Life In Plastic: TOY REVIEW: The Alien (Alien ReAction)

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I am very sad to report that H. R. Giger has passed away.  So let’s honor his memory, shall we? Everybody knows about the 1979 Alien toys. Well no, we don’t. So here’s your refresher: In 1979, Kenner produced a massive 18 inch tall Alien. It was surprisingly movie-accurate for the time (and even by current standards), but there were huge concerns over-marketing an R-rated movie to children with a ghastly skull-faced phallic monster, so it really didn’t sell well. If you want one now, expect to pay $300-$500. But what isn’t as widely-known is that Kenner also planned on producing a set of 3 3/4″ figures to accompany the movie, kind of in the style of Star Wars toys (and, well, everything else. Seriously, there are Dukes of Hazzard figures in that scale). They never got made. But then, recently, Funko and Super 7 toys managed to purchase the rights to the old prototypes of those figures… and then produce them!

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Dubbed the “ReAction” line, this is an amazing kind of nostalgia – producing the unproduced just because. Because it’s awesome. The ReAction logo even matches the same font as Kenner’s old logo. And reproducing the old Alien toys is only the beginning – Funko plans to expand to other properties such as Back to the Future, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Pulp Fiction, and even Firefly! Those won’t be based on vintage toys so much as produced in the vintage style, but the sentiment is the same: What if all of them got merchandise back in 1979? Would it have been good? Could our modern toys re-enact The Lion King with it because it is so much smaller?

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Now of course, this does produce sort of an interesting conundrum – these are 1970s toys made according to 1970s standards. It would be unfair to judge them according to our modern tastes now, though certain things have to be obvious. And yes, here will be modern-style 4″ Aliens coming soon from another company, so let’s just take a look at this and enjoy the ride!

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PACKAGING: **** The packaging for this line is superb – it’s as vintage as you can get! I could imagine seeing this on the helf way back when, and in fact it reminds me a little of those old Remco Universal Monsters. You get a picture of the Alien on front with a tiny blister bubble that holds the creature itself.

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The back shows off the whole line, including Ripley, Ash, Kane, and Dallas. It advertises such features as STURDY PLASTIC and POSABLE FIGURES, as well as how you can “Manipulate Teeth To Attack!” or how “His Evil Brains Glow In The Dark!” It’s all very retro.

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SCULPT: ***1/2 By modern standards, this Alien is a little less than impressive. But in vintage terms, it would have been incredible! Remember, back then they really didn’t have to care much about accuracy. And yet here’s the little bugger, with tubes where there should be tubes, ridges where there should be ridges, and even the correct dorsal spines – something that the 1990s figures did not even get right. The tail is curled in a little loop between its legs, oddly matching the Scorpion Alien from the 1990s series.

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One nice little detail is what’s under his removable dome. See, they got this right with the big figure, too, but most people would not have thought to include the eye sockets or dimples under the Alien’s dome. But Kenner did! The skull does lack a nose socket, but that is comparatively minor.

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But I do have to point out how Kenner cheaped out on the Alien’s inner jaw. On this toy, it’s a tongue. A flat, white, forked tongue. No teeth, no body, no second mouth, just a white tongue. They did a great job with other parts, which just raises questions about this one.

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PAINT: *** Ah, paint! Well, thankfully with the Alien, the simpler the better. The Alien is cast in charcoal-gray plastic, which is just fine. the paint is minimalist, but that suits it – the 1990s series would feature sprayed-on highlights, but this is good.

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The Alien’s teeth and tongue do have their share of paint – clean on the teeth, though there is a splotch on the nose on mine. The tongue is white and not at all like a secondary set of jaws. And of course, the dimples on its head are here represented by white splotches of paint designed to glow in the dark. But you know, I’ve tried, and they really must have been using vintage paint – this thing barely glows at all! I won’t even call it an afterthought, I’ll just say that you might as well forget all about it.

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ARTICULATION: **** Okay, okay, see, for its time, this was great articulation. The Alien moves at the Big Five – shoulders, hips, head – swivels at the tail, and also has its inner jaw/tongue action feature. The arms have a slight crook at the elbow, which helps make its poses look a little more natural (if zombieish). The tail also looks good no matter how you rotate it, with the options being curled between its legs or sticking out the back. It doesn’thave much trouble taking a good, movie-ish pose, which is really a good thing with a toy like this.

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The action feature is really simple: There is a switch on the Alien’s head. Slide it forward to push out his inner jaws, and back to bring them in again. It works just fine, even if the inner jaws are poorly-made. The switch on top would almost be unsightly if not for how it blends in with those annoying spots, so I will give credit for that.

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ACCESSORIES: ** Every ReAction Alien figure comes with an accessory! Ripley has a flamethrower! Ash has a motion detector! And the Alien has itself. In many lines, I would attribute this to the figure being perhaps bigger than the rest, or requiring a higher budget to produce. That’s probably not the case here.

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So, he comes with nothing? Well no, that’s not entirely true – though it lacks any eggs or facehuggers or Jonesies, it does have its removable dome. The dome is clear plastic, and not foggy or painted-over like NECA’s. It fits on the head pretty nicely, and you can see the skull underneath without too much trouble. Yes, this matches the movie, though there aren’t many scenes where you can tell.

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However, the dome is pretty darn loose. Just when you think you’ve got it, it’ll fall off your Alien and disappear! Really, it’s odd – it isn’t lose and will stay on even when the Alien is upside-down, but it just isn’t very secure and will slip off at the slightest provocation.

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VALUE: **** $10 is what you would pay for a much smaller toy than this. Considering that these are trendy retro action figures, I expected worse.

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THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR: That dome is loose and extremely easy to lose. In the time between buying this toy and this review, I have had to track it down and dig it up at least five times. Even though the Alien looks cool without it, always try to keep track of where the dome is!

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WHERE TO BUY: You can find this figure all over – especially Big Bad Toy Store – but I found mine by walking into a Barnes & Noble.

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OVERALL: **** I didn’t buy them all at Barnes & Noble because the gimmick could only take me so far, but I love this little Alien toy. By modern standards it is cheap and stiff and silly, but if you looka t it based on when it was made, it actually blows a lot of vintage Star Wars figures out of the water! I am impressed at how much detail Kenner was willing to commit to an Alien sculpt, and the end result is a fun little curiosity born way out of its time. If you are an Alien fan – and if you’re not, why read this? – then absolutely pick this guy up when you can!

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