“What the…” exclaimed my 6 year-old neighbor as he and my son helped me open up the box I had just received from Weta. In his fascination, Noah pressed closer as I extracted the Righteous Bison Indivisible Particle Smasher from it’s box. “That is so cool! What movie does it come from?” When I explained that it wasn’t from a movie, he wouldn’t believe me.
Some years ago, when I first heard of Weta’s original Dr. Grordbort’s line of “infallible aether oscillators,” I immediately thought there was obviously a movie tie-in. After all, who had the stones to roll out a range of vintage sci fi / steampunk rayguns without there being a feature film behind it? Luckily for fans, when Weta designer Greg Broadmore brought his idea for the rayguns to geek czar Richard Taylor, he saw not only the potential of the concept, but freedom from having to pay someone else for licensing.
So, what exactly are Dr. Grordbort’s creations? Think 1900’s, pith helmets and ray guns that atomize Venusians. It is classic sci fi from an age before Cylons could look like humans or even before Queen rocked Flash Gordon as he skewered Ming the Merciless. It is pure fun with a touch of whimsy and perhaps the most innovative thing to hit the collectibles market in some time. The latest addition to the Dr. Grordbort’s catalog is the Righteous Bison and it packs a surprise or two.
When closely examining the Righteous Bison I am reminded that, first and foremost, Weta is known for making movie magic. You can see the legacy of attention to detail that went into creating arms and armor for Lord of the Rings carried through in this piece. There is a flow and symmetry to the overall design. You can trace the Bison’s brass tubing, examine the ambidextrous thumb selector, ponder the red zone of the gauges and through it all you can imagine how it would all work.
The combination of these elements give the impression that the raygun could possibly be real, but the true test of my movie magic metaphor comes from simply picking up the Bison for the first time. I knew that the previous offerings were heavier pieces, crafted from metal and glass. An early addition to the line, the Manmelter 3600ZX Sub-atomic Disintegrator Pistol, weighed in at 7.5 pounds. As I loosed the Righteous Bison from it’s packaging I nearly threw it through the ceiling. For the first time, this 2.6 pound ray gun is made from “imitation metal,” a substance that has a remarkable similarity to plastic. I challenge anyone to tell me that this collectible is not cast in conventional metal upon first glance.
Another aspect of the sculpt worthy of mention is how Weta has crafted the piece to look worn. As you look over the gun you will see not only the detail of the rivets, you will also see nicks, cuts and scratches. These are details that make the piece as both realistic and perfectly aged.
Paint and Color
The application of the paints and the chosen colors are the other elements that contribute to the illusion of the Bison being crafted from true gunmetal. These colors, especially on the main body, give the raygun the feel of rust-flecked metal. There are even areas where you can’t tell if the “metal” is pitted until you run your finger over it. Overall, the paint makes this piece completely believable. From the hue of the tubing to the gold of the top fin, it is this subtle coloration that gives the impression that the raygun is made of a variety of strange and foreign metals.
The packaging is the second departure from previous Dr. Grordbort’s rayguns. Previous pieces in the line all included a custom case. The Righteous Bison comes in what Weta refers to as “light weight materials,” or what modern man might call “cardboard.” While this is not a cushioned form-fitting leather satchel, it isn’t Wal-Mart packaging either. The box is well outfitted with artwork and designed to protect the raygun within. It comes with a top opening flap where other rayguns from the line are displayed and a clear plastic cut out to reveal the Bison.
While I suppose it would make a decent display for those possessing the strength of will to resist the desire to open and hold the gun, I would rather digest the materials on the case and cast it out with the recycling. While there is nothing at all wrong with the packaging, there this is not an item to purchase on the strength of its box.
I am an unabashed fan of the Dr. Grordbort’s line and I truly enjoy the Righteous Bison. With a retail price of $99 (US), this is easily the most accessible full-sized raygun Weta has released to date. The change in material and packaging allows for them to be able to sell this piece for about $600 less then it’s predecessors. With this raygun in a stand and displayed on a shelf, no one would know that is was plastic until they picked it up.
The only hesitation I have in giving my complete stamp of approval is that I don’t want the metal Dr. Grordbort’s original rayguns to go away and the $100 versions to become the norm. Sure, there is no way my marriage would survive the purchase of $700 raygun, but there needs to be something to strive for.
Overall, the Righteous Bison is indeed a worthy addition to the collection of both the discriminating gentleman and indiscriminate rouge alike. Get yours today, impress your friends and smash the particles of your enemies.
Enjoy more of Robert Alpi’s wordsmithing at his blog, Legends Ink.
And, coming soon… The Adventures of Captain Redgoat & Commodore del Negro in the 19th&1/2 Century! Arr, there be Martians!