When it comes to modern classic movies, there aren’t many better than Rocky. And when it comes to making toys based on modern classic movies, there aren’t many better than NECA. So when great toy company meets great license, you know the results are going to be something special, and that’s what we get with the new Rocky series. Kicking things off with our two main fighters from the first movie, NECA brings fans the definitive toy versions of Rocky Baloboa and then-rival Apollo Creed, with the fantastic movie accuracy, perfectly realized articulation and overall coolness we’ve come to expect from them. Thanks to NECA we’ve got an up-close look at the first series of Rocky figures… check them out!
Rocky is a damn near perfect movie, an iconic underdog story if there ever was one. While the later movies in the series lacked the quality of the original, the entire franchise has a solid place in my 80’s obsessed heart. The first movie is legitimately good, but c’mon– in Rocky IV the Italian Stallion ends Communism by punching a guy– how can you not love that?!?! NECA has rights to the entire Rocky franchise, but they hav wisely chosen to start with the first film for series one, so we get the two prime fighters, Rocky and Apollo. Both figures sport similar articulation patterns, with ball jointed heads, ball shoulders, ball elbows and knees, ab crunch, ball hips and rocker ankles. Overall these guys are among the most articulated figures NECA has produced, and the points all make sense and lend themselves to lots of boxing poses. Another added credit for NECA here is limited parts reuse– the previous Jakks Rocky series shared the same, buff body for most of the main characters but NECA went the extra step and created a unique body for each fighter. This means the low-level Rocky is appropriately skinny and undefined, while “the Champ” is much stockier with lots of muscle definition.
I was wary at first since the prototypes looked to lack hip articulation (a killer of a joint to miss for a line like this), but I am very happy to report that the hips are fully poseable, but nicely masked thanks to the pliable vinyl shorts on both fighter. This is a great way to cover up a joint, and while the material is too stiff to offer unlimited motion, it certainly helps to achieve a wide variety of stances for both fighting and standing. The gloves are made of a similar soft material which gives them an added realism, especially at the pliable wrist cuffs which bend realistically against the forearm depending on how the wrist is posed. Both of these masks are wonderfully engineered, making the figures more seamless and adding a depth of realism that shines in a movie line like this. Adding to this realism are the expertly crafted portraits, which are uncanny in their accuracy to the younger Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers. While the recent Evil Dead 2 series eschewed hyper-real headsculpts for semi-cartoonish expressiveness, the Rocky figures are the most photoreal toys we’ve ever seen for this film.
The most fun part of the Rocky series– which NECA plans to continue in future assortments– is the variants thrown in the mix. For series one, each character is available in two different versions: normal, and beat to hell. The standard figures look great, completely movie accurate and sport the more clearly definied actor likenesses. For my money, the beat up variants are even more fun, with lots of great gloss finish to highlight the blood, bruises and sweat covered over each fighter. The face sculpts on these beat up figures are very nice, packed with all the pain and determination of each fighter during their iconic bout in the ring, along with plenty of painful-looking bits like cuts, swollen eyes and dislocated mouthguards. The standard and beat up variant idea is a brilliant choice for a toy line about boxers, and both versions are very well-realized. Based on the showing at Toy Fair, future figures are set to include not only beat up variant portraits, but other fun stuff like the mid-punch Rocky, who is captured in the midst of taking a fist to the face, with a great blood spurt flying from his mouth similar to the “exploded head” Locust figures seen in the company’s Gears of War line.
These first Rocky figures come on strong and make a great impression. With at least two more series in the works for later this year, I can’t wait to collect more classic movie characters like Drago and Clubber Lang. If future releases in the series feature the same incredible detail and reverence to the movies on display with Rocky and Apollo, NECA’s line will surely go from underdog to champion in no time!