Ghost Rider and Hell Cycle
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 is back tonight with a look at the new Ghost Rider from Hot Toys. I'll be looking at this figure as well in the very near future, but let's get Jeff's thought's first - take it away, Jeff!

OK, let’s start by saying, and there can be no two ways about it… Ghost Rider (GR) was a bad, bad movie… just plain bad, boy was it bad!

There, that’s out of the way. I guess sometimes you just need to take a movie for what it is, and lord know Hot Toys have given us some amazing figures from movies that just simply weren’t that good. Blade 3 being a good case in point, it wasn’t nearly as bad as GR, but compared to parts 1 and 2 it certainly wasn’t as good either. However, Blade is such a cool cult character that the hi-end, real world representation of a classic Marvel character couldn’t really fail. And indeed it didn’t. Have you tried buying a Snipes/Blade 3 figure on the secondary market, well you can expect to part with over $500, with some asking for between $650 to $1000!

So what do we have here? Well we have another amazing representation of yet another classic Marvel cult character, given a real world makeover. So even if you avoided the movie, hated the movie, were indifferent to the movie or loved the movie… nah, I’ll stick with ‘were indifferent’! You may find yourself still wanting this piece. And if you are a fan of the comics then you NEED this figure!

Medicom did a good version a few years back that Mike covered here and for the time it was very nice indeed, not without issues, but nice. Then he also picked up the Hasbro Hellcycle for it reviewed here, which was nothing short of a bargain.

However if you want that super hi-end feel, with all the usual hi-end finish we now expect from Hot Toys, and a light up feature on the figure and cycle to boot… well, look no further.

It’s also worthy of note that a new Ghost Rider film is due for release in 2012, and with Nick Cage back in the saddle and Chistopher ‘there can be only one’ Lambert playing support, the words ‘straight to video’ are ringing in my ears. But who knows, they may pull of the unimaginable and take the form of a flaming skeletal Phoenix rising from the ashes and make it a worthwhile flick.

But for anyone who is totally unfamiliar with the back-story, then in a very succinct nutshell, our hero Johnny Blaze is fooled into inadvertently selling his soul to the devil… well a devil to be precise, one who goes by the name of Mephistopheles. Many years earlier Mephistopheles sent his original ‘Ghost Rider’ to Earth to pick up a contract for a 1000 lost human souls in the town of San Venganza, but knowing the consequences of Mephistopheles getting his hands on this contract, he decides to flee with the cursed document… Mephistopheles is not best pleased.

This devil has a wayward son known as Blackheart, and Blackheart plans to come to Earth, backed up by his trio of badass fallen angels, find the contract and turn our planet into a seething mass of demonic tortured souls and take the place of his father as the overseer of all that is unholy.

But of course Mephistopheles has other plans, he offers Johnny Blaze his soul back, on the condition that he can defeat Blackheart and return the document to him.

If I tell you anymore there’d be no point in seeing the movie… but trust me, apart from a few set pieces, like the transformation from JB to GR it’s probably not worth your time. Just go check this YouTube vid out instead, it lasts under four minutes, features Johnny Cash singing and has all the best scenes… job done!

Packaging - ***1/2
This follows the same format as all the other Marvel figures so far, but on a much grander scale. The basic form is a straightforward lift off lid box, but as this needs to house the figure and Hellcycle as well, it measures in at a hefty 56 x 41 x 14 cm.

The front has a large glossy full colour pic of the CG character astride his ride from the movie and the back has another image and a full list of the production credits. Lift off the lid and you’re met a card overlay with another large full colour pic of the flaming skull above a brief synopsis. Under this is the figure alongside the bike, alternate head and the few accessories in a large vac formed tray. Everything is 100% collector friendly and has no twisties at all.

Sculpting - ****
This figure truly is a group effort, but with multiple gifted soloists coming together to create a small symphony. The overall project is conducted by KoJun, with Eom Jea Sung (GOX) producing the Johnny Blaze head, and Joseph Tsang working on the flaming skull and the Hellcycle.

The strange bittersweet irony is that GOX has done an absolutely amazing job on the Blaze/Cage sculpt, it really is up there with the best, he even managed to get the look of Cages toupée just right. But who in their right mind is gonna use it? I mean, this figure is just rocking the whole badass look with the flaming skull in place! Who could actually want a moping moon faced Nick Cage sitting on the bike… exactly.

It’s a shame, because I’ve liked Cage in a good many movies, Raising Arizona and Wild at Heart being the classics, and there being a good many other follow-ups, Kick Ass being another favourite. He seems to make films in much the same way as Sam Jackson does (i.e. for every good movie he makes, he’s obliged to make three or four turkeys). Luckily though, as good as the Cage sculpt is, the amazing work that Tsang has done on the skull and bike means it almost becomes a moot point.

The skull is somewhat obviously based on the way it looked in the movie, like this and indeed this so expect a relatively ‘real world’ feel, based on proper anatomical dimensions, rather than an over the top cartoon version. It still has a ton of nice details and the slightly rough texturing works well in mimicking pitted bone. The eyebrow area is also in a slight frown, so although staying close to proper anatomical dimensions it still managed to look more sinister. The jaw is on a hinge so when tilting and angling the head you can also choose to open and close the mouth, a nice touch. The flames are a separate sculpted piece, made out of semi translucent plastic that fits close to the skull. This looks good in usual lighting conditions, but really comes to life when either back lit, or better still when you flick on the tiny switch concealed on the back of his neck. To activate the switch you do need to remove the head, as the ‘flame’ collar that fits over the neck post makes the switch almost impossible to access without doing so. However, once it is switched on, a light at the top of the neck post illuminates the inside of the head, giving both the eye sockets and the main body of the flames a nice ethereal glow.

The Hellcycle is also sculpted from the tips of its pointy front forks to the very extremities of the flames that spew from the back wheel. This thing is a whole mess of details. The main body and engine block areas look like a chopper designed by HR Giger, with the parts all becoming semi organic shapes, fusing bony ribs and spines to sinewy lumps of flesh. The four huge exhausts (two on each side) snake out from the engine and twist into tortured arteries that hug the back wheel. The ends of these exhausts even look like super enlarged visions of the points on hypodermic needles. The fuel tank resembles a large dark blue egg, around which long alien bony fingers hold it in place. The arm bones that come down from the hands merge into a chain that acts as a frame/edge for the tooled leather seat (this is all just mimicked though, as all the parts of the bike are made from sculpted plastic), and this in turn morphs into a wide fused spine that acts as a mud guard over the rear wheel. Both the wheels have some great detailing that will virtually never be seen, because the sculpted flames shield over 60% of them from view. But look under those flames and you’ll see scythe like bladed spokes, rivets and disk breaks that hold real rubber tyres.

The front forks are built to look like the chain weapon he uses, but these are oversized large fused-solid versions with huge points either side of the axel. At the top of the arms is a demonic skull with points piercing its cheeks and flames erupting from the eyes and then a pair of cow-horn handlebars vent from its sides. These forks can turn from side to side and the kick-starts can be moved a little. There is also an L shaped stand that juts out at the bottom and helps to hold the bike up when displaying it.

All in all this is very impressive set, I don’t have the old Hasbro version to check them out side by side, but with the cool light up feature illuminating the flames super brightly, it certainly has a cool USP!

Paint - ****
To really appreciate the complexity of the paintjob here you need to look at it under natural daylight, as once again all the flesh tones are just sublime in their application. The eyes look super realistic, wet and glossy and the fine detailing on the lips and eyebrows is as deftly handled as ever… but that’s on the Johnny Blaze head, the head that will only be used by those that are hard core fans of the movie, and they are few!

Whereas the other head, and indeed the Hellcycle are best appreciated in the half-light or gloom, because when you flick the switches and illuminate these babies they really come to life. But it’s still worth a close look in the daylight at these pieces as they stand up to close scrutiny, but you just don’t expect to see this character in the cold light of day.

The skull is painted a realistic ivory colour and has subtle airbrushed shadow tones to help enhance its form. And the details around the teeth are deftly tricked in again to add definition to the individual teeth and the moving jaw line. Both the nasal cavity and the eye sockets are painted in dark to mimic the depth of the cavities; this also means the eyes look good both when illuminated to show the flames within the head and just simply left dark. The flames aren’t actually painted, but seem to be made from two-tone semi-opaque plastics that graduate from yellow to orange and back again, and of course work their best when lit up.

The bike is also a relatively complex job, the main body of which is pewtery steel like colour with darker accents and weathering to help define the details. The saddle is a matte black leather like finish surrounded by a metallic chain that butts up to the large dark blue fuel tank. The skeletal hands grip this on either side and are also painted in an ivory bone like colour with darker weathering. And like on the figures skull head, the flames that lick over the wheels and spill from the eye sockets on the front are made from that two-tone, semi opaque plastic again. The whole things comes together beautifully, but as I said above, as good as the paint app is here, and it really is very good, it’s still best appreciated in the semi gloom, fully illuminated… it’s a beast!

Outfit - ****
This guy comes in a set of leathers that would make Lemmy weak at the knees, and the tailoring works with the True Type really well. You kind of have to get a feel for the way the leathers work with the body to get the best poses out of it, but with a little work you can get both cool standing and sitting positions on the bike.
First off he has a pair of Western style brown ankle boots… yes BROWN ankle boots. I’m sure this is sartorially accurate, but one does imagine a demonic motorcycle fiend of the night to actually wear black boots… but anyway. These have a relatively wide top, meaning there’s quite a bit of movement next to the shin and some good ankle articulation can still be had. Next up are his leather trousers, these have a kind of fleur-de-lys design stitched at the knee. Then the rest of the tailoring resembles classic utility jeans with working patch pockets at the rear and angled cut pockets at the hips, they also have tiny rivets in all the usual places you find them on denim jeans. Now I haven’t undressed this figure, I can’t see the point as I like him just the way he is, but I can see that under the jacket he has a round necked black T-shirt. Over this he wears a classic 1950’s style leather biker’s jacket with tiny working scaled zipper pockets and a working belt at the waist; it also has a row of three pointed studs on each shoulder and working zippers at the cuffs. You won’t actually see these cuffs though as over the lower arms he wears a pair of studded gauntlets that join/mask the area where the hands/gloves butt up. For anyone considering a Hells Angel bash you have just about all the bits you need here to make a great start, but ultimately this is just a great representation of the screen seen outfit, with some finely observed details.

Articulation - ****
Under all those demonic leathers we have a classic True-Type figure, so it still manages to pose well, even though the fabric does hamper some of the more extreme deep poses. But I think you’ll discover there are more than a few cool sitting positions you’ll find, and just standing, whether posed with a shotgun or the chain, he looks like a total bad ass.

Accessories - ***1/2
This is sold as the Ghost Rider and Hellcycle set, so you can’t really consider the bike as an accessory, and the fact that the set comes with a RRP of  $270 means you definitely shouldn’t consider it as an accessory… you are very much paying for it! So what are the accessories?

- Johnny Blaze/Nicolas Cage head sculpt
- Metal throwing chain
- Alternate hand positions x 2
- Winchester Model 1887 shotgun
- Hellfire shotgun
- Black figure stand

I already went over the extra head sculpt… its awesome, but will sadly spend its life in darkness, unless you fancy redoing the hair and making a kit-bashed figure of Terence McDonough from Bad Lieutenant… not such a bad idea I suppose!

The metal throwing chain weapon is very much his signature piece, and needs to be arranged on the body (instructions supplied) in a certain configuration… unless you are positioning him in a ready to swing and strike pose, it’s made of solid metal and looks nice ‘n’ shinny.
Of the two guns the regular Winchester shotgun looks the nicest, it has engraving up the side and a working swing cocking mechanism, much like the one that Arnie came with for the T2 T800 (in fact it’s the same make and model of weapon, just a little more ornate). The hellfire shotgun has no moving parts, and though not as cool as the Winchester it’s still a nice addition for the completists, as it wasn’t originally listed as an accessory.  Lastly there is the old faithful black figure stand, but as this just cries out to be displayed with the figure sitting astride his ride, there’s no danger of a shelf dive. In short I guess you could say this figure comes with everything he needs, so no problems in this department!

Light up feature - Ghost Rider ***1/2, Hellcycle ****
You need to insert three AAA batteries into the bike, but once you’ve done this the lights illuminate brightly. The flaming skull is lit by small watch batteries that come already inserted into the neck; you just pull out the small clear plastic battery divider in the rear of the neck. It lights up well, but not with the ferocity of the bikes flames.

This is the feature that really sets it apart from the earlier Medicom and Hasbro versions, as not only does it work well, but the way it is engineered doesn’t impact on the finished aesthetic at all.

Fun Factor - ****
If you can show me an adult male that doesn’t get just a little bit excited by this figure, to the extent of repositioning him a few times and even making motorcycle noises while he does it, well, then there’s something wrong with him… am I right or am I right!

OK, just me then!

But ultimately this is really and truly a fun figure in the best sense of the word.

Value for money - ***1/2
In this day and age $270 is still not a figure to be sneezed at. And with the economy still lurching around and trying to find its feet, an outlay of this kind of money means you expect something pretty darned special in return, but luckily we do get something pretty spectacular for our money. And so for this reason it’s hard to give this a full score for a figure that’s literally just been released, but the fact that eBay prices already seem to rising rapidly with traders asking for between $340 and $500, it leads one to believe that the RRP might seem increasingly like it was a good deal. However that’s got be a question best answered between yourself and your bank account, but don’t leave it too long as those prices will only get steeper!

Overall- ****
This really does make for a most impressive display piece, but be warned you will need a big ol’ wedge of space to display it in. I have a feeling it is well beyond the span of a regular detolf! 

However, what you do get is a supremely crafted figure and vehicle set. So with Iron Man, Wolverine, Blade and Thor already released and delivered well, we know have Spidey and Cap America to look forward to in the ever expanding Hot Toys universe of Marvel characters. The X-Men first class licence was also recently announced and I’m hoping we’ll get Hulk, Dare Devil and maybe even the Punisher soon. So miss one at your peril!

Where to buy
Unfortunately Sideshow sold out of this a good while back, where it was up for the RRP of $269.99 I cant find it listed with any of the sites sponsors, and the prices on eBay are around the figures I quoted in the value for money section. So good luck tracking one down.

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

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