Mattel’s Amber Collection has had a rocky release history, but before the line ground to a halt, Mattel decided to go out on a bang with the highly anticipated male Velociraptor design from Jurassic Park III. Fans were both excited and cautious: would this fan-favorite design be done the justice it deserved? Although Jurassic Park III remains a divisive film among dinosaur fans, one aspect that seems largely and favorably agreed upon is the quality of the film’s creature designs; indeed, in the particular case of the Velociraptors, new tweaks to the design suggested the franchise was on its way to catching up with contemporary science once again. Adjustments to the skull and eyes, plus the addition of quills to the raptor males, pushed the on-screen raptors a little closer to the real-life, birdlike creatures scientists believed them to be. Such hopes come with a helping of bitterness in the wake of the more old-fashioned designs of the Jurassic World films (although Dominion is showing small signs of promise), but the JPIII raptors still stand as solid designs on their own.
The Amber Collection male Velociraptor measures the standard dimensions for the raptors in the series, at 31-33 cm (12-13 in) long from nose to tail for roughly 1:12 scale, movie standard. The figure comes in the regular Amber packaging, with relevant info blurbs regarding the creature’s on-screen appearance on the back of the box. A two-piece stand is included, as usual, to attach underneath the figure for extra action and display options; the base of the stand is now basic clear plastic instead of the orangey amber hue previously featured, however. No other accessories are featured for this release.
With seven (six-and-a-half?) raptor releases already, mostly distinguished by paint jobs, some concerns existed among fans whether or not a design as distinct as the male JPIII raptor would be done true justice in the Amber series. Thankfully, it appears Mattel put in a little extra effort for this figure, with pretty impressive results, albeit not perfect. First of all and most importantly, Mattel has sculpted a brand-new head for this figure, reflecting the unique head shape seen on film. The antorbital ridges are raised and rounded; the tip of the snout at the nostrils is squared off, with the mouth line subtly curving upwards more. The nape of the neck is thicker and more textured; and adorning the top of the skull and back of the neck are a collection of 12 soft plastic quills, the most distinctive trait of this raptor iteration. The quills are, understandably, a bit thick and blunt for durability. One detail which is less accurate to screen is the dentition, which still appears recycled from the main raptor sculpt; thus the teeth are uniformly sized and stick out too far back in the creature’s mouth. It’s a more minor detraction, at least. It’s also worth noting that my own figure has trouble closing its mouth tightly; jaw alignment remains a persistent quality control issue for this line.
The rest of the figure appears identical in sculpt to prior Amber raptors – which is mostly sufficient, but not entirely accurate. The limbs are about correctly proportioned, factoring in some room for stylization in the feet for better stability. The hands retain the semi-pronated spread seen in all the figures, which is an interesting compromise between film and scientific accuracy – but I admit it actually looks a little weird when compared directly to the slender-handed original animatronics. The body could stand to be a little rounder in shape for this design, with more uniform arcing of the spine and a slightly deeper belly.
Nitpicks in the body sculpt are easily overlooked, however, in relation to the color scheme – which I kid you not, is probably the single best paint job I’ve yet seen on a Mattel dinosaur. Any pennies pinched on retooling most likely were spent on the paint apps; I’ve been catching details on this figure I had never even noticed in the original film models. The figure is predominantly striped/splotched in two-tone grey with a light yellow underbelly. Jagged edges and angles mark the countershading line from nose to tail, with the signature thin white stripes running along the back. Red highlights are applied to the head crests and the spine, plus a softer red wash on the tail tip, the palms and the foot soles.
Finer details to the paint job include fiery orange eyes with yellow-ringed pupils, and light blue “freckles” along the snout. All but one of the sculpted quills are tipped in white. Small orange stripes are applied to the neck and the base of the tail. This is undoubtedly one of the most complicated paint schemes Mattel has produced for their Jurassic World line, in and out of the Amber Collection. In spite of the irregularities and fine points to the design, no signs of genuine slop or misapplications are evident to me; if I had to find something to nitpick, perhaps the darker grey transitions too abruptly into lighter grey along the back of the tail. Overall, though, this is an excellently-done paint job for the price point. Bravo, Mattel!
Moving on from the splendid paint job, the articulation on the figure is more par for the course. There are 21 points of articulation to the figure, from the jaws to the sickle claws, plus a bendable wire tail. A good range of poses and expressions can be achieved with this articulation, although a little more room for finesse would always be welcomed, especially around the head. Ironically, one of the figure’s biggest assets, the new head sculpt, ends up working against it in this regard, as the thicker nape restricts the head articulation slightly. Perhaps a little more tooling work could have gone into circumventing this issue; as it stands, the figure can still pull off nearly all the range seen in previous raptor figures. One other issue that is hopefully unique to my copy is that the ankle joints seem weaker than in previous releases, so I have to be a little more careful with balancing the figure’s weight.
The announcement of the new Hammond Collection for 2022 seems to signal the death knell for the Amber Collection. Although highly anticipated on first release, the series has seen its share of controversy, hits and misses. The JPIII Male Velociraptor at least offers a high point for the series to go out on; hopefully the Hammond-series toys will be able to inherit the best traits of the Amber Collection, while improving upon the weaker aspects. At this time, the male Velociraptor can be purchased directly from Target’s website, and I do recommend the figure for any JP and Mattel enthusiasts.