Monday, 8 August 2011

Review: Kenner Aliens

From ebay.

Even was I was (relatively) small back in the 90s, I wondered why there was a children's toyline based on an 18 rated film series. Why would children want to buy them? They wouldn't (/shouldn't) have seen the films, so...why?

Of course the toys pushed the comic angle - the first releases even came with a mini-comic - but even so.

As someone who'd seen the films, I didn't buy these in the early 90s because none of them looked like the alien from the films. Instead there were weird 'gorilla' and 'bull' aliens. Since Kenner didn't have the rights to any of the actor likenesses, none of the 'human' figures looked right either.

My 4yo has seen Aliens. Now before you all start ranting at me, he hasn't seen the entire film and he hasn't seen it recently. When he was ~2 or 3 he loved watching (repeatedly) the final fight between the Power Loader and the Alien Queen, which - once the Bishop bit is over with - has zero gore and is just a machine fighting a monster.

I actually got sick to death of the bloody film, he watched it that much. Imagine that - sick of Aliens!

My son hasn't seen it recently, however. He's now 4 and turned a bit more sensitive in his old age. As far as I can tell doesn't really remember it, so essentially he's coming to these toys as most children would have when they were first released.

While the aliens and humans in this line are a bit...odd, the power loader is more or less as it is in the film. It's been upgraded a little from the fork-lift contraption in the film, however, and is now laden with weapons - including a 'so big you'll never be able to lose it' missile that launches from the back. It neatly folds away out of sight, if you prefer the 'traditional' loader look.

The aliens come with a bunch of action features such as ramming-heads, grabbing actions, and flapping wings. Some look better than others (I'm looking at you semi-transparent green mantis alien), but overall they look pretty good - if not exactly like they are in the film.

I suppose they take the idea from Alien 3, where it was shown the alien resembles whatever creature the host was. In Alien 3 this led to the dog (or bull, depending on which cut you're watching) alien instead of the more usual humanoid one. In the toyline we have a snake, cougar, gorilla... The list goes on.

As I mentioned, the figures only vaguely resemble the film actors, but this is unlikely to upset children. Mostly the people are just there to be alien-food anyway. You could probably just use whatever figures you had sitting round.

Face-huggers and chest-bursters are also present, although - despite the face-huggers hugging - none of the humans comes with an action feature where a creature brutally rips its way out of the person's chest.

In addition to the power loader, there are a number of other vehicles for alien trapping/shooting purposes.

If you squint really hard you might be able to convince yourself that these look something like the film vehicles, but really they've just been made up be Kenner. I quite like them though. The people fit easily inside and they all come with missile-launchers and other alien-capture devices.

I picked up most of these Aliens toys about four years ago from ebay. At the time there were huge lots on sale and I managed to get them all for not very much. Despite the high 'buy it now' prices for some of the mint-on-card figures, I don't think there's a huge demand for these from collectors and it is still very easy to buy them cheap at auction sales.

An example is the Alien Queen Hive set. A quick search on ebay reveals ridiculously high 'buy it now' prices. 

It's undoubtedly a cool little playset. It comes with a film-accurate(!) Alien Queen, and the kids love dropping things through the egg-laying bit (it comes with a little pot of slime to use, but there's no way I'm clearing up the mess that'd make). For some reason a chest-burster jumps out of the egg when ordinarily a face-hugger would go. I have no idea why they changed this.

I got my hive (mint in box!) via an auction for a small fraction of what the Buy It Nowers hope to get. Only a complete fool would pay >£100.

Action feature demonstration.

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