Review: War Paint Conan
I'll have a great deal to say about NECA, the company which produced this "action figure", over time, but I'm going to try and keep this short for now and get right to the review. Let me say this, though: while there are several companies whose action figures occupy a larger percent of my toy collection, there is no company which has produced more figures I've been willing to purchase at full retail price.
This is no exception, and it is a figure I'm very, very happy with.
That said, you're going to see a relatively low score at the end of this review. The reason for this discrepancy is simple: I'm not reviewing this as an action figure. Rather, I'm going to review this the way I'd review a statue.
Why? Because, for reasons I can't entirely comprehend, NECA seems obsessed with producing "action figures" as though they were statues. That means we're getting beautiful sculpts, but we aren't getting much articulation. As much as I prefer a good sculpt, you need some articulation just to display a figure properly.
Two versions of Conan were released: the "Pit Fighter" version and the "War Paint" figure reviewed below.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that if you'd have asked me two years ago to list five figures I wanted made from ANY property, this would have been on that list. Not just from this movie: this EXACT pose. Honestly, it might have been in the #1 spot.
At a glance, this is close to perfection. The sculpt work is top notch: not that I expect less from NECA. The first thing I did when I got this out of its packaging was pop my copy of Conan: The Barbarian into the dvd player, bring up the scene in question, and compare. It's closer than it has any right to be. In fact, if I were scoring this like a toy, the least I'd have given it would be a 9/10. But NECA decided, as they so often do, to sacrifice articulation. So I'm looking at this like a statue, and, while it's really good, there are some fairly serious issues, mostly with the paint.
The real problems are the splotches of blood on Conan's chest. Simply put, they don't work: it would have been better if they'd left them out. Sure, he's covered in the blood of his fallen foes in the film, and they did a good job of approximating the same shapes taken by the splatter. But on the figure it doesn't look like blood: it looks like paint. Big, ugly paint marks covering an otherwise immaculate sculpt and paint job.
Well, almost immaculate. NECA is better at handling faces than clothes: the texture never looks quite right. Also, on close examination his nose looks a little different than Schwarzenegger's. That's splitting hairs, though: this figure is as close to spot-on as I've seen anywhere near this price.
Extras and Packaging: +1
Conan's packaging isn't much to look at. They used artwork from the movie, which is always a nice touch. If you're the type who keeps these in the package, it'll keep it safe but won't be much to look at.
I do want to mention the text on the back, because it's kind of absurd. I'm not sure if whoever wrote it actually saw the movie or if they read a synopsis. On the other hand, it could be an intentional throwback to the kind of oversimplified watered-down explanations they always put on, you know, toys.
Take a look:
There's something else about the back of the package I want to address, and it ties into the most important accessory Conan has: his sword. On the back of the box, the sword, like Conan himself, is covered in blood. In fact, the one pictured is painted with a very nice blood. The sword Conan has, however, is clean, save for a spot of split-pea and human soup (think of it as organic Soylent Green). If they had omitted the blood on Conan, this would be fine. In fact, it would have been great. As it is, it looks a little bare. After all, Conan got messy slicing and dicing his enemies: his sword ought to match at least.
Other than this, his sword is an excellent approximation of the one from the film. Besides the contrast, it looks great.
Lets move onto the base and the last two accessories. I'm grouping these together, because the accessories are really additions to the base, rather than elements in themselves. For the base, they've used the marble staircase from Thulsa Doom's thrown room. They've included some appetizers: a severed head and hand from the aforementioned stew Conan dumped down the stairs.
The base is fairly well done, though it could certainly be better. Nevertheless, it's nicer than what you'd expect at this price, and I'm not normally one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Not normally. But Conan SLUGGED a horse in the mouth, so we really need to hold this to a higher standard.
The marble effect would be fine for a lesser figure, but it's a little weak in comparison to Conan. In addition, green paint was added to simulate the special sauce in the soup dumped by Conan. While this matches nicely when the severed body parts are included, it looks awful without them. The real problem is one of logic. We never really see where Conan's standing during the iconic moment when he strikes this pose, but he just dumped a massive vat of cannibal chowder all over the area. The stairs should be covered, not splashed. I'd rather they'd left it out altogether, but I can appreciate why they wanted it included.
The body parts are well done, and I do appreciate their inclusion. The hand especially is highly iconic of this moment in the picture, and I'm glad to have it.
When all's said and done, I'm giving Conan an extra point to his final score for the excellent sword, decent base, and marinated pieces of human flesh. These were well chosen, and while the base could be better, they were well executed, as well.
Play and Display: -1
If I was rating this as an action figure, that deduction would be higher. I count a whopping three points of articulation on this figure. First up is his neck, which is ball jointed. Though limited by the hair, it does what it needs to. Next, we've got the right wrist, which is cut to let you rotate his sword: this works better than you'd think, and actually gives you a few options for display (more on that in a moment). The final point of articulation is the most insulting I've seen in a while. Conan's left wrist is ball-jointed, and it works great. This is an excellent, innovative joint that gives you some impressive movement without hurting the sculpt one bit. Why is that insulting? Because it's completely useless. They could have just sculpted his hand in the position it's in on the back of the package. What a waste.
Especially when there are missing points of articulation that are needed and missing. We need something in the legs, either at the hips or at least at the ankles, to correct for balance. My figure can't stand up straight because of this. It isn't much of a problem while he's on his base, but it makes it almost impossible for him to stand on his own.
Had NECA given us some basic articulation; say, ball joints on the shoulders and even something simple at the waist, this would be one heck of an action figure. If they'd thrown in pins on the shoulders (his war paint would have concealed them nicely), we'd have some real options for display, and I'd be hailing this as the best toy I'd picked up this year. Imagine if you could shift his arms, so he was holding his sword in both hands in front of his face: you could choose between two iconic moments.
As it is, they've put out what amounts to a statue. And, as such, it's display options are just passable. Conan certainly looks good standing on his base, even though he's leaning too far forward and his left foot is stuck in the air. He passes the real test, though: when compared to his image on screen, he's as close as they come. In fact, he looks so good, I was tempted to call this category a wash... until I remembered the following issues.
First up, the base just doesn't work as well as it should. The green paint means we need to include the hand and head. As much as I love their inclusion, I'd rather they were optional elements, the base looks stupid if you leave them out.
Next, Conan can't stand without his base. And, if you do lean him against something, one leg is sticking out at an awkward angle. This problem could have been fixed with a touch of articulation, but that's seldom NECA's strong suit.
Finally (and this is a minor complaint), they've insulted us once more. Conan has an excellent sheath on his back which can hold his sword. Holds it pretty well, too. Unfortunately, this means his hand is balled in a fist at his side, as if he's brandishing an invisible blade. Once again: articulation? Please?
You do have one main option for display, and that's in Conan's sword. If you like, you can lean it forward, tilt it back, or do whatever you like. It works surprisingly well however you point it, so this is a plus.
The biggest problem by far is his lack of balance. But the figure looks so good on his base, I can't deduct more than one point.
Price Tag and Final Analysis
I spent sixteen bucks on Conan, which seems to be what he's going for. The previous review was perhaps a bit harsh. The above average extras were canceled out by some issues with display, and we're left with a final score of 7 out of 10.
But the most important question for any collectible is this: is it worth the cash?
Absolutely. Yes. Without question.
I keep bringing up that this is more a statue than an action figure, and this certainly creates some problems. But lets not lose sight of something important: a statue this nice would cost you quite a bit more. Really: go to your local comic store and take a look at some of the six-inch statues and busts going for fifty to eighty bucks. This is at least as nice as most of those. Oh, I'm sure it's made from lesser materials, but that makes no difference on the shelf, which is where this goes.
I wish NECA would produce more real action figures, like their Nightmare Before Christmas line, which are some of the best toys I own. But I would have dropped twenty or even twenty-five bucks on this Conan without thinking twice... and I'm one of the cheapest collectors out there.
This is a phenomenal piece, and if Conan: The Barbarian is as close to your heart as it is mine, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.
Like this review? Let me know! Head on over to The Middle Room and make your opinions known! Just this one I'll even let you comment if you DIDN'T like this review (but don't make a habit of it). Also, I've got a few posts about Conan you might want to check out: here, here, and kind of here.