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ED-209

Robocop
by yo go re

NECA has always been great at doing things that can't be done. There was no way to do Pinhead, there was no way to do Dutch, and for years, there was no way to do ED-209.

ED-209 has superior firepower and the reflexes to use it. Developed by Omni Consumer Products.

The reason we were always given that ED-209 "couldn't" be done was that Craig Davies, the man behind the robot, retained the rights to the design - so any effort to make it would require two licenses (one for the film, one for the robot). Clearly, NECA did not view that as too big an obstacle.

ED (it really is pronounced "Ed," not "Ee-Dee") was designed like an American car: form before function, with a heavier emphasis on cosmetics than its ability to do its job. That's not a slam against it, by the way - that's specifically what director Paul Verhoeven wanted, so that we wouldn't end up rooting for ED over Robocop. The main directive was that there shouldn't be anything "cute" about it.

It's a fully industrial design, with all the sorts of mechanisms you'd expect to find on a large machine - oil coolers, radiators, heat exchanges, etc. - but it also shows evidence of typical '80s corporate redundany. The best example are the four large pistons on each leg. There's no reason it would need so many, marking them as a sign of over-spending and over-design.

At one point, there was a discussion about giving ED eyes, but Verhoeven didn't want him to express any emotion, positive or negative - though there remains one exception. The big exposed grill on the front of the body (which, let's face it, is a huge weak spot for a piece of military-grade hardware) was originally wider at the top than the bottom, but that made it look like a smile; so they flipped it over, and now it looks like a giant metal frown.

The sculpt, by Brad Haskins and Jeff Richard, is mostly smooth and rounded, just like the ED-209 we saw in the film, but everywhere the detail is supposed to come out, it does. There are large rivets all over the surface, wiring inside it (visible mainly in the feet), and realistic cuffs around the arms. The hips and waist look like they're covered in rubber, allowing them to move. The elbows are designed like giant gears, and more wires run from the inside of the body to the weapons at the ends of the arms.

According to Ed Neumeier, those weapons were actually inspired by Guntank, one of the mechs from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Well, he said "these kinda weird Japanese toys that were these big robots that had gun arms," but that really only describes Guntank. The idea was that the Enforcement Droid series would have modular weapons that could be swapped out, not that we ever got that far in the movie (we also never saw the mortar launcher the designers put behind his head). The left hand has two 20mm guns, while the right hand has a single gun and a trio of heat-seeking missles. The missile launcher slides up around the arm to move the missile into "firing" position, but they're all just molded in place - there is no launching play feature. Unfortunately, the piece doesn't slide as far as it seems like it should (only two of the three missiles clear the guard), and the piece flops away from the arm a little bit.

The real ED-209 model used for the stop-motion animation was only about 8" tall, meaning this toy may count as a 1:1 prop replica. In its "at rest" state, it hovers right around the 8¼" mark, though that will obviously change depending on how you choose to pose it. The legs are on big ratcheted sliders, and if you extend them all the way, he breaks the 9¾" mark. In addition to those, the hips and waist swivel, the flaps over the shoulders are hinged, the shoulders and... wrists? Forearms? Whatever, they swivel. Then there are hinged elbows.

A few of our readers have reported problems with the waist breaking, but it didn't happen to mine - just remember, the body only swivels, it won't bend forward and back. The ratchet in the right leg on mine is very stiff, to the point where it feels like it doesn't want to move, something else that seems like a common issue. So take care. The plastic used to mold him does feel slightly thin or brittle, but I've been purposefully rough with the toy, and so far no problems.

The deco on this figure is terrific. The bulk of the body is a metallic blue, closer to NECA's first Robocop than the better ones they made later. There are apps on the exposed wires, silver on the pistons and some of the mechanical detailing, and black tubes and red details on the back of the head. And look at the vents on the back of the body: they're painted to look dirty, like exhaust has been spilling out! What's really nice, though, are the myriad warning labels found all over the chassis. They're not legible or anything, but they certainly make the piece look genuine.

NECA has chosen to give ED-209 a sound feature. That's not something we feel was necessary, but it doesn't detract from the final product (other than the electronics bumping up the price). Press a button on the side, and the figure cycles through five phrases:

  • *startup sound*
  • "Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply."
  • "You now have 15 seconds to comply."
  • *seventeen freaking seconds of heavy gunfire*
  • "You are illegally parked on private property. You have 20 seconds to move your vehicle." *followed by several seconds of walking noises and shooting*

The sound is loud, but a bit rough; it seems to have been recorded directly from the movie, since the sound effects include ambient dialogue (ie, screaming). The button to activate the sounds is on his side - but why not disguise it as one of the red and black caps immediately above that area? It would have been a lot less obtrusive.

But the electronics really weren't necessary at all. ED-209 would sell solely on the virtue of being ED-209. As soon as NECA announced they had the Robocop license, ED-209 was on our wishlist, and we're not the only ones: everybody wanted this thing! It does end up costing about $10 more than it feels like it should, but that may be due to the need to pay two licensors for the rights to make it. At $60, it would feel like a pretty good value, but at $70, you have to question whether it's worth it. Worth it to have an ED-209 that's perfectly in scale with the awesome Robocops NECA has been making? Yeah, it probably is.

-- 02/06/14


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