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Shaman Predator

Predator 2
by Monkey Boy

NECA has committed itself to creating all the "Lost Predators" from the final scene in the film Predator 2, and they've got their work cut out for them. These Predators, glimpsed in a foggy spaceship only for a few seconds as they reclaim their fallen comrade, are interesting to be sure. But when one really takes a good look at them, one realizes the design department probably never thought anyone would take a second look at them, much less make action figures based on them. Most of the designs for the Lost are a mish-mash of the "City Hunter" Predator's costume elements, with various pieces added or subtracted and maybe a few unique bits. Still, they're Predators that have never before seen a proper "action figure", although Kotobukiya has made small figurines and Hot Toys has given us a few high-end 12"ers, so you gotta give NECA props for trying.

NECA's fourth series in their Predators series of figures contains two of the Lost, Boar and Shaman, and the unmasked version of the main City Hunter Predator from the second film. Here we'll be looking at the hunter known as Shaman.

The Lost Predators never got proper names. This isn't Star Wars after all. Instead, they were mostly given nicknames by fans based on certain unique design elements. "Shaman" is probably so-called because he carries a staff with bone trinkets (not unlike Logray the Ewok shaman from Return of the Jedi). As the packaging informs us, another of his aliases is "Hippie" due to his extra long dreadlocks.

The Shaman utilizes a new basic sculpt that is shared amongst the other Preds in this series, and will probably be the standard for the Lost tribe. It features new articulation and a lot of potential for modular re-use: the body is mostly bare, and the armor, loincloth and other elements can be molded separately and incorporated into the figure. The sculpt, by Kyle Windrix and Trevor Zammit, is great. The torso is appropriately muscular, and the armor pieces are pitted and worn. Most of the skin is covered with netting, and the sculpt is full of intricate detail.

Hippie gets some interesting unique bits. He's got no chest armor to speak of, but does have a separate ragged collar seemingly made of animal hide. Likewise, his forearms lack gauntlets, instead opting for leathery wraps. He's got a pretty extensive loincloth piece, with more animal hide and several pouches. A Predator smart-disk is just visible peeking out from beneath a pouch on his right hip, but sadly it isn't removable.

The head is home to those long locks, which are his most notable feature. The head itself seems to be shared with the City Hunter figure, with the dreadlocks being a separate piece. They're almost free of the usual Predator ringlets, with only one on either side near his face, and a large golden tie for his ponytail in the back. The detail on the face is awesome, but with Windrix and Zammit handling the sculpt that isn't surprising.

I talked a bit about the half-hearted designs of the Lost tribe, and you can start to see evidence of it in the Shaman's armor. His leg and right shoulder armor is straight from the City Hunter, but his left shoulder is actually composed of the City Hunter's shoulder pad with a second shoulder pad clumsily stacked on top of it. This second pad comes from the Classic Predator from the original Predator film. The figure replicates this effect accurately.

The paint is a little bit of a step backward from the promising work seen on the last series of Pred figures. If you have a few figures to choose from on the shelf, you should be able to find one with a decent paint job on the face, but the work on some examples I saw was pretty sloppy. Likewise, be wary of the netting; many examples I saw had misplaced paint masking for the netting, which creates a pretty awkward look. The figure I settled on is mostly okay, but the right leg's netting isn't quite matched up.

As I mentioned, the new Predator base body features added articulation, and it all works quite well. The loincloth piece and the dreadlocks help to hide the hip and shoulder joints, respectively, so we get a nicely sculpted figure with great articulation that's mostly hidden. Shaman has a balljointed neck, pegged and hinged shoulders and elbows, balljoints in the wrists, a balljointed waist, pegged and hinged hips, pegged thighs, double-hinged knees, and balljointed ankles. All the joints work well, with none of the sticking paint seen in past figures.

To accessorize your New Wave magician Predator, he gets a two piece staff. The staff has some vertebrae at its head with three ribs poking out at the top, and also features another one of those lazy design elements I mentioned: two blades from Predator wrist gauntlets stick out from the top of the staff. This is right out of the film, but while it might work for a brief shot in a hazy, foggy, dark spaceship, the look is kind of awkward up close and personal. But hey, it's not NECA's fault, blame the costume department from Predator 2.

The left hand is molded in a grasping pose, and the staff can work there if you so choose. However, in the film the staff is held on the opposite side, and the figure's fisted right hand has a hole in it to thread the staff through. Unfortunately this hole is extremely tight, and you may want to widen it a bit with a hobby knife so that the staff can fit. I ended up feeding a small Allen wrench through the hole to expand it temporarily, and then slid the staff in. However, the hole has since contracted around the spear and I doubt I'll be removing it any time soon.

Shaman is a decent Predator, but one that very few people except the more hardcore Pred fans really know of or remember. It's fun that NECA is making all of the Lost Tribe, and I for one can't wait to get them all, but there's not much here for your casual fan. The sculpt and articulation are great, but if you want iconic, you'll get the City Hunter figure that shares most of the sculpt and all the articulation. Still, Pred fans should be jumping for joy. I know I am, although thanks to a few paint issues, those jumps aren't quite as high as they could be.

-- 12/12/11


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