Going by the trailer for the Robert Rodriguez-produced, Nimrod Antal-directed film Predators, you would think that the movie is full of the intergalactic trophy hunters. There's a scene where Adrien Brody stops dead in his tracks when he gets marked by the familiar Predator targeting sight (three red LED lights, arranged in a triangle). We then watch in awe as another targeting sight appears, then another, and another, until Brody is covered with them. It's definitely an "Oh, S#!+" moment, until you realize it was made specifically for the trailer. Despite Rodriguez's assurance that the movie was titled Predators as an homage to the sequel to Alien being titled Aliens, Antal's film is not filled with too many Predators to count. In fact, there are only four seen in the final film, and only three of them could actually be called antagonists.
Those three baddies include the Falconer, the Tracker, and their apparent leader, the Berserker. Two of those (Berserker and Falconer) are featured in NECA's first series of action figures based on the film, as well
as a Classic Predator, based on the creature's design in the original Predator film and also featured as something of an antihero in the latest installment. The Tracker (as well as an unmasked Berserker and a battle-damaged Classic) will be featured in the second series, due out in October 2010. I've already covered the Falconer, so let's take a look at his leader.
The Berserker Predator is the ultimate hunter. Born with superior physical abilities and intelligent, he was the youngest Yautja to ever kill a Xenomoprh (Alien) and reach Young Blood status. Considered a prodigy among his clan, he quickly rose to almost legendary Warrior status; achieving more kills than any Predator of his generation. As a Predator of the Honored class, Berserker Predator became a leader of his own hunting clan consisting of only Himself and two Young Blood Predators; Tracker Predator and Falconer Predator.
Okay, uhm, I have no idea what any of that means. I'm willing to give them a pass on the unnecessary capitalization of "himself" (after all, I really don't think they're trying to imply the Berserker is God), but really there is way too much inside information in that bio for the casual fan to make heads or tails of. Yautja? Young Blood? Honored Class? Also, why is he called Berserker anyway? The Falconer is (tangentially) connected to the robot bird that scouts the terrain for their quarry in the film, and the Tracker is in charge of the alien hounds, but... Berserker? I suppose it makes more sense than the name the character was given in the script, which was the strangely racial "Black Super Predator".
As one might expect, NECA's Berserker shares a fair amount
of parts with the Falconer; since they both come from the same clan, it makes sense that they would look similar and feature similar designs for their armor. Berserker's torso, chest armor, entire right arm, left bicep, and legs are shared with the Falconer, while he gets a new head and lower left arm. He's also missing the thigh armor of Falconer, which means his loincloth is a different sculpt, despite looking very similar. He also gets a different strap that attaches to his chest armor and wraps around the torso, and a new shoulder cannon, which is a separate piece glued onto the chest piece shared with Falconer.
The entire sculpt is extremely well done, but most of it is covered in the Falconer review. The head is the main attraction, and the helmet is reproduced fantastically. The characteristic jawbone attached to the bottom of the mask appears to be a separate piece, and the helm itself really looks like pitted, weathered metal. The paint helps this effect, with a nice cream color with a wash used on the jawbone, while the rest of the helmet is a dull bronze.
Unfortunately, the rest of the paint on the figure fails to match the head. The legs and armored areas are done okay, but the torso and arms stand out as sore spots. For some reason, the joints of the figure are molded in a near-white gray, which becomes very visible when the paint wears off. On the figure's elbow joints, almost all of the paint has chipped off after moving the joints a few times, leaving some very obvious gray spots that stand out from the dull greens and yellows of the skin. While that problem is easily fixed with a little touch-up paint, it's nowhere near the biggest issue with the paint.
It's the torso that drags Berserker down. In a bold move, NECA has used actual production photos of the Predators on the packaging, which makes the shortcomings of the figure stand out all the more.
Looking at the costume of the Berserker on the package, you see the reptilian scales of the chest that have a very distinctive design: dark green scales with lighter yellow areas separating them. This pattern was also seen on the promotional figure shots. The actual figure, however, falls short of reproducing that design. Instead, we get a polka dotted mishmash of green and red spots. The spots were also my issue with Falconer, although less so because they were smaller and relegated to certain areas of the body, whereas Berserker's spots are comparatively huge and all over the torso. NECA has said that Berserker's paint was proving to be a challenge, and it shows with this figure. So far, it's a challenge they have yet to overcome. Hopefully it something that they'll rein in by the time the unmasked Berserker is released, but I imagine hoping for a running change of this version is a pipe dream.
It is worth noting that the heads are easily removable, and thus if the problem is solved by the next series,
you could always buy two unmasked Berserkers and stick a masked head on one of them, assuming you have the disposable income. Which is a nice segue into articulation. The figure gets the same movement as Falconer: balljointed head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees, and peg joints in the waist and thighs, with a V-crotch in the hips. The figure boasts "over 20 points of articulation", and if you count the balljoints that are actually peg-and-hinge joints as two points, that works out to being about right. But since they serve the same function as a balljoint, it's just easier as a reviewer to group them together.
The ankles are similar to those of Falconer: there's a balljoint in each, but it's covered by a somewhat soft rubber boot. I was able to get a good look at the joint because one of the feet of my Berserker was attached incorrectly. Instead of the ball from the ankle attaching to the socket of the leg, the leg seems to have been stuck into the boot to one side of the balljoint. I was dismayed at first, since the hole had warped and was now too small to accomodate the ankle ball, but then I realized that this ironically allowed the ankle to have more freedom of motion, and the boot actually holds the leg in place nicely.
There is also articulation in the shoulder
cannon. A peg allows it to rotate on a horizontal axis, while a hinge allows it to point up and down. There's also a somewhat useless peg that allows the barrel to spin, which is nice but not really necessary.
Like Falconer, Berserker gets a single accessory: a removable claw for his right wrist gauntlet. This one is similar in design to Falconer's but is far less extended; Falconer's seems to be about 3" long, while Berserker's is barely an inch. Berserker's blade fits snugly into his gauntlet, unlike Falconer's which would fall out if not wrapped with a clear rubber band. After trying to switch the two, I found the problem seems to lie in the hole in Falconer's gauntlet being too big, since both blades fit snugly on Berserker.
Of the two newly designed Predators, I initially thought I would prefer Berserker by far, since Falconer is much more of a Plain Jane. However, thanks to the issues with Beserker's paint, I actually dig Falconer more. Both figures are very well sculpted and feature lots of useful articulation, but it's very hard to get used to that spotty Berserker torso. I'm slowly coming to terms with it, and it's understandable that painting such an intricate pattern could be difficult in a 7" scale, but still... I would have preferred they skip the pattern entirely and just give us a yellow torso with some green drybrushing, or a green torso with a yellow wash, instead of this ugly polka dot paint mask mess. Hopefully they fix it by the second series, because I could see it being a deal breaker for some folks. Personally I'm learning to deal with it, since the rest of the figure is so great, but your mileage may vary. If the mask isn't important to you, my suggestion is to wait for the unmasked variant to see if they have a handle on it by then.