Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Toy Review – Batman Begins 1:10 Scale Batman from NECA


The first thing I have to address is the fact that you guys probably know how I feel about Nolan’s “Batman” movies and, as such, are probably wondering why I would buy a figure from one of them. Especially after rage-selling all of Mattel’s Movie Masters a few years ago.

Side Note: I didn’t really rage-sell them. I just realized that I had gotten caught up in a style and line that I didn’t necessarily love. And after Dark Knight Rises turned out to be such a giant pile of suck I wanted it all out of the house.

NECA is, for the most part, a great company that makes great action figures. They’ve had some missteps, but I am a fan. I especially love all of the “sneaky” stuff and fan service that they do. A couple of years ago they released a tenth scale action figure of Michael Keaton as Batman. That got a collective gasp from the toy community, as it seemed like anyone other than Mattel or DC Collectibles (or some Japanese company) making six-ish inch Batman figures was a big no-no. But licensing is a funny thing and has many nooks, crannies, and outright loopholes. From what I’ve seen, it appears that since that Keaton is technically just a smaller version of their quarter scale 1989 Batman everything is okay.

Last year we saw similar releases of a Christopher Reeve Superman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Adam West as Batman, all of which had been previously released as quarter scale figures.

This got NECA collectors – including myself – all worked up. It would seem that any of NECA’s quarter scale releases now have the potential to be released as tenth scale figures. This is exciting because most of us don’t have the budget or space for a bunch of eighteen inch tall figures, but NECA does mostly great stuff and many of those sculpts are worth owning. Especially since – in the case of Reeve and West – there aren’t a whole lot of great figures out there, if any.

This year’s surprise releases – and these are always surprises, only being reported when some toy collector finds them in the wild and notifies one of the big toy sites – are Harley Quinn from the Arkham City video game and Christian Bale in the Batman Begins Batsuit. I’ll get to Harley next week.

So I bought this figure partly because I collect different Batmans, partly because of the excitement of new surprise NECA releases, and partly because I do still like the first two installments of Nolan’s Batverse.

FIRST GLANCE

This is a damn fine looking Batman. I did have to go through a couple of figures to find one with less derpy eyes. But it’s more about the way the eyes are in this costume than the actual paint job.

Any doubts I had about whether or not I really wanted one of these were erased as soon as I saw it in person. The big test would be in the quality of the construction and the durability of the figure – aspects that NECA has failed badly in in the past (and to be fair, they’re not the only ones).

PACKAGING

Batman comes in what is essentially a miniature version of the larger figure’s window box. After the simple blister card this is my favorite kind of package. And I have to admit – when you’re doing something “special”, it’s a good idea to put it in slightly fancier packaging.

The graphics are similar to what was on the movie poster and the figure is clearly visible. I suppose the retailers might not be crazy about these being shelf items with no way to hang, but I like it. It’s a different style of box for this scale and it makes them stand out.



The back features a brief synopsis of Nolan’s Batman, which I like. Some companies are getting away from bios and while I do throw most boxes away, I feel like the “filecard” or whatever is an important part of my toy experience. I read these every time, no matter how familiar I am with the character.

LOOKS

Bale’s Batman has a very specific cowl. I don’t know that I’d really given it much thought until I was taking pictures of this figure. The shape of the ears and the mouth opening is very distinctive. There’s a profile there that you could pick out of a lineup even if it was just the outline. Actually, one of the things I’m enjoying most about this figure is being able to really examine this Batsuit. The movie doesn’t afford the opportunity and I didn’t run out and buy a souvenir magazine chock full of production details like I did with Burton’s 1989 movie.
The sculpt is very precise, with all of the severe angles of the cowl sharply represented. The head is firm plastic, so the ears aren’t bent out of shape, which happens more often than it should. Not only are the eye holes sculpted accurately, but the paint around the eyes actually suggests flesh – it isn’t just eyeballs peeking out of holes. The pupils on my figure are almost exactly centered and are fine for my purposes. The mouth and chin have an amazing amount of sculpted detail, down to the folds in Bale’s flesh.

The paint on the eyes and on the lower face is very good. In the pictures it looks like there’s some slop on the figure’s left, but it isn’t detectable in hand to the naked eye.


Batman’s cape is a light, slick fabric that hangs nicely. It isn’t the light or overly heavy material that you’d see on cheaper figures in this scale. The bottom has the wide scallops of this Batman’s cape and there are seams down both sides of the front opening. There are also seams over the shoulders to keep the shape.


The Batsuit is a consistent black throughout with a very low gloss. Without reference I wouldn’t have said that there was this much detail in the Begins suit. The lines are all clean and angular. This is a gorgeous sculpt. Having recently watched Batman Returns for December’s Needless Commentary, I’m surprised by the similarities between that suit and this one. NECA has done a great job of not just recreating the suit, but also of providing concealed, meaningful articulation wherever possible.


The utility belt is also more interesting and detailed than I realized. The front portion has the buckle that we all know because that’s the part we see all the time. There are also the cartridges that are featured prominently in the suit building scene. But what I hadn’t really noticed before are the practical pouches on the belt the further back you get. You know how I like pouches.


On the back there’s even one large pouch, similar to how I’ve always suggested a real world utility belt would be set up – with something almost like a small backpack. I also love the painted detail on the clasps. From any other company this belt would likely have been all one color. Just think what Mattel or Hasbro gives you for twenty bucks and compare that to this figure.

Side Note: there are a few spots on the lower abdominal piece that appear to have lost some gloss. I didn’t even see this in person. I’ll look again when I get home (I write these reviews using my pictures), but I’m betting it’s one of those camera oddities.


Batman’s gauntlets are glossy black. There are nice sculpted lines and the fins are a softer plastic, which is good because if they were harder they might break off easily. The gloves are matte black and match the rest of the Batsuit. I was amazed to discover the grips sculpted into the palms – just another example of NECA going above and beyond.


The boots are also chock-full of detail. Armored plates are surrounded by flexible-looking mesh. The soles and treads have a ton of detail.

ACCESSORIES

Batman comes with two extra hands, two Batarangs, a grapnel gun, and a belt clip.


The two Batarangs are different sizes – one small and one large. The small one is the type that is in the cartridges on the front of the utility belt, the larger is a more traditional folding model (though this one does not fold). The sculpts are fine and the edges on both are surprisingly sharp.


The grapnel gun is awesome. It doesn’t do anything, but the sculpt is very sharp and the paint apps look great.

The clip took me some time to figure out. It slides onto the utility belt in a specific spot:


And the grapnel gun attaches nicely:


I love this! It always makes me happy when figures can actually store their accessories, and more often than not, Batman can’t. Out of all the superheroes, he carries the most gadgets, but rarely are his figures equipped to carry them.


One of the extra hands is for the grapnel gun, the other is for the Batarangs. The pegs on them aren’t as fragile as I was afraid of and they switch out easily. 


Both hands hold their intended items nicely.

FUN

This is where NECA’s figures can sometimes get tricky. They’re almost always beautiful, but sometimes they fall apart when you play with them. Literally.

I am happy to report that this Batman is one of the sturdiest, best-engineered figures NECA has released in this particular range. Many of the joints – notably the shoulders – are thicker and stronger than what NECA has done in the past. I was still extremely careful while posing this one, but I didn’t have problems with any of the joints sticking or simply breaking off.

Since this is a new and different figure, here are the points of articulation:

Head – swivel
Shoulders – hinged swivel
Elbows – hinged swivel
Wrists – hinged swivel
Upper abdomen – rocker
Waist – swivel
Hips – hinged swivel pegs that the thighs also swivel on (MOTUC-style)
Knees – hinged swivel
Ankles – pegs

NECA almost hit a home run with this one. I dislike their ankle pegs almost as much as I hate the ugly hips on DCC’s animated figures. I was really hoping there might be a pegged disc between the calf and the foot, but if there is it’s stuck and I can’t move it. As good as the rest of the figure is, I’m disappointed here.

The head barely moves at all. Part of the cowl is glued to the back. You can remedy that if you like and create a bit of mobility. I can’t complain too much about this because it reflects the reality of this Batsuit.

I was surprised at the lack of bicep swivels, but since the elbows swivel it isn’t a huge deal. Otherwise the arm articulation is great. I was thrilled at the hinges on the wrists. NECA usually has lousy peg joints for those.

I was also surprised at the waist swivel. The abdominal rocker is so good on this that it almost isn’t necessary, but I’ll always take an extra point of easily concealed articulation when I can get it. Be careful loosening up that ab rocker. But once you get it loosened up it has a very good range in every direction. I’m impressed.

The hips and knees work very well. Normally I’d want the knees to bend a bit deeper, but since the ankles are essentially immobile it doesn’t really matter.

Between the very good articulation and the decent number of accessories, this figure is going to stick around on my desk for a while. I've had fun taking pictures and testing it out and it's sturdy enough for me to think of as "a good toy" as opposed to just "a nice figure to look at".

OVERALL

The Batman action figure is far, far better than I expected it to be. NECA is a company that learns from its’ mistakes and applies the lessons to future product. This figure is an example of that. The only flaws were in the ankles, and I fully expect NECA to come up with a better joint there someday. They did with the wrists on this one.

I’d say this is a must-have if you’re a Batman collector or just a fan of Nolan’s movies. This is a great Batsuit executed very well.

4 out of 5

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2 comments:

  1. Your Batman's face looks pretty good! I saw a few of these at my nearest TRU the other day and every single one had a terrible face, almost as if Batman was being strangled or insanely constipated. Yours looks so much better! I did grab the Harley figure, though, and she's pretty impressive!

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    1. It's not so much that the eyes on the figures are bad (though some are) as it is that this is just what Bale looks like in the Batsuit. Hopefully I'll have my Harley review up on Tuesday. I can't believe the difference between this one and DC Collectibles'.

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