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While it might not be the first franchise that springs to mind when you think about expensive collectibles, Underworld has a longevity that is the envy of many a film series. The first movie was released in 2003 and the fifth instalment, Underworld: Blood Wars, came out earlier this year. There is already a sixth movie underway as well as a television series in discussion, and that’s on top of the comic book adaptations and novelisations of the story. People wouldn’t be going to so much effort if there wasn’t a devoted audience out there who loved it. Indeed, there is a tight-knit cult following within nerd culture that lives for the history and culture and brutal, bloody battles in the saga of the lycan and vampire clans.

The story spans centuries, plunging the audience into the secret war that rages between the two bloodlines, first dropping them into the adventures of Selene, the vampire Death Dealer, played by Kate Beckinsale. From the first moment, the series is a whirlwind of guns and violence and incredible inhuman physicality. It takes fundamental strings of mythology from the classically fantasy stories of vampires and werewolves and weaves them into a futuristic sci-fi setting, all leaping from skyscrapers, harnessing the power of daylight and blasting enemies with silver bullet guns.

The series combines an ancient blood feud with the fire power of a modern day war, with a badass protagonists’ personal vendetta thrown in to create a cinematic experience that – while it undeniably has its flaws – is nonetheless enjoyable. Addictive, even.

As tributes to the series, Star Ace has created a number of collectible figures of key characters from the series. Nerd Bastards was lucky enough to get a hands on look at two of them – Kate Beckinsale’s Selene, the protagonist of four of the five Underworld films, and the vampire patriarch Viktor portrayed in the films by Bill Nighy.

Both figures are around 30cm tall with many moveable points and hand-painted head sculpts designed to reflect the real life actors who played them as accurately as possible, not just in terms of basic looks like also expression and skin texture. They each come with a meticulously crafted outfit and a handful of iconic accessories from various points in the movies.

 

PACKAGING

The packaging is distinctly Underworld, with iconic franchise images on both cases.

The dark, brooding faces of Selene and Viktor loom out of their boxes, simultaneously introducing the characters and giving a sense of the stylistic look of the series itself. In particular, the icy cold colouring on the Selene box is very evocative of the darkness in the movies. Viktor’s box has a less chilly look created by earthy red colours instead of blue. The colour choices offer the first hint at the characters’ personalities, with the red flecks reminiscent of Viktor’s fiery anger and the sharp blue drawing attention to Selene’s cool, level-headedness and commitment to embracing the darkness for the greater good.

Both boxes are very detailed, with subtle patterns running down the either side of the faces that are easily overlooked except when they catch the light.

Both boxes are easily accessible. They come with a small circle of tape over the flap at the top of the box, but otherwise there’s not a lot between you and the figures. The piece of card that provides the background folds around the sides of the plastic casing inside, so you can remove the whole lot in one smooth pull. The figures and all their accessories are held in place between two moulded sheets of plastic. There’s nothing holding the various pieces still inside though, so you need to be careful taking the top layer of plastic off if you don’t want to drop any accessories as it fits quite snugly. It does mean that you can take everything out without damaging the box or even altering the set up very much, as you don’t have any twists or clamshells to deal with.

If you really don’t want to go fiddling with stuff, you can display the figures without taking them out at all, as the front of the boxes opens up to reveal the characters through a plastic window. It seals shut with Velcro, so you don’t have to worry about it flapping open. There’s even another picture of the character on the inside of the door so that big space to side doesn’t go to waste and can become a part of your display.

The one issue with this is that the backgrounds are quite dark. While it fits with the general feel of the series, the characters are dressed in really dark clothes, so they don’t exactly stand out. Selene, in particular, is dressed in all black so her face and hands stand out really starkly compared to the rest of her body and accessories.

Aside from the face on the front and the patterned background that covers the whole box, there isn’t much else of interest on the boxes. The back of each box has the basic information you need to know about the figures, but not much else that has any significant design features. The faint vampire emblems beneath the text is a nice touch that gives the boxes a little bit of personality.

 

 

FIGURES

The Selene figure is very, very detailed and is a wonderfully accurate physical representation of the character. The face especially is very true to life, creating a genuinely lifelike representation of the live action counterpart. The hair even falls over one eye the way it does in all of Kate Beckinsale’s promotional photos, including the one on the front of the box.

The clothes are very well made. They’re all made of a sturdy and pleasant-feeling material and for the most part are equally as detailed as the facial features.

The coat has fine patterns on the back that you have to look closely to really appreciate. It is also well hemmed so that it feels like a real item of outerwear. You can remove it to get a better look at the other clothes underneath and, in doing so, you get a chance to appreciate the quality with which this piece has been crafted.

Underneath, the corset Selene wears over her shirt has similarly fine detail in the material itself, as well as intricate stitching, buckles along the side and neat lacing along the back. This item of clothing is an incredibly well made piece, being both intricately detailed right down to the tiniest stitches and more accurate than most people would even notice. It’s almost a shame that so much of it is hidden by the coat.

Beneath that, the figure wears a single piece of black material that covers her whole body. It clings to her like the skin tight clothes she wears in the movies. It works especially well on the legs of the figure, being both tight and flexible. The seams over the shoulders could be smoother. At the neck of the suit, there is a zip, which you can keep up so that the collar is kept closed or pulled down to the corset.

The boots are also intricately detailed. They have tiny buckles running along the sides and even creases across toes that make them look like Selene has been running around in them for a while.

The figure wears thick wristbands along her forearms, which are held in place with Velcro. This not only remains true to the character’s costume in the movies, but also conveniently hides the way her changeable hands connect to her arms if you choose to display her without her coat and show off the intricacy of the other clothes instead.

The figure doesn’t have the best capability for movement, with the shoulders and hips restricted by the tight clothes. It bends a lot better in the knees and elbows, so it’s certainly not impossible to give the figure a sense of action, though if you bend her knees too far back it looks unnaturally angular.

 

The detail in the Viktor figure has a similarly powerful effect – the level of work that has gone into making his skin look aged and worn is really impressive. His face, torso and hands are all wrinkled and discoloured with age (Viktor being over 1,500 years old in the movies). The skin of his neck hangs in loose folds, his face is lined, jowls droop from his jaw – his many centuries have been finely wrought onto his figure. The detail is not only in his age, but also in his face, which has vivid ice cold eyes and even a furrow between his eyebrows as he scowls thoughtfully before him.

Viktor’s coat is large enough that it could cover up a lot of the detail on the chest, so it’s worth pulling it open a little so that you can really appreciate how much work has gone into creating that aged torso. However, you can’t display it without the coat (or trousers) as, unlike the Selene figure, the detail does not extend to the rest of the body, with a smooth plastic ball in place of a shoulder. Even if you just want the coat open, you’ll need to be careful how far back you take it otherwise you’ll flash the moving mechanism there which really ruins the impact of the old flesh.

This is not only evident in the figure itself, but also in the coat, which is not hemmed as neatly as Selene’s coat.

The trousers you’ll want to keep high, as the detail on the stomach skin ends somewhat abruptly just beneath the brilliantly soft and wrinkled navel.

The belt that comes with the figure and its accompanying chain are both nicely detailed and look good breaking up the simplicity of the trousers.

Viktor’s coat is made of a similar material to Selene’s. The green of the fabric is mottled to give a more impactful effect than a plain colour, with the golden pattern standing out vividly over the top. The collar in particular is well made, standing up as it does in the film without being unrealistically stiff.

The Viktor figure has a similar range of movement to the Selene figure, with limited movement in the hips and shoulders, but easily bendable elbows and knees. Bending Viktor’s knees doesn’t raise the same issues as you get with the Selene figure, as his trousers are far looser so any unnatural pointiness is well hidden.

 

ACCESSORIES

Both figures come with a number of accessories, including a smart, simple stand with the characters’ names emblazoned across the front so you always know who you’re looking at. They both have a number of weapons and alternate hands in which to hold them.

Selene comes with two guns, a grenade, a throwing star, a knife, a sword and a crossbow with six bolts. Altogether, the collection looks fantastic in its plastic packaging. Individually, the pieces work with varying degrees of effectiveness.

The two guns fit perfectly into the holsters on Selene’s hips. They fit fairly well into the spare hand shaped to grip them, with a finger even fitting comfortably against the trigger. It’s quite a loose grip, though so it’s likely to slump to the side. If you can angle Selene in just the right way, though, it can still look really cool.

The grenade and the throwing star also fit easily into the hands made for them, though the limited movement means that Selene might have to just hold them rather than pose mid-throw.

The knife fits into another of the alternate hands, though not as comfortably.

The sword doesn’t really fit into any of the hands. It can balance loosely on some of them, but the sphere at the end of the grip makes it difficult to put it into another of the hands in such a way that it looks like it is being held firmly. It is quite a fragile accessory, too – it bends easily and likely wouldn’t take much energy to snap completely.

The crossbow and its bolts could also fit better into their hands. Rather than being held securely, it is more a matter of balancing it on Selene’s arms than having it properly gripped. That doesn’t stop it being a very cool accessory, though, and if you’re prepared to spend a bit of time positioning Selene just right it can make for an amazing composition. The bolts that come with the crossbow clip into place on the bow itself, which has a fabulously subtle mottled effect on the black plastic. It also lights up, with a little button that is easy to miss if you don’t know where to look for it (luckily the figure comes with instructions that point it out for you), so the shape of the piece isn’t ruined by a clumsy switch designed for human-sized hands.

 

The Viktor figure comes with fewer accessories. There are two small knives, a sword, two alternate hands and two chains.

The two small knives fit well into the alternate hands, though the sword has the same issue as the one that comes with the Selene figure, struggling to fit comfortably into the figure’s grip due to the bulky decoration on the end of the hilt. Viktor’s sword is also easy to bend and probably also easy to snap, so it does need to be treated delicately.

The chains go around his neck and waist, fitting closely around the figure and hanging well from it. The detail on the vampire elder pendant is very well made, matching the patterns on Viktor’s coat and making for a great recreation of the sacred vampire charm. This not only provides a great little detail on the figure, but also connects with the greater story of the series for Viktor and the entire vampire clan.

 

CRITICISM

There aren’t any glaring flaws in either of these figures that would hold any fans of the franchise back from adding them to a collection.

The limitation of movement combined with the loose fit of the accessories in the alternate hands means that your options for poses are restricted. This could cause problems if you’re the kind of collector that likes to have your action figures on display looking like they’re in the heat of battle – especially with the awkwardly pointy knees on the Selene figure.

If you do want to display your figure with an accessory, you’ll have to put some time and effort into balancing it in just the right way so that the weapons and alternate hands stay in place, as they can both be somewhat uncooperative.

While this could be annoying, it’s not an issue that’s rare even among the best made action figures and is far from a deciding factor when you’re looking into buying these.

 

CLOSING REMARKS

All in all, these figures are both extremely impressive. They’re incredibly detailed, very accurate and come with a lot of accessories. Both are very accurate when compared to their movie counterparts, showing off the great care and skill that goes into creating these pieces.

Really, the only flaws that are at all noticeable are only a problem when they’re grouped together. If you’re happy to have your figure in a more relaxed pose, or even displayed in the box with its accessories by its side, then they’re basically non-existent.

Both figures are great to look at and only get better when you look closely at all the tiny details, making them ideal collector’s items for anyone who really values craftsmanship. A lot of the intricacies are very subtle – there’s only so much you expect, for instance, from an outfit that is all one colour, and yet Selene’s ensemble is better crafted than a lot of the clothes made for real people. Equally, the fine lines on Viktor’s skin – even down to imperfections around his fingernails – can only be fully appreciated up close.

The 1/6 scale Selene figure retails at $234.99.

The 1/6 scale Viktor figure is slightly cheaper, coming in at $219.99.

 

Category: Cool Stuff, reviews

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