is also cast in the proper color, orange, as opposed to flesh colored like my previous Goku figure so that’s a plus. There is no shading on the crotch area though, or on the upper torso, which will probably irritate some. I get their reluctance to shade the crotch because if it goes too heavy he might look like he pissed himself, but more shading would have been nice. It seems to be something the original release of this figure has over this one, as just looking up images of that reveals a more vibrant release.

He can assume the position, but the lack of energy parts is a bummer.

The figure also feels the same because the accessories are pretty much the same. You get four faces with this guy: stoic, smiling, teeth grit, and yelling. They all look fine, though I’m kind of partial to the stoic face for this form. As far as hands go, you get the fisted hands in the box plus flat palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha, and wide open hands. Pretty much the only hand you don’t get is an instant transmission hand, but we have plenty of those in other sets so I don’t think it’s a loss. There’s no effects part though, which is always a bummer. Being an event exclusive, I wish Bandai had added an aura effect since this guy did retail for $50, but that’s how it goes.

Look! It’s the battle of the gods we were promised!

The articulation for Goku is, stop me if you heard me say it already, the same as past Goku releases. He has the floaty pieces in his hips to cover up the joint and the sleeves which peg into the shoulders that I’ve never really liked. He can look up and down no problem and the butterfly joints in the shoulders allow Goku to do his signature energy blast poses. His head is on the old ball-hinge the original release had, and not the updated ball peg which is much better. It works, but sometimes you have to fight it to get it to bend where you want it to. At least it works better on Goku than it did on Beerus since his entire head swaps and you can accidentally get that hinge facing in a direction you don’t want. The hips don’t go out very far to the side, but he can kick forward and back because has those floating pieces instead of a sculpted butt. The knees and elbows will get you better than 90 degrees while the ball-peg ankles are just okay. The toe hinge is bad. Most of the joints are nice and smooth, with the lone exception being the right thigh twist on my figure. This is a first for me, but that thing is stuck. I have never had this issue with a Figuarts release before, but one twist caused the leg to pop off. Thankfully, it’s just a ball and socket connection so no damage was done, but it is a bummer.

IS Beerus too tall or Goku too short? Considering one of these guys is the main character for the series from which all other figures should be compared to for scaling purposes, I’m going to say it’s the cat that is too tall.

Does this figure make me a fan of Super Saiyan God? Yes and no. I think the translucent effect with the hair and the brighter approach to the color palette work really well, and it’s essentially what you’re paying for if you get this exclusive. I think that approach to the hair is an improvement over the standard release from a few years back, but probably not enough of one to warrant an upgrade if you already have it. Otherwise, he’s a Figuarts Goku. It’s a good figure, I wish mine didn’t have that paint error on one sleeve, but aside from that it feels like a quality figure. I don’t regret my purchase, but I’m also not doing backflips. If you’re at all familiar with this line, then you should probably know if you want this figure or not. And if you do, and you have yet to purchase one, well you’re in trouble because the secondary market is essentially all that remains. The prices I’m seeing aren’t terrible, but they’re obviously more than the $50 it would have cost you last summer.

To close this out, will end with the gathering of the Gokus. You can see the different approach in color when comparing him to SSB Goku, and the leaner proportions. Goku Black is really an all-together different figure, but we’ll let him stand here anyway.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

For many years, one of the most talked about subjects in the world of movie sequels was the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3. The original film was released back in 1984 and a cultural phenomenon was born. It was a huge hit for both its comedic acting and for the (at the time) incredible special effects. It blossomed from there into a franchise that appealed mainly to children via the DiC production The Real Ghostbusters. That was my introduction to the franchise as a little kid. I’d park myself in front of the TV every weekday for that cartoon. It was the last one of the day as usually my mom took over the TV soon after to watch the evening news. I can distinctly remember being seated on the carpet of my living room floor with our big, chunky, RCA console television with the keypad channel select in-front of me as the sun gradually went down and the house grew progressively darker. The light from the TV during the closing credits was often the only thing illuminating the room when the show concluded in the fall and winter months and the sounds and smells of my mom preparing dinner would filter in.

Ghostbusters was my first love when it came to a brand. I had a collection of action figures, vehicles, and the ever important fire house play set at my fingertips. And slime, lots of slime, which stained my clothes and ruined carpets. It’s smell is as familiar to me today as it was back then. Like all kids, I eventually drifted away as I was seduced by some reptiles who practiced ninjutsu, but of course I’ve held a fondness for the property my entire life. I would eventually be introduced to the original film, and when the sequel came out I was in prime Ghostbuster-loving form. As an adult, I certainly appreciate that original film more than I did as a kid and it’s rightly held up as a classic.

To best sell the Ghostbusters brand in 2021, the film wisely turned to the spirit of old Amblin films as well as modern interpretations such as Stranger Things. Finn Wolfhard being present in both is either smart casting or coincidence.

Still, when it came to the concept of a Ghostbusters 3, I was decidedly lukewarm. Over the years, it became apparent that not everyone wanted it to happen. Actor/writer Dan Aykroyd very much wanted to do a third film, and it certainly sounded like Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and director Ivan Reitman were onboard. The main holdout was Bill Murray, who seemed to have no desire to revisit the franchise either because it didn’t interest him or due to personal conflicts with some of the other parties involved, in particular, Ramis. I know a few fans who were angry and disappointed with Murray over his stance, but I personally never was. You can’t do Ghostbusters without Peter Venkman, and you can’t recast the role either. If his heart isn’t in it, then why force the issue? The existing sequel already wasn’t very good, so maybe the world didn’t need more Ghostbusters?

Murray’s reluctance didn’t stop the franchise from moving forward. Eventually, a compromise was reached in the form of the Ghostbusters video game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and other consoles. It featured the voice cast from the films and put players in the role of a new Ghostbuster. Some encounters from the films were rehashed and then the plot moved forward into a realm that the movies probably never would have gone. A reboot was also released in 2016, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, which featured cameos from the original cast in different roles. It received a mixed response, some of which was due to misogyny as millions of man-babies scoffed at the all-female cast, which is unfortunate. Sony declined to turn it into a bonafide franchise, despite it being a profitable film. Apparently, it didn’t make enough money or maybe the toy sales failed to meet expectations.

The film might also be looking to “Baby Yoda” for marketing as well.

What changed things was, unfortunately, the death of Harold Ramis in 2014. It was during that time that he and Murray apparently made-up and a new wave of nostalgia flowed from the property. It probably helped in getting everyone onboard for the reboot, but when that failed to become a franchise it seemed to put a third film back into focus. It ended up being Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman, who was able to come up with a script for a third film with his writing partner Gil Kenan, and get everyone onboard for a new film. It wouldn’t be a reboot, but a sequel with the aim of restarting the franchise with a new cast of Ghostbusters. It wouldn’t require the original characters and actors to do the heavy lifting, which is probably what interested Murray the most, and it would also give a new generation a chance to succeed as Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the result of all of that. The film was originally slated for 2020, but COVID happened and the release was delayed until late 2021 as Sony likely expected this to do big numbers in theaters. Reitman would direct with his father on-hand as a producer. Adolescent characters are the focus of the film, so naturally Finn Wolfhard was imported from Stranger Things to play Trevor, McKenna Grace was cast as younger sister Phoebe, and Carrie Coons was cast as their mother, Callie. The three are evicted from their apartment at the start of the film and forced to move to the desolate town of Summerville where Carrie’s absent father lived most recently up until his passing. The film actually begins with her father, who is quite obviously a Ghostbuster (and it’s pretty obvious which, but I’ll refrain from spoiling it), and his final moments.

McKenna Grace steals the show as Phoebe.

The family is not particularly happy about their new home, but they adapt. It soon becomes obvious that something weird is going on in Summerville. Phoebe is the film’s center as she makes friends fast with a kid who calls himself Podcast (Logan Kim) and attracts the attention of her summer school instructor Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a seismologist just collecting a check while trying to figure out why a town positioned on no fault line has daily earthquakes. Phoebe soon has odd encounters with the paranormal in her new, spooky, house and this sets the kids on course to finding out who their grandfather was and what he was dealing with up until his death.

And Paul Rudd is here doing Paul Rudd stuff to the film’s benefit.

Because of its focus on the kids, Ghostbusters: Afterlife very much feels like Stranger Things meets Ghostbusters. The kids spend the bulk of the film investigating and uncovering the supernatural, and it’s a solid approach for this kind of film. It is a bit unrealistic that the kids are completely unfamiliar with the events of the first two Ghostbusters films, but the movie tries to offer a plausible explanation for that. Ultimately, it’s not that important as it’s more fun for the kids to be mostly unaware. Rudd is the stand-in for the older, male, audience likely flocking to see the film as, unlike the kids, he knows who the Ghostbusters are and he geeks out over the items Phoebe finds in her house. He’s a fanboy, and he remains in the picture partially because he takes a liking to Phoebe’s mom. He’s his usual, likable, self though with great comedic timing.

The Rudd/McKenna pairing is one of the few things from this film that left me looking forward to a sequel.

The young actors all do a terrific job, but it’s McKenna Grace as Phoebe who steals the show. The film asks a lot of her, but she’s up to the task of playing the brainy, socially awkward, pre-teen. She begins the film as a paranormal denier, but she’s also inquisitive and willing to investigate everything her new home throws at her without prejudice. Anyone even remotely familiar with the original film knows where her journey will take her, but she’s such a likable character that we’re onboard with following her and invested in her own journey.

Fan service is on the menu.

Because this film is designed primarily to appeal to those who grew up on Ghostbusters, it does contain a pretty sizable deal of fan service. There’s lots of easter eggs present in the film, some are tied into the plot and others are just for fun. There’s no real mystery where the film is going, but like an amusement park ride that’s on display for all to see, I think most are onboard with knowing the destination even if it’s plainly obvious. The film drip feeds the audience with the nostalgic moments, saving the big payoff for the final act, and it’s a satisfying ride. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, and yes, you will probably cry before it’s all over.

Special effects were a huge component of the original film, and they’re obviously a part of this one as well. The film doesn’t rely on them as much, since special effects are basically in everything, but they are done pretty well. The film incorporates practical effects where possible which helps in not making it look too far removed from the original film. There’s also still plenty of computer-aided visuals and they all look fine. The soundtrack very much invokes the memory of the first film, and yes, the classic theme song will make an appearance at some point. What’s perhaps even more successfully nostalgic are the recycled sound effects we all know and love. Proton packs, traps, the Ecto-1 itself all basically sound the same or near enough to fool me.

Almost 40 years later, and busting still makes me feel good. This guy probably can’t say the same.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very much a fun, nostalgic, trip back through the franchise that offers a clear path forward as well. It’s not so focused on nostalgia that it can’t entertain someone unfamiliar with the franchise, but it likely won’t land as hard for them. This is the fan service reboot I think a lot of people wanted. It’s not exactly what some may have envisioned of a true Ghostbusters 3, but I think it’s the best possible sequel we could have got. I personally did not want to see a bunch of old guys running around New York again trapping ghosts and that’s partly why I was never personally hung-up on the prospect of a third film. This film approaches Ghostbusters as something to be revered, without taking itself too seriously. There’s plenty of heart and laughs and it does set itself up for a new round of films focused on a younger cast. There may be some who wanted to see more of Ray, Pete, and Winston, but I think the vast majority of people who sit down to watch this will enjoy it. It’s definitely more interested in serving those older fans, so even though Reitman clearly wants to continue with this new cast, I’m not sure the majority of fans will walk away eager for what’s next. Those stories can be figured out later though. For now, this is a wonderful tribute to the late Harold Ramis, and unfortunately has become one for the recently passed Ivan Reitman. I think it’s a film that everyone connected with the property can feel proud of, and it’s a sweet goodbye to these classic characters.


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