Tron: Legacy - Lightcycle and Sam Flynn
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."

A couple weeks ago, I recieved my Hot Toys Tron Lightcycle, but unfortunately it had a QC issue with the light feature. They're reparing it for me, and eventually I'll have a review, but until then lets see what Jeff Parker has to say about this new vehicle - take it away, Jeff!

Disney delivered the much anticipated sequel to their seminal 1982 cult movie Tron last year with a huge press campaign and fan-fare befitting a state event… it seemed that they had a lot of faith that the movie would deliver unto them a much needed blockbuster… it didn’t, well, not quite!

It wasn’t a bad movie, it was indeed an OK movie, and the kicking choonz delivered courtesy of Daft Punk on the superb sound track helped make the movie a sensory joy in many ways. But even though it was fun to watch, it was also rather slight on story and shallow on characterisation. I didn’t expect Tolstoy levels of plot, but I certainly expected something deeper than this.

As a result it made its money back, but with nothing like the returns that were hoped for, and the accompanying licensed products released to support the movie ended up in many a bargain bin. I was perusing the figures in my local Pound-Stretcher discount store just this weekend where even at 1 a pop they remained untouched… even by me.

I guess this explains why Hot Toys have decided not to expand much on the line, even though a few vocal fans are disgruntled that they didn’t get the key players from the movie, the cold hard business sense is that they probably wouldn’t actually sell in the numbers to merit their manufacture, ho hum.

The first release Hot Toys gave us was Jeff ‘The Dude’ Bridges as Kevin Flynn with both his black and white Zen like Yin and Yang suits, reviewed by Mike here. It was a well-put together figure for the hardcore fans, but ultimately a little uninspiring. The big news, the big reveal and the thing that got even the casual fans with a passing interest salivating was the Lightcycle. Any man (or indeed woman) of a certain age hovering between 35 to 50 will remember with awe the first time they saw the original Lightcycles speed across the big screen at unbelievable speeds, only to then turn at 90 degrees without even a hint of deceleration… and all these years later, with CGI oh so much more advanced than it was back in those fledgling days, it is just as much of a spectacle, only much more convincing now!     

Having already delivered a great Bat Pod for Bat Man and a fantastic Hell Cycle for Ghost Rider it was fitting that Hot Toys would choose to recreate this vehicle at 1/6th. It did however bring its own unique set of challenges that would require some equally unique problem solving. 

The period between seeing the prototype pics and the actual release date can vary from figure to figure greatly. Some seem to be with us in the blink of an eye like the recently released fantastic Lt Jim Gordon figure, while others take an eternity. This set managed to set a new benchmark in keeping us waiting. It was first unveiled way back in November 2010 but for whatever reason (almost certainly R&D and manufacturing hiccups) the release date was pushed back and back till the point many wondered if it would ever actually see the light of day. But here it finally is, and it’s such a beautiful bit of product design that I have a feeling it may end up being considered something of a classic, and had it been designed with the ability to plug direct into the mains I think it could also have made a rather wonderful ambient lamp/objet d’art. So, if the film was less than fulfilling, will this spectacular bit of scaled model making be enough to make you want in your collection?

Packaging - ***1/2
Big toys need big boxes, stands to reason. So like with the Bat Pod we get a nice big box with an integrated carry handle built into the design. The actual graphics are kept minimal but quite classy, with the front having a side on view of the bike with its light signature trailing behind around the other sides of the box. The top opens up and you will find the sculpted pieces of the Sam Flynn figure in a semi model-kit form arranged in a vac formed tray. Lift this out and you will then see a white card sheath that wraps round a black foam surround, designed to sandwich and protect the fully constructed bike within.

All in all this is a well designed and fabricated carton, built to get its contents to you in one piece. However its bulky nature means Hot Toys ever-inventive packaging designers have had to play it relatively safe in terms of interesting design flourishes, so even though its pretty, it doesn’t manage to truly excite.

Sculpting - Bike ****  Sam Flynn ***1/4
You could be forgiven for believing that the Lightcycle existed nowhere but within a rather nifty bit of Cinema 4D software… but you’d be wrong. Although the bike in the movie is purely a list of code and pixels, it inspired a custom bike making company to put one on the street. You can check it out in these YouTube vids here and here, want one? Yeah, thought so!

However, as cool as that looks I’d bet it handles like sack of bricks in wet cement. What the movie needed was a fully 3D rendered object, designed to operate beyond the laws of physics within the TRON cyberverse.  As such Hot Toys have made an amazing job of bringing this project from screen to collectible look as effortless as possible. The lines are kept sleek and polished with amazing clarity, and the articulated elements are so well engineered that they blend virtually seamlessly together. There is little to say other than look at the movie, then look at this… if you can find fault you are a better man than me. Even details like the handlebars, rear foot peddles and the internal pistons on the air-breaks are rendered with more precision than you might expect… but I’m talking about the MMS range here, so those with more experience of Hot Toys collecting won’t be so surprised. There are of course light up sections running around the wheel trims and on key areas of the bike. These are seamlessly blended into the body but with the flick of a switch, over 50 tiny LED lights hidden within the model illuminate to give the bike that real WOW factor. And the reason that Sam isn’t articulated will now become plainly apparent also. He also has a tiny switch on his back and another on the underside of his helmet that when flicked light up the matching trim on his suit and helmet respectively. The final effect when viewed in a dimly lit room is fantastic, and I swear will demand centre stage in many a collection. It makes me realise just how much Hot Toys NEED to get the Akira license… I want an affordable version of Kaneda’s bike to sit next to it!

The other important area of sculpting is of course the figure, and in this case it’s arguable that it’s more important than ever, because this is not a fully articulated figure but rather a rigid moulded one with interchangeable parts and limited movement at the neck, shoulders, waist and wrists. This was necessitated by the fact that in the movie, not only was the ride illuminated but also the rider. I can’t begin to imagine the complexity of making a fully articulated figure light up from within, I bet it could be done, but the engineering and final cost would end up making it a moot point. I would have dearly loved an articulated figure in a fabric suit with light reflective piping, but it would have been a compromise. As it is, Hot Toys are forced into the choice of screen accuracy over figural articulation, and I for one can live with it!

Of course it means you are forced to display the bike with the figure sitting on it, but because of the swap out elements and articulated panels on the bike, the display options are actually greater than you might initially think.

The figure is sculpted in a position leaning over the bike with legs bent, arms straightforward and the head raised up to look to the front. The detailing on the suit with its seams, textures and light up panels is expertly executed, as is the swap out hand in a disc gripping position. The left leg can be pulled off and replaced with a straight leg, which is sculpted in a braced position to hold the bike up when at rest. However the width of the wheels and tyres is sufficient to hold it up even when he is in the racing position. The hip joint for this switch over incorporates a metal jack plug to conduct the power from the batteries in the body down to the LED’s in the leg… cute!

The stunning work on the face sculpt also manages to impress, but for a whole different set of reasons. I have worked as an illustrator myself, and even though I’m impressed by the detail on the bike, I know it’s a 3D modelled piece that any competent technician should be able to deliver with enough access to plans and reference… a human likeness is a 100% different matter. Of course I also know that the 3D work on the bike necessitated a lot of engineering around opening parts, moving wheels and light up panels, I’m not dissing the particular set of talents and disciplines involved. I’m merely highlighting the point of technical ability against that indefinable quality that artists can bring to job. However, after all that lavish praise I’m not completely convinced of the likeness here. It definitely has a lot more than a passing resemblance to Garrett Hedlund but when compared against recent figures like Jim Gordon or Johann Schmidt it doesn’t quite nail it 100% as well as they did. I shall however only be displaying with the helmeted head on, which shares the same face sculpt, but is largely hidden. However, regardless of my views on the likeness in the portrait, the actual quality of skin texture, general proportions and hair sculpting is executed as perfectly as we have come to expect. And when the figure is posed on the bike and fully lit up, it could almost bring a tear to the eye of a man who should know better!

Paint - ****
Most of the obvious paintwork here is lavished on the two head sculpts supplied. The basic sculpt is the same on both, but one comes fitted within the glossy black helmet. The flesh, eyes and hair all have a beautiful degree of finish, and manage to look just like a small real person has taken up residency on your shelf.

The bike also has some elements painted in steel, like the internal engine, foot pedals, handlebars and pistons. The rest of the highly polished bodywork looks almost like it is lacquered in the way it glistens and reflects, but I’m pretty sure it is just the way the base plastic has been polished. Either way it looks fantastic!

Articulation - ***
To their credit Hot Toys have tried to give us as many display options as was possible featuring a rigid sculpted figure. But do not think you will be getting anything even approaching TT levels of mobility.

On the figure, the head can look from side to side and up and down, the shoulders can move to a limited degree on pop-on ball joints. The wrists have the usual range, and there is a very limited degree of movement at the mid torso. His left leg can swap over and has a jack plug to carry the electric charge from the batteries down to the LED’s in this limb.

Then the bike has opening air-breaks and a lifting canopy to let the rider mount and dismount, and finally, along with the light up function there is a rotating motor within the engine section, but I shall describe that below.

Accessories - *** 1/2
Because this is not in effect a figure with a separate bike, but rather a semi poseable statue, it’s kind of hard to distinguish what I’d class as an actual accessory.

As such, I would limit it to the extra un-helmeted head, the extra hand, Identity disk and extended leg. All have been covered above. The accessory I would have loved is an extra Sam Flynn body in a fabric suit… but we can all imagine how that would have impacted on the price!

As it is the selection provided allows for a far greater range of poses than had he just come with one head and one sitting position, so I see it as a fair haul!

Outfit - N/A
Everything here is sculpted as described above.

Action feature- Bike**** Sam Flynn ***
Now we all like a cool action feature, it’s an inherent part of our geekiness! The flick of a switch to illuminate a lightsaber or tiny space helmet can bring far more joy than it really should to a grown man/woman!

And the Lightcycle here illuminates like very beautiful hi-tech Christmas tree, as indeed does Sam! When you unpack and construct the kit you have to remove a small divider from the rear of the helmet, insert the three supplied watch batteries in the back of the figure beneath his identity disk and a further three AAA size batteries (not supplied) in the underside of the bikes. I did find it beyond tricky getting the battery compartment to close on the rear of the figure, as the thickness of the batteries makes it a very tight fit, but after much fiddling (and a degree of swearing) I managed to get it to close… just about!

Once all the batteries are in place you can flick the switch on the underside of the bike to one of two positions. The first illuminates the LED’s within the bike running along the white trimmed areas, and they light up very brightly. If you flick the button into the other position, not only does it light up, but the small engine that can be viewed through the side window starts to rotate in two different directions, the front section rotating faster than the rear. It does bring with it the rather annoying sound of an electric motor whirring away, but I can’t see there is much of a way around this unless they used a very loud sound chip to drown it out.
Here are a couple of clips I made showing how to open, and also how to close the bikes articulated panels.

Maybe it’s because the batteries were such an awkward fit, but I found the body didn’t light up anywhere nearly as brightly, It certainly works and by applying pressure on the battery cover it made the lights grow stronger. The separate light in the helmet with its independent power supply had no such problems and illuminated just as brightly as the bike. I had no problems with any of the LED’s actually functioning as they all lit up. If only they could have integrated a mains adaptor. I know it sounds ‘uncomfortable’ but had the figure been equipped with a double ended jack plug to connect the figure and bike it might just have been possible.

As it is, the bike and helmets functionality are fantastic but the suits less so.

Value - ***1/2
At $299 this is actually quite a big load of bang for buck. I know its not cheap, but for a piece like this it certainly seems fair! And the fact that it has sold out at Sideshow is testament to how popular this is… and will continue to be amongst not only fans of the movie, but fans of cool ergonomic product design. Will this end up a grail and scarcer than rocking horse poop, who knows? But it certainly is one cool looking addition to your collection!

Fun Factor - ***1/2
It’s the TRON bike… it lights up… its engine moves… you can sit other figures on it while pushing it along and making ‘trontastic’ sounds, and it fits in a Detolf… all round winner in this category!

OK, I admit I’m a self-diagnosed articulation junkie, and the lack of a fully articulated figure does slightly upset my sensibilities, but even I can see the reasoning as to why we don’t get one! So even though Sam can’t stand next to his ride or be posed in a dynamic disk throwing position, it still makes for a doozy of a display piece.

Overall- *** 3/4
For pure aesthetics this deserves a full score. The price though high is obviously no rip off (look at how quickly it sold out), and the engineering plus R&D work can be seen plainly in front of you.

The only thing keeping this from full score nirvana is the dimly lit suit and the fact I’m not seeing a 100% convincing Garrett Hedlund portrait in the sculpt, of course your views may and in many cases will vary. This is however an incredibly cool and well designed 1/6th vehicle, and as such it is just a whisker from that full score!

Where to Buy -
Sideshow did have it for $299 but it has long sold out.

Mikes sponsor Fan Boy has it for the same price

Or try eBay where prices range between $260 up to  $550, but keep an eye on the shipping prices… especially on the ones that seem cheaper.

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