Not many people like Predator 2, but it seems that everybody loves the ending, where Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) chases the Predator all the way back to its ship, and runs into the trophy wall, filled with skulls from all sorts of aliens across the universe. Of course, most people remember the Xenomorph Skull, which actually is the reason for the whole crossover franchise – Alien Vs. Predator came about because of an easter egg!
Anyway, the Predator ship was an awesome set, covered in all sorts of little visual details that make no sense when you realize how crappy Predator vision is and how unlikely it would be that they would see or care about any of that. But let’s ignore that, because the alternative wouldn’t be as cool. So, NECA chose to produce this wall as a special diorama play set – remember when all toys had those? Castle Grayskull, the FLAGG, the Technodrome, Swamp Thing’s tree stump fort… of course, they still exist nowadays, but they’re rare because the economy sucks.
This one was a long time in coming, with NECA releasing the skulls off and on over the last three or so years, promising that the wall would be made if it were economically feasible. And so it was! The Trophy Wall had a limited distribution at the beginning of summer – and by limited, i mean that you can readily buy it on-line, but don’t even try to find one locally. I scoured the entire San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley Bay Area, which is a geek Mecca, and found none. Zero. Zilch. But it’s for sale on the ‘net, so that worked. Anyway, let’s have a look at this wonderful new piece of scenery!
The Trophy Wall comes in a gigantic cardboard box! Really, it’s big. Notice how I didn’t photograph it against a black backdrop? that’s because it’s too big! It gives you a good look at the wall – with skulls attached – and has a nice little blurb on the back. The cardboard is sturdy, too.
Inside, the whole thing is wrapped in plastic and sandwiched in styrofoam. The pegs and lone skull (only one skull comes with the wall – more on that later) are wrapped in plastic in a little crevice. Everything is firmly padded and held in place, thankfully ensuring that this thing shouldn’t be damaged.
First off, this thing is HUGE. I mean, sure, you can look at the dimensions, or see it next to some large toys, but it just doesn’t really feel real until you see it. It’s about 11″x12″, and fairly deep, so there is room to pose your figures – it’s not like the type of backdrop you get packed in with a normal figure, which usually barely covers them. For perspective, it covers an entire console in my bookshelf. The wall is also about fifteen pounds, because it isn’t plastic – it’s resin! It feels sturdy, but I won’t try to test the thing to see how easy it is to chip. Just trust me, it’s HUGE. And HEAVY. And SOLID. You really feel like you’re getting your money’s worth!
As for the sculpt, it’s incredibly detailed – every single wire and notch is perfectly sculpted, and even the smooth parts have a nicely weathered look to them. Fantastic! The back is flat, plain, unadorned, and stamped with copyright info, but this means that it won’t mess with the main sculpt. This is something that I am going to use in so many photos. So many, many photos. I’m amazed that it ever came out, and it just affirms my mostly-illogical love of NECA! Seriously, the thing’s awesome. AWESOME!!!
The source material didn’t exactly offer a fancy, complex color scheme, so this diorama really had only one job to do. It’s rusty copper in color, with a few darker washes to bring out the sculptural details. And it works – it’s probably because of the large scale, but this paint wash works without any slop or bare patches. The color combination is really convincing, looking just like old, weathered metal, it’s not very exciting to write about, but it looks great.
HA! HAHAHAHA! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
I really need to get away from this template sometimes. No articulation, no action features… though you can pull out the posts, I guess. So let’s talk about those. Each post is shaped differently, and plugs in to one and only one spot on the wall. The associated art in the instructions doesn’t really represent them well, but you can figure it out easily.
ACCESSORIES: ** or ****
The Trophy Wall has room for eight skulls, but only comes with one. The other seven were scattered among several previously-released Predators, although NECA does offer a special skull pack with all of them (and one duplicate of the smallest) from Amazon and eBay for about $20, shipping included. Keep that in mind, although I am going to treat it as if it has all of its skulls for this review. Check this site, though, because I’ll soon be posting an article on what to do if you can’t find any of the “official” skulls!
First up is the massive dinosaur skull, the only one that comes with the wall. It’s massive, easily the size of a Predator’s torso, and is the only one made of flexible plastic. Whatever four-eyed creature possessed this clearly wasn’t an earth dinosaur, if the mandibles didn’t already indicate that. Speaking of those, the mandibles on mine seem a little crooked, but that could be on purpose, as they look good when hung on the wall. It fits securely into its own post in the corner.
Next up is the one everyone asks about, talks about, and that costs the most on the secondary market – the Alien skull! I know, Xenomorphs seem like they have exoskeletons and no internal framework, but one of the (few) good things about AvP was how it showed that they have both. Crack the exoskeleton, watch out for the acid, and then peel it and the flesh away to reveal bone! This… actually makes sense, considering that they borrow host DNA. You’ll note that it has a few “normal” bones, to. And it’s got an articulated jaw, which is pretty cool! The Skull is a little tricky to mount, as it uses two posts to support itself – try putting one under the back of the head, and threading the other through the hole in its lower jaw.
After that, we’ve got another big skull – the Giant. This one came in an older release, so it’s also kind of hard to find. It’s a big, bulbous skull with spikes on the chin, and is one of the more “normal” of the skulls on the wall. The detailing is good, and it’s also got a surprising amount of heft. It has a huge socket in the back to plug into one of the pegs near the top, and is very secure.
This weird tusky skull is kind of hard to make out at first – whatever thorny beast it belonged to definitely had small eyes! This one is cool, and came with a fairly recent set, so a lot of collectors will already have one. one of its eye sockets is actually shaped for the post in the upper right, but it hangs extremely loosely, and you have to prop it very carefully or it’ll simply slide off. That alone is the only real problem that this wall has.
And then there’s the Klingon skull. I have no idea what else it could be! It came from the same set of Predators as the big tusky one, and plugs nicely into a standard peg on the wall.
Two of the skulls don’t really go on the wall, although they fit on the shelf. The Predator skull actually made an appearance in Predators, the third movie – it was lying in the dirt in the Predator camp, a sign of the inter-tribal war that was going on. Seeing that thing discarded said a lot – maybe they don’t take trophies from their own race, or maybe they didn’t consider the Predators there to be worth the trouble. Either way, it looks great, and has little sockets and divots for Predator dreadlocks, which is kind of creepy to look at. The jaw is articulated, too, so this is perfect for Predator Hamlet!
Then there’s the Super Predator skull, which never made a movie appearance, but helps round things out. It looks great, showing off the distinctive bone ridges of the Super Predators, and like the other skull it matches up with the actual Pred heads, and its jaw is articulated. Both predator skulls fit easily on the shelf beneath the Trophy Wall, so they’re good.
The remaining three skulls are all human! Firstly, the skull with a spinal cord matches the way that Predators sometimes keep a little extra with their trophies. It looks as good as can be expected (and most Preds can hold it), and clamps securely into the wall – just watch the tiny prongs when you fit it in, of course.
The bloody skull with a spinal cord probably came from Jerry Lambert, played by Bill Paxton. And I have to say, shame on the Predator for not cleaning it up! Actually, I don’t think this one was on the wall in the movie, but it is an accessory (that came with a recent Pred), so they made room for it.
The plain human skull, which came with one of the most recent Predators, is the one that gets a duplicate with NECA’s skull pack. Its only possible problem is that its post is a little low, so the skull tilts downward when on the wall.
This diorama was meant to cost $50, but ended up retailing for $66 (lots of stores will raise that to $76 or $80). And if you’re ordering it online, expect to pay shipping on a 15 lbs. package. So this thing is going to hurt your wallet, though I got off relatively easily.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
The little posts for the skulls are small, and you want to be careful not to bend or snap them. Don’t force them into their holes, just rotate them until they fit. Also, a few skulls will be loose, but that can’t be helped. And even though the wall has tiny foam rubber feet, be careful not to scrape it on anything.
WHERE TO BUY:
if you see one at retail, rejoice! But if not… Entertainment Earth has the best deal that I’ve seen at $66 with $10 shipping (they have to be losing money on that), so I’d go try them before they run out. Everywhere else will charge you much, much more.
This has been NECA’s year. They’re taking so many risks that it’s scary, but it seems to be working out for them. The Trophy Wall is a great backdrop, a great home for a Predator display, and is just plain awesome! The only thing is, you might need to be creative if you lack the skulls. Well, stay tuned, because I’ll have an article on that one… soon.