Suit Up Gantry - Iron Man
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 with a look at the very cool Suit Up Gantry - tell us all about it, Jeff!

I think it’s fair to say that the fantasy, and lets perhaps be more specific, the super-hero movie is now, and has been for some while the biggest most consistent cash cow for many a Hollywood studio. I wont bore you with a list to back this up, the fact you are here and reading this is proof enough. But the cool thing is that we now have a generation of consumers that are so pop culturally savvy that these types of movies are no longer even thought of as the risky genre they once were, now being pretty much considered mainstream! And in a post Alan Moore’s Watchmen world we now have various TV shows dealing with the day-to-day lives of super heroes in a soap operatic style. So it’s no wonder the leap of faith and suspension of disbelief has become a moot issue in the modern entertainment world.

Now most of us that visit Mikes site are already fully immersed in the fantasy world of comics, books, movies and collectibles, and although being a ‘Toy Collector’ is still far from being a mainstream adult activity, it has still grown at a huge rate over the last few years. This is largely down to companies like Sideshow, Gentle Giant, Hot Toys, ENTERBAY, 3A etc, etc taking the quality of the products available to another level. But of course with the rise in quality you also have a steep rise in prices, and it’s precisely that price hike that makes this an adult activity. I mean, how many kids do you know who can afford to participate in this hobby other the spoilt brats of the uber rich? I rest my case.

Which leads me on nicely to this item, which isn’t even a figure. I’ll use the word ‘diorama environment’ to make us all feel better about what actually constitutes a huge ‘play set’. But once again it is Hot Toys incredible attention to detail and highly researched mechanical engineering that elevates this so very much higher than that ‘Land of the Jawa’s’ or even ‘Castle Greyskull’ set you had as a kid. The other obvious thing is that because this is an environment you will need to invest further on an Iron Man figure to place within it. I should point out that a set with a figure was also available, but seeing as how I already had all the various incarnations of the power suit that may have been an extravagance too far.

So, now I’m done with my rambling intro, why don’t you slip Iron Man 2 into your chosen medium of viewing, hit play and watch the opening Stark Expo scene to refresh your memory, and then we can start to dissect this cool piece of kit!

Packaging - ***1/2
This is a big box; in fact it’s about the size of a briefcase, but considering how much stuff it needs to contain, that’s no surprise! It might have been cool to make it look like the MKV ‘suit’ case, but I wonder if they are saving that idea for something else, hmmmm!

The outside is a matte black/dark grey with an exploded engineering drawing of the various mechanical arms. It does bring to mind the packaging for the other Iron Man diorama, the MECH Test laboratory set, which I reviewed a few years back here. Remove this outer case and you see the die-cut matte golden brown card overlay with the word SUIT-UP GANTRY reversed out of it. This can then be lifted out and you are met by the large tray with the various components arranged within. All the deconstructed elements are held between the usual vac-formed trays and no twisties are employed at all. There are however a good many plastic bags wrapped around the appendages, so keep a small pair of scissors handy to snip the tape off of these.

Once again we have a very nice looking box that is designed to protect all the delicate contents well, whilst also being fun to open and explore. It’s one of those rare kits that make you feel like a kid on Christmas morning, much like the Power Loader did when I first got that. However, as exciting as it is to open and set up, the actual graphic design, when compared to some of their finer moments aren’t quite as eye-popping!

Sculpting - ****
This is an amazing thing to behold, and a fan-boys wet dream made 1/6th reality. The only problem being it is so darn big! In terms of sculpting, every single part is mechanical and resembles the kind of construction robot you might find at a car building plant. When you view it in the tray it is made up of nine separate very complex looking pieces, which can appear pretty intimidating to construct. But fear not, it’s actually all very straight forward if you read over the supplied instructions first. You merely take out the main articulated base, apply the magnetic fascias, arrange the plates into the raised position and then simply peg the various arms and appendages around it into the designated slots and holes, et voila!

There are also two separate display modes for the base (well, I say that, there are actually hundreds depending on how you articulate the multiple moving panels and arms), in as much as there are numerous different sized magnetic sheets with either a white or a black grid finish that can be attached to the foot-plate in their appropriate positions, I did find some of these needed to be gently twisted and manipulated to lay flat against their corresponding panel, but they are pliable enough to do this and retain the shape one done. The magnetic grip is quite soft as well, so you might find yourself rearranging a few panels once you have the gantry and figure set up in a position you are happy with. Because even though this looks like a play set, it is ultimately a set up and display piece.

The detailing on all the different hydraulic arms is incredibly movie accurate, and yes I have watched that section of the movie a few dozen times in slo-mo whilst hovering over the pause button. I do wonder if Hot Toys were given any access to the virtual 3D models made for the film, because if not the R&D team deserve some kind of medal!

There are working pistons on some of the bigger arms and a myriad of other moving parts, which I shall cover in the articulation section. But as far as being actually movie accurate this looks amazing to me, considering the few brief seconds of screen time it featured in. I’m sure there will be some solitary anal shell head out there who has studied the Winston studios schematics for this, and is outraged at the lack of a rivet somewhere, but to your average, or even relatively obsessive fan of the movies this is a small work of art!

Paint - ***3/4
This is basically a big hunk of machinery that is meant to look relatively factory fresh, as lets face it, at the Stark Expo you aren’t going to find some old rusted, oil dripping hulk of a thing. In my view this actually makes this a tougher job for Hot Toys, as they have at numerous times in the past shown just how good they are at weathering and ageing, and showing how well it can work at making a 1/6th model look so very realistic. So I feared without all that extra detail it may suffer and look toy like. Well I was wrong, and even though my photography skills aren’t up there with the best, you can get a good feel for just how impressive it is by checking out OMG’s photo review here and Lukazou’s amazing pics here, where can see it all looks pretty darned good.

The base itself is constructed of black plastic whilst the arms are primarily yellow plastic with steel and gunmetal coloured pistons and hinges. A few areas of subtle airbrushing are applied around some of the detailed areas to help enhance the sculptural detailing, but it is all kept relatively minimal. There is actually very little to say other than it is a solid job that works well in conveying what we saw in the movie, and as that is what it’s meant to do… I have nothing but praise.

Articulation - ***3/4
The entire structure is a mess of highly engineered articulation, and it seriously makes the mind boggle to comprehend every point of articulation. I have to admit I am not even going to try and manually configure what every move or bend that constitutes an articulated joint is, but rest assured there are onehelluvalot! In its essence, and being as concise as I can be, the base plates can all tilt and turn upwards and all of the mechanical arms have working hinged joints, which in the case of some of the larger arms are aided and abetted by functioning pistons.

Once the floor panels are arranged in a tilted up position, you can stand your figure in the centre and arrange the rest of the appendages around him. The rear main arm has claws to grip the helmet whilst the two main side arms have telescopic tubes/barrels that the hands ands arms can disappear into. There are also four smaller arms arranged around the base to mimic removing the leg armour. Next up, front and back are two mid sized arms to help remove the upper back armour and the chest panel as well. Apparently the set that comes equipped with the MK IV figure has a new magnetic chest panel that can be held by a magnet in the front arm. This is a groovy addition, but I found that by positioning the arm gripper like a pincer, it held the panel just fine anyway. If I had the patience, skill and ability I would just love to attempt a stop motion piece with this… but I don’t so I haven’t… surely it can only be a matter of time though. Another feature it has (not really articulation I know) is a light up function. Open up the battery cover in the base and insert three AAA batteries (not supplied) then flick the switch at the rear of the base and four tiny LED lights illuminate brightly. It’s a cool little extra that adds another dimension when displayed, but is not in my opinion quite as essential as the light up feature on the figures, and is only visible when the base is in the open position.

I fail to see how the articulation here could be much improved on, and the attention to detail along with the accurate construction is just fantastic. I do however keep this just shy of a full score. The reasoning being that I did have a slightly loose panel at the rear of the base plinth, it’s one of the smallest ones on the base but still a minor annoyance. The other reason being that when putting the plinth back into its fully closed mode it is essential that you align all the small grooves and tiny metal pegs perfectly, and then push together firmly. Of course this is all doable, but it took me a few attempts and I have a feeling it could all have been done with a slightly ‘easier to use’ design.

Accessories - N/A
This is in effect one big accessory so it doesn’t really come with any bonus extras. I reviewed the companion figure of the MK IV here, but there is also a set that includes the gantry, the MK IV figure and robot arm that helps Tony back at his lab (previously included in the Mech Test set). But for this version you just get the basic gantry… if basic is a word that could be used to describe this behemoth!

Outfit - N/A

Value - **
And here’s the rub… the RRP on this baby is $360… lets not quibble about the 1c change you get. Now, that equates to about the price of two full Hot Toys figures (depending on which ones you go for), so to me this feels like quite a lot of money. I can easily see the amount of work that has gone into the reverse engineering from CG screen seen effect, to 1/6th fully realised model, and by Darwin it is very freaking impressive. But when I compare it to say owning Cap A and Red Skull, or Nick Fury and Thor then in some ways I can see why your average punter would be tempted to go for the figures.

However, if like myself you are something of a fan of the red and gold, metal-clad playboy superhero superstar that is Mr Tony Stark, then those choices may be moot anyway. You’ll probably find a way to make the price seem less important, perhaps you live in a twilight existence where within your 1/6th toy addled brain you think you are a wealthy industrialist to whom $360 is little more than the price of a meal at your favourite restaurant in Monte Carlo… yeah, we’ve all been there, and I don’t mean the restaurant!

Fun Factor - ***1/2
This is big, potentially fragile and very expensive. It is there for not intended for kids under… lets say 15 years of age. If you are a kid of any age over that, then get ready to play!

The other thing worth saying is that his category is obviously dependent on having the MK VI figure (or at least one of the Iron Man figures) to go with it. I guess you could stand the Joker in the centre if you so wished… but it would look pretty stupid. However if you do have a healthy selection of the power suits from the KM II upwards this is going to put a grin on your face a mile wide. There must be literally thousands of positions you could put this in, but it’s my guess that most will choose the quasi-religious ‘techno’ crucifixion. As lets face it, it’s a pretty iconic looking image. Arms held out to his sides, legs straight with the helmet held above him like hi-tech crown of thorns. Kneel and give praise at the altar of Hot Toys, amen to that brother!

Overall- *** 1/2
This is a big piece of kit that has been supremely well researched and constructed. I doubt there is a Shell-head out there that would not dearly love this to be the centrepiece of their Iron Man collection. But the sticking point may be that word ‘dearly’. Because firstly you need to have the funds available to invest and then you also need the space to display it in. So if you are an investment banker living in a converted loft space in downtown Manhattan they are not going to be issues for you. But to your average punter they probably will be.

I have to admit that having set this thing up in my dinning room ready to photograph it did make me realise just how cool it would be to leave it out… my daughters agreed with me, sadly my wife didn’t. So I’m going to have to dismantle it (at some point in the future, I’m sure it can stay out for a few ‘weeks’ more) and replace all the pieces to their relevant bags and positions within the box. They will be safely stored until the day comes that the world truly recognises my amazing talents and I am rewarded with a mansion that has my very own display room (c’mon, we all secretly think this is gonna happen to us… right?). That day might not be any time soon, but when it comes… and it will, I shall be glad that I own this and display it with pride!

Where to Buy -
This was as I said above available from Sideshow both with the MK VII figure and on it’s own. The double pack was $499.99 but has sold out, while the gantry on its own is still available at the full RRP of $359.99 here.

It is also available from BBTS for $323.99 here.

And Alter Ego also has it for $323.99 here.

Or you can  search ebay for a deal.

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