Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent tearjerker of a film. Mind you, I saw that movie shortly after losing a grandparent and a pet, and the fact that both are running themes in that movie may have influenced me a little. I was also impressed with how, super-intelligence aside, the apes were treated fairly realistically. Sort of. Maurice the Super-Smart Circus Orangutan may have stretched the bounds a little – his sign language was more eloquent than Koko! But how could you not love the sad-faced, wryly sarcastic orangutan?
Maurice’s role in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was built around compassion – he became Caesar’s friend, and was sort of the “heart” of the super-smart ape tribe. He was also named after the guy who played Dr. Zaius, but that’s another story. He will return in the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, most likely in a similar role. By that time, the ape tribe has had a good ten years to settle in and adjust to their new lives, so it will be interesting to see how the character of Maurice develops. And as long as it isn’t a massive skeleton like is funeral procession, we’ll ne fine again.
NECA’s staff loves apes. Seriously. Long before they announced the Planet of the Apes line, you could tell they were pushing for the license. And once they had it, Monkey Monday became a recurring thing on Twitter. So with that in mind, the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes toy line is as much a labor of love as the Alien and Predator lines – and yes, there are plans to include classic movie apes. The first series includes Caesar, Koba, and Maurice, with Maurice providing some necessary variety among the chimps (well, Koba is a Bonobo, but lay people can’t tell the difference). Maurice seemed like a good starting point for me, and I must confes an ulterior motive. Remember the Librarian of the Unseen University from Discworld? Well, now I have one! Sort of. The Unseen Librarian doesn’t have the dominant male cheek flaps that Maurice possesses. He also might be Sumatran, whereas Maurice is Bornean.
Maurice comes in a typical clamshell complete with movie logo and pictures of all the figures in this first wave. It’s nothing special, but it’s good for what it needs to be.
Maurice is a realistic Bornean Orangutan. This is important, so let’s repeat it: Maurice is a realistic Bornean Orangutan. That means that this toy is really a generic Orangutan, and deserves to be compared to all those museum-quality wildlife toys on the market. In case you’re wondering, Maurice wins. And handily. Whether made by Safari or Papo, those other figures just don’t look as good – it isn’t merelt their lack of articulation, but the fur and facial detail are almost museum quality on the “professional” Orangutan replicas, whereas NECA has reproduced a photorealistic ape on this, their first try.
This figure’s sculpting is perfect. His fur is textured just right (I can’t imagine the work it took to sculpt that), and contrast with the realistically-wrinkly skin on his hands and feet. His face has all the right textures, including on those cheek flaps, and he even has a realistic ape expression. That Maurice is a movie character is immaterial. The fact is, he is a great ape. NECA has just made an educational toy, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it!
The face deserves a second look. You know how apes look oddly human, but most toys or artwork tends to play up the resemblance and lose their animal nature? Not so here. Maurice definitely has those soulful eyes, but his face is all Orangutan. The toy is instantly expressive, but it does so without resorting to cheap anthropomorphization. This is a wild ape, plain and simple, and it is fantastic. The eyes are truy incredible – but then, so is everything else. Maurice is roughly six inches tall, and thus fits in with other figures in that scale.
Maurice’s paint blows the Papo figure out of the water, which is amazing when you realize that Papo is a European museum-replica company. NECA beat the professionals at their own game. Maurice is a mixture of appropriate orange and gray shades – darkcharcoal for his nearly-black skin, and red hair-red for his fur. The important thing is that nothing is just one solid color. This is far more significant than a mere paint wash – everything on Maurice comes in severla layers, whether it is his skin tone (with some realistic dirt on his face), or the various shades of red and orange that make up his hair. With the right backdrop and lighting, you could easily fool people into thinking that he is real.
And then you have the face. Wow, that face. His eyes are impossibly realistic. In an age where most toy companies would be fine with a solid color or two, NECA went the extra mile by adding so much detail that you would swear those were real Orangutan eyes. The minute detail is incredible, especially considering how most people would not directly see it. They might subtly understand that this toy is realistic, but not be able to put a finger on his sad, sad eyes.
Maurice has a ball-jointed neck, torso, elbows, knees, hips, hands, and feet, and ball-and-socket shoulders. This does not communicate how insanely poseable he is. Maurice isn’t just flexible, he has style. Seriously. If you want him dragging his knuckles on the ground, you can do that. Or you can put him in a “haters gonna hate” pimpwalk if the mood strikes you.
In fact, you can make him sit – and that really is a fet if you undestand the way his sculpt is constructed. Since his fur is plasticand not real hair, all of his hip and knee joints are somewhat constricted. And yet, NECA included workarounds – if you rotate his thighs just right, you can lower him into a realistic seated position. The joints may give you some resistance at first – mine did because of dried paint gumming them up – but they move just fine without any signs of breakage.
A really big thing about Maurice is his personality, and it shows in this figure. Even the slightest changes in his pose communicate a whole different mood, and do it so well that the toy is immediately display-worthy.
This category is slightly unfair – what could Maurice have come with? He’s an ape. He doesn’t need a grenade launcher. Maurice has a book. Theoretically, this book will become important in the new movie. Besides, he’s a circus ape. He knows how to read.
The book is nice, but it is closed and pretty light on the details. Perhaps a second, open one would have been in order? Objects like this make for great photo props, but this one does feel a little lacking. I appreciate the creases and wrinkles on the cover, though. That does make it seem more relaistic.
Maurice ranges in price from $18 to $23. The lower end of the spectrum is a pretty amazing deal, considering that les-detailed and smaller toys often sell for twice that.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Maurice is an extremely sturdy, durable figure. Nothing about him seems even remotely fragile.
WHERE TO BUY:
Maurice has been showing up in droves in Toys R Us, and finding a local figure will save you on shipping.
The thing that makes this figure so fantastic is how subtle it is. This isn’t an “X-TREME” mutant ape or an anthropomorphized animal-man. This is Maurice, the realistic Orangutan. This toy is flawless.
I can’t get over how good Maurice looks. The sculpt and paint are worthy of an uber-expensive high end figure, when in reality you will pay barely more than a Papo nature figure costs. Believe it or not, the toys have actually gotten me to pay more attention to the upcoming movie, and that is incredible. Also, the Librarian is awesome. Best librarian ever. EVER.