When Mattel dropped their regular Batman line, they did so saying that they wanted to focus on their Batman movie figures for 2005. You'd think, if this line was getting their focus, that it would have at least some redeeming qualities. Surprise!
The movie looks at Bruce's time before he put on the Batsuit, when he was just travelling the globe studying martial arts, so it makes sense that we'd get pre-Bat figures of him. The second wave of figures includes the rediculously named and distinctly ninja-ish Dual Blade Bruce to Batman. Or, as we're going to be calling him, Ninja Bruce (gray).
Dual Blade Hoobyjoo is actually a straight repaint of Series 1's Ninja Bruce to Batman, which just proves our old theory: variant costumes look better in the character's standard colors. Series 1 Ninja Bruce was a weird golden bronze, while this version is all shades of gray.
The sculpt on his ninja togs is nice, but a bit light on details. Of course, that may be because Mattel, for some unknown reason, has made these movie figures in the 5" scale. Uh, guys? Can anyone remember the last time a company sold 5" figures of anything but animated characters? What scale are the X-Men figures? Or Spider-Man? Or the Fantastic Four? How about Hellboy? I know DC's been out of the game for about a decade, but come on; that's no excuse for dropping the ball like this.
Oh, and I hope you like this body - besides being a repaint of Series 1's Ninja Bruce Gold, this figure is the same (from the neck down) as both Ra's al Ghuls and the Liam Neesons. Go Mattel!
Bruce is ostensibly supposed to look like Christian Bale, and I guess if you squint your eyes and don't look directly at the figure, he does. At this scale, it could just as easily be Val Kilmer or George Clooney. At least this time his head doesn't retract into his torso.
As someone who loves removable armor on figures, there's nothing I hate more than "masks" that are really a solid piece that plugs into the figure's neck when the "plain" head is pushed down. That's what we got from the last Bat-movie figures, but Mattel has finally done something right. Ninja Bruce Gray has a soft rubber ninja mask that slips easily onto the figure's head.
To turn the millionaire playboy into a creature of the night, the figure also includes a soft rubber piece that recreates the chest and cowl of the batsuit. Just like the ninja mask, it slips onto his head easily. Batman's utility belt holds the piece in place, of course, but the construction of his body makes the front of the suit stick out a bit, like he's got a paunch under there. This figure looks less like the real Batman and more like the homemade convention costume version.
Those aren't the figure's only accessories - as part of his ninja training, Bruce has a forearm blade and removeable shoulderpads (reused from Ninja Bruce Gold), as well as his namesake weapon, a dual-bladed fighting staff. The blades are removable from the ends of the staff, and Ninja Bruce Gray can either hold the blades or the staff, depending on how you want him to fight. It's actually a pretty nice accessory, if, like the rest of Mattel's efforts with this line, a bit too cartoony.
The figure is 5 1/2" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, waist, hips and knees, with not a balljoint in sight. Overall, Dual Blade Bruce to Batman (and the whole Batman Begins line as a whole) is like some strange snapshot of where the toy-making industry was eight years ago. Mattel: marching bravely forward into the past.
If early reviews are any indication, Batman Begins is going to be the movie that puts DC Comics back in the game. And if the movie's that good, you're probably going to be tempted to go out and buy some of the toys. But don't be suckered in: the figures are pretty awful.
What is Mattel's problem? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.