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Movie Masters Batman

The Dark Knight
by Poe Ghostal

Like so many of my toy-related obsessions, I first became aware of Batman through a movie - the 1989 Burton film. Batman is probably the first blockbuster film whose marketing hype the young Poe bought into completely. As such, I had to see it opening day.

My father took me to the theater that Friday evening but, sadly, the movie was sold out. My disappointment was easily dispelled by a trip to Child World at the Hanover Mall, where I perused the action figure wares of a fledgling company called ToyBiz. Of course, Batman was sold out, but I was more than happy to make do with a Joker action figure (fortunately, Jack Nicholson hadn't died recently and there were no ghouls to feed on his legacy via eBay).

It's been nearly 20 years since Burton's Batman launched a popular resurgence in the Dark Knight that continues to this day. And while ToyBiz quickly abandoned the DC Universe and found success in the world of Marvel Comics, Kenner (and then Hasbro) retook the Bat-reigns during the 1990s. It wasn't until 2003 that Mattel, whose last major foray into the realm of superheroes was the mid-1980s Marvel Secret Wars line, picked up Batman's bladed gauntlet.

In 2005, Mattel's line of kid-targeted 5" figures held little interest for collectors (outside of a not-bad Collector's Edition figure). Collectors wanted 6" figures with the sort of articulation that was beginning to appear in Mattel's DC Superheroes line. Well, guess what? Mattel delivered this time around.

Movie Masters Batman For The Dark Knight, Mattel has created "Movie Masters," a line of 6"-scale action figures featuring detailed sculpts by the Four Horsemen and featuring the extensive articulation found in their comic-based DC Universe Classics line. While the initial Movie Masters figures are limited to The Dark Knight and Batman Begins, Mattel's license extends to all the DC movies, so it's possible we'll see a 6" Christopher Reeve Superman or Michael Keaton Batman in the future.

These are proving a bit hard to find in stores. Rumors abound as to why; the most interesting I've heard is that the packaging, with the huge window-box above the figure, proved to be prohibitively expensive to produce and caused Mattel to halt production while they tweaked the design. I couldn't care less about action figure packaging unless it's particularly engaging, so whatever gets these figures in the hands of fans is fine with me.

We've already reviewed the Joker from this line. While that was a great figure, I think Batman fares even better.

overly ornate As expected, some changes have been made to Batman's armor since Batman Begins. It's a lot "busier" now, featuring an intricate network of straps and plates along the chest and torso; he's truly a Dark Knight now. But what's impressive is how well the Four Horsemen have managed to capture all those details in their sculpt - and Mattel managed to preserve most of those details in the journey from prototype to production figure.

If I have any qualms with the sculpt, it's the cape. Of course, this can't really be blamed on the Horsemen or Mattel; they were just following the references they were given. But the cape hangs so flat and dully from Batman's shoulders, it's difficult to give him any sort of a dynamic pose other than the usual "prepped to kick your ass" stance. The wide, scalloped capes of the DCSH/DCUC Batman figures looks like they could either be draped or blowing in the wind.

Some collectors have expressed disappointment Batman's older brothers that the Movie Masters figures seem short next to the standard DCUC figures. Mattel addressed this issue in one of their Q&As, stating that the "real world" characters of the films are necessarily going to be a bit shorter than the exaggerated physiques of their comic counterparts. Personally, I don't mind the scale difference, particularly since the realistic details of the MM figures makes them look off next to DCUC figures anyway.

The figure's body is molded I'm Bruce Wayne - spread the word! in black plastic and its surface has a flat, realistic, rubbery look and feel. I'm not sure whether the figure is molded in shiny plastic and has a flat black paint application or vice versa, but some parts (such as the gauntlets and boots) are shiny. The only highly visible paint applications are the gold belt and the lower half of the face. The belt's paints are a bit sloppily applied, and if you pick this figure up in a store, that's one of the things you may want to check. The lower half of the face is a bit shiny but otherwise fine, and the eyes are well done.

It's rather puzzling that Mattel decided to what? skip giving us a Batarang or two in favor of a plastic "evidence" baggie with a mask inside - a rather boring face mask that can't even properly fit a 12" figure. The playing card that came with the Joker is a lot cooler than this. I would much rather have had a couple of bat-shuriken than the mask; it's an unnecessary and bizarre expense, and one wonders what the retail price of the figures (around $10) might have been had no accessories been included at all.

Batman features the standard DCUC articulation: balljoints at the neck and shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, post-hinge joints at the hips (for balljoint-style range of motion), and swivel joints at the wrists, biceps, thighs and waist. Again, dynamic poses are somewhat limited by the flaccid cape. Yes, I went there.

Between this line and Hasbro's Iron Man (but not The Incredible Hulk) figures, we're seeing a raising of the stakes in the movie-based action figure market. Here's hoping that Christopher Reeves Superman (and Terence Stamp Zod?!) are around the corner.


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