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One of the most famous (or notorious) films of modern cinema is Fight Club (1999), based on a novel of the same name written by Chuck Palahniuk. The film (and the novel) belong to what the author describes as "transgressive fiction," and -- believe it or not -- was not much of a box-office success and received mixed reviews. But the film resonated with an increasingly large audience, became a cult classic, and continues to enjoy much popularity. (Spoilers may follow... then again, it has been 18 years!) Fight Club explores the apparent awakening(s) of the nameless narrator (Edward Norton; according to one interpretation, the narrator is named Jack) in an increasingly aggressive reaction against a plethora of mind-dulling and life-oppressive factors including, among others, angst over purposelessness, abandonment by father, social expectations, commercialism, political correctness, suppression of masculinity, etc. The awakening is triggered by the bored and sleep-deprived narrator's meeting of an eccentric and outspoken soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a plane, and by the explosion and destruction of the narrator's well-appointed apartment. Homeless and adrift from the comforts of consumerism, the narrator meets his new acquaintance for drinks, they blow off some steam by fighting each other outside the bar, and become fast friends and roommates. The fighting brings forth a feeling of freedom from the above restraints, and soon attracts more initiates, who thus become members in the "Fight Club." The narrator and Durden spearhead the underground movement, which soon becomes a campaign to undermine the framework of complacent consumerist society and degenerates into a far-flung nihilistic and destructive revolutionary conspiracy. There is plenty of irony and contradiction here, with the assertion of the narrator's previously suppressed individual personality leading to sheep-like imitation on the part of a brainwashed uniform army of "Space Monkeys." In the end, the narrator's more socially constructive traits awaken glimmers of doubt and lucidity, only for him to discover that he cannot reign in the destruction he has helped set in motion. In a particularly cruel twist, he realizes that he himself is responsible for what is about to happen, as Tyler Durden is nothing more than the uber-cool alter ego produced by his imagination. Talk about mental issues and split personalities...
There is much that bothers me about the film, although I think it intended to be critical of the flawed, destructive, and ironically contradictory over correction produced by the Fight Club. I am not sure to what extent many the film's fans realize this, but not reaching this realization would entail not only overlooking the glaring and ironic contradictions, but also the glorification of violence, anarchism, anti-progress, sadism/masochism, vandalism, mob mentality, conformity (in the name of reasserting individuality!), among other disturbing traits, all in the name of an elusive and illusive cause. Rebels without a cause indeed. But anyway...
Whatever the value, intent, or understanding of the film, there can be little doubt that Tyler Durden is a very cool cat, and this character has been the focus of several sixth-scale action figures produced in the last three years or so. First Iminime made action figures of both protagonists ("Narrator" and "Space Monkey"), then Craftone came out with an action figure it called the "Fighter," which featured two Tyler Durden head sculpts to match two possible outfits alongside a number of accessories. Last year (2016) Blitzway produced two action figures based on the Tyler Durden character. These correspond very closely to the looks provided by the earlier Craftone product, but this time in greater detail, and with more accessories. One of Blitzway's Fight Club figures represents Tyler Durden in a gaudy fur coat, while the other has him in his red leather jacket. While you can buy these figures individually, they are also available as a two-pack, which includes an exclusive film-accurate bathrobe. It is this two-pack that I am reviewing here. I have no doubt that Blitzway's version is more film-accurate and spectacular than its predecessors, although it, too, leaves something to be desired.
Packaging - ***1/2
The Blitzway Fight Club Two-Pack constitutes three boxes (sharing the same height and width, but different depths) placed back-to-back and horizontally enveloped by a common thin cardboard wrap. This wrap is in matte black, with the film logo "Fight Club" executed in shiny silver on the front, and "Blitzway" in a barely-discernible darker shade of black in the upper left corner. Stylish, but simplistic. After removing the wrap, one finds the first shoebox-type box, containing the fur coat version of Tyler Durden. It has a posterized image of the character in this look, and the "Fight Club" and "Blitzway" labels are executed in light blue. Behind this box is located a much shallower box containing the two-pack exclusive; this box is painted black except for an aluminum soapdish and pink soap with the "Fight Club" logo superimposed on top of it in silver. Finally, the last shoebox-style box contains the red jacket version of Tyler Durdin. It features a posterized image of the character in this look, but here the "Fight Club" and "Blitzway" logos are executed in pink. The back of each box has more information, production credits, and the traditional choking hazard warnings.
Inside each of the two shoebox-type boxes, one finds a foam cover and bed containing the figure on the left side, and a single split-level plastic tray (with its own
clear plastic cover) that reaches up to the top on the right side, but sinks under the foam bed on the left. The plastic tray contains the various accessories, with
larger pieces like furniture placed in the deeper right side, and smaller pieces in the shallower left side. Everything here is collector friendly enough, although
after unpacking some of the smaller items, you would have a hard time placing them and keeping them in the little compartments intended for them. This can be a minor
annoyance and, given the tiny size of some of these accessories, it could result in the accidental loss of something or other.
Sculpting - ***1/2
The quality of the sculpts has apparently been the topic of much debate ever since the first prototype photos appeared. I have not followed these discussions, but can see why the topic was divisive. The sculpt clearly does represent the features of Brad Pitt. And yet, it is not quite 100% accurate or realistic. It is very good, though not quite Hot Toys quality (and of course this is not Hot Toys, and Hot Toys itself is not uniformly flawless). Both sculpts are executed in great detail, but the result is not equally successful. In my opinion the fur coat version has the more accurate and realistic head sculpt. It excels in the fine detail of the hair strands, the facial wrinkles, and the furrowed brow. The red jacket version has a more impressively-sculpted spiked hair (though the sculpt is perhaps just a little too clean), but somehow the face seems less accurate and realistic. Much of the detail is still there, and my impression might be shaped by the paint (see below); still, this head sculpt seems a little more caricature-like to me. It is difficult to rate the two head sculpts, but I would say the fur coat version comes close to ****, while the red jacket version comes close to ***; hence the overall ***1/2 rating for this category.
The hands and footwear are also very nicely sculpted, with plenty of tiny detail, for example the hideous chemical burn scar on several of the right hands. Several of the hands (especially those that come with the fur coat version) feature sculpted film-accurate rings. The accessories, no matter how tiny, also exhibit a careful and detailed sculpt. I should point out that the body also features some sculpting, with texturing, muscles, veins, and nipples that are intended to give it a realistic enough look if you display it without a shirt.
Paint - ***1/2
Overall, the paint job here is very good. The eyes are sharp, glossy, and clear, and even the tiniest paint details on the accessories are precisely executed. The hair appears a bit flat, especially in the short-cropped fur coat version, and there seems to be less sharpness to the paint job on the footwear -- especially on the shoes that come with the fur coat version. The facial hair is colored subtly enough in both sculpts, as are the nipples, and there is some nice freckling on both face and body. However, as with the sculpting category above, the figures do not seem to be equally well executed. Here, too, I feel that the fur coat version has an advantage. The wound on the left side of the face in the red jacket version does not appear quite realistic to me (they went for a combination of sharper lines and smudges), and the whole face appears shinier. Perhaps they were going for a sweaty look (after a fight?), but it seems to detract from the realism of the figure. As above, I would have rated the fur coat version closer to **** and the red jacket version closer to ***, hence the average of ***1/2.
Articulation - ***
Let's face it, these are Fight Club figures, and they should be able to fight. Good articulation, therefore, is essential to them. The articulation is quite decent, but far from perfect for out purposes. The shoulders, wrists, upper neck, waist, hips, knees, and ankles are very well articulated. For the most part the outfits do not get in the way, except that the taller boots of the red jacket version stands in the way of any meaningful ankle articulation. Then there are the inherent limitations of the bodies: there is little or no articulation to the lower neck, and the elbows can only bend to about 90 degrees. The reasons for this are obvious (they prioritized appearance over function) but disappointing. I had trouble making the action figure sit with crossed legs in the chair (as the fur coat version is supposed to), so here, too, the articulation leaves something to be desired.
Accessories - ****
We get a veritable cornucopia of accessories each figure.
The fur coat version comes with: a hotel room chair, hotel room round table, round black ashtray, flight-goggle-like sunglasses, aluminum-like soap dish with a bar of pink soap bearing the sculpted logo "Fight Club," a "Tyler: Full Flavor" cigarette pack, 3 cigarettes (1 of them lit, with a burned end), a cigarette lighter shaped like the lower half of a lady, a hotel room leather-bound folder containing several items (including a listing of Fight Club's 8 rules, four Tyler Durden Paper Street Soap Co. oversized business cards, a doctored flight safety card for airplane passengers, a warning card, and what looks like a surveillance footage printout showing screen captures from the film in three rows), a pair of spare wrist pegs, four additional hands with sculpted rings (two relaxed, one right holding hand, one left pointing hand), and an action figure stand you would have to put together.
The red jacket version comes with: a shower (you have to put together the two parts), red-lensed sunglasses, a baseball bat, a golf club, 3 golf balls, a pistol, 2 "Fight Club" beer bottles, a "Tyler: Full Flavor" cigarette pack, 3 cigarettes (2 of them lit, with a burned end, and one of them tapered in such a way as to be lodged into the head sculpt), a pack of Tyler Durden Paper Street Soap Co. oversized business cards, a pair of spare wrist pegs, six additional hands (pair of fists, pair of semi-relaxed hands -- the right one with a sculpted ring, and pair of hands with stretched out fingers), and an action figure stand you would have to put together (as shown in the photo).
The exclusive, available only with the two-pack, is the bathrobe. Technically this is an outfit, but I am listing it under accessories, since I inserted it there in the composite photo and since it comes with its own sixth-scale wire coat hanger.
The array of accessories is both impressive and extensive, and the accessories themselves are very nicely sculpted and painted, as mentioned above. The pistol is articulated, and you can open or even detach the barrel. One thing that should have been added, is a pair of bare feet with at least the red jacket version (see below under Outfit). Also, while the shower stand is very nicely done, it is film inaccurate, as in the movie the shower emptied directly into a bathtub instead.
Both versions of the action figure come with the same "Multi-Move Stand," version 2.0, which you can put together and use in different ways (for example with a crotch- or waist-grip). Each box contains a quick guide to help you put the stand elements together.
Outfit - ***
As with the accessories, we get an impressive set of outfits, but here the selection is far less comprehensive. The fur coat version comes, naturally, with the fur coat, a dark yellowish mesh wife beater, brick red pants, and red-brown loafers. Just as naturally, the red jacket version comes with the red leather jacket, a collared printed white shirt which can be unbuttoned, blue athletic pants, and blue-and brown boots. The exclusive, as indicated above, is the dirty white bathrobe printed with images of steaming coffee mugs.
As with the accessories, here everything is very nicely done; for example, the jacket's pockets are functional, as are those of the pants. But there are some palpable limitations. In terms of looks, the fur coat is excessively long-haired and bulky; I have seen customizations to bring it closer to a film accurate look, but for the purpose of this review I gave it only the most basic of water treatments. In terms of functionality, the boots that come with the red jacket version impede the figure's ankle articulation.
In terms of comprehensiveness, the outfits are missing some elements. The exclusive bathrobe, for example, makes little sense without the fuzzy slippers which were worn with it in the film, or at least without a pair of bare feet (these would have been a sensible addition anyway, since one of the rules of Fight Club is "no shirt, no shoes"). As it is, the bathrobe is a nice but unusable addition. Speaking of feet, the fur coat version badly needs socks. I don't recall whether we actually see the socks in the film (although the Craftone version had them), but the connection between the lower leg and the "foot" socket within the shoe is unsightly and should be obscured at all times.
In the film we see the fur coat used with two different tops, and it would have been nice to find the alternative included with the action figure. Similarly, in the film we see the red jacket used with at least three different tops, and again, it would have been nice to have found the two alternatives in the box. Perhaps this sounds like asking for too much, but then again these are pricey products and they are classified as "ultimate masterpiece series."
Fun Factor - ****
Despite the several limitations or inaccuracies mentioned above, there can be no doubt that either or both of the two Fight Club figures have an excellent fun factor. This is due to their looks, articulation, detailed outfit, and numerous relevant accessories. While not recommended for kids, the action figures should be plenty of fun for adults to pose and display. Just preparing for this review, I ended up with twice as many final photos as I can show here.
Value - ***1/2
Retailing at about $250 each, or about $500 as a two-pack (but including the exclusive bathrobe), these are not inexpensive products. And they do come with a large array of accessories, many of them specific to one or the other figure. From head sculpts to the outfits and accessories, everything seems to have been custom made for these products. And you get a number of items (from furniture to cigarettes) that you can employ in custom dioramas with these or other action figures. So while I flinch at the price, we have to admit that here we get more in the way of fairly unique accessories than we do with the average Hot Toys figure for same price. Hence the relatively high rating in this category, although it still gives me some pause.
Things to Watch Out For -
The main area of concern is the sheer smallness of many of the accessories, especially the cigarettes. This makes them easier to lose or misplace, and items this small can shift and hide even when placed back inside the plastic trays in the box. I would also be careful not to bend or snap the golf club and sunglasses. The hands do not swap easily, and required (in my experience at least) the use of a blow dryer.
Overall - ***1/2
Overall, I would say that Blitzway's Fight Club two-pack is a very good product. It has some limitations (in paint but especially articulation and to some degree in the outfit selection), but still performs well and offers a large array of possible looks, poses, and many, many accessories. It also seems to me that the head sculpts, outfits, and accessories are in all cases at least slightly superior in likeness to what we saw in the film, than their previous iterations produced by Iminime and Craftone. And while the price for the two-pack (or for the individual figure) is undoubtedly hefty, you get quite a lot in each box. It was this cornucopia that prompted me to purchase the two-pack (although I already had the Craftone's version). In sum, I think Blitzway has offered us a very worthy and worthwhile product.
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ****
Sound Feature - n/a
Light Feature - n/a
Outfit - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***1/2
Overall - ***1/2
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Other more or less contemporary non-sci-fi film characters recreated in sixth-scale action figure format and reviewed here include Stan Lee, the Mechanic, Barney Ross, Steve McQueen, Snake Plissken, Joe Colton, Roadblock, Rocky III, Rocky and Ivan Drago.
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