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Figures & Speech: “Prometheus” and the Risks of Spoiler Figures

(Editor’s note: Luke Y. Thompson has been known to review movies and fast food, but in this new column, we’re letting him take a crack at one of his other lifelong passions: toys. Sometimes he’ll review, other times he’ll pontificate and maybe even break news or do interviews if the opportunity presents itself. When you’re writing about toys, being able to play with how you do it seems appropriate.)

When I was a kid, I remember how excited I got first seeing the back of the cards on Return of the Jedi action figures, before the movie came out. It left me guessing for months who all these characters were, how they’d relate, and which one might be the “other” Jedi hope referenced by Yoda at the end of Empire. And if you think that last one seems like hilarious naivete about misdirection in hindsight (my mother guessed, based on the cardback only, that Bib Fortuna would be the new Jedi), consider how disappointed I was when the movie came out and nobody went to planets called “Gamorrea” or “Skiff.”

Notably, though, two figures had been “blacked out” so as to conceal their likenesses – Logray (Ewok Medicine Man) and Chief Chirpa. This was a big mystery – what was an Ewok? Why was it being hidden from me? Ultimately, Time magazine revealed Wicket before I could see the movie, so the spoiler wasn’t kept hidden. As a kid, I didn’t care. As adult geeks, we’ve found spoilers have become the most important damn thing in the whole world.

Which brings us to today, and Prometheus. The movie has come and gone, and we all have our opinions on it (mine was pretty positive, while consensus among many of my critic colleagues seems to be along the lines of “We’re still mad at Damon Lindelof over the Lost finale, so screw that guy and everything he does”), but one thing we were unanimous on beforehand was not wanting to know the details, which has to be tough for a company like NECA, when they want to blow your mind with amazing toys based on the movie, without ruining the movie for you in advance. Obviously, the coolest characters to make in plastic are the Engineers, but one of the movie’s big reveals – SPOILER if you haven’t already seen it and still care – is that these white Ubermensches are one and the same as the Space Jockey from the original Alien. All these years, what we thought was an elephant skull thing was actually a space helmet. If your first figures out of the gate are the Engineer/Jockeys in both their key looks (suited and unsuited), you can’t put those out before the movie without sustaining massive nerd-rage. And frankly, those first figures out the gate NEED to be the Engineers, unless you’re putting out the first-ever Charlize Theron action figure before that (she’s being saved till series 3, possibly because there’s a shorter window to get detailed information on actors in costume than there is on creatures being generated in make-up shops and computers years in advance).

So here’s the big hypothetical question – now that Prometheus has come and gone, with no more pre-release hype and even a significant fanboy backlash, can the toys which haven’t yet been released still be a hit with collectors? Let’s look at the arguments based on past examples, and try our hand at toy-industry punditry, shall we? (Yes, we shall. Or there wouldn’t be a column. Duh.)

Argument: People only buy toys based on movies they like. Many fanboys (please note – I consider this term essentially gender neutral, only because “fan-person” just doesn’t sound right, and plain old “fan” doesn’t convey the same meaning. I know that considering it so may not make it so, but I am by no means mentally excluding women from the discussion) claim not to like Prometheus.

Counter-argument: Have you seen the eBay prices for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen‘s Jetfire? People are even selling individual pieces of that guy.

Counter-counter-argument: Yes, but that was a PG-13 movie and kids like transforming robot toys. Prometheus is R-rated and its toys are aimed at older collectors.

Counter-to-the-third-power: Look to the franchise that spawned Prometheus. First, find me anybody who thinks the Alien versus Predator movies were amazing pieces of cinema. Second, look at how quickly toys from the first film (by McFarlane) and the second (by NECA) sold out. If you have iconic creatures, the quality of the movie itself isn’t always the key factor. Look also at the director in question – Ridley Scott’s Legend was a way bigger disappointment in its day than Prometheus, but people still buy any and all toys based on Tim Curry’s Darkness.

 

Argument: People buy action figures of their favorite celebrities, regardless of the property. Look at how many people bought the Heather Graham action figure from Lost in Space, or the Megan Fox toy from Jonah Hex.

Counter-argument: This bodes well for sales of the Charlize Theron (sorry, no pictures yet) and Michael Fassbender figures, for sure, but only them. Noomi Rapace is a question mark, since most of her pre-existing fanbase comes from her chameleonic turn as Lisbeth Salander, who looks almost nothing like Prometheus‘ Elizabeth Shaw.

Counter-counter-argument: That’s why we pack in a severed Fassbender head with Dr. Shaw. Customizers who want to make young Magneto, or god forbid a naked Fassbender from Shame, will buy these.

Counter-to-the-third-power: Fine. But realistically, who is going to shell out $15 a pop for Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Fifiled (Sean Harris)? Even if they are zombified? You can try making them rare one-per-case, but we suspect they’ll stay on the pegs awhile.

Realistic, pragmatic answer: The economic model for any figure line right now is to come up with a basic body that can be reused with slight modifications. Thus, if you make Charlize, you can use the same female body for Noomi. Fassbender’s parts (mind out of the gutter, people) can be recycled into two other dudes. This helps spread out costs across the line to allow for one or two completely unique figures, like…

Oh yeah, those should sell just fine.

Will you buy Prometheus figures? And if so, does your opinion of the movie factor in? Sound off below!

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9 comments

  • yes I plan to but prometheus figures I want a space jockey figure that isn’t hundredsof dollars and has articulation.
    We need more female action figures and not just prometheus
    I WANT A NANCY LOOMIS FIGURE formnightmare on elm street.
    I had an idea a dream more likely that a company released a line of female hroines.
    think of it ripley, alice from resident evil, laurie strode from halloween
    and many more think of it if theres a lot female characters never made into toys…

  • Hot toys did Ripley years ago, and the loader as well, but if you missed them you can forget about getting them now unless you are going to drop a grand or more. There was also a Vasquez.

    . They have an Alice out now, Baby Doll and Amber from Sucker Punch, 2 versions of the Black Widow, an Ann Hathaway Catwoman is coming soon, and there is an Angelica from the Pirates movies.

    I’d love to see Hot Toys revisit the Aliens license because the figures are so much better now than they were just a few years ago.

  • The Hot Toys Ripley didn’t have Weaver’s likeness, which she apparently won’t give any more – the closest in a more NECA-like scale is the Alien Resurrection Ripley from Hasbro. Not a dead ringer, and I don’t know if she signed on for that one, but it’s close enough (the Winona Ryder Call figure from the same line is dead-on).

    Hot Toys seems to pretty much do everything, but who can afford more than one? Even Sideshow is getting too rich for my blood.

  • I’ve bought toys based on things that I haven’t even seen, never mind whether or not I liked it. The quality of the source material is far less important than how “iconic” the creature design is. That said, I am actually one of the fanboys that loved Prometheus (watch it again, but this time think of it as a comic from an old Heavy Metal magazine), but I wasn’t particularly fond of the creature/character design. Not all that iconic. Cool looking and appropriate for the movie, but it doesn’t have that instant recognition factor.

  • “I’ve bought toys based on things that I haven’t even seen” – Me too, like when The Phantom Menace toys came out at midnight. I haven’t held on to any of them, however. Not so much due to any opinion of the movie, but because I had to jettison something.

  • I will spend a small fortune and buy all the toys. If they decided to make vehicles I will buy them as well. I will line my office walls with them and enjoy the nerdiness that will encompass me.