Batman may be the most perfect character of modern fiction. He has an omnipresence on par with characters like Jesus and Mickey Mouse, and you can satisfactorily recap his entire personality and motivation in just a few sentences. He can survive interpretations as varied as Adam West and Frank Miller, and yet both versions of the character are equally valid. Every creator who puts pen to paper can tell a different story of Batman, but the character will just absorb them all, and make them work.
Now, knowing that, imagine what a huge feat it is to absolutely screw up Batman. That is Mattel's accomplishment.
First it was the comic line, then the animated offerings. Now, however, they've managed to bumble their way through one of the year's biggest, most lucrative movies. Their Batman Begins figures are an embarrassment, undersized and under-articulated, badly outdated in a market that's moved on.
There is one worthwhile figure, though most fans will never see it. Following the trend started with Scarecrow and Bane, Mattel has once again failed to release their best figure in the mainstream US market. You'd better do some serious searching if you want to own the Batman Begins Collector Edition Batman.
This is Bruce in his plain black batsuit - no crazy neon, no snap-on solar panels, no nothing. This is the simple, vanilla Batman that the mass-market Battle Gear Batman should have been. The body of the suit is a nice matte black, while the gloves, boots and bat symbol on the chest are gloss. In particular, this really helps the symbol stand out, proving that you don't need a blue and grey suit to look good. Batman's utility belt is a muted gold, which blends well with the figure.
The figure's head is the same standard one used for the rest of the line, so while it does look a bit like Christian Bale, it looks just as much like George Clooney or Michael Keaton - hard to get a likeness when all you've got is a mouth. The small bit of exposed skin is a bright peach color, with no real washes or highlights, but his eyes are done very well - Batman's an intense guy, and this figure's got the cold 1000-yard stare of a professional.
All the plates and panels of the suit are detailed well, as are the mechanics of the belt. The soles of his feet have realistic tread, and there's a surprising amount of detail on the sides of his boots. Batman's cape is real cloth (supposedly the same stuff the costume department used for the real thing in the film), with a thin wire running down each side for poseability. Under the cape, there are three hole in Batman's back, suggesting that at least part of the mold was reused from another figure.
Collector Edition Batman (shouldn't there be a possessive in there, somewhere?) is 5 1/2" tall, the same scale as the rest of the Batman Begins line, but much more poseable. The normal figures in the line have 10 points of articulation, all peg joints. Dull, dull, dull. CE Batman only ups the number slightly, but it's so much better. He moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, chest, waist, hips, knees and ankles - 13 points - but has the advantage of balljointed shoulders and hips.
It's good that Mattel has tried to up their ante, but things aren't perfect. Why doesn't he have a balljointed neck, for instance? Why no wrists? The Marvel Legends-style chest joint is good, but it snaps back to its "normal" position too easily. This is a good experiment, but it's one that should have been done in the normal line. Other than the cape, Collector Edition Batman is a pretty average figure, better than the rest of Mattel's line but not substantially better than the toys we get from other companies.
Batman has one accessory, a folding batarang reused from Battle Gear Batman. It's 1 1/2" wide when open, and painted the same golden color as his belt. The thing is far too big to actually be of any use to the figure, but it's better than a giant missile launcher of something stupid like that.
Collector Edition Batman comes in the same style window box as Mattel's summer convention exclusives, matching the yellow and black color scheme of the mass market toys. Bruce is posed nicely in a tray inside the box, and there's plenty of artwork all around. There's almost no text on the back of the box, save for a three points detailing why this is a Collector Edition: not even the text from the standard figures shows up.
This is easily the best Batman figure in the Begins line, one of only two Mattel offerings from the film worth owning, and if it had been hanging on the pegs at your local store, it might have been Toy of the Year. But for the price you have to pay and the lengths you'll have to go through to get him, fans have gotten "Matteled" once again.
How can one company be so monumentally dumb? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.