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I see quite a few movies each year, either in the theater or on DVD. And for me, the pick for best film in 2008 is easy - The Dark Knight.
Oh sure, the fact that I've been a huge Batman fan all my life MIGHT have something to do with it. But I'm not the only one who believes Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is the choice for Best Supporting Actor of the year.
Mattel has done a reasonable decent mass market job with the film's license, particularly with their Movie Masters line. But it's been Hot Toys, with their high end collectible sixth scale figures, that have really outdone themselves.
I was pretty damn impressed with their first shot at the Joker character, released last summer. But as much as I loved that figure, I still had a few issues with the head sculpt. Hot Toys had to work off early photos and very limited reference material, and they did the best that they could. But with their second release - the Bank Robber Joker - they had plenty of excellent reference material, and they could see exactly what Ledger looked like on film. And that made all the difference in the world.
Packaging - ****
Hot Toys has even upped the ante on their packaging over the last year, becoming one of my favorites in this category. They use an outer sleeve over a five panel box, and take advantage of all that surface area with excellent graphics and photos. Yea, they could still use a bit more descriptive text, but I suspect that's a bit of an "English as a second language" thing.
There are several twisties though, which always annoy me. With not one but TWO tight fitting plastic covers on the interior plastic tray, the figure ain't going any place - the twisties really aren't necessary.
Sculpting - ****
If you read my review of the original figure, you know I whined about the scarring on his face being off, as well as some of the more subtle details of the eyes and facial structure. That head and this one were both sculpted by Yulli, one of the tremendous talents at Hot Toys, and she shows us here just how amazing her work can be when given good reference material. All those minor quibbles with the original sculpt are gone, and this one goes beyond amazing to some new level of work that's simply hard to describe. I've featured the new non-mask wearing head sculpt in three separate shots for exactly that reason.
The now trademark skin texturing is here of course, but combined with the face paint it looks so real it's spooky. The rough keloid-like scarring on the mouth is sharp, accurate and tremendously realistic, and not only is this the Joker, but the underlying Heath Ledger resemblance is dead on.
Hair can be tricky in this scale, but it has just enough detail to look good without being overdone. There fewer of the loose strands this time around, but there's still enough to give it a wispy appearance.
I'll be talking about the second head as part of the Accessories category as well, but let's touch on the sculpt there now. They could have simply taken this amazing sculpt and plopped on new hair (the second head has a matted hair style to allow the mask to sit tightly on his face), but they didn't. Instead he has a completely new expression, with a cocked grin and smirk that telegraphs the underlying psycho-sarcasm perfectly. This second head sculpt is much too good to hide with the mask, so you just might want to pick up an extra or two of this figure (yes, I'm talking to you, Donald Trump) to display him in multiple ways on the shelf.
Actually, I suspect many people will pull the main head off this figure and pop it on their original Joker. This creates the perfect standard costume Joker for your shelf, and then the second head can be used with the Bank Robber Joker. However, if we don't get a Nurse version from Hot Toys, you could used this version with the matted hair to make an excellent one yourself.
I included one comparison shot of this new head sculpt (on your left) with the original Hot Toys Joker head sculpt (on your right). If you're wondering what this new head looks like on the old body, fear not - Jeff Parker's guest review that I'll be running next week has several photos showing the swap.
The other key sculpt area is the multiple hands. All are done in scale, and work with the accessories extremely well.
Paint - ****
The paint work that Hot Toys manages to produce is often amazing. But like with the sculpt, they've managed to go beyond even their usual quality with the work on this figure.
The number one trick here was getting the white makeup to actually appear like make up - not like a skin tone. In the film, as time went on, the Joker's underlying skin became more visible in the cracks and crevasses of his wrinkles and laugh lines. Hot Toys mimicked that appearance with their first Joker, but somehow they managed to do that even better this time around.
The scarring and lips are perfectly painted on both head sculpts, and the somewhat subtle green tint to the hair is just about right. His makeup is running slightly, smudged here and there, following realistic patterns on his cheeks and chin. It's hard to show in photos, but there is also a very subtle transition from the white makeup on the face and chin, down the neck to the flesh tone. There is not an abrupt line between the two colors, but rather a more 'smudged' appearance that looks great.
But perhaps the most amazing aspect of this figure is the eyes. Look at them in the very first photo of this review, at the very top of the page, and you will see how glassy and lifelike even the whites of the eyes are! No matter what angle, the produce natural catch lights, and the offset between the black raccoon face paint and perfectly sculpted and painted eyes give him a mesmerizing gaze.
On the regular head, the eyes are painted looking off to his left slightly. Both pupils are even and on gaze, and this is an extremely fitting expression for him. The matted hair version has the eyes looking upward as well, but the gaze is slightly straighter.
I've seen custom, hand painted work that's this good. But production paint work? I have no idea how Hot Toys is pulling it off, but whatever the code is, they've cracked it.
Articulation - ****
The underlying body is Hot Toys standard TrueType. Jeff Parker did a nice job showing this body off here, so I won't go into any excruciating details at this point. Suffice to say, this is my absolute favorite sixth scale body on the market right now, and it takes and maintains natural poses almost effortlessly. Clothes hang off it well, the proportions are excellent, and even the head and hand swaps are relatively painless.
You will want to be careful with the wrist pegs. I've managed to snap their pegs on three past figures - both versions of their DK Batman, as well as the first Rocky. Interestingly, those were all the bigger muscle bodies, so maybe it's more of an issue there, but I take extra care now with every Hot Toys figure I swap hands on.
Accessories - ****
Yep, this is an expensive figure. But Hot Toys has loaded him up with some very cool extras to make him worth all the more.
This is the Bank Robber version, so of course there's the clown mask. I mentioned earlier that a second head sculpt is included, and this head pops on quite easily. The matted hair is sculpted to work with the clown mask, and it's a perfect fit. The mask conforms to the head tightly, with no weird bulges or misshapen edges. I am much more impressed with this second head and mask combo than I thought I would be.
There's also the usual extra set of hands, and between the two rights and two lefts, you can get great poses with all the accessories.
This is the Joker, so you get a nice deck of cards, loaded up with more jokers than other face cards. It's not a full deck of 52, but there were more than I wanted to take the time to count. These cards are also made from fairly thick paper stock, so they pose nicely in his hands.
He also has a packet of money, but oddly enough they are singles. A bigger denomination would have been nice, but that's just a minor nit. The bills are only printed on the face side, but you can put them together in his hand back to back to avoid showing the plain paper side.
He comes with two automatic weapons, as seen in the film, a pistol and a machine guns. Both sculpts are excellent, and the slide action works on both guns. In fact, the action is spring loaded, so you pull it back and it snaps forward when released! How cool is that?
Both guns have removable clips, and the barrel jacket on the machine gun can be removed as well.
The Joker needed some explosive devices, so he comes with three canister grenades and four standard grenades. There is a chunk of hard foam that these can be inserted into, and then this piece of foam fits perfectly in his duffel bag.
The nylon duffel bag is perhaps the coolest sixth scale bag of this type I've ever seen. It comes packed with less dense pieces of foam, if you want to maintain a completely rigid, filled appearance. However, it's easy enough to open the four perfectly scaled zippers and remove the foam, leaving just the cloth covered plastic 'walls' for each compartment. These pieces will still give the bag a solid appearance without making it look stuffed.
And if you don't want the walls? Just take them out as well! You'll have a completely soft duffel bag, perfect for filling with money.
The strap on the bag is completely adjustable, and it looks great hung over the Joker's shoulder or just lying next to him, open with the grenades inside.
The final extra is his display stand. This is the usual black Hot Toys version, with the stand-up name plate on the base. I don't use them myself, but if you're that concerned about him falling over, it's nice to have.
Outfit - ***1/2
Damn, the first major category that this figure doesn't quite get a perfect score! Fear not, my quibble here is tremendously minor, so much so that most folks are going to say I'm being too picky.
This outfit is no where near as complex or visually interesting as his standard garb. This is more of a uniform designed to blend in with the rest of the heist team. The outfit does match the film about as accurately as you can get. The most difficult feature was the shirt, and both the color and pattern are perfect. You could quibble about the buttons (they are the wrong color), but c'mon.
The outfit really is just made up of the pants with real belt, jacket, shirt and tennis shoes. The sculpt and paint work, particularly the weathering, on the shoes is great, and the tailoring and fit of the overall outfit is excellent. The pants are a bit old man waist-ed, but that fits with the on screen outfit pretty well.
So if it's so great, why did I knock off a half star here? Because he doesn't have any socks. Yea, I told you you'd think it was silly. But when you pose him kneeling or sitting, you're going to see that goofy action figure ankle. The first version has his funky clown socks, and a pair of white ones would look great on this figure with the shoes.
Fun Factor - ***
No, this isn't one for the kids. However, that being said, it's really a price issue, not a durability one. There thin shoulder stock on the machine gun can be broken pretty easily, but the rest of the accessories, as well as the figure itself, is actually just as durable as most any mass market kids toy out there. The average eight year old isn't going to break this figure any quicker than any other you might give him - it's just that when he does, you'll cry a little inside.
Value - ***
This figure is going to run you around $150 - $175, although I've heard there are some retailers out there as cheap as $135. And you know what? He's worth every penny up to that $155 or $160 range, and then some. This is an outstanding figure, and even Hot Toys is going to be hard pressed to follow it up with anything that's better.
Things to Watch Out For -
I didn't have any actual issues. I've learned the hard way though to be extremely careful with the wrist pegs on any Hot Toys figure, having snapped more than one in the past. This figure didn't have that issue, but I always take extra care now.
Overall - ****
If I could, I'd give this figure extra stars. It's that good. In fact, it's not just the best sixth scale figure of 2008, it's the best figure Hot Toys has done to date. Considering how much I like their Cannibal Jack Sparrow and Aliens Captain Dallas, that's saying quite a bit.
Most companies need to work on something. Maybe their sculpting is strong, but their production paint leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe their accessories and outfits are amazing, but the body they are putting it on needs improvement. But Hot Toys is leading the industry in every category right now, doing the best sculpts with the best production paint ops, outfitting them with excellent costumes and realistic film accurate accessories, all put together on the best underlying body on the market. They aren't cheap, and I've complained about over priced collectibles on a regular basis. But Hot Toys figures are currently worth the price they are charging, and considering what a cheap bastard I am, that's saying something.
If you've never bought a Hot Toys figure, this is the one for you. But I warn you - once you've bought one, you won't be able to stop. These things are collector crack, and before you know it you'll be selling body fluids just to get your next fix.
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ****
Sculpting - ****
Articulation - ****
Outfit - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value - ***
Overall - ****
Where to Buy
Online options include these site sponsors:
- Entertainment Earth has it at $175.
- or you can search ebay for a deal.
Related Links -
I've covered a lot of the Hot Toys product so far, but let's look at just the Dark Knight stuff:
- I just covered the Joker and Batman busts.
- I also just covered the Bat Pod, Hot Toys first of two vehicles for the license.
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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