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Back in February of 2017, a new company made a big splash with lots of big announcements and even bigger promises. Molecule8 jumped into the sixth scale market with several high interest licenses, and claimed they would revolutionize the industry with their releases.
They promised a lot - all new metal endoskeleton with rubber skin, amazing quality across the board, extras like we've never seen before. And they promised it by the spring of 2017. Of course, they missed that date. They promised it by the summer of 17. And missed that date. They promised it by the end of the year. And missed that date. I bet you're noticing a pattern. They continued to over promise and under achieve all through the first half of 2018.
But the wait is finally over - their first product is now shipping. Their John Lennon "Imagine" figure will run you about $300, and the first 1,000 are a numbered edition.
While the broken promises and missed dates will be a big factor for many people in whether to trust the company moving forward, it will not be a factor in my
assessment of this specific figure. I'll be judging John on his own merits, but I know the last 18 months will be an issue for the company and their reputation moving
forward. The only way for them to fix that is to create a truly sensible and realistic schedule for their next release, and hit the dates they promise.
Packaging - ***1/2
They went all out with the stylish box, similar to the high end packaging we see with some Enterbay or Hot Toys deluxe figures. I received both the figure and his guitar, and they come in two separate white boxes. It's a very clean design, and inside are foam trays and padding to keep everything very safe and very secure.
There's also a very cool looking clear plastic Certificate of Authenticity, with the edition size (1000) and specific number. While the first thousand are numbered, there is no expectation that only 1000 will be made.
I dinged them a half star for not including instructions for assembly. There are several areas where instructions would have been useful - attaching the guitar strap,
using the button holer, attaching the patches, etc. - and not including them seems silly.
Sculpting - **1/2
As always, I'll be looking at three critical aspects to the two included head sculpts: realism, emotion, and accuracy.
These portraits were produced by K.A. Kim, a sculptor whose work is well known in the industry. Her reputation remains intact, with an excellent rendition of John Lennon here. Both versions look fantastic, even the more dynamic singing expression. The shape of the nose, the lips, the eyes, even the cheeks and jawline - it's dead on John. It's important to put the glasses on to get the full effect, but with them in place there's no doubt who this is.
However, the hair gets in the way of seeing some of the accuracy. In hand it's better than in macro photos, but the stranding and detail is still not quite at the quality of the best work on the market. It's a very full hairstyle too, which makes getting that detail right all the more critical. There's a bit of a gap with the forehead too, but I don't have an issue with it because it's appropriate to the style and length. And if you're wondering, yes his sideburns are sculpted underneath the long locks.
The realism is spot on as well, with a nice skin texture and great detail work on the eyebrows and lips. The eyes look extremely life-like, and while the teeth are a little wonky, it's more of a paint issue than a sculpt issue.
As I said, there are two portraits, and if I were going simply off the heads themselves, in hand, I would have gone an easy ***1/2, with the hair holding them back slightly. So why is the score so much lower?
Scale. The heads are simply too small for the body, particularly for a person like John Lennon. He had a pretty big head compared to the average person on the street, so under-sizing it here is all the more inaccurate. Just to get to normal human size on this body (the thick rubber skin on the endoskeleton bulks it up), it needs to be a good 20% larger. To get it accurate to Lennon it needs even a bit more. I included a shot toward the end of the review of this figure next to the recent Tom Holland Spider-Man from Hot Toys for comparison.
He's almost an exact 12" tall to the top of his hair.
Paint - ***
The paint work is solid, with the best work on the standard face. The hair on both is a bit bland, but the skin tone and subtle variations there make up for it quite a bit. There's even a few of his freckles on the cheek, and the paint work on the eyes, eyebrows, and lips really adds to the overall realism of the portrait.
The one other are that could be improved is the teeth. These are not the sort of clean, sharp looking teeth that I'd expect in this market or this price range, where getting them perfect is definitely within reach.
Articulation - ***
One of the very best things about this figure is the underlying body. They promised a highly articulated metal endoskeleton would be part of this release, and they fulfilled that promise.
You know it's true as soon as you pick up the figure. It's heavy, heavier than any other 12" figure you'll own. The metal skeleton is covered in a thick rubber skin, but it doesn't interfere with the mobility of the many joints. The body can take very fluid, natural poses, and I was impressed by how tight and close the arms and legs could get to the torso. The elbows and knees can take deeper bends than most humans can, and just about any normal sitting or standing pose is possible.
This may not be the Mark I super duper game changer that they've been advertising, but I'm not cutting off the skin to find out. Suffice to say, it works great, and while Phicen has been doing something similar, this one seems as posable or better.
The thick skin does create some of the scale issues. It's pretty obvious from the photo below that the head is tiny on these wide, thick shoulders. The other big negative is the rip in his left armpit, something I've heard about from others. This creates some real concerns about the elbows and knees, and how well the skin will hold up to normal posing. Without this tear, I would have gone up another half star, with the potential for this body to become an industry leading design with a few modifications.
UPDATE: Molecule8 reached out to me to say they are replacing the bodies for anyone having issues like my split armpit. Reach out to their customer service if you have any issues.
It's also worth discussing the sculpt, or lack thereof. This body is pretty plain, but the character it's intended for is not going to be showing a lot of arm or leg. It makes sense to only give him enough bulge and definition in the right spots to show with the clothing, assuming they'll be casting a new rubber coating for every character. Of course assuming that, they should have also made this skin thinner, so John was less bulky.
It's worth noting here that both sets of feet - the cowboy boots and the sandals - are magnetic, and will attach tightly to the supplied base without a crotch or waist support. That's a big plus, and the metal body is super tight overall. However, the sandals don't attach tightly to the metal balls at the ankles, and he can easily tip over when wearing these alternate feet. The boots were fine, but you'll need to wrap the metal balls with plumbers tape if you're going to use the sandals.
Accessories - ***1/2
The accessories are all extremely nice, but the number is a little low considering the price point.
It's worth mentioning again that there are two head sculpts. You know how much I love it when we get two head sculpts, and thanks to the inclusion of multiple outfits, you can actually kit up a second figure entirely with just the addition of a body.
There are six hands in total, and I think a few more would have been a smart move. There's a relaxed set, a guitar playing set, and a set with a slight bend and tight fingers. While they included picks with the guitar, there's no hand to really hold one. The hands swap easily, and of course the metal wrist posts have no chance for damage.
Mine arrived with the guitar - there's not a lot of info on their website, but this was an added extra during the many delays. It includes a strap of course, and it's a very high quality and carefully detailed guitar. Sadly, it suffers from the same issue as the heads - it's too small. It's not way undersized, but I'd say it's a good 20% again. There are three picks too, each with a 'JL' on them.
There are two sets of glasses, and both are outstanding. These are some of the best metal frame glasses I've ever seen in sixth scale. Perfectly sized, high quality stuff that looks amazing on his face. One set has the tinted lens, while the other set is clear.
There's several pieces of clothing to provide extra outfits. I'll just mention their inclusion here, and cover their quality in the Outfit section. He comes wearing the dark shirt, funky jacket, black pants, leather belt, and boots. You can swap out the shirt and jacket for the extra black shirt with the wide collar, swap the boots for the sandal feet, or dump the initial costume altogether and go with the white pants and army shirt.
The army shirt has four patches. These come as separate pieces with a sticky backing for you to attach them. I did not yet, and will wait until I have lots of time to be very patient. I'm terrible at putting on stickers - I simply don't have the patience. Considering the price point, I expect these to be in place right out of the box. This shirt and pants combo is best known from his Dick Cavett talk show appearance, and the patches were there, so having them permanently attached makes far more sense to me. By the way, look at the size of his head compared to his body in that video, and you'll understand my concerns about the scale of the portraits.
I mentioned the display base earlier, but it's worth a second nod. It's a thick, round, white block, matching the style of the package (and the 'imagine' theme), and the magnetic feet attach tightly. There's no support rod of any type.
While that's not a ton of extras, I would have gone four stars in this category because you're getting enough pieces - extra head, extra feet, extra costume - to create another complete figure just by picking up another body. The undersized guitar and separate patches hurt things though, pulling my score back down.
Outfit - **
There are potentially three different costumes here, and sadly, all three are very disappointing considering the price point.
But I will start out with the high point, the one piece that really steps it up with the sort of detail and quality I expected. It's the cowboy boots. Wow. The inset white sections, the stitching, and the scale are excellent, and these boots show how good Molecule8 can be when they do everything right.
The other costume pieces are average to below average. The quality of the materials, the stitching, and the designs are all average stuff, nothing that sets them apart from any other sixth scale company. Asmus and QMX would have done just as good or even better with the patterned jacket, shirt, and black pants. The leather belt is nice, but the overall tailoring of this outfit seems off. The problem is particularly with the jacket, which has padded shoulders. These shoulders create an even bigger problem for the small head, bulking up the already thick torso. The tailoring on the jacket isn't quite there either, with the fit around the neck and shoulders off. I kept pulling it forward to get a better look, but never got the fit I really wanted.
The black shirt with the wide, stretched collar was never a good look for John, and it's not going to be one here. You can put it on him and pop on the sandals, but I already mentioned the issue those feet have with their fit.
My preference was to swap out the entire initial outfit and go with the military shirt and white pants. You get to keep the cool boots with this look, and the fit and tailoring is better. The overall quality is still average at best, and I'm still disappointed with the separate patches, but it's the look I'm going to stick with.
You have to actually button this shirt - there's no velcro, unlike the original shirt. They've included a button loop - a white stick with a wire loop on the end - to accomplish this. Put the loop through the hole, then around the button, and you can pull it back through the hole. It's not easy - take some care and be patient - but it is doable.
One of my issues with the military shirt is the length of the sleeves. You really need to fold the cuffs up, but doing so exposes more of the wrist and forearm than it should.
Fun Factor - ***
The posability of the underlying body, along with the accessories, allows for some very fun posing and displaying. You can come up with some great looks, but I am worried about the rubber tearing at the knees and elbows over time.
Value - *1/2
This guy is a whopping $300. I'm sure the license was expensive, and I'm betting they are trying to at least break even on all their costs with the first 1000 figures. But buyers are unlikely to care that this is their first release, and even less that the cost of developing this new body is going to eat up most of their initial profits. What buyers will care about is their $300, and what that money could buy from other more established companies in the market. If you ignore the metal skeleton and rubber skin body, this is a $220 figure tops. The small head might hurt that price point even more. While I really see a ton of future potential with this body, I'm not sure most people will believe it's worth another $80 - $100.
Things to Watch Out For -
Take care across the board. The hair is soft enough to fold up and out of the way when putting the glasses in place, and you don't want to push on them too hard. The button loop is very handy, but the buttons are still a very tight fit in the holes. I undid one of the buttons after I had the shirt on - I won't be doing that again. Instead, I'll be using another body for the original costume.
If you're wondering about attaching the guitar strap, it's pretty easy but needed some instructions. Of course, the one end attaches to the strap button on the butt of the body. There is no other strap button though, so you'll need to use the included string loop. This loop can be attached around the head of the guitar just north of the nut, and then the small plastic bit can go through the hole on the other end of the strap. I'm going to have to experiment with various ways of shortening this string, but it does hold the strap in the right position.
Overall - **1/2
It's going to be very difficult for many collectors to separate this figure from the reputation of the company. They damaged their credibility with months of over promising and under performing, and it will take months of effort to correct this perception.
But this figure does deserve to be judge on its own merits. In a nutshell:
- the facial sculpt is amazing, but the hair is average.
- the paint is consistent with the market.
- the new metal/rubber skin body has a ton of potential, and is very posable, but is too muscled for this character, and is already ripping under the arm.
- the quality of the accessories is appropriate for the price point, and I love getting two portraits.
- the outfits are a let down, with mediocre quality almost across the board. The boots are the one stand out.
- you're paying too much for what you're getting, but as some of the fixed costs of developing this body get covered, we may see more value in additional accessories with future figures.
The figure is not a disaster, but it's not a game changer either. This is the first release from a brand new company, and that's key to remember. I'm not surprised there are issues, and as they learn I expect to see fewer and fewer. Key is going to be nailing the proper internal scale, since the under-sized head is easily the most glaring issue for John.
As a huge fan of Willy Wonka - their next planned release - I will say that this figure makes me far more comfortable with ordering him.
As an aside, I tried the suit and singing head out on a couple different TrueTypes. I tried the slender version first (TTM08, I believe) but the suit is too large. The head looks better on that body, but you'll need to do a little work on the neck to get it to fit. I also tried the narrow shoulder body (TTM09...I think) and the suit fits much better...but the head now looks too big again *sigh*. I'll be hunting around to find the perfect replacement to have both outfits on the shelf at once,
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - **1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ***1/2
Outfit - **
Fun Factor - ***
Value - *1/2
Overall - **1/2
Where to Buy
Online options include these site sponsors:
- Sideshow also has him at $300.
- or you can search ebay for a deal.
Related Links -
I haven't covered a lot of Beatles stuff, but Jeff Parker did a nice guest review of the Factory Entertainment figures a few years back.
You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.
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