A lot of people make fun of her for her skimpy attire and considerable chest, but you can't deny Lara Croft has made an impression - there may be plenty of better videogames, and even better videogame heroines (I've always been quite partial to Joanna Dark, before they went and tinkered with her in the prequel) but in terms of a geek icon becoming known in the mainstream, Lara's up there with Hobbits and Darth Vader.
NECA didn't bother with a bio on the packaging
- but we all know who Lara Croft is, right? Well, we all know who one of them is, depending on which backstory revision was current when we noticed her - I was always kind of partial to the original, the disowned adrenaline junkie and borderline psychopath, but I can see why she got toned down a bit once she got popular.
This figure is based on Tomb Raider Anniversary, which is a remake of her first game way back from the mists of 1996, so naturally enough her outfit is Lara Croft retro:
pale teal sleeveless top, tiny shorts, heavy boots, twin holsters and a big gold belt buckle. The sculpt is faithful to the CGI, but plays up the ribbed texture on her top, making it look more like a sweater than the light top it is (or the leotard it was meant to be in the old games). Overall a happy medium is struck between realism and videogame good looks - the top creases with the twist of her torso, the boots have some nice panel and stitching work, and all the straps have the necessary buckles attached, but the look remains very simple and aesthetically elegant. Lara's pose has her in mid-leap, sailing through the air guns a-blazing, on her way to catch some distant ledge... or restore from the most recent saved game, depending on how good the player is. So far as poses go it's highly restrictive - this would be better called an articulated statue than an action figure - but it certainly has the benefit of standing out from the crowd.
Lara's face is similarly a medium between real and synthetic, though the difference isn't so noticeable
given than almost all action figures fall quite a way short of genuine realism. Her hair is pulled tightly back into its customary braid, and there's some effort to show realistic behaviour in the hairstyle, with folds of hair overlapping each other, most prominently the three clusters leading into the braid; there's also the obligatory strands hanging loose to frame her face, because even tomb raiders need to look good. Sadly her face doesn't, quite - it's attractive enough, and sculpturally speaking a good effort, but the paint apps don't match the CGI, with minimal coverage on her lips, and next to nothing in terms of eye shadow.
Ironically it's probably a more sensible
look for someone who's shooting polar bears and breaking into sarcophagi three hundred miles from the nearest makeup mirror, but it's not quite what Lara looks like in the game, and the lack of eye shadow makes her eyes look puffy - perhaps the sculptor assumed she'd have her usual makeup. Her trademark ponytail is behaving a bit oddly - on purpose, it's packaged with a twisty-tie holding it upright, which I imagine is either to make it seem like it's whipping around in the air, or Lara's dropping downwards. It doesn't quite match the rest of the sculpt though - the body in general (and especially the neck, which won't allow her head to angle downwards to any great extent) suggests she's leaping up, or at least forwards, so the ponytail's angle looks a bit anomalous. It's soft plastic though, so it could be changed with some patience.
The rest of her paintwork is capable enough, although there're a few spots that don't exactly shine under close inspection. Her vest/leotard/whatever has very fine shading in the recesses, which does a lot to show the shape of the body, and how it's twisting to one side.
The rest of the outfit is browns - matte on the shorts, gloss on the boots and backpack. The wash on the boots might be a bit overboard, with quite dark pooling in some areas, but it does bring out the sculpted detail quite nicely, as well as the two distinct paint tones used. The paint on the belt doesn't manage the coverage it really needs, with the edges showing the brown of the shorts, and the right side holster strap, tucked in the crevice of her bent leg, nearly vanishing, but unless you look closely it's the holster straps against her thighs that stand out, and the strong contrast there makes up for any slight waviness on the painted edges. The skin tone is even and healthy for the most part, but coverage on the joints, especially the insides of the shoulder balljoints, is variable, and since the sculpted pose practically demands her arms - the left at least - be pointing straight out, you're going to see the underside of the joint.
Articulation is minimal, but useful for minor fine-tuning. She has a balljointed neck, but there isn't a terrific range of motion to it, especially on the up-down axis. Her balljoint shoulders are useful enough, though without any swivel beneath the shoulder posing her arms is a matter of compromise between where the joint works best and what angle looks best for the sculpting on her biceps and elbow.
She has wrist swivels at the gloves, which at least allow some tinkering with the arm angle without mucking up the firing lines of her pistols, and... well, that's about it. From the sternum down she's a statue.
Since she's incapable of standing on her own, I suppose you could call the base and stand a part of the figure, in which case you could include the stand attachment point as a point of articulation - it goes into her backside horizontally (up near the waist, not in an embarrassing way) and allows you to rotate her from vertical to horizontal, depending on what angle of flight you want her at.
If you don't consider the base to be part of her, that's one of her three accessories - it's quite a good design, simple and unobtrusive but good at keeping the figure in the air without taking up too much room itself. There's a slight backward lean to the vertical beam on the stand, which puts Lara right above the centre of the flat base, and should reduce stress damage over time. Her other accessories are her twin handguns - Browning 9mm models (or thereabouts, give or take a bit of accuracy) rather than the heavier modified FN pistols she tends to sport nowadays, post-movies. They're removable, and fit neatly in both holsters, but her hands are sculpted specifically to hold them, placed trigger finger and all, and the straight arms look strange without the guns in her hands, so I don't imaging many people will be disarming Lara in a hurry.
So that's Tomb Raider Anniversary Lara Croft - basically a statue, but not a bad one, and you shouldn't have to pay much for her, so if you like the look of the pose there's no nasty surprises that'll make you regret buying her later on.