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Face Off Presents Kung Fu Critters

An animal-inspired battle royale leaves one contestant standing alone at the end of the season.

It's the finale! Since this is an all-star season, it's only one episode long. So the season ends tonight, but the good news is that...the next season starts in June.

We're down to just Cig, George, and Emily, and we see them driving themselves to the set. I don't think I believe that they're really allowed to just drive around unchaperoned. I suspect they were driven to the lot, and then put in this product-placement car to drive around a corner.

Getting The New Challenge

McKenzie Westmore is joined by Jeff Wolfe, president of the Stuntmen's Association of America. He's been in a ton of things, and he's also done some second unit directing. So he's going to direct a short film for the finale, which will feature kung fu and wire work and generally be a stunt spectacular. Cig is delighted at the idea of a "kung fu-nale," which is actually a pretty good line.

Each contestant will be assigned two animals that have associated kung fu styles, and then they'll make human-animal hybrids. But nothing can get too wacky, because there's going to be a lot of jumping and kicking. But before that happens, the usual slew of helpers shows up. Everyone's happy to see each other, but I don't think anyone has to pretend to be surprised that this is happening.

Emily gets Tyler (obviously), Adam, and Gage. They'll be doing Crane and Mantis. Cig gets Logan, Evan, and Melissa to do Tiger and Dragon. George gets Ben, Rachel, and Keaghlen for Eagle and Snake. The process of choosing teammates is straightforward and free of drama, and it will have basically no effect on the final result.

In order to give everyone some kind of idea of what they'll be designing for, the six people who will wear the makeup all give brief examples of their styles of martial art. To the untrained eye, it's a lot of arm-waving and kicking, but it looks cool.

Design Phase

Emily wants to do an older crane that will fight a younger mantis. As soon as she's decided on that, Jeff shows up with the storyboards for the scene. They're interesting, but not all that relevant. The most specific plan Emily comes up with is that the crane's sagging facial skin will be pulled up into a bun on the back of her head. That's as close as Emily is going to come to doing any fancy hairstyling, since birds and insects are not noted for their hair.

Cig is also doing one old character and one young one. He's also going to tie his looks together by having the horns on one match up to the scars on the other, as if they've fought many times. When Jeff comes by to share the storyboard, the Dragon fighter does a few more moves, and his long braids whip around in a really cool manner. So Cig's new plan is to make sure his appliances make room for the braids, because there's no sense covering up something cool.

George is going to do a lizard pattern on his Snake, because he's sick of snake scales in general. And for his Eagle, he's planning on doing something more like a vulture. The vulture plan seems fair to me, since a bird's basically a bird. But the martial arts are (sort of) based on the movements of the animals in question, and snakes and lizards don't really work the same way.

Two Days Of Sculpting

I'm compressing the first two days of sculpting into one category, because this kind of gets rushed through. We've only got an hour to work with, and there's a big chunk devoted to shooting the kung fu spectacular, and then we have to watch the thing. Or maybe we GET to watch it. It's all in your attitude. Anyway, all this kung fu kind of eats into the time spent watching people sculpt faces.

Cig and George do a bit of bantering, even though they have their own separate teams. They're excited about the chance to do something that would fit in with modern martial arts movies like The Protector and Ong Bak, but that discussion quickly moves to the more important topic of staring at Emily with open-mouthed astonishment that she hasn't seen modern martial arts movies. Or classic martial arts movies.

The focus stays firmly on the three finalists. We get some descriptions of who's working on what, but the prominent stuff tends to be done by the team leaders, with the helpers being in charge of roughing out shapes and running stuff to the mold room. If this were Project Runway, there would be a lot of talk about how one of the helpers is angry at not being a finalist and refuses to help or something. None of that happens. In fact, I would like to believe that at the end of day one, all twelve people go off to have a nice dinner that doesn't have any camera operators monitoring them at all.

Application Day

Because each team's pair of characters has a different shooting schedule, the applications are being done on a staggered scheduled. Team Emily comes into the lab first, followed two hours later by Team Cig, and then Team George two hours after that.

Emily has her team do the latex application while she concentrates on the paint jobs. She claims this is the first time she's thought about the color scheme, but that seems unlikely. They have to be thinking about something after the cameras go off. She certainly has opinions about the way the paint should be applied, judging by how specific her directions to Adam are.

When Cig gets there, he starts on his tiger, and his goal is to paint age spots that look like tiger stripes.

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This is the basic model that everyone's using. The team leader does the detail and finishing work after directing the rest of the team to do the setup. And I believe that's how it works in the real world, too, so this is a pretty good way to test people.

By the time George gets there, Emily is about ready to take her actors to the set. There's less joking around than usual for an application day, which is reasonable. There's not a lot of drama, either. George has to cut his snake pieces a little bit, but he wasn't all that distressed over it.

Sound Stage

Hey, it's a set! With all three judges! And Jeff Wolfe, who's the guy from the beginning of the episode!

Emily gets there first, and the judges inspect her work. I am pleased to notice that Emily is wearing the wrist-mounted brush-holder that Tyler invented.

The stunts are reasonably athletic, and Emily rushes out after each shot to do any touch-ups that are needed. She also realizes that she doesn't have any fallback plan if the antennae on her mantis fall off, but they don't break. So everything's fine. She's very happy with everything and it goes quite smoothly.

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Cig's characters have to deliver some dialogue. This means two things. First, it means that there's going to be dialogue in this "movie." And that's good! It suggests that there might be something like a plot. The second thing it means is that Cig needed to do extra work around the mouths, so they'd move somewhat realistically. So he has to glue down Dragon's mouth a couple of times.

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When George gets there, he has some overlap with Cig's team. They both seem to enjoy that, although it means that George is sitting around for longer than he expected.

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There is an attempt to wring some drama out of the question of whether George's makeup has started to disintegrate already, but it's not very interesting.

The Legend Of The Animal Scrolls

Look, you can watch this if you really want to. The plot is "three animal people fight three other animal people." There's technically dialogue, but one of the lines is "So be it." I'm declaring a ban on "So be it." The fighting is okay, but not mind-blowing. I'd rather just look at the makeup.

Judging

The three finalists are wearing very fancy clothes, and Emily is in between Cig and George. I think that's to keep them from whispering to each other the whole time.

The judges start with Emily, who gets wild praise for everything. She uses the phrase "Asian flair," and Glenn reveals that he'd written that down already. So that's good for her! We never get really crisp, clean looks at the makeup. I guess that's what happens in a real movie, but this show isn't a real movie. Just pose the actors in a well-lit room, please. The dark lighting on the set is great for covering up makeup, but that's exactly what I don't want right now.

Starting off, Emily's Crane has kind of a weird bird face.

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Her old appearance isn't just from the wrinkles on her forehead. She's got a really interesting expression, which can't be easy to do with a beak.

This is the best shot I could get of Emily's Mantis in action:

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The side of the Mantis's head is fine. But I have to think that if the face were really good, Jeff Wolfe would have found a way to zoom in on it at some point.

George also gets praised for everything. He didn't do the standard eagle colors, because there's more than one kind of eagle. Neville was really into the extra appliances on the Snake's arms.

George's Snake doesn't get a lot of face coverage in the fight scenes.

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I'm no expert, but I think the reason might be because that face is extremely goofy.

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Luckily, George's Eagle looks a lot more interesting. Ve is particularly happy about the way his head-feathers sometimes flip up in a way that's kind of reminiscent of a real bird's threat display. I think that's mostly a coincidence, but that George allowed it to happen by letting the feathers move naturally instead of gluing them down.

Speaking of being praised for everything, that's also what happens to Cig. The judges really liked the Tiger, because the makeup really does read as both age spots and tiger stripes. So what we've learned so far is that all three finalists are great, and the judges love all of them.

The Dragon character is the main bad guy (I think) of the movie, and he gets a lot of tight close-ups.

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That looks great. A lot of detail, and there's a haughty attitude that comes through strongly. But I think the best decision Cig made was to keep the braids out, because they looked really cool whipping through the air.

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I also love the Tiger character. He's got a lot of personality, and those scars look more interesting than the usual facial scars.

It's hard to have an unbiased opinion on who did a better job, because the characters are highlighted in very different amounts. Both of Cig's got long, loving close-ups, but both of Emily's were mostly seen in wide, fast-moving action shots.

The contestants are dismissed so the judges can talk among themselves. Director Jeff says there weren't many touch-ups, which I bet is something that a stunt man has a lot of experience with in the real world. Then he says he's glad he doesn't have to decide, and leaves. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!

After the contestants come back, it's time to announce a winner.

The winner is: Cig Neutron. There are hugs! And confetti! George picks him up and carries him around, and everyone seems happy.

Verdict

I found this to be a very satisfying season. The finalists were the people I was hoping for, and there were no last-minute meltdowns. Everyone did good work, and I'm satisfied with the winner. That's pretty much what I'm hoping for out of a finale, you know?

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