Bruce Lee Enter The Dragon exclusive DX-04
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 with a look at the latest deluxe figure from Hot Toys. I checked this guy out a little while back, and not it's Mr. Parker's turn to take a swing - tell us all about him, Jeff!

It’s now 38 years since the tragic passing of Bruce Lee, I was just a child when he died, and many of his now devoted fans weren’t even born during his lifetime.
However, world wide, the shining legend that is Bruce Lee shows no sign of dimming, in fact with each new generation of fans that come to his movies, teachings and philosophies he becomes more iconic and relevant than ever. And even though his appeal is global, nowhere is it more important than Hong Kong, his cultural homeland.

Born in 1940 to Chinese parents in San Francisco, he moved when still very young and spent his formative years growing up in Hong Kong, not leaving till he was 18 to ensure and claim his US citizenship.

His fighting skills had already shown themselves when living in Hong Kong, in fact it is said that part of the reason his parents pushed him to return to the states was to get him away from the street fighting and gang culture that permeated the island at this time. His initial training was under his father, but he soon sought out the martial arts master Ip Man, under whom he trained in the art of Wing Chun.  Many of the other students training in this discipline refused to spar with Lee after finding out he was of mixed ancestry (his maternal grandmother was German), but Ip saw such dedication and ability in Lee that he tutored him privately, one of a very select few to ever get this one on one training with the master of Wing Chun. It set Lee apart and was perhaps the single biggest influence on Lee’s fighting style, and in the way he later developed his own unique variations and styles.

Once back in the states he continued his education while supplementing his income teaching martial arts. He picked up various TV and movie roles rising quickly to be recognised as a new and exciting talent. But it wasn’t just his ability with his fists that got him noticed; he had the one thing no one can learn… screen presence.
When Lee walked onto a set, all eyes were on him, he just draws you in like a moth to a flame. He even devised his own form of martial arts, borrowing from Wing Chun and many other disciplines, but creating a few of his own moves, coupled with a philosophical credo to guide his students through his way of training. It was called Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist) and is still widely learnt to this day.

Being a cultural Icon, his image and any merchandising surrounding him, has always proved popular and enduring (well, when it’s good anyway!).

For many years recently the company Enterbay held the licence to produce outstanding figures and collectibles of the man, under the watchful eye of the master sculptor Arnie Kim. But last year Mr Kim joined the creative team at Hot Toys just after the announcement that they recently acquired the Bruce Lee licence. The collector’s forums went into a form of meltdown. It seemed that Howard Chan’s company were slowly but surely securing the cream of the talent working in 1/6th today.

However, when the first release of Bruce Lee was announced it was to show him in perhaps one of his most memorable roles, and certainly the one that brought him to the widest audience, ‘Enter the Dragon’. But the sculptor in charge of portrait duties wasn’t Kim; instead it fell to the chief sculptor at Hot Toys Yulli Choi.
I have to admit that on the whole Yulli has proved to be one of my favourite sculptors, and the quality of her work is mind blowing in its consistency. But this time she found herself working on a subject that has been done in the past by her new stable mate, and not only that, it had been done exceptionally well. Is it possible to beat the great Arnie Kim on what has become his most famous subject to sculpt?

Well I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to a human portraiture, then accuracy is everything, but within the parameters of accuracy there also has to be nuances of the sculptors style, and I think that is what is so evident here.

Packaging - ****
Hot Toys have shown time and time again that they take the packaging of their figures very seriously. It’s part of the whole experience when purchasing a Hot Toys product. Admittedly there are some that are better than others, but they never seem to turn in what could be called a ‘bad’ piece of packaging.

Amongst the most interesting boxes have been those for the elite DX series, incorporating top range materials, inventive design and full foam surrounds to protect the contents. However this one stands out not just because of the quality graphic design, but because of its sheer scale as well.

Once you open the brown corrugated shipping container you are met by an oversized matte black piece of packaging, and in the case of the exclusive edition, a second smaller matte black box housing the extra ‘undamaged’ body. The materials and quality of printing here is all at the luxury end of the scale throughout, but lets face it, when splashing $220 big ones on an action figure… well to be fair, a pair of action figures, then you kind of expect things to be special, and special they are!
The basic figure comes dressed in just the karate pants, showing off Han’s metal clawed handy work on his cheeks and torso. It’s completely surrounded in die-cut foam, and over the next couple of layers, sandwiched between yet more slices of soft cushioned foam, you will find his impressive array of accessories alongside the large environment bases. It’s worth taking note, (and maybe even a few digital snaps) as you un-box this figure, as there is a very specific order and configuration in which you have to replace it all to get it to fit if you ever need to store it.

Ultimately this once again shows us why Hot Toys are regarded as so ahead of their game.

Sculpting - ****
Every fan of Bruce Lee out there has their favourite hi-end sculpt, and lets face it, they have gone from the sublime, like the amazing Arnie Kim work on the ╝ scale Enterbay statue reviewed here right through to the ridiculous… I won’t name names, but you know who they are!
So here Yulli had a mammoth task on her hands in keeping all the fans, (new and old), happy!

When the first prototype pics were unveiled there was much discussion on the forums. Pointing out what people liked, and what they certainly didn’t. Since then both the portraits have been tweaked, revised, reworked and re-sculpted to the point that they now stand up to the closest scrutiny and are undeniably, near perfect representations of Lee. Both the portraits come with the patented PERS eye positioning system, which adds a whole new dimension to the posing of your figures, but I would imagine creates its own set of problems when sculpting the base heads. The expressions on the faces are markedly different, which helps in defining the two iconic looks when displayed. One is a straightforward but intense expression suitable for any number of poses, whilst the second face has one of Lee’s classic fighting expressions. The lips are pursed in a way like this, this and indeed this, you can almost hear a high pitched ‘whooo-yaaahhh’ as you tilt the head. The detailing and deft use of skin texturing really bring these figures to life, but when combined with the tiny replica glass eyes it gets spookily lifelike. The sculpting for the hair on both appears to be identical and the whole thing is removable in a similar way to the configuration of the Enterbay figures. However, once removed that is where any similarity ends, as the PERS feature allows both eyes to be positioned with the gentle movement of a small joystick, rather than having to move each eye stem independently.

I’m sure there will still be naysayers out there who can find fault with these portraits, and there is no denying that in the past Arnie’s work has been unsurpassable when it comes to Bruce Lee, but for me, Yulli has created two amazing new depictions that stand next to Arnie's work very well indeed!

But the sculpting doesn’t finish there, oh no. Bruce Lee’s physique is so distinct that it required a totally original body to be developed for him. Like the head sculpts, this has undergone a good many revisions form the prototype to what we have in hand. Those early pics definitely seemed too sinewy and the definition on the arms and between the pectoral muscles was too sharply distinct, veering a little close to a Manga/Anime styling.

But since then, the two sculptors responsible (Noh Sung Woon and Kouhei Okui) have re-sculpted and softened the overall look making it now just about the finest 1/6th Bruce Lee body available. I shall go through its full range in the articulation category, but the actual look of it even belies its full posing potential, pretty outstanding.

Paint - ****
Because this figure needs to be seen semi clad, and indeed sometimes half naked it necessitated a paint app that covers the whole of the upper body and head, I even noticed that the upper half has a mottled varnish effect that catches the light like a light perspiration… very cool. As per usual the paint app was originated and overseen by the Hot Toys resident paint app god JC Hong, and as per usual he doesn’t disappoint. The skin tones are rich and even showing the darker colouration that Lee had, there’s the usual subtle darker tones indicating light 5 o’clock shadow on the chin and upper lip, and the work on the eyebrows, lips and the bloodied slash marks on his cheek, chest and back are all carried out to highest standards.

The hair requires no paint, as like the work they did on the Asian characters from Goemon, the depth and intricacy of the sculpting and the way it reacts to light falling upon it is enough to give plenty of definition.
As I mentioned above, the PERS feature is used on both heads, so no paint is used, instead tiny glass eyes are inserted within the eye sockets. Ultimately we end up with two tiny facsimiles of Bruce Lee, and the paint app helps greatly in making both of these look so incredibly lifelike!

Outfit - ****
This box set comes with two complete outfits, meaning that if you were lucky enough to secure an exclusive version, you will have all you need to construct two complete figures. In the box the figure comes wearing the kung-fu trousers, white socks and black-soled karate shoes, when this is worn over the ‘slashed’ base body you instantly have the perfect look for displaying on the mirrored wall diorama in the Han showdown.

Alternatively you can simply add the white Chinese style dress shirt and swap heads and you have another iconic look (the easiest way to do this is to NOT undo the top knot on his Chinese shirt, just undo the poppers, then get the figure in an ‘arms up straight above the head’ pose, remove the head and slip the shirt on over the top… easy).

Now, the only sticking point is that you need the padded jockey-pants that are worn under the kung-fu trousers for the extra base-body; they help fill out the groin area and hide the articulation when wearing the ultra skin-tight stealth ninja jumpsuit. So I advise you just slip off these trousers (I know Mike had problems doing this, but I found it to be OK if you take your time and take note of how everything is tied) then put them back on, taking care to bind the belt sash tightly and aligning the tiny press-stud before securing it shut.

Now put the pants on the second ‘undamaged’ body followed by the socks and then the jumpsuit. It’s important to do it in this order so you don’t have to try and poke the sock tops up under the skin-tight trouser ankles. Now pop on the white soled karate shoes and you are ready to rock ’n’ roll. This stealth suit can be worn both un-zipped and tied at the waist or in its fully done up way. Meaning if you are a big enough fan, and have deep enough pockets, two sets would give you a 4 way display option… and yes, I have read a few folks out there have done this!

As we have come to expect, all the tailoring is top notch, with perfect seems and no loose threads, making this a cracking set and a great introduction for all those that have managed to resist the Enterbay releases so far.

Articulation - ***1/2
Once again Hot Toys deliver a whole new body for this release, as I said above this has been designated as the TTM17 (True-Type Muscular 17) and it has been created to enhance and compliment their new Bruce Lee licence. So far we have the two versions available with this release and the two smiling, ‘suited’ and ‘casual’ versions that are hitting retailers in Hong Kong as I write this. I think/hope it’s safe to say they will get a lot of mileage out of this new body as they have just scratched the surface of the movies, TV and ‘day to day’ images of the guy. And knowing the way Hot Toys operate they wont rest on their laurels, I expect plenty of improvements and tweaks along the way.

One of my few gripes with the early Enterbay bodies was the heaviness of the vinyl, making for a difficult centre of gravity to find when posing and balancing the figures, then add to that the poor ankle articulation and you had a nest of problems. To be fair Enterbay did re-engineer the ankles after those earlier comments, but Bruce Lee needs the articulation of a ballet dancer crossed with Spiderman. And to be fair even this new TTM17 hasn’t quite got that range!

However I have no major gripes here, I managed to get the figure to pose and balance on one leg with no problem at all. The most obvious reason is the lightness of the body (which seems to be a combination of vinyl, ABS and silicone), but the real bonus is some AMAZING ankle articulation. It’s a really simple solution, but oh so effective! All we have here is a simple ‘dumbbell’ double ball and cup design that is padded out between with a thick soft foam washer… the best solutions are always the simplest… a fact of life!

But, and it’s a big ‘but’, is that it also has a super firm/stiff motion that means even when on one leg it stays up without slowly sagging or falling over. Next up we have a double knee that can bend right back on itself completely. The hips are a double pegged swivelling ball joint… yep, I think that’s how I’d describe it, and it works a treat. Again everything is good and stiff, nothing loose or sloppy here. The waist is a variation on the ball and cup mechanism, much like the old G.I. Joe’s, it has a limited range but affords for movement forwards and backwards and some tilting in a full 360-degree range. The upper torso is all covered in a rubber/silicone skin up to the top of the neck, but the neck still affords a small but significant amount of ‘tiltage’ in all directions, and anyone who’s used to posing figures will tell you that a little head and neck articulation goes a long way in giving your finished pose a lot of character.

Hidden within the shoulder, under the rubber covering is what appears to be a pegged, hinged, swivelling, cup-joint. I hope that makes sense. In effect you can spin the arm a full 360 degrees, it can bend out from the body by 90 degrees and the cup joint can rock back and forth by a few degrees. The elbows are a pegged hinge joint, meaning they can bend to 90 degrees and turn a full 360, and lastly the wrists are the usual double pegged cut ball joint, which as always gives a full universal range of motion.

In short, this figure is not as uber posable at the classic base True Type, but it really makes up for it in the amazing aesthetic they have created, meaning that at the moment, this is the best posable 1/6th Bruce Lee body out there… but for how long?

Accessories - Regular ***3/4, Exclusive ****+
You want accessories, we got accessories, boy do we got accessories!

The DX series always has a nice selection, but not since the Joker have we had the option (admittedly with an extra body) to construct two full figures. So many of the items I covered in outfit definitely straddle this camp as well. So as a straightforward list, what you get is-

- One unscarred portrait featuring the PERS feature

- Newly sculpted muscular body + figure stand (exclusive version)

- Fourteen pieces of interchangeable hands (plus extra wrist pegs)

- Chinese style white shirt

- Dark blue stealth jumpsuit

- Black socks

- Extra karate shoes

- Pair of nunchucks

- Two short rods

- One long cane

- Dark blue drawstring bag

- Coiled and knotted rope

- Coiled snake

- Diorama base that can be configured to show a dungeon environment or the mirror room in the movie, the middle mirror can be rotated with its back showing the painted black and white mural.

There, I think that covers everything!

As far as the exclusive version goes then the two biggest and most important items are the extra head and body, as along with the extra pieces of clothing it means you get a complete second figure. I already went over the head sculpt above, and I shall go over the bodies articulation below, but suffice to say both items are outstanding and elevate the value section hugely.

Likewise the items of clothing have been dissected under the outfit banner. So that just leaves us with his smaller accessories and the diorama bases.

The two rods and long cane are relatively simple pieces, while the nunchuck has a metal chain connecting the two batons and all work well with the various hands he comes supplied with. The snake is sculpted well in a coiled circle and has a simple paint app to give it some detail and definition. He also has the drawstring bag and rope he uses when sneaking around Han’s facility, these help in getting the look just right with the jumpsuit, as seen here.

That just leaves us with the bases, but they are quite complex. The dungeon environment simplest, it is a hard cardboard backdrop that folds in two places to butt up against the flooring section, but can also be used as a stand-alone piece. There are two surfaces on the flooring piece, which simply flip-over depending on what dio you wish to use, you simply have to slot the tabs in place.

The mirrored room is slightly more complex as you need to fold the tabs out at the bottom to fit under the base. You also need to remove the matte protective film that covers the mirrored panels, but once you have it is far shinier and mirror like. You then just slide these mirrors into the slots on the backdrop and you are there. The middle panel can also rotate to recreate the moment that Lee (that was his characters name as well) finds the entrance to the room.

So, a huge selection of goodies allowing for a ton of various display and posing options, definitely a top score category. But it has to be said this is based on the exclusive edition, If I had the regular one I’d be praying that Hot Toys brings out a separate Asian muscular True Type (this has been designated TTM17) pretty soon, because without it there are some painful display decisions to be made!

Fun Factor - ****
C’mon, how could anyone not have a ball with this set, 2 figure, 2 dioramas, some great accessories and it all comes in mighty purdy box.

Of course this isn’t meant for kids, but most self-respecting geeks of a certain age will be in rapture working out the best poses and making all the chop-socky noises while you do it!

Value for money - ****
I know Mike had issues giving this a high score… I don’t!
Admittedly I’m not as broad a collector as Mike, who has amassed a museum worthy collection that covers all scales, genres and price ranges. No, I have always been primarily a collector of 1/6th, specifically hi-end, and as such I’ve been witness to the way prices have steadily been heading further and further north over the last fifteen years (well past 40 years if you take my prepubescent old Action Man days into account).

Meaning that for me, with this ‘exclusive’ version you can get two, top of the range DX Hot Toys figures with PERS and a newly sculpted and engineered bodies for $110 a pop… well, though it may be hard to equate that as a bargain, its certainly quite a deal?

Compare it with the Enterbay FOF figure I reviewed here which is now a couple of years old, and it worked out at $175 per figure (taking into account the $30 for an extra body) and back then I thought that seemed like an OK deal, not a great one, but OK!

To be fair the Enterbay bodies were 100% vinyl, and they were a smaller company, but still, to be well over a $100 cheaper two years later means Hot Toys have pulled off quite the coup d'Útat!

Overall- ****
I have no real issues with any aspect of this set, especially if you have this exclusive edition, that extra twenty dollars spent is spent very well, very well indeed, and elevates the value massively for me. The accessories haul is impressive and the two dioramas make for some great back drops, whether for display or photography.  The dungeon environment can be used on its own independently of the mirror one as it doesn’t need to have the base part used with it all the time. If ever a figure was meant to have the PERS feature then this is it, the reason that Enterbay developed their earlier version for those first Arnie Kim releases was that Bruce Lee was famously expressive with his eyes (if only a way of moving his eyebrows could be developed), so for me this is a total ‘clean out of the ball park’ home run. A more perfect figure is hard to find… but I’m sure we’ll get one pretty soon.

Where to buy
Sideshow had this up for the RRP of $219.99, while the regular version was $199.99, needless to say that both have sold out.

However, you may still be in luck at one of the sites sponsors’ below-

Urban Collector - regular version, in stock @ $209.99

Apart from that it’s time to hit eBay where prices for the regular version are between $255 to $350 and the exclusive version is demanding prices of $400 to $550, with the undamaged body alone already asking $175 to $210.

Did you enjoy the review? Plus 1 it!
Google +1

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

This page copyright 2000 - 2010, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour