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By Thomas Wheeler

The Terminators are back...and this time, Playmates Toys has them!

The Terminator movie history is an interesting story, and a somewhat convoluted one, as most science-fiction concepts involving an element of time travel tend to be. The first movie was based on the premise of a humanoid robot, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, traveling back from a grim future world in which machines, under the command of a computer system called Skynet, have virtually eradicated the human race. The only thing standing in their way is a resistance led by a man named John Connor.

Discovering the means to travel back in time, Skynet sends one of its Terminator units back in time to kill Sarah Connor, John Connor's mother, before she can conceive and give birth. Also sent back in time by the resistance is a human named Kyle Reese, whose mission is to protect Sarah. He also ends up falling in love with her and becomes the biological mother of John Connor.

Ultimately, the Terminator robot loses, but not before having its human skin destroyed, and being shown for what it is, a mean-looking robotic "endoskeleton", which pretty well became the iconic image of the Terminator concept.

The movie was a quirky, fast-paced, interesting science-fiction movie in the mid-1980's, that would spawn a sequel some eight years later, arguably the best known and most appreciated of the Terminator movies.

Terminator 2 presented a somewhat similar scenario -- a Terminator unit, once again played by Schwarzenegger, sent back in time. Only this time, it had been programmed to protect young John Connor. The new enemy Terminator was an experimental model made out of "liquid metal". Think about the robotic version of the shape-shifting Odo from Star Trek Deep Space Nine and you've about got it. Terminator 2 was the first movie to make comprehensive use of computer generated imagery within a live-action movie, specifically the shape-shifting scenes of the T-1000, played in human form by actor Robert Patrick.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a resounding success, but its storyline also seemed to put a cap on the Terminator concept. It seemed the door was closed on "Judgment Day", the day when Skynet took over the military machines and sought to destroy humanity. Skynet's creation had been prevented, all evidence of the previous Terminators was destroyed, and it looked like there would be a sunny future.

But the Terminator concept proved to be popular enough to be maintained. Comic books, novels, games, and other elements continued to be produced. A truly amazing (I've been to see it) attraction at Universal Studios called "Terminator 3-D" impressed Terminator fans aplenty.

So there was a third movie. Schwarzenegger once again reprised his role, seeking to protect a somewhat older John Connor, on the cusp of a new Judgment Day. The government, rather than the private corporation Cyberdyne, had built Skynet, and was about to bring it online. Arnold's opponent in this movie was a new deadly female Terminator called the T-X.

The third movie, called "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", met with a mixed reaction. It seemed to negate and/or contradict a lot of the previous movie, which is still regarded as the best of the first three. A recent issue of ToyFare magazine tried to work its way through the various timelines of the first two Terminator movies, the third movie, and even the Terminator-based TV series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, proposing that they, along with the newest movie, Terminator: Salvation, might all exist in separate, alternate realities. I've heard worse explanations...

Which brings us to the newest movie -- Terminator: Salvation. While the first three movies presented us with small snippets of the Machine War, the destruction of humanity by Skynet and its various mechanical agents, and the efforts of the resistance to avoid human extinction and defeat the machines, Terminator: Salvation is the first of the Terminator movies to take place fully within that conflict, granted close to its outset as much as anything.

I am of the opinion that, however lackluster the last movie may have been, and however impossible it may be to surpass the second Terminator movie, this latest Terminator movie could at least have some elements within it, if for no other reason than its focus on the war between Man and Machine that has been the core impetus for the Terminator concept in the first place, the movie that Terminator fans have long hoped to see -- one devoted to the conflict that started the movie franchise to begin with. The commercials I've seen look impressive enough, anyway.

No great surprise, there are toys. There have been Terminator toys off an on from a large number of companies for quite a few years. Kenner produced a series of Terminator action figures based on the second movie, a capable enough endeavor at the time.

A company called (if memory serves) Toy Island produced what I would have to regard as the most impressive figures of the iconic Terminator endoskeleton some years ago. They turned out an Endoskeleton that was roughly 15 inches in height, in two versions -- metallic silver and chrome plated -- that along with being extremely accurate and astoundingly articulated, had light-up eyes and even sound effects.

Addtionally, McFarlane Toys crafted a very decent Terminator T-800 (the conventional designation for the Terminator Endoskeleton) as part of its Movie Maniacs line several years ago.

For Terminator: Salvation, the primary toy licensee is Playmates Toys, arguably best known for their long-running product line based on a certain foursome of martial arts capable turtles. They've also got the toy license to the new Star Trek movie, but trust me, as a longtime Star Trek fan, you don't want to know what I think about that film.

Playmates has taken the interesting step of producing figures in several scales for the new Terminator movie -- 3-3/4", 6" and 10". The first two scales make a lot of sense -- an awful lot of toys come in these scales these days, especially the former. Within the world of 3-3/4" especially, you can find G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, WWE, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and others.

It's a good scale. You can generally turn out a decently detailed, decently articulated action figure in this scale, if you're a reasonably capable toy company, and the size of the figure is such that you can also make some fairly large vehicle-type accessories for it, if the concept is suitable to such things, without those vehicles being so massive that they're too pricey for stores to be willing to carry them.

So, I decided to give my G.I Joes, my Cobras, my Clone Troopers, and a number of super-heroes around here a bit of a wake-up call in their scale, and I brought home a Terminator.

The official name of this figure is T-R.I.P. I don't think it's supposed to be pronounced "trip". If anything, "Tee-Rip" might be more appropriate. And as grim and extinction-minded as the Terminators may be, the R.I.P. part of that doesn't stand for "Rest in Peace". I don't think Skynet is capable of that sort of gallows humor. Rather, R.I.P. stands for "Resistance Infiltrator Protoype". And here a little Terminator history is called for:

The semi-skeletal humanoid Terminator robots had two functions. One was a sort of "as is" function as conventional battlefield foot soldiers. Take an Endoskeleton, hand it a weapon, and send it out. The other function was to duplicate, as closely as possible, the appearance of a human being, infiltrate a resistance unit, and wait for an opportune moment to wipe them out. This aspect of the war goes all the way back to the first movie.

Even for Skynet, however, this took some doing. Early versions, which were called T-600's in the first movie, were primitive and fairly easy to detect. Schwarzenegger's model was a T-800, which, obviously, looked more lifelike until it started getting really shot up and a lot of the robotics started showing through.

The two Terminator robots shown on the package card for this toy line are the T-700, and the T-R.I.P. And they both look a whole lot like the iconic image of the Terminator endoskeleton that we've come to know over the years. Obviously both are a lot closer to the nearly human-looking T-800 than the T-600, which based on the look of the toy looks a lot like a Star Trek Borg dressed in clothes from a reject from a homeless shelter.

The figure comes with a trading card, which outlines the purpose (I'm reluctant to use the word "character" here) on the back. It reads as follows: "This is the prototype for the Terminator that John Connor knew was coming - The fierce, unrelenting cybernetic machine that Skynet is preparing to mobilize. It's the machine that will lead to the Terminator Connor knows all too well. The one that hunted his mother, Sarah. Killed his father, Kyle, and protected him against the T-1000 when he was a boy. Connor understands the implications of the T-RIP and he is sure that if Skynet puts it online, the war is surely lost. Just like T-800 tried to do in 1984, Connor must end this battle before it even begins."

Interesting no mention was made of the events of Terminator 3 here... I don't want to get into any further details of the movie. There are some other figures and characters listed on the package, but I don't really know enough about them to get into details. So let's concentrate on the Terminator figure here. He, at least, is a recognizable image.

Playmates has done a really superb job with this. As intricate a machine as the Terminator is, the smaller the scale, the more difficult it's going to be to pull off effectively. Plastic has its limits (would that more toy companies knew this). Additionally, the Terminator is a fairly slender-limbed creation. It's intended as an "endoskeleton", remember. Its bulk comes from having a humanoid body of flesh built over it. That doesn't mean it's not inhumanly powerful in its -- for lack of a better term -- natural state. It just doesn't look it.

Playmates has managed an astounding, and astoundingly well-detailed, likeness of the iconic Terminator in this relatively small scale. The various details, especially the complex series of cables and tubes that comprise the sides of the upper body around the shoulders, are meticulously rendered here, and actually stand out, rather than just being raised images on a solid piece of plastic. The lower torso and upper legs show a similar level of detail.

The sculpted detail across the entire figure is amazing, right down to the robotic fingers and toes. Individual teeth are visible on the head, and the head as a whole looks entirely like that vicious robotic skull that we've come to associate with the Terminator concept. Not bad when you consider that the head is barely 1/2" in height.

The entire figure is molded, or possibly painted (usually I can tell, but in this case I'm not certain) in a metallic silver, with a very slight overwash of dark color to bring out the detail. Normally I don't approve of this practice, but it's fairly minimal here, and in this case, it does actually serve to enhance the detail, rather than making the figure look battle-worn and otherwise dirty.

The only other paint detailing is in the eyes, which are yellow with an outer ring of red. Very nicely done, especially for such tiny details.

Articulation of the figure is very impressive, for a figure in this size range with such narrow appendages. Although the head does not move -- I think it would've been difficult to figure out where to put the articulation point and have it look decent -- the figure is fully poseable at the arms, elbows, legs, and knees. Especially notable is the fact that the arms have forward, backward, and outward movement, and the elbows also include a swivel!

The T-R.I.P. comes with two weapons, and one can sort of see why the Terminator was so happy when he got his hands on that massive machine gun in Terminator 2. Frankly, these two guns are a little wimpy-looking. Oh, they're a cool design, and nicely made and detailed, but they're just sort of -- small. There's a pistol, and another weapon called a "High Tech Rifle", but it looks more to me like a larger pistol.

Granted, I have no idea what their firing capabilities might be. The movie takes place in the year 2018, according to the package back, so this relatively small rifle might well be capable of bringing down the side of a building or something for all I know. Suffice to say if it existed in real life, I don't think I'd be making jokes about its size, and wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of it.

So what's my final word here? At the very least, I think this movie stands a good chance of being distinctly more impressive than the last Terminator outing, regardless of what continuity glitches it may create with the first two.

But really, if you've enjoyed ANY of the Terminator movies, you'll likely enjoy this toy. I think it's no great surprise that among the Terminator: Salvation toys in ANY of the available scales, the Endoskeletons are disappearing the fastest. Let me add this -- although I don't have it -- yet -- the 6" Terminator looks just as impressive as its smaller counterpart, and doubtless is a cool figure. I have yet to see the 10" version.

So, if you're a Terminator fan, and want a Terminator Endoskeleton robot that will nicely serve to intimidate a lot of other action figures in a common scale, then here's the Terminator for you! Well-designed, well-made, well-articulated. Playmates has really done a nice job with this.

The TERMINATOR: SALVATION 3-3/4" Scale T-R.I.P. TERMINATOR definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!