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Batman (1989)
by yo go re

For 20 years, "Batman" only meant one thing to the average person: Adam West. That show was a syndication staple, especially once Fox had a nationwide network and needed material to fill it. So when a new movie was announced, everyone's first thought was "is it going to have sound effects overlayed on the action?" So Tim Burton not only had to make a good movie, he had to overcome all that prejudice.

When the Bat-Signal flashes across the night sky, the caped and mysterious Batman descends from the rooftops of Gotham City, protecting its citizens against crime and injustice. Batman, dark nemesis of evil-doers, has been called the world's greatest detective. Only Batman, whose skills as a resourceful escape artist, master of disguise and genius strategist, can save the city when all else fails. His arsenal against crimes includes his high-tech utility belt, his sleek, armored Batmobile, and the ultra-modern Batwing.

Although Mattel has the DC master license all sewn up, NECA found a nice loophole: they licensed the 1989 movie's tie-in videogame, and made one of their retro 8-bit figures for it. Granted, it had to be blue and purple, for legal reasons, but it was a 7" Michael Keaton Batman, and that was awesome. It seemed poised to become the most-customized action figure in history (because slathering flat black over something isn't that hard), but then, with no fanfare and no advance warning, came this officially licensed repaint.

It's worth noting that this is not a NECA action figure: they do not have the license nor the rights to release a Batman figure (in this scale) based on the movies, or the comics, or even the other videogames. So please, everybody who keeps asking them about it on social media, stop asking them about it. They can't do it. This figure uses the NECA molds, but it was produced and sold by Warner Brothers, who can release whatever kind of Batman they damn well feel like.

The figure was only available direct from WB's eBay store, bundled with a "Diamond Luxe" edition of Batman on Blu-ray (a later deal also saw it in Toys Я Us stores, with a less impressive version of the movie). The packaging is a simple blister card, golden with a halftone pattern and a purple stripe along the top. It's a throwback to the packaging for the original line! Even the back is identical, right down to the "newspaper clipping" bio. How fun!

NECA already had experience making Michael Keaton figures - and not just Beetlejuice, either! They'd already made a Burton Batman even before the 8-bit one; it was just in the 18" line, so only insane people bought it. Anyway, with all that experience, the likeness on this one is great. To create the illusion of depth, the face and mask are separate pieces.

The body looks a little bit goofy, but that's only because NECA chose to stay true to the movie - remember, Tim Burton had the benefit of hiding a lot of detail in the shadows, while this toy is necessarily going to be full frontal. So he looks like he's wearing his belt too low? His arms look too skinny? His chest looks too small? It's all meant to be that way, because everything gets hidden in the dark. Just like on the real suit, the "armor" on the chest is molded rubber, shaped to create musculature rather than provide real protection. The way it's shaped leaves his sides expose - how else do you think Catwoman managed to stab him there in Batman Returns? But we also get to see details we never would, like the specifics of his boot armor, or the ribbing on his gloves.

NECA has made a few adjustments, to make this a worthwhile toy - namely, they've cut in some articulation where the movie suit really didn't have it. For instance? The "trunks" this figure appears to have were actually a single molded piece that ran all the way down to his knees. Also, the rubber sleeves were connected to his body armor, so he'd barely be able to lift them. The NECA toy can do all that and more. It has balljointed ankles (with flexible armor attached), swivel/hinge knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, balljointed waist, balljointed chest, balljointed wrists, swivel gloves, swivel/hinge elbows and shoulders, and a balljointed head. Yes, despite the fact that Michael Keaton could emphatically not turn his head when he was wearing the cowl, this one kind of can (the entire cowl has to turn, so that's something).

Taped behind the figure's tray is a small bag of accessories: a grapnel launcher, a batarang, and two extra hands. He's ends up with two fists, and two hands to hold the other accessories. His cape is softgoods, so you can flop it around however you like - that rarely works on figures at this scale, but it suits Batman pretty well.

It's kind of sad that Mattel just extended their DC master license. We've already seen what a pile of crap their attempt at making a Michael Keaton was, and now we've seen how excellent NECA's could be. The only bad thing about this is that it's 7" scale, rather than 6", so he won't really fit in with your existing DC collection very easily. But honestly, it's so much fun to have a 1989 Batman that looks this good, you won't really care. Yes, you have to buy a Blu-ray movie to get this figure, but the price isn't drastically higher than what you'd pay for a figure by itself.

-- 12/17/14

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