Used to be that only the kid-friendly movies got a line of action figures - Disney's yearly cartoon, comicbooky action movies, maybe something "edgy" like Jurassic Park, but that was about it. Then Todd McFarlane stepped in and changed things for the better, and now everybody's getting in on the action: Art Asyulm, Mezco, NECA and even crap-factories like N2/Mirage have tried their hand at creating toys based on wildly inapproprite movies. The newest entrant in this quickly crowding field is SOTA, with their "Now Playing" line.
Once Peyton Westlake was a brilliant scientist
conducting ground-breaking work with artificial skin - but his life was changed forever when vicious gangsters destroyed his lab and left him horribly burned beyond recognition. At that moment, Peyton Westlake died and re-emerged from the hellish fire as Darkman, a creature of the night driven by superhuman rage. Using his artificial skin process and his ability to become anyone for 99 minutes, Darkman extracted a deadly revenge on the men who destroyed his life.
Darkman is the brainchild of Sam Raimi, the guy whose projects range from horror to camp to westerns to superheroes to supernatural to crime - pretty much everything ever slapped between a pair of pulp covers and sold in a spinner rack at the corner drug store. And that's exactly the ground that Darkman came from, too - Raimi originally wanted to make a movie of the Shadow, but when the rights fell through, he created his own hero.
For years fans had asked McFarlane to put Darkman in Movie Maniacs, but it was apparently more important to include sure-fire winners like Jason X or the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. You know, the big popular movies. Always happy to give fans what they want, SOTA put Darkie in their very first series of Now Playing figures.
The sculpt is excellent; Darkman will blend in with your Movie Maniacs perfectly. He doesn't wear any outlandish costumes or anything: he's just got dress shoes, pants, a button-up shirt and a long black coat. All the wrinkles hang and bunch just as they should, and the detailing is astounding. We're used to seeing laces on shoes by now, but detailed socks above them? Belt buckles are old hat, but holes in the belt? And beltloops on the pants? And a distinct texture on the belt to set it apart from the pants? Daaaamn, SOTA.
The skin is... well, all but non-existent. The only bit of dermis Dr. Westlake still has is a little patch around his left eye and ear, the rest having been exchanged for that stylish red goop that proves that, like Sesame Street always tried to teach us, we really are all the same on the inside. The burnt flesh is detailed nicely, with exposed teeth and all the sticky, stringy bits we expect from our horror toys, but it's the "surviving" face that's really impressive.
With little more than a postage-stamp sized area in which to work, SOTA still managed to make this figure look like Liam Neeson. Remove his hat and you can even see the pores on the back of his head, where his hair was singed away. Oddly, the figure still has both his ears - if I recall correctly, after the explosion in his lab, the only part they could find to bury was his ear.
The figure comes with two heads - one exposed, and one fully bandaged - and an extra set of bandaged hands to replace the gloved ones.
There's a variant
available exclusively at Tower Records that features a third, "tattered bandage" head and a different paint app on the shirt - white instead of the standard figure's red. Even if you don't like near a brick-and-mortar version, Tower's got the figure available on its website. Including shipping, Tower's price for Now Playing is still cheaper than what you'd pay most anywhere else, so that's the best place to get them.
Thankfully, the articulation on Darkman is more NECA than McToys: while the only joints he has below the waist are his ankles, the rest of the figure makes up for it. He's got a double-balljointed neck and balljointed shoulders, pegs at the wrists and those weird non-elbow elbows that never really seem to work all that well. Not surprisingly, they don't don't work all that well. Still, you can get a decent (if not terrific) range of motion out of the figure.
Darkman comes with a nifty little display base - an intersecting set of riveted steel girders and I-beams, from the showdown with Strack at the end of the original movie. The piece is only about 5" tall, but it looks great and has two huge pegs to hold Darkman in place on it. This is much better than a disposable marquee with a flimsy movie poster.
SOTA, NECA and any other company that tries to create a line of adult-oriented movie action figures will inevitably owe a lot to the trail blazed by McFarlane Toys - he's already made all the mistakes, so it's easy to seem like they're making all the right choices. But really, there are enough awesome licenses to go around, and the more companies who are making something, the better the chance your obscure favorites will get made. If Darkman is any indication, then Now Playing will probably be back for a few more encore showings.
You know you wanna: what movies do you want figures from? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.