Batman - Michael Keaton
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."

It seemed fitting that to go with my review of the Nicholson Joker, Jeff posted his thoughts on the Keaton Batman. I covered him awhile back, but it's always better to get more than one opinion. Let's hear all about him, Jeff!

Back during the heady days of 1988 there was one movie in production that everyone seemed to be excited about (even my non-geek friends). But it’s important to remember that back then there were no online forums to follow to get a regular fix of how production was progressing, or Hollywood insider blogs to catch up on the latest ‘leaked’ set designs or even the papped location shots. No, we just had what ever Warner Bros saw fit to share with us and what showbiz reporters could dig up from their ‘on set’ moles… which to be honest wasn’t very much.

The earliest news was that it was to be another of Tim Burtons warped neo-gothic visions and the legendary Jack Nicholson was on board (with a huge pay-packet and percentage of box office takings) to play Batman’s perennial nemesis the Joker. It then emerged that Burtons previous collaborator from Beetlejuice: Michael Keaton would be donning the latex cowl to be the titular dark knight of Gotham.  And although it would be almost twenty years before the character would gain this moniker in a movie title, there is no denying that Frank Millers ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘ (1986) was a huge influence on the sinister brooding tone of Burtons vision. A vision that made Bruce Wayne’s home city of Gotham very much a character in its own right. It did phenomenally well at the box office for the time and was not only responsible for setting up Warner Bros long term franchise with the character and series, but also helped set the blueprint for the way big ‘event’ blockbusters would be marketed from then on.

No one could accuse this movie of existing in a ‘real world’ environment as Burtons warped mind is at pains to spell out that we are in a realm of pure fantasy, but he maintains enough of a dark edge that it never veered into ‘Adam West’ territory. A lot of this was down to the clever casting of Keaton, an actor who was very far from an obvious choice. However, despite his diminutive frame (at 5’ 9“ he is no shrimp, but also far from the 6’ 4” we imagine the hero to be), but what Keaton brought to the role was an unpredictability, the image of a psychologically damaged individual, scarred by his childhood experiences and potentially as volatile as the Joker himself. However luckily for us he has taken the side of justice, law and order, though I guess becoming a masked, well-armed vigilante in fancy dress is a weird way of showing respect for the law, but it certainly helps in avenging the murder of your parents!

To help make Keaton visually believable as the scourge of Gotham’s criminal underbelly, costume designer Bob Ringwood had to make him as intimidating and threatening as he could. The end design was reported to have cost $250,000 to develop and went through numerous revisions and tweaks; but gone was the grey and blue spandex, replaced by armored panels, leather and rubber all fabricated in dense black except for a few bright yellow accents for dramatic effect (Bob Kane apparently loved it). It required body casts of Keaton who was totally encapsulated into his finished outfit, an outfit that had sculpted musculature to accentuate his physique. But it was so figure hugging that Keaton had to be literally glued into the suit before filming every day, and although it looked striking, it limited his maneuverability to the extreme. Burton revealed that Keaton suffered from mild claustrophobia when wearing it, but it helped in darkening his mood and made the scenes where he depicted the Batman much more like a schizophrenic/bipolar alter ego rather than a simple costume change.

With new comic book block buster movies now becoming more frequent than busses, it is important to remember that when this movie got made it was considered a big gamble for Warner Bros. Even Keaton was unsure if he had made the right decision in taking on the role. He knew so much money was ridding on how it was received it would undoubtedly be career defining for both him and Burton… and not necessarily in a positive way. In an interview he said-

“It was an extremely difficult undertaking and Tim is a shy guy, especially back then, and there was so much pressure. We were in England for a long time shooting at Pinewood and it was long, difficult nights in that dank, dark, cold place, and we never knew if it was really working. There was no guarantee that any of this was going to play correctly when it was all said and done. There had never been a movie like it before. There was a lot of risk, too, with Jack looking the way he did and me stepping out in this new way. The pressure was on everybody. You could feel it.”

“We’re standing there at one point, I’m in my bat suit, Jack is in Joker get-up and I just looked at him and said, ‘We’re grown men, right?’”

Of course I know I’m probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs in sharing this stuff with the dedicated regular geek readers out there. But for the more casual readership I hope we now know a little more about how the 89 Bat-suit came into being, it will help you understand how I grade certain areas within my review, articulation and costume being the most obvious examples, so lets talk about this fabulous toy!

Packaging - ****
There has been quite a rush of DX figures recently with the releases of Indiana Jones, Jack Sparrow and now Batman in short succession, and at the time of writing, photos of the amazing DX08: Jack Nicholson- Joker have started to emerge (and from the fantastic shots I’ve seen by OMG and Lukazou it looks to have turned out damn fine). The packaging for this premier series of figures is always top quality in terms of the materials used but also in terms of tasteful understated design. I have a strong feeling these boxes will stand the test of time and look just as classy in thirty years from now.

This one has a duotone image of the character montaged on the front above the character name and logos. The side magnetic panel has a separate wrap round panel stuck on with a promo advertisement for the upcoming 1/6 Batmobile… that thing does look most impressive. Open up the lid and you are met by a wall of bright primary process yellow, the left hand section has brief character bio while the right houses the DX gimmick, we always get one and it’s a cute touch. This time it’s a circular acetate lense with the Bat-logo meaning that with the aid of a torch you can cast a giant Bat-symbol on your ceiling or wall, nice!

Using the yellow ribbon you can lift off this layer to show the figure and extra mouth sections viewable though die-cut windows in the yellow card. The card can then be lifted to see the extra six hands and spare wrist pegs all held in soft black foam. This foam can be lifted out to expose another tray with his accessories, light up base and cape.

So it’s another solid entry into the ongoing DX packaging and fully deserving of a top score, just outstanding!

Sculpting - ****
In truth it can be said that the entire figure is sculpted from top to toe, but I shall cover the Bat-suit in the outfit section, meaning the only exposed piece of flesh are the three interchangeable mouth sections. So not a lot of face on show, which makes it all the more important to get what we do see absolutely  right, and boy oh boy have the combined efforts of  Pan Mak & KoJun got it spot on. And not once but thrice between them!

The three different mouths are held in place by magnets and swap over by simply pushing the lower face section from the side. I found they swapped over easily and fitted snugly once in the optimum position. All are instantly recognisable as Keaton with distinctly different expressions. One is a straight forward, mouth closed tight lipped version, ideal for any general display, the detailing is exquisite and shows the distinctive cleft in the bottom lip. Next up is a slightly open mouthed version, which could be mid speech or just that classic look Keaton often adopted while in character. Then lastly we get one with an even more open mouthed expression that is bloodied and perfect for crawling from wreckage or standing in a mid-fight pose. The extra two expressions come held in small vac-formed representations of the Batman cowl, they are held in the foam on either side of the figure and at first glance look like you actually get two extra heads, but don’t get your hopes up as they are just these vac-formed representations, a nice touch though and it does make for an impressive overall look when you unpack it.

In the box the figure arrives with fists attached but the extra hands are-

- Two tight grip for the Batarang, shuriken, remote and cape rods
- Two general gesturing
- One right hand grappling-gun grip
- One left fingers splayed

There is also an extra set of wrist pegs, but I found they all swapped over just fine, so I doubt you’ll need them. All the hands are obviously gloved, but exhibit all the requisite details on the steel studded palms and ribbed knuckles. You will also notice the forefinger has a slightly rougher texture and is picked out in a dark gray (great attention to detail, as we have come to expect from HT). So I’m keeping the actual items under inspection in this section limited to a very compact few, but all are faultless without exception!

Paint - ****
Again the paint only covers a few small areas, those being the face sections, the belt and the chest emblem. The belt and chest are basically just yellow, but the app is clean, crisp and perfect, but that kind of stuff is a walk in the park for Hot Toys.

Meaning it’s the faces that we all need to know about and put succinctly they are all note perfect. The flesh-tones are all realistically applied and the lips and flash of teeth are executed to sheer perfection, even the streaks of blood are an accurate tone and have that semi opaque appearance that I first found so convincing on the final battle John Connor from Terminator: Salvation. The lip colouration is subtle, and the days of figures looking like they are wearing lipstick are now thankfully very far behind us!

It’s also worthy of note that the eyes look fantastic too. They use the PERS feature, but the actual eye shape looks like perfect Keaton, and is sculpted and painted in such a way as to convincingly convey the cowl as a separate piece, and matte black make-up has been applied around the eye up to the edge of the aperture in the mask.

In short this is a concise and perfectly done paint job, and although Hot Toys are capable of carrying out far more complex applications than this, that shouldn’t undermine just how perfectly this has been carried out!

Articulation - ***3/4
It may seem odd to some that I am giving this such a high score for such an immobile figure. But my reasoning is simple, the actual screen worn suit was notoriously difficult to move around in, it was heavy, thick, hot and uncomfortable. Lifting your arms was hard, sitting was virtually impossible and turning your head simply could not be done. There were stunt versions created for some of the fighting scenes etc which afforded a better range, but the actual ‘hero’ suit, worn by Keaton for any full body shots or close ups was just a bitch of a thing to wear, let alone actually act in. It’s why I have been lenient on this as I feel it near perfectly represents the prop hero costume. Sure I would have loved a more dynamic figure that could achieve deep stances but not at the cost of accuracy. So we have exactly what I would wish for. Under the suit is a classic True Type figure, which you can see here for a good idea of its articulation. This of course spells out that as a base body there is very little to complain about and the restrictiveness is all down to the suit… but I for one wouldn’t have it any other way!  However you will be pleased to know (if you have the 89 Batmobile on order) that I did experiment with getting the figure into a semi recumbent position and it is just about achievable, but I’d recommend a pose standing next to the car like this if I were you.

So to sum up, it’s far from perfect in terms of dynamic poseability, but the flip-side is that it is virtually perfect in terms of aesthetic accuracy, and I know which I’d rather have.

Action Feature - ****
Never, and I mean NEVER has the PERS feature been of more use on a figure than this! The fact that the head is so immobile means that with the simple swap over of a mouth and the repositioning of the eyes enables you to inject so much more realism and emotion into your final poses. A panel on the back of the head between the ears can be popped out easily, giving you access to the small joystick inside. This is simply turned and rotated to get the eyes looking in what ever your desired direction might be. But because of the mechanism and engineering concealed within the head they will always both look in the same direction, so no worries about him looking cross or wall eyed. The seams where this panel joins the head are visible, but they aren’t too obtrusive (unless you are one of the more anal 1/6th perfectionists out there), but for me it’s a small price to pay for the benefit gained from the function this feature delivers. It was absolutely invaluable on this occasion, and the engineering worked like a dream with nice smooth fluid movements.

Accessories - ***1/2
The DX range of figures always come well equipped, but some are more bountiful than others. Here we have what I’d consider a medium selection, and though not overly generous, is still well representative of most of the gadgets we see used in the movie. The one key item missing is a Bruce Wayne/Michael Keaton unmasked portrait, whether this is because of licensing issues (the movie is now over 20 years old) or because Hot Toys plan another version further down the line is as yet an unknown, but there is no denying it hurts the overall package a little. Of course it has never been said we would get one, and from the offset the proto images and the released spec never showed anything, so we essentially get what they promised.

So what do we get-
- Three interchangeable mouth expressions
- Eight interchangeable hands in different poses
- One utility belt
- One articulated zip-line firing gauntlet
- One Batarang with attached line
- One remote control
- One (2 piece dismantlable) grappling gun
- One belt clip for grappling point
- One palm shield
- Three smoke capsules
- One timer bomb
- Two rods for glider cape
- Two shuriken throwing stars
- One light up display stand

I already described the hands and interchangeable mouths above in sculpting which leaves his toys. The most impressive of which being his ‘zip-line’ firing gauntlet. The two (non-firing) points can go from pointing forwards at 12 o’clock to flipping down to 3 and 9 o’clock respectively. There is a tiny metal spring between the base of the two points, but they don’t fire and aren’t removable. A nice display piece, but it means we need a Basinger figure as Vicky Vale to re-enact the daring escape from the Joker… and I somehow see that as unlikely. It fits over the forearm when the fisted hand is in position and was easy to place and remove.

The grappling gun (first introduced into the Bat-arsenal in this movie) comes in two pieces that simply slot together. The point has a holder that clips to the utility belt and the main body has a small metal plate that holds it in place against a magnet concealed within the side of the belt. You simply slot the couplings together then flip down the handle and voila, you have your ready to use Bat-O-grapplingomatic ready for action.

The other smaller items are simpler and have no moving parts, but are however beautifully observed and executed. We have three tiny smoke capsules (they look a little like tranquiliser-darts) made of clear plastic with details painted in black. A palm shield that has a triangular armoured panel with an arm that simply slots inside the gauntlet (to be used in conjunction with the fingers splayed open hand). Then there’s a small remote control unit with the Bat-logo embossed out of it and a pair of shuriken throwing stars. Then the last item in his ‘usable’ gadgets is his trusty Batarang, after all what would Batman be without his Batarangs? I have to admit I would have like either an extra one sculpted in the folded position or for it to have had a small hinge so it could be collapsed, but hey ho, it’s no deal breaker. It also has a fine black cord attached to it with a tiny metal ring at the far end.

The two rods included in the second tray are intended to slot into pre-made holes in the seams of the cape, mine however weren’t cut, and as I have no intention of displaying the figure in a pose that needs them I figured I’d leave them off and keep the cape unmolested. There are some truly fantastic shots taken by OMG and Lukazou respectively here and here, which pretty much show the full range of poses you can realistically expect to achieve from this figure (and also sadly show up my lack of photography skills).

Lastly there is the figure stand, and it’s a pretty nice one. It’s based on a similar design to the ones received with the earlier TDK Batman and Joker figures and features small directional lights in the corners. You need to place three AAA batteries in the bottom of the stand for it to work, but once in place it lights up brightly. The top section where the figure in effect stands has the Batman chest logo, which works OK, but I do wish it had been more representational of the way the emblem is used on the armour, with a different shaped bat in black against a yellow ellipse, rather than this reversed/negative version. However, if you are one of those strange creatures who always use stands for your displayed figures I think you’ll be happy.

You can get a good overview of all the gadgets and indeed a sneaky look at the fabrication of the actual suit here if you want to compare the 1/6 versions against the props used.

So, I’m certainly a happy camper and think the items included give pretty much everything you need for a great display… and I bet half these items stay in the box, I personally just intend to pose with the Batarang, simple but iconic!

Outfit - ****
Once you have nailed the likeness, this figure is ALL about the suit. The movie helped redefine the way the Caped Crusader was seen after its release. It took what many people remembered as a high camp romp with Adam West in his spandex pyjamas and reinvented the character as the Dark Knight for a whole new power generation (Batdance… anyone, anyone?). As I mentioned above the suit was designed by Bob Ringwood who took the basic premise of the comic book suit (most notably in the style of Neal Adams) and translated into a style more suiting to Burtons neo-gothic requirements for his vision.

So, starting from the ground up, Bats footwear was actually an area of product placement, as the Nike corporation ‘helped’ to develop his tactical combat boots… don’t, believe me, read it and weep fan boys. Hot Toys didn’t go as far as to include the full on Nike ‘swoosh’ logo (probably because of copyright issues) but they hint at the shape well enough. The rest of the boot is all sculpted perfectly showing the front shin guards and velcro tabbed buckle over the forefoot. They even went to the bother to paint the ribbed ankle protectors in a matte dark grey tone. They appear to be made out of some type of semi-solid vinyl, with enough rigidity to look firm but enough flexibility to get some movement at the ankles.

The main part of the body-suit appears to be one seamless piece which makes me wonder just how Hot Toys actually managed to get the body inside (which probably explains why I haven’t seen any of the base nudes parted out on eBay). I would imagine getting it on involves warming the suit, a certain degree of speed and a very particular technique. It’s sculpted to include all the relevant details including the knee pads and exaggerated musculature on the chest and abdomen. The back even includes the V-shaped panel that when being dressed Keaton had to pull over his head from the front and have it hot-glued and welded into place. It seems to be made of some kind of rubber/vinyl polymer material that is thick enough to look convincing but just thin enough to allow for a reasonable degree of flexibility and is finished in a leather-like texture. Each lower arm has an ABS plastic gauntlet featuring three wrist blades apiece. I’d advise caution when handling these as they can be quite sharp, which I found out! The cowl also carries a leather-like texture to mimic the leather used on the cape and has eight scallops along its bottom section. Within the front scallop is the Bat emblem which is also made out of a solid ABS plastic oval and is glued to the softer vinyl used on the cowl. The remainder of the scallops go to seven points which match up virtually perfectly with the seven seams on the leather cape. This is the kind of detail Hot Toys is so well regarded for, you’d be hard pressed to tailor it looking this good in 1/1 scale, let alone 1/6th! The cape itself is made of a soft synthetic leather material and features eight triangular scalloped panels sewn together. The front two sections are leather, both outside and in, whilst the remainder of the cape is lined in a synthetic satin-like material. The edge/hem of the cape has a fine wire sewn into it to aid when posing. The belt (which I kind of include as an accessory)  has two pegs that hold it shut under the buckle and has four accessory ‘pods’, two at the top of each hip.

The sculpting, fabrication and tailoring is all pretty much faultless throughout, and in my most humble of opinions Hot Toys have made the definitive 1/6th version, hell, it might even be the definitive version at any scale and I’d advise getting him while you still can.

Value - ***
And here lies the rub, you want a great looking suit, you want an amazing likeness, you want the best posable representation of this figure out there? Of course you do, but it is obviously gonna cost ya!

This comes in for a rather startling RRP of $239.99 direct from Sideshow. Admittedly that is the same price as the recent DX Jack Sparrow, but you seemed to get a good deal more with that release (2 heads, metal accessories and a diorama) which means this not gonna feel like anything even in the ball park of a bargain. But if you can get past the price (and a lot of us dedicated 1/6’ers are now resigned to it) you will be rewarded with a simply amazing piece of merchandise. When the movie first came out I had a small 4” high plastic figure from it to sit on my shelf (I still have it somewhere) but that was it. Merchandising back in the day was distinctly lo-end. I would have quite literally killed for this back then, and makes me give thanks that I am one of the proud geek few who did not put away childish things… if you could consider this childish!

Fun Factor - ***1/2
It’s the figure you have been waiting for since 1989… But that’s you, the guy who watched it in the cinema at any age between 7 to 47, you are now officially an adult (maybe even drawing a pension). We had a long wait, but it paid off, now we have in our hands what we coveted and what we deserved.

As far as play value goes for a kid, what the hell, stuff’em! TDKR will be out before you know it and the toy aisles will be stuffed to the rafters with cheap tat for the undiscerning, unsophisticated masses, let them gorge whilst we savour!

Overall- ***3/4
I wanted to give this a full score, but I made a rod for my own back when I kept Jack Sparrow shy of that score because of his price. And so it is that I keep this just below that mark of perfection, and once again it is because of price. However it’s important to point out that just like Jack Sparrow this is a figure that is right at the pinnacle of 1/6th figure manufacturing today. The attention to detail throughout the production, from the smallest detailing on his gadgets and costume right up to the amazing sculpting and painting on the faces is second to none. Now let’s just get a load of Jack!

Where to Buy -
Sideshow still has Bats available for backorder at $249.99 here  or you can try some of Mike’s sponsor below where you could potentially save $15 on the RRP.

BBTS $224.99 

Or hit eBay where the BIN prices are between $225 to $299.

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

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