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The Dark Crystal: The Best ReAction Toys Since Alien

dark-crystal-reactionThe spiritual sequel to Super7’s outstanding Alien ReAction toys is finally here.

Let’s go back in time to about half a decade ago. A then-virtually unknown company called Super7 decided to follow through on a decades old promise by Kenner, to finally release the long-ago abandoned action figures based on Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Alien.  Due to a litany of extenuating circumstances (not the least among which, Alien was a R-rated horror movie, and not exactly kid friendly), those toys never saw release in the film’s prime.  But they made it to the prototype stage, and Super7 managed to track down those initial sculpts and replicate them to bring the long-lost toy line to life.

The concept was so meta, and so well received that it drew the attention of Funko, who quickly collaborated to release an entire catalogue of shoulda/ coulda/ woulda properties in the Kenner retro aesthetic.  It was cool, and was fun… but by and large, ReAction wound up as a passing fad.

I feel the real reason for this was that many of the Funko/ Super7 collaborative pieces focused on the retro aesthetic, rather than a genuine sense of nostalgia.  Aside from Alien, none of their properties had any place in actual history of pop culture, and that was the missing piece of the puzzle. The initial conceit of the ReAction line was to fulfill long-time promises, to finally realize toys that had long been abandoned in the prototype phase. When I first learned of their mythic existence, I dreamed of what it would be like to actually have Kenner’s canceled Alien toys in my hands. When Super7’s toys were finally released, I was able to actualize that fantasy.

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In this regard, The Dark Crystal ReAction figures are the first legitimate successors to the Alien wave that started the ReAction trend.  Hasbro produced prototypes baed on the Jim Henson cult classic when it hit theaters, but the toy line never saw the light of day. And while these ReAction figures may not have been based directly on those unreleased prototypes, they do a great job of paying tribute to that lost line, and display a strikingly authentic 80s aesthetic. From the 3.75″ scale, to the five point of articulation design, the character selection and even the buildable Dark Crystal, virtually every aspect of Funko and Super7’s new toy line is rooted squarely in the vintage concept.

Our lineup includes Jen, Kira, the Skeksis Chamberlain, Aughra, and Ursol the Chanter (along with the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive Land Strider, and the unfortunately impossible to find New York Comic Con exclusive Garthim).  Ignoring a pair of Podlings, this is the precise collection of characters originally intended by Hasbro.

Each figure features an excellent sculpt, packed with the rich detail of the film’s unique designs. The Dark Crystal sculpts serve as a great response to any criticism that the simple by design ReAction aesthetic is a “lazy” choice, because– like Alien– these figures sport a ton of texture and intricacy, which still manage to feel perfectly in line with the style of action figures in the mid-80s.

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In addition to the previously mentioned Dark Crystal pieces, every figure also includes an accessory.  Jen gets his crystal shard, Kira comes with Fizzgig, the Chamberlain his sword, and Ursol his staff.  Due to the unique designs of these characters, their specific degrees of articulation– as well as their packaging– varies.  Jen and Kira feature a full five points of articulation, while the Chamberlain and Aughra lose leg movement due to their long robes. Ursol, likewise, does not include leg articulation, nor a neck joint, but all four of his arms swivel at the shoulders.  The Mystic’s odd proportions wouldn’t allow him to be released on a blister card like the others, so he is packed in a window box.  I’m very impressed by the overall quality of these sculpts, and that Funko and Super7 remained so close to the vintage Hasbro toy line that never came to be.

The only area where these figures doesn’t work is the paint.  Like other ReAction toys, The Dark Crystal figures are painted in slightly muted, matte finishes, very unlike the glossier, brighter coloration of toys from the 80s.  It’s a major misstep because it separates these toys from their retro counterparts while also softening some of the gorgeous sculpting on display.  A new pass with richer, glossier paints– and a few more colors to highlight the details on each sculpt– could have made The Dark Crystal ReAction figures some of the best toys of the year. As it stands, for all their merits, the paint leaves them feeling unfinished.

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If you get past the poor paint jobs (or feel adventurous enough to pick up a paint brush and correct them yourself), it’s hard not to appreciate all the good in these figures. As a fan of the film, and someone with a fascination for abandoned and canceled toys of the past, The Dark Crystal collection totally hits all the right notes for me. For about ten bucks each (excluding the Garthim, a $25 deluxe figure released in such criminally small quantities, scalpers are currently having a field day on the secondary market, fetching $200+ per figure), these ReAction figures feel like a solid value, and they make for a truly fantastic display… especially alongside the fully assembled Dark Crystal.

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