First things first: I'd be doing a disservice to action figure consumers everywhere if I didn't mention that this exact same character, the T-800 Endoskeleton from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, was produced in McFarlane's Movie Maniacs line, in the fifth series. This is not the first time NECA has aped McFarlane in their Cult Classics line; The Crow's Eric Draven and Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees both have figures in Cult Classics and Movie Maniacs based on essentially the same source material. To a lesser extent, Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has been seen in both lines, although in distinctly different movie-specific outfits, as has Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
In light of that fact, it's difficult to look at the Endoskeleton in Series 3 of NECA's Cult Classics line without comparing it to McFarlane's efforts. Fanboys in both camps will undoubtedly be shouting that one reigns supreme over the other, but, as usual, the figures differ enough so that each has its own strengths and weaknesses. For an in-depth look at McFarlane's offering, check out yo's review on this very site. For a review of NECA's offering, look no further than... right here.
The first thing I noticed is that NECA's endo looks a little bigger than McFarlane's. I don't have the McToys figure for comparison, but I have seen it and held it and if my memory serves me right, NECA's is bigger. But we all know bigger is not always better. For all its size, the NECA figure seems less detailed. While the sculpt is very good, certain areas seem to be lacking. Check out the forearms and the lower legs. In the McToys figure, these extremities were composed of different, separate rods, while in the NECA version they are one solid piece made to look like separate rods.
The paint is tricky. In the movie, the Endoskeleton had a chromed appearance, but in a plastic toy, that can be hard to pull off convincingly. The most common technique is called "vac-metalizing," but that often makes a toy look cheap and tacky. The only other option is to paint your figure silver, which is what NECA did. While it doesn't look chrome, it's much less chintzy-looking than a vac-metalization paint job would have been. There is the requisite paint wash, and while it helps bring out the detail, it's not quite doing the job. I can't tell what the problem is... perhaps there's not enough wash, or perhaps the wash isn't dark enough... the detail shows up upon close inspection, but from far away it tends to get lost in a dull gray-silver mass.
The only other paint applications are on the face. The eyes are red, of course, and the teeth (like the McToys version) are a whitish color. This is something that makes sense, when you think about it. Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he plays the Terminator, doesn't have metallic teeth, so it stands to reason that the endo would have teeth with similar human enamel. It also kinda seems like NECA is saying, "Hey look, we know there's not much to work with, but we're doing what we can."
Like McFarlane's Endo, the NECA figure utilizes working pistons to replicate the character's articulation. This is one place where the McFarlane imitation is blatantly evident, but unfortunately, it doesn't work nearly as well on the NECA version. The chief offender is the hips which, while pegged and hinged, operate more like a v-crotch due to the needlessly complicated set-up of the pistons. Move the hips forward, and they automatically splay outward. It makes it difficult to pose the Endo in anything but a standing-up-straight pose.
There is a pretty easy fix for this problem, and it vastly improves the figure's playability. The tops of the pistons are hollow cylinders that pop off pretty easily, leaving the thin metal rod still attached to the leg. Cutting a small piece (no more than one or two millimeters) off of both of the two front rods (the ones that attach from his inner thigh to his pelvis) and then re-attaching the hollow cylinders will greatly increase the range of movement on the pistons, and allow the legs to move forward without splaying like a v-crotch as much.
Despite the piston problem, NECA trumps McFarlane but giving fans an opening jaw. I'm a sucker for opening jaws. They rank right up there with working holsters and removable helmets on my list of features I love to see on figures. In addition to the jaw and hips, the NECA endo has a peg neck, pegged and hinged shoulders, peg biceps, hinged elbows, peg wrists, peg torso/waist, pegged and hinged hips, hinged knees, peg ankles, and a midfoot hinge. There is also a strange hinged piece on the chest plate that defies explanation. I seem to remember the chest on the McFarlane endo being balljointed, and it's a shame that NECA didn't follow suit. The midfoot hinge, however, is a useful addition.
One area in which this figure is vastly superior to the McFarlane version is in the accessories department. While they pretty much come with the same accessories on paper (machine gun, base of skulls), the execution on the NECA figure is far better. McFarlane's endo came with a tiny, out of scale, silver machine gun that barely fit in the figure's hands. NECA's endo gets a much larger, more to-scale machine gun with a metallic black paint job. NECA's endo also gets an alternate right hand made specifically to hold the gun. McFarlane's endo also featured a base of skulls that was tiny and barely big enough for the endo to get one foot on it. NECA's figure gets a huge base, littered with skulls, and there's even a half-buried, battered tricycle amid the rubble. At first glance, the skulls seem a little large, but compare them with the endoskeleton's head and they're about the same size. As far as accessories go, the base is quite magnificent.
I was originally quite sour on this figure, and now I know why: those hip-inhibiting pistons. The inner rod of the pistons is just too long. Cut them down (remember, only a tiny bit!) and the figure becomes infinitely better. But in the end, who wins? NECA or McFarlane? Well, without the McToys endo, there's little possibility that the NECA endo would have ever seen the light of day. It owes a lot to its predecessor, but it tries admirably to improve on what came before it. The real question is, is this worth picking up? Well, if you're a Terminator-phile, you have no choice. However, if you're a casual collector who already owns the McToys version, you can probably pass on this one. If you missed out on Movie Maniacs 5, however, NECA's figure is the way to go.
Which Endo do you want? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.