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WRITTEN REVIEW: Aliens: The Kenner Toy Line

Ah, the toy tie-in! Ever since Star Wars, movie studios have used toys as way to cash in on a popular franchise. It makes sense. I mean what kid wouldn't want to have Star Wars Micro-Machines or a Jurassic Park playset? However, there were some franchises with their own toy line that just baffled me. For example, in the early '90s the films Terminator 2 and Aliens both got their own line of action figures, because when I think of great products for children, I think of a series of R-rated sci-fi/action movies. What was the deal? I mean, we all knew that kids watched these movies anyway, but I didn't think the studio was supposed to openly admit that. I guess the studio's mentality was, "Hey, we already know kids love these movies even though they're technically not supposed to be watching them. What are you going to do? Might as well make some money off it".

Well, I'm happy they did because the Aliens toy line is without exception one of the coolest toy series in existence! The first line had all the characters from the film; Ripley, Hicks, Bishop etc. (but strangely no Vasquez or Hudson, the two most memorable characters from the movie. I think they came later) It also featured an alien queen figure that was without a doubt the best toy in the series. However, the really interesting thing was the design for the regular aliens. The company went all-out in the creativity department and gave each alien its own animal attribute. It makes sense in the context of the series. In Alien 3 the alien comes out of a dog and possesses more dog-like features, so the toy designers went nuts with this idea and gave each alien their own animal super power. Thus, we have:

The bull alien is pretty straight-forward; it runs on all-fours and has horns on the top of it's head. Makes sense. However, it also does this weird thing where it's neck can extend outward to bash people with it's head. I don't remember bulls being able to do that. Hell, I don't remember aliens being able to do that. Strange neck powers aside, the bull alien has the most sensible design and so is the least interesting to talk about. So, let's move on the some really strange ones.

The gorilla alien's design is the one that most closely resembles the classic Giger alien. It's powers are ridiculously awesome but also ridiculously surreal. It has the ability to grab people with it's arms and then spit water at them. Um, I don't remember gorillas being able to do that. I guess it's gorilla-like only in it's grabbing power, gorillas being famous for their ability to ... um, grab things. Now, in the context of the Alien series it makes perfect sense. The aliens were seen spitting their acid at people all the time in the series, but my point is why not simply use that? Why complicate matters by bringing in the whole gorilla-thing when it doesn't really make sense? I guess I'm just splitting hairs at this point and the gorilla alien was one of the coolest. It combined an action figure with a squirt gun; what's not to love? I just don't understand why they need to incorporate the whole animal thing when it doesn't really factor into the figure. Of course, this segues perfectly into the next toy we're going to talk about.

The scorpion alien looks exactly like Stan Winston's alien design for James Cameron's film. Its called a scorpion alien because ... um, I guess it has a scorpion-like stinger tail. Never mind the logistics of how a face-hugger could ever attach itself to a scorpion. Anyway, the scorpion alien has one power and one power only: if you press a button on it's back the whole thing blows apart. That's it. It makes sense in the context of the movie. The aliens were always exploding whenever they were hit with the pulse rifles. However, this ability made the scorpion alien both the lamest and most awesome figure in the series. Think about it: it's only power was to die spectacularly. The poor scorpion alien is watching his buddies smash people with their heads or spit acid in their faces, knowing full well the only thing he can do is explode on people. But this made the scorpion alien the most fun to play with. What kid wouldn't want to shoot their enemy only to watch him explode into gooey chunks? Scorpion alien, your dramatic death provided endless entertainment for us, and for that we thank you.

The later series brought different alien designs into the mix, like the Snake alien (an alien with a long snake-like body) and the Mantis alien (a big green alien with claws for hands). But I still say that the first line was the best.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little nostalgic trip back in time and remember, in space no one can hear you squeal with delight as your alien toy explodes all over the place!





Anonymous said...

I shall obliterate your queen alien with my legions of gorilla aliens. If I move quick enough, I can fill their head reservoirs with real acid!