So, here we have a nonsexualized, independent female protagonist of indeterminate mixed-race origins with no special attention or stereotyping added… and some people STILL call it racist!
YOU CAN’T WIN, FOLKS
Anyway… Chell is your Silent Protagonist of the extremely popular Portal games. You know, the one with the companion cube and Still Alive and The Cake is A Lie. It’s the Internet Meme Game! She’s a test subject for Aperture Laboratories, and there’s a lot of other complex stuff in there, but suffice to say that things aren’t the way they seem, and she’s at the mercy of GLaDOS, an AI so crazy that HAL looks quiet in comparison. Her only resources are her knee-replacement spring boots and a portal gun, so the game’s kind of like a big puzzle.
Rather than make a version of Chell from the first game, they opted for the second – the only real difference is that she’s got a t-shirt, and her jumpsuit top is tied around her waist like a jacket. That, and one issue with the accessories that I’ll get to later. So… how did they do with this seriously fan-demanded lady? Let’s find out!
Chell is packed in a full clamshell – that’s not a cardboard backing, it’s a paper slip. Her bio on the back reads:
“Quiet and resourceful, Chell remains one of Aperture’s most secretive and mysterious test subjects. Luckily, we were able to talk to one of Chell’s former coworkers, who assured us that she was Chell’s “closest – well, why beat around the bush – only friend.” When asked for three words that best describe Chell, our anonymous source decided on ‘monster’; ‘uncaring monster’; and ‘generously-proportioned monster.'”
Never, EVER let GLaDOS write your character bios.
But anyway, the big thing about this is that it has PORTALS! Chell doesn’t come with portal accessories, but that paper insert has red AND blue portals to sorta-kinda pose her with! Though there’s text in the way. But if you get creative, like I did, you can do a lot with them – and they’re just a really awesome feature. Kudos to NECA for making the packaging a major part of her play value!
Chell’s physical appearance is based on actress Alesia Glidewell, who is half-Japanese, one-quarter Brazilian, and one-quarter… I dunno. So she fits into that “vaguely brown” category of really beautiful women who won’t make white people feel weird!
…okay, okay, I kid. But seriously, the “racist” accusations were because she looks too “white” for some people. Look, I get it. I railed against Star Trek Into Darkness’s whitewashing of (SPOILER) until I was shaking with apoplexy. I don’t think that Halle Berry should call herself black. I feel that only Klan members would watch the Last Airbender movie. But Chell is not racist. Her figure is not racist. Let. It. Go.
And that’s that! On with the toy!
Chell’s face is pretty well-sculpted… though it’s not perfect. Depending on the angle, she’ll either look great or kind of goofy, and you might not want to go over her with a magnifying glass. overall I have to say it’s one of the best female faces I’ve seen on a toy in this price range, so I’m not complaining. her hair is also fine – it looks like a realistic, sensible ponytail. She wants to have some hair length for when she’s in public, but she also doesn’t want it getting in the way in the lab. And seeing as how Chell clearly doesn’t have any access to a stylist in Aperture Labs, it doesn’t look very fancy.
Her body is also well-done – the texturing on her clothes is fantastic, with wrinkles where there should be wrinkles, and texturing where there should be texturing. She has hips! HIPS! Her body isn’t shaped 100% like a strange supermodel! This is AWESOME! Sure, she’s a little buxom, but it’s the realistic kind, and not bad at all. She’s got a t-shirt on, an undershirt beneath the t-shirt, her jumpsuit pants, sweat pants beneath the jumpsuit pants, her jumpsuit top tied around her waist like a sweater (maybe it’s a hot day?), and those odd springy boots of hers – it’s kind of silly how women are forced to stand on point, come to think of it. Medusa had heel-spikes, CHell has jump-boots shapes like women’s dress shoes… come on, folks! Give her normal spring boots! This is not a complaint about sexism, it’s just that she can’t really stand with her feet being the way that they are.
Her arms are smooth and lack muscle definition – but hey, I have a feeling that this matches the girl herself. if you look closely, they are appropriately shaped, and not just plastic tubes – it’s just that she isn’t ripped. The one drawback is that her arm articulation is really, really visible. Distractingly so. There wasn’t anything that NECA could do, but the visible arms, slightly wonky face, and poor balance cost this otherwise-fine toy a star.
Maybe i’m just spoiled, but after seeing Dutch Schaefer’s skin tone, Chell feels a little disappointing. She isn’t cast in flesh tone, but rather painted that way – and you can kind of see how the matte paint probably obscures some sculpt details. It’s also got a few ripples and creases, as paint is wont to do sometimes. But other than THAT, Chell’s paint job is pretty good, with appropriate colors where they need to be. Her hairline is a little off, but I can’t see any more paint slop. I especially like some of the little details, like the blood stain on one of her knees – the poor girl must have taken a nasty fall, like I did into a culvert last Easter. Ouch!
Other than the hair, her face is fine, with the fine detail typically expected from NECA. Apertur’e slogo is stamped onto her t-shirt, and since it’s a stamp it’s flawless. Overall, Chell’s paint work is great – it’s just that little bit of slop that pulls down an otherwise-fantastic figure. And I’m spoiled.
Chell’s head is a ball joint, and nearly everything else – shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, waist, and knees – are ball-and-socket joints. It’s a good setup, and she can take a few decent poses – for one thing, she can hold her portal gun appropriately, and that’s a bonus!
Buuuuuuut… I hate to nitpick on Chell. Really. Don’t judge me because the figure isn’t perfect! It’s just that the shirt tied around her waist restricts her hips so badly that you can barely pose her – I was able to move her legs into two real poses, “standing straight up,” and “taking a step forward.” It limits the poor girl a lot, but I suppose it couldn’t be helped… unless they had made the socket joints a little bit lower, then it would have been much better. Ah, well. Other than that, her articulation is great… but legs are really important. And she can’t sit down or kick things or crouch properly, thus rendering Chell a static desk decoration. So it’s worth a star.
There isn’t much that Chell could come with. I mean, sure, she could have portals, or a companion cube, or Wheatley’s personality core, or a turret, or some cake, or a potato, or GLaDOS’s potato, but… oh. hmmm.
Chell comes with her portal gun and a base that she can (thankfully) plug into and stand on! The gun is awesome – it looks just like it does in the game, a big cannon designed by iPod fetishists – it fits securely in her hands, and it lights up! Press the button, and an LED lights itself in blue! Press it again, and it turns off. Now… mine died after five minutes of being on, maybe. After one photoshoot. I assume that kids just played with it in the store, and a new watch battery would last a lot longer, so there’s that. But seriously, the portal gun is AWESOME. If only she came with a little bit more… like a companion cube. Chell needs a cube. I know she didn’t have one in Portal 2, but Chell without a companion cube is like Garfield without lasagna. The cube IS Chell. You can buy plush and solid cubes in 1:1 scale. She NEEDS one to hold! But the portal gun is cool, so… okay. Only a half-star missing.
LIGHT-UP FEATURE: ****
Assuming that it doesn’t devour all batteries in seconds, the light-up gun is AWESOME!
Chell will run you about $17 at Toys R Us, and you just know she’ll shoot up to like $50 on the secondary market. The lower price is really good for what you get – I love how NECA takes almost any toy company to school when it comes to pricing!
Compare paint on the figures in the store if you can. Watch out for the prongs on her gun and her heel-springy things. Aside freom those, Chell is good.
Overall, Chell is a great figure of a great video game character – she’s a good character who is female. She’s a good character who isn’t white. She is NOT a “Strong Female Character,” or an “Ethnic Role Model,” or whatever. Those aren’t good. She is. A truly non-racist and non-sexist society would just have good characters, with race and sex as secondary characteristics. So I applaud Valve for that! It’s just the little nitpicks – some sculpt wonkiness, visible articulation, limited articulation, inability to stand, sloppy paint, and short-shrift accessories that cut her down a bit. But if you don’t mind those issues, then go for it! Chell is really more than worth it as a toy, and I’d recommend her in a heartbeat! She’s just not perfect, that’s all.
WHERE TO BUY:
Go and grab her from Toys R Us while you can. if not, then snag her online now, before her price explodes!