One of my favorite new toy lines of 2014 was NECA’s classic Planet of the Apes, which gave the toy treatment to the denizens of our simian-ruled future world for the first time since Mego’s doll line back in the late 1970s. So it’s been very exciting to see highly detailed action figures based on Cornelius and Zira and Dr. Zaius and General Ursus… figures I’ve been wishing for since I was a little kid first trying to wrap my head around the how’s and why’s that would lead apes to rule over men.
But NECA took their Apes toy line further than our core cast right out of the gate, offering an army build-friendly Gorilla Soldier in his classic black and purple uniform. And now, a few mere months later, that Gorilla doesn’t have to be an army of one– the new Toys R Us exclusive holiday two-pack delivers two more unique Gorilla troopers, with unique, all new headsculpts and a whole new arsenal of weaponry.
The new soldiers share the same base body as the Series One figure, which is great, because this figure is wonderfully sculpted and packed with clean, concise articulation which offers a great range of motion. We do, however, get a few tweaks to differentiate these new apes from their predecessor. The most obvious are the new head sculpts, which are similar enough to fit in nicely, while maintaining a uniqueness that keeps the army from looking too clone-like. We even get some diverse coloring, with one black haired ape and one brown haired figure, which further separates each figure visually.
This pair of Gorillas eschews the sash for a backpack, which is fixed fairly permanently in place via shoulder and chest straps. The pack doesn’t open, but it’s well sculpted, and despite its considerable size, the good leg articulation means it does not throw off the figure’s balance.
In addition to the two figures, this box set also includes a whole lot of war-ready gear. Each Gorilla includes a unique rifle– both fully painted unlike the all-black version with the Series One soldier– as well as a club and a human-catching snare… which actually functions, to capture other action figures! To help hold this variety of weaponry, the Gorillas include swappable right hands, posed either gripping tightly for the snare or club, or more loosely with the fingers open, allowing the rifles to be held with one or two hands with ease.
For thirty bucks, this is a great set. There’s a few things that would have sent it over the top– functional backpacks would have allowed the extra accessories to be stored when not being held, which would be especially nice since the new clubs lack the small ring used to drape the previous weapon off its wielder’s sash. And this could just be my set, but I found the wrists to be very tight in their sockets, making the swappable parts more difficult to switch than usual. I felt like any more force than I was using could have broken the small wrist pegs, so I’ve actually resigned my apes to the hands they were sporting in the original packaging.
Overall, these drawbacks are fairly minor, especially compared to the great value we get with two unique figures and lots of cool new gear which they can use or share with the other Ape figures in this collection. The new heads go a long way in diversifying the Gorilla army, and I love the expressions here, especially the cocked, sneering mouth on the black haired ape. This is a fun set, a great concept for a store exclusive, and it makes a very nice compliment for the recently-released Gorilla general, Ursus. I love that, between this set and the pack-in figure offered for free with a preorder of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at Target, Planet of the Apes fans can now have amassed an army of four Gorilla troops and a commander in the span of a single year, with absolutely no duplicate purchasing. So I guess we can chalk up army building as another aspect of toy making that NECA totally gets right. Not that I’m too surprised.