Mars Attacks Martians
Hot Toys

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jeff checks in tonight with a look at the recent Mars Attacks Martians from Hot Toys - take it away, Jeff!

A big thank you to Michael, he beat me to the drop on this one, but mine was all done and dusted when his went to press. So it goes without saying we cover a lot of the same ground, but hey, that’s reviews, opinions are everything… and I pretty much agree with most, if not all of what Michael said.

But on with my low-down, Tim Burton, a visionary for sure, but he divides audiences like few other directors can… well, maybe David Lynch has him beat, but you know what I mean. He’s never really been a director that likes to play it safe, sure he’s learnt to reign in some of his more extreme creative impulses, even managing to be pretty child friendly a lot of the time… well, child friendly with a gothic twist and a slightly uneasy feeling in the pit of yours stomach… but that’s a good thing!

I already reviewed the cool set of Cosbaby figures that Hot Toys released from Mars Attacks, definitely one of my personal favourite sets so far. But when it comes to collecting, my biggie, my passion if you will has always been for 1/6th figures, I don’t really know why, and as an adult male rapidly approaching the Autumn years of his existence on this big blue rock floating in space I know it’s pretty irrational, but there you are.

I already gave my brief critique on the movie in the Cosbaby review, so here I thought I’d give a little back story as to how the concept and the look of the Mars Attacks ‘Martians’ came about.

If you are a fan of the movie and indeed pulp sci-fi in general then this will be old news to you, in which case cut to the chase and move swiftly to the packaging score, but if you’re up for a little trivia, you might be interested to know that Burton drew his inspiration from a set of bubble gum cards produced in 1962 by THE bubble gum card trading company Topps.

If you take a perusal through the images you’ll see that virtually all of Burtons preproduction concept work was already done for him right down to the green ribbed suits with bright red breathing tanks the Martians wear. Plus it was a shrewd move that meant when we saw the movie we all had that feeling that we’d seen these ‘monsters’ before, like they were in a dream from our collective childhoods… and of course in a way they were. Looking at the design you can tell that ‘the little green men’ had drawn part of their inspiration for the Topps design from the classic Metaluna Mutants from This Island Earth mixed in with a bit of The Saucer Men thrown in for good measure.

On their release the cards proved pretty controversial for 1960’s American parents, who claimed that the violent and often lewd images would be a corrupting force on their ‘little darlings’ and so they were quickly withdrawn. Well I say quickly, after their initial popularity Topps had managed to flood the market so quickly that even today their inflated price on the collectors market says more about their ‘implied’ rareness, than any actual real scarcity.

However, whatever the real numbers they were printed in were, they certainly left an indelible mark on the minds of a whole generation… a generation that included a Mr Tim Burton, and for that Topps, we salute you, as if for no other reason than that, it was a job well done!

Packaging - ***1/2
Every aspect of these figures is designed with a sense of fun… but lets face it this project required a slightly lighter touch than some of the other licences Hot Toys have been working on of late. The bubble gum cards this series is based on have become an enduring pop cultural phenomenon that lead to a classic satirical movie, so the packaging here required something that could pay homage to both, and TF Wong and Monster Jr have managed to pull it off surprisingly well!

These have a cool retro kitsch feel to them, using photos of the actual figures fed through dry-brush and  posterized filters in PhotoShop  then set against a bright green back ground, the same green used on the figures suits. The sides also feature some old-skool diagrams of how to ‘operate’ the action features these figures incorporate. The two boxes act as twin companion pieces, working as mirrored images of each other with symmetrically averse die-cut windows on the front to show the upper halves of the figures next to their different bulb shaped helmet designs. The top of the boxes open up to slide out the inner vac-formed clear plastic trays that house the figures alongside their accessories and figure stands.

So, to sum up, they’re a cool pair of poxes with a nice retro feel, not the pinnacle of Hot Toys packaging, but still a fine piece of design that answers the brief for this set particularly well. Iz veh nayce!

Sculpting - ***1/2
Both were sculpted by Sideshows old mucka Mr Andy Bergholtz, and he’s done a bloody fine job! These are pretty grotesque characters, looking like a half decayed cadaver with an oversized mutated brain!

Ultimately these guys inhabit their own unique universe when it comes to looks, and it’s a look that is 100% reliant on those old trading cards.

Originally Burton had planned to go down the traditional Ray Harryhausen stop motion route, but with a rapidly looming deadline and a budget that was getting out of hand it was decided to utilise new advances in CG imagery and go 3D animated instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie as it stands, but there’s still a little bit of me that would have loved to see how a stop motion version could have turned out. However the need to go down the CG route for this movie proved a turning point in how Burton embraced modern movie making techniques… but being a man who has such fond memories of the old style ways of doing things… it might have actually added to the whole ‘kitsch’ 50’s B movie nostalgia trip we were being taken on!

The Martians features are all picked out beautifully and crisply, showing Andy’s deft eye for specific details, as in essence they look like a human skull with a huge exposed throbbing brain exhibiting the complex maze of frilly canals. Because they have ‘articulated’ faces, the heads are actually made up of seven separate pieces, I asked Andy if he had to sculpt them this way, and he informed me he had indeed sculpted them in a kind of jig-saw kit form. First there’s the neck part that joins the brain at the cerebellum, just above this is a concealed switch hidden in the rear of the occipital lobe, by flicking this from side to side the Martians two separate eyes turn from left to right in unison. They are inside/behind the front part of the face which is stuck on virtually seamlessly to join the frontal lobe. Beneath this is a separate movable jaw and tongue, meaning with all the articulated parts you can invent multiple expressions with lolling tongues and countless eye and mouth poses. I love these, and it has to be said in terms of having fun posing them they’re up there with Enterbays Mr Bean, and they certainly have the same effect on people when they see them.

I asked Andy about his experiences sculpting the heads and he informed me the best reference was based on the maquettes and puppets that were made for the abandoned stop motion. And I guess that makes total sense as the CG models were mapped from the sculpted figures anyway, and now we’ve gone full circle with these fantastic little figures, that are just crying out for someone to animate them.

They also come with a selection of six hands each, two are attached in the box and a further four alternate positions in various gripping; pointing and gesturing positions are included.

I just hope these sell well enough for Hot Toys to consider giving us a 1/6th version of the Martian girl, but with licensing rights over the actress Lisa Marie, not to mention her being Tim Burtons ex, I’m not sure how realistic that is. But whatever we do or don’t get from this movie, we at least have the most iconic figures, and they are done exceptionally well.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint app here is competent, but certainly isn’t one of Hot Toys best, in fact when you look at the actual Martians in the movie like here and here you’ll see the graduation on the forehead is actually pretty smooth in the way it graduates up and between the green and yellow colours. It shows that on this occasion the Cosbaby figures actually managed a slightly superior paint job, displaying a better representation of how they actually looked on screen. However, these are the kinds of things you notice when scrutinising the paint closely next to various photos, but when viewed as a standalone piece it looks pretty damn good, and certainly looks the part when displayed on the shelf.

The body has also been given a slight colour wash, as have the gas tanks on his back to help enhance the sculpted details, there is however as light colour discrepancy between the different plastics and rubbers used in the construction of the suit/body, but it’s certainly close enough for all but the most trained critical eyes. The upper chest rigs that act as the hermetic seals for the helmets are painted in a very convincing dark gun metal colour with some even darker tones applied as a wash to fill the low lying areas adding to its look as very dense and pitted cast metal. The Ambassador also has his circular buckle painted to depict a pyramid with an all seeing eye atop it… are the Martians Masons… it would seem that might be the case!
So, not one of Hot Toys finest paint apps, but still well above much of their competitions work, and they certainly look good enough to stand alongside your other Hot Toys figures, all be it in their diminutive form.

Articulation - body *** face ****
It was never going to be a realistic option to make these as fabric dressed figures. Even the CG animated Martians were produced to mimic the puppets manufactured for the stop motion, you can see one here and it shows just how incredibly close these figures have turned out to the puppets produced for filming. The whole body is sculpted in plastic and silicone, the feet, body and shoulders are manufactured in ABS plastic while the ribbed, bendy arms and legs are a soft silicone material that covers an articulated armature, these have well disguised cut joints that can freely rotate at the points where they join the shoulder and top of thigh respectively. The joints where the arms and legs actually join the body look to be pop on ball joints giving a reasonable range, but nothing exceptional. However with some inventive manipulation of the joints available you can achieve a lot poses. In fact it wasn’t till I was really scrutinising these for my review that I noticed the hip configuration is different on them, it’s only a slight change, but it does mean the soldiers articulation is marginally better at this joint. The ankles and wrists are the usual double pegged ball joints and then lastly there is the neck. Because of the soldiers collar configuration he can only turn his head and look up and down while the ambassadors circular collar gives him a much wider range to tilt in all directions.

Well, I did say finally for the neck, but of course there is also all the facial articulation, the jaw can move up and down, the tongue can rotate in all directions and the eyes can move from side to side. I guess this could be labelled an action feature, and as such it would get a full score for one, but by lumping it in with the general articulation it does get a little lost, hence it’s special standalone score.

Outfit – Soldier ***1/2 Ambassador ****
The whole ‘basic’ outfit is sculpted, so this section straddles both the sculpting and articulation camps, so I shall go over some elements in the articulation section as well. However, as a representation of the outfit, as we saw it in the movie, then it’s about as good as it gets. The soldier differs from the ambassador by having the double red gas tanks on his back with hoses coming round to join a valve at the bottom of his wide collar rig, while the ambassador is without the tanks and has a more streamlined rig with a much smaller aperture for his helmet.
The Ambassador also has a very sparkly red pleated fabric robe, and it’s a real bobby dazzler to quote the perpetually orange David Dickinson and it is beautifully constructed.
The lining is a deep rich metallic gold while the outside is a ruby-red, glitter-encrusted fabric; it’s so sparkly it makes Dorothy’s slippers look positively dull. It really catches the light amazingly making the Ambassador a firm favourite with my daughters; in fact my wife even said he’d make a great adornment for the top of our Christmas tree next year. I already sit my figures of Santa Jack Skellington and Willy Wonka in its branches, so the Tim Burton theme will be even stronger next year!

The robe has good sturdy Velcro strips running up the front and both sides under the arms, ideal for re-enacting the scene where he slips off his robe to have an impromptu boxing match with Byron Williams. It also has wires running through the seams on the collar so you can roll them up into nice tight scrolls as they appeared in the movie. It’s a relatively simple garment by Hot Toys standards, but they’ve managed to turn in a fantastic representation of robe that will stand out on any shelf, and I mean ANY shelf!

Accessories - ***1/2
Ultimately these guys come with all they actually need, sure I’d have quite liked Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on a Chihuahua or Pierce Brosnan's head floating in a jar, but if it means keeping the price down, I can live without them!
So the soldier just has his rifle, helmet and a stand while the Ambassador has his own different helmet, a ray-gun, his red robe and a figure stand as well.

Both the guns are highly detailed in sculpt and paint apps showing bright reds, blues and greens with washes to imply weathering and grime. The helmets are distinctly different to fit the alternate configurations of the collars, they are both hinged at the top to open along seams running down the sides, but the soldiers pushes down and clips into his wide collar while the ambassadors simply pushes into his much smaller neck hole.

Both also come with a spare pair of wrist pegs, but I found the hands swapped out so easily I doubt you’ll need them, likewise both are able to stand so well that the figure bases are pretty redundant too, unless you’re that rare breed that uses them all the time regardless.

Value - ***1/2
Now obviously these are smaller than your average figure as they are made to be in 1/6th scale to your other 12” figures, and this has also been reflected in the price as the RRP at Sideshow Collectibles is $119.99. However if you look around you can find them for as little as $100 on eBay and many e-tailers have them for under $110, which strikes me as pretty good deal for figures this cool!

Fun Factor - ****
As far as I’m concerned these just scream a full score in terms of fun, they effortlessly cross that boundary from geek collectible to all-purpose trendy desk toy, I defy anyone to have these guys on display and for them not become a talking point. In fact the only problem is getting people to keep their stinking hands off!

Overall - ***3/4
I toyed with a full score here, but on this occasion the paint apps just didn’t live up to the lofty expectations Hot Toys have set, but apart from that there is very little to gripe about. I’d have liked some slightly better articulation, but at the end of the day what we have is perfectly adequate for these characters to strike just about any pose you want to recreate from the movie. I still have my old 1996 Trendmasters 12” Martian Ambassador in storage somewhere (as reviewed here) but I couldn’t locate it for any comparative photos. I was always pretty happy with him, but these new figures are a whole other ball game, and have produced top quality figures of these particular characters that I never thought we’d see… and for that, I’m personally very grateful!

Where to Buy -
Online options include these site sponsors:

- Urban Collector has them for $107 each.

- Alter Ego Comics has each for $108.

- Big Bad Toy Store has them for $113 each.

- Sideshow has them for $120 each.

- or you can hit ebay looking for a bargain.

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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