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Movie Masters Batpod

The Dark Knight
by Poe Ghostal

I had the good fortune to find the Target-exclusive Movie Masters Batpod over the weekend, just a couple days after the first few sightings across the country. I don't think I can stress enough how unlikely it is to find a new mass market toy in Massachusetts this early - because we're so far from where the ships from China arrive and the warehouses their cargo is stored at, we get everything dead last. Really, the only explanation I can think of is that the MM Batpod had a street date and had been sitting in the back rooms all over the country, waiting... waiting...

For those who have never visited OAFE before and have no idea what goes on in the action figure world, the "Movie Masters" are a line of 6" action figures based on the first two Christopher Nolan Batman films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. They differ from the colorful, goofy kids-oriented line in that they're a bit taller, much better articulated and painted, and have detailed sculpts courtesy of the Four Horsemen.

While there are a few different vehicles for the smaller kids' line, a Tumbler (Batmobile) in the MM scale and quality might be prohibitively expensive (though if Hasbro can get away with the new Millennium Falcon, we can't imagine an MM Tumbler would be much more costly to produce). However, because Mattel loves us so much, they did manage to give us a Batpod.

Despite its inexplicably goofy name, the Batpod is a cool addition to Batman's arsenal. It was designed from scratch for the film with the same eye toward pragmatism and realism as all other aspects of the film. The Batpod comes into play after the Tumbler is struck with a Joker-launched rocket; damaged beyond repair, Batman ejects in the Batpod as the car self-destructs. The Tumbler's front tires are the Batpod's wheels. While the Batmobile from the first two Burton films will always be my favorite of the 'mobiles, the Batpod easily wins my favorite Batcycle incarnation.

Of course, the main reason for the Batpod's prominence in The Dark Knight is to add to Batman's "knight" motif: the Batpod is his horse, an idea that emphasized by the way the rider leans forward on the vehicle, his arms tucked in like a rider gripping the reigns on a galloping stallion. (At the same time, there's no question the Batpod is reminiscent of any number of science fiction and fantasy vehicles, particularly the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi.)

The Movie Masters Batpod is about a foot long from the back tire to the tip of the cannons. Much like the MM figures, the sculpt is good enough for a collector, but playable enough for a kid. Comparing it to production photos of the Batpod from the film, it appears to be fairly accurate. There are a few very minor differences, but this isn't intended to be a scale model, it's meant to be a well-made collector's toy.

It's refreshing to get a vehicle that doesn't have any ugly weapon-firing action features or come with a pack-in figure of a character you already own. The Batpod does have one added touch, though: the engine cover is hinged and can swing open to reveal the engine. The Batpod is sculpted in hard plastic, but the handlebars are thankfully made from softer material, so when you're trying to squeeze Batman's hands around the handles, they won't break. The tires are made from soft rubber, which is a nice change from the hard plastic tires we so often get on toy vehicles. The tires are wide enough that the vehicle stands perfectly on its own whether Batman is sitting on it or not.

The paint work is good, but not outstanding. On the one hand, the Batpod doesn't exactly need a lot of paint - it's just silver and black. But the silver-painted parts have a slightly sloppy dry brush that doesn't quite work. It's most noticeable around the handlebars. I'm sure there are a few customizers out there who are going to want to repaint the whole thing.

The real question, though, is how does the Batman figure look on it? The answer is: not bad, but definitely not perfect. There are a couple problems. First, the bike appears to be made in a slightly larger scale than the figure, so Batman's knees and feet don't line up in their stirrups properly. More problematic, though, is Batman's upper legs and crotch, which due to their size and shape can't be positioned properly on the bike.

Be aware that you're going to have to spend 10 minutes getting Batman's hands to fit around the handlebars, and try to be careful doing it. Finally, Batman's head can't look quite forward enough, though the angle is arguably accurate to the film depiction.

One of the coolest things about the Batpod is that it's also perfect for your DCUC figures - perhaps slightly more so, since the slightly larger size of DCUC makes for a better fit.

The MM Batpod is available only at Target and will set you back about $20, which is tad more than we might like to have paid for it, but pretty reasonable given the price of toys these days.

It's exciting to get a vehicle in the Movie Masters line, even if it isn't a Four Horsemen product - we asked them about it, and they pointed out that Mattel is home to Hot Wheels and Matchbox, so they already have an entire department skilled at making vehicles: why, then, would they have the Horsemen work on one, too? Still, we recommend you go out and buy the Batpod. It's a great collector's item and a great toy. And if it sells well, it just might encourage Mattel to make more vehicles - perhaps a Tumbler, or even a new Batmobile for DCUC.

-- 10/19/08

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