Toy Review: Back to the Future Ultimates Wave 1 by NECA

While it’s hard to imagine Universal not thinking about merchandise when they released Back to the Future in 1985, we must also remember that toys back then didn’t look much like real actors. As such, the merchandising rights never formally signed any cast members to a deal. Remember, this same production never thought to lock Crispin Glover in to a sequel deal. And paid heavily when he demanded an A-list salary, then sued when they got an impersonator instead. Needless to say, there will be no George McFly figures from NECA, who’ve secured some likenesses. But there will, at last, be Marty, Doc, and perhaps various Tannens. NECA’s first wave of Back to the Future Ultimates includes three Martys, one Biff, and a Doc Brown who’ll arrive later. Speculation has it Christopher Lloyd took a bit longer to sign, but he’s aboard now.

The 1985 Marty McFly is the one every fan imagined for years, and he’s practically perfect. With a face-printed likeness so uncanny it looks like Michael J. Fox is about to interrupt you, he comes with a backpack to sling over one shoulder, VHS camcorder, and skateboard with rolling wheels. So why “practically” perfect? The one drawback is that despite the double-ball joints on his elbow, posing him with his actual eye up to the camcorder eyepiece seems impossible. What he can achieve is the pose of someone who can’t believe what he just saw through the viewfinder, and now has to use his own eyes.

But wait…that’s not all! Though Marty’s “life preserver” vest is loosely glued at three points, it’s easy to remove. Combine that with an included guitar, alternate sunglasses head, and guitar-pick hand, and he becomes an all-denim, “Canadian tuxedo” opening-scene Marty. (The red marks show where the vest attached.)

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Yes, the guitar looks small. And yes, that’s movie-accurate. Animated Marty may have skewed some perceptions.

Like all of the figures in this line, Marty includes multiple hands. And detailed sneakers.

2015 Marty is really technically two characters — it’s Marty and Marty Jr. The behatted head, with its aw-shucks George McFly bullied face resembles Marty Jr. more than his dad, while the bare head feels more Marty Sr. A shiny coat on the cap tries to duplicate the movie sheen. It’s not quite there, but close enough.

The hoverboard comes with parts for two distinct looks — play and display. If the idea is to pose Marty just holding the board, then leave in the smooth circular footpad and underside purple doohickey.

To pose Marty on the board, switch out the purple piece for one with a socket for the stand’s ball joint, and the footpad for one with a footpeg. Be warned — Marty’s foot initially would not stay on the footpeg until it got soaked in hot water to loosen the hole, and then pushed on and chilled. Once achieved, this keeps his foot solidly on until pulled off.

Note the Mattel logos, unusable for obvious reasons, replaced with those of the current toy company. Marty also gets a future Pepsi, in a removable tube.

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The third Marty, “Tales From Space,” may be better known as “Darth Vader from Planet Vulcan.” Presumably for legal reasons, no “Live Long and Prosper” hand comes packed in. This is the only figure without alternate hands. But he has plenty else, including a hairdryer and Walkman.

Though he just includes two heads, the headwear gets a lot of alternate versions. The base head for masked Marty has a hardhat with movable visor attached. For fully masked look, clip on a back hood and a bottom flap. Both of these are interchangeable with “open” versions to create a “mask up” look.

Alternatively, the extra head is totally “mask off” and then he can hold an all-in-one “removed” mask. Unfortunately, here is where the interchangeable parts finally failed a stress test. In switching out the heads, I felt the neck peg snap.

Using hot water or a hairdryer to soften the plastic first is highly recommended. Unlike the NECA Predators, these neck pegs are double-ball joints and not just straight pegs. So it’s a struggle to pull them off. Kids won’t be able.

Finally, there’s Biff Tannen, in his most familiar garb from 1955. It’s a simple design, but effective, for a figure far larger than Marty. If the Internet can be believed, Tom Wilson in real life is ten inches taller than Michael J. Fox.

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(Animated Biff’s foot spontaneously broke and fell off after this photo.) Because Biff is so basic, NECA bent over backwards to create character-specific accessories. He has the sports almanac, of course. And an alternate angry head, along with several hands including two fists. From there, it gets interesting. Strickland’s lockbox, complete with a metal handle, opens up to reveal (non-removable) porn.

In addition to that, he includes a paper flyer for the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. And an itemized invoice for the cleaning and repair of his car after that first run-in with manure. If NECA gets to them, alternate ’85 Biff, Old Man Biff, Griff, and Buford Tannen should come more accessorized. But you can’t not start with classic ’55 Biff, even if he technically makes the least toyetic version.

That’s some out-of-the-box thinking. Literally. And speaking of boxes, both Biff and Tales From Space Marty come in packaging that, if it weren’t for an added sticker, would not be recognizable as Back to the Future except to fans.

Articulation on these figures seems pretty consistent. Double-ball neck, disc ball shoulders, ankles and knees, true ball hips, disc and pin wrists, double ball and hinge elbows, and double ball torsos. That last one, however, gets restricted in various ways. Tales From Space Marty’s bodysuit keeps the inner ball joints from really changing pose; Biff’s jacket somewhat less so.

Each Ultimate runs $30, which is the norm now, but aside from Biff, they really do come fully loaded. If you only get one, make it the 1985 Marty, who really is the iconic version done better than we could have hoped. Just be careful with the head-swaps.

Will you buy any of the Back to the Future Ultimates? Let us know in comments. And check out the gallery below for many more images.

Recommended Viewing: Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy 4K

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