Hot Toys: The Dark Knight Rises, DX-12 - Review

DSCF9589In 1989, director Tim Burton brought our comic book hero, 'the caped crusader' to life in the cinematic release titled, simply, 'Batman'.  The film was a huge success and for many it was exactly what we've been waiting for, especially given that our only previous escape from the comics was in the style of the 1960's camp-as-you-like TV show!  Unfortunately however, it all went downhill from here.  Batman Returns was not as enjoyable as the original movie, in Batman Forever we completely lost the 'dark' feel and it was obvious it was starting to be aimed at a wider, younger audience'; and by Batman & Robin, well, many of us gave up entirely.

Then, in 2005 'Batman Begins' hit the screens with director Christopher Nolan at the helm and Christian Bale reprising the role of Bruce Wayne in a truly epic cinematic performance.  What followed was a further two outstanding sequels, 'The Dark Knight' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' all equally as good as the first, completing probably one of the best trilogies to date and finally depicting the Batman as he was meant to be seen.

Hot Toys were quick to cash in on the commercial success of the new Christopher Nolan Batman franchise, and numerous figures have been released since the inception of the new films, both heroes and villains alike; all of which faithfully reproduced in 1/6th scale, and much to the delight of 1/6th collectors and Batman fans who sought them.  Although the film 'The Dark Knight' had an accompanying Hot Toys release, there was obvious room for improvement, especially given the slightly poorer than usual articulation owed mainly to the 'rubber' suit, and in turn concerns of the longevity of the materials used.  Thus when 'The Dark Knight Rises' was announced, the obvious choice was a re-release, and the film paved the way for that to be a DX release also.  Technically, the suit is the same as seen in the film before, albeit with a few new gadgets (the EMP rifle), but now was a time to demonstrate Hot Toys new manufacturing techniques which allowed them to develop a fabric suit with rubber and plastic 'armoured' pieces, faithfully reproducing what you seen in the movie.  This figure has to be one of Hot Toys most successful releases, many of the pre-orders available from retailers sold out quickly, and for those who were not lucky enough to grab one, the daunting prospect of picking one up on the secondary market with over-inflated prices looms.

I quickly pre-ordered my DX-12 figure from Collectable Kitbash at the fantastic price of £179.99 as soon as it was announced, and after what seemed like a life-time wait, I finally received him a few weeks ago.  So let's see what makes this particular release so special:

As with all of Hot Toys 'DX' figure releases, you get a little more than you would with a regular MMS release.  'The Dark Knight Rises' DX-12 figure comes with the following additional items:

2 x Interchangeable heads (one 'Batman', the other 'Bruce Wayne')
3 x Sets of hands
2 x Belts (one of which magnetic to attach sticky-bomb gun)
1 x Grapnel gun
1 x Sticky-bomb gun (magnetic)
1 x EMP rifle (light-up)
2 x Batarangs
2 x Mini-mines
1 x Bat-Pod adapter for EMP rifle
1 x Deluxe 'stone-like' light stand

DSCF9596Starting with the obvious place, the box, it is as always a work of art in itself.  As I've mentioned in previous reviews, although I appreciate the work that goes into the box, I'm not one for keeping them and would much prefer a 'plain' box and a slight reduction in cost, but I fully understand those collectors to whom the box is an important piece.  Styled in dark grey with a striking black 'Bat' logo in the centre, the artwork also draws on inspiration from the film when you open the lid and are presented with the chalk depiction of the 'Bat'.  Venture further in and you'll find the usual foam-backed insert; this one hints at another possible Hot Toys release 'The Bat' aerial vehicle, in the form of blueprints taped to the front.  It has since emerged that 'The Bat' for Hot Toys was merely a concept piece that we did see in some photo promotions of 'The Dark Knight Rises' product line, but was never intended for commercial release; not yet anyway.

Removing the cardboard insert you find yourself looking at the figure in all its glory.  What is immediately visible is the separate face pieces, cleverly placed in plastic inserts styled in the shape of the cowl.  The figure, minus the cape and belt, one of the aforementioned belts and the newly included 'Bruce Wayne' head sculpt which truly is one of the best Hot Toys have released thus far.

Upon removing the separate cardboard piece which labels the above items (along with the warning label about reading the instructions: I advise you to always do so!) you are now presented with the remaining items which include 4 gloved hands, the other magnetic belt, a small plastic tray that encases the two gun devices and other loose parts and the black collar that is worn in conjunction with the Bruce head sculpt.

Underneath the foam tray is a separate plastic tray which houses the cape, the highly detailed 'light up' stand, and the small key that is required to adjust the PERS system.

Now as you can probably appreciate, when a new figure arrives the first task I have to complete is to take pictures of it how it looks 'in the box', only then can I remove the items from their foam lining.  So not a second spared in taking the final 'un-boxing' photo before I placed the camera down and started to pull all of the pieces out like a child at Christmas.

DSCF9607A logical place to start would be with the figure itself.  The head and neck area are protected by a plastic film that first needs to be removed.  Whilst this is easy to take from the head, the neck part is somewhat tucked underneath the post itself, so it is easy to gently pull the neck post off entirely to remove this protective cover.  So with the figure in hand, the first thing you will have noticed is the 'Batman' head sculpt, which is held in place magnetically; such a fantastic design idea!  Cleverly, the DX-12 head sculpt allows you to change the expression for any of three face plates provided, using the opposite end of the PERS key to gently pop them out of the sculpt.  The head itself has been subject of some debate as to whether Hot Toys got it 'right or wrong', mainly focussed on the eye area.  The general complaint is that the eyes should have been more 'squinty' and that the black area around the eye was not dark enough.  To this end, some people have taken it upon themselves to modify the sculpt incorporating these suggestions, and with great success too.  I'll cover some of these modifications in more detail later on in the review.

The neck post is the part that contains a powerful neo-dynium magnet that keeps the head in place.  In keeping with the 'armoured' theme, the neck post has somewhat limited movement, it will allow you to tilt it forward just a few degrees, and will rotate approx 20 degrees left and right, luckily just enough to perform the majority of poses that you would like to, certainly 'movie accurate' ones.  In the films, Christian Bale's head movements are somewhat subtle anyway; he tends not to move his upper body in extreme ways.

Working down the body we come across the upper armour section, which is cleverly a separate piece entirely.  The shoulder pieces are hinged to this and also held in place with an elastic strap which is only visible when raising the arms outwards to their maximum (I would recommend) of about 90 degrees in relation to the body.  Care needs to be taken when moving the arms that they are not exerted beyond their maximum range of motion as not to damage the fabric under-suit or dislodge the upper armour pieces, unfortunately whilst the fabric version may be superior in appearance to the previous releases that imitated it; the articulation is still fairly poor.

Although under normal lighting, the appearance of the chest and abdomen armour pieces is that they are a matt black, they are in fact semi-transparent, with an almost fibre-glass / carbon fibre effect; that is probably the best way I can describe them.  This becomes more apparent under bright lighting or in pictures taken with flash photography; the rest of the armour including that attached to the fabric under-suit is indeed a matt black opaque 'rubberised' material.

DSCF9603The next part that may catch your eye is the gauntlets, and like the head, this was another area of debate amongst collectors on the forums and Hot Toys Facebook pages; the particular point of debate being the elbow pads.  As you can see, they are affixed to the gauntlet, bend the arm however and they jut out into space, they're no longer protecting the elbow and quite frankly look a little bit strange.  This caused a number of people to accuse Hot Toy of 'getting it wrong' and that the elbow pad should never have been part of the gauntlet and was in fact attached to the suit.  The answer is however, it was both.

Having studied closely both 'The Dark Knight' and 'The Dark Knight Rises', this argument has arisen because of decisions made by the movie producers and costume designers in achieving a better look on screen.  If you watch closely 'The Dark Knight' there is a scene where Fox shows Wayne the new suit they have designed as he requested.  As he slides the drawer out, you will notice both gauntlets 'blade' side up, and here, clear as day are the elbow pads which are part of the gauntlet.  Fast forward throughout the film, and especially more noticeable in scenes during 'The Dark Knight Rises' and these elbow pads, although still part of the gauntlet are physically attached to the suit...  How?  Because what we saw as a rigid gauntlet in Fox's work area has suddenly become a soft rubber piece, and you can notice this in some scene where it bends at the elbow crease and the wrist.  It must have become obvious to the costume designers than in order to get the movement required during filming, these rigid pieces needed to become flexible.  So, this begs the question, who got it wrong?  You cannot accuse Hot Toys of not being faithful to the film as the copied what they initially saw, it was the film that changed the look to get the better on-screen appearance.

This leaves Hot Toys fans and DX-12 owners with a slight problem however, as mentioned the moment the arm is bent we have this awkward out of place elbow piece to deal with.  A couple of solutions have been implemented by customers.  The first being to carefully cut off the part from the gauntlet and glue it to the suit, and the other to carefully slice off the top 'cuff' of the glove so that the gauntlet will slide down the arm further and line the pad area up better with the elbow.  Worth noting also that if you watch closely you will see the gloves in the film do not have this 'cuff', and the gauntlets do fit further down the wrist, however in reality if they'd been a rigid piece as originally portrayed, Bruce would not have been able to bend his wrists.  This is more noticeable in the scene in TDKR where Bruce is in the Bat-Cave having just recovered the memory-stick device, whilst he is at the console.

On the subject of the gloved hands, these are possibly the easiest to remove of any HT figure I've come across so far, almost too much.  It was not uncommon for a hand to pop off during the photo shoot whilst posing the figure.  Available wrist movement is somewhat limited on this figure due to the 'cuff' on the glove making contact with the rigid edge of the gauntlet, only a few degrees of motion is realistically possible, however they rotate without an issue.

DSCF9595The rubberised armour pieces that cover the legs are flawless on the figure I have with no signs of any edges lifting off the surface of the fabric suit.  Only time will tell as to how durable the suit really is, although so far I have no concerns that an issues will occur.  It is all dependant on how you wish to pose the figure, and using the supplied stand there is no danger of over-exerting the limits of the figure, which is exactly how I intend to pose him.

Further down still we come to the boots.  Now, I've never owned any of the previous Batman releases, but from what I understand this was the first of the Bale Batman figures to feature 'two piece' boots.  When I learned that this was the case, I was initially disappointed and worried that they would not very realistic; after all we're effectively getting a leg-sleeve and a shoe arrangement.  On arrival, it wasn't quite as bad as I'd imagined, and after a short while you don't tend to notice.  Understandably Hot Toys had chosen this route to improve upon the articulation of the previous figures, personally I would have still preferred a one-piece boot, but that is my own opinion.

Out of the box, our caped crusader is indeed just a 'crusader' until you affix his cape, which as mentioned previously is stored away inside the second plastic tray.  This is quite cleverly attached using two plastic clips that push into recesses atop of the shoulder armour and downwards into the breast plate.  They are quite fiddly to get locked into place, but once done I would recommend leaving the cape attached as frequent attaching and detaching might weaken the clips or the recesses they sit in.  The cape itself has also been the subject of some on-line criticism, people citing that it doesn't sit right on the figure.  My response to that would be that they may not have seated it correctly or adjusted the small wires that are sown into the lining near the top that are supposed to encourage it to flow nicely down the back of the figure.  I personally see no problems with the cape whatsoever and find that it sits quite naturally and realistically with minimal adjustment required.

Moving on from the figure body itself, let's take a look at some of the tools of the 'Batman' trade, of which we have been provided with many!

With this particular release, we are given two different belts.  Although we only see Bruce wearing one type in TDKR, we are also given the belt seen worn in 'The Dark Knight' that the sticky bomb gun attaches to magnetically.  I chose to display my figure with the detailed utility belt which encompasses a number of gadgets, none of which are functional or removable, but so highly detailed they look like they should.  This particular belt also had an area of the rear of it for the grapnel gun to attach, which I feel has always been a central utility of the Batman character, so it's fitting that this is the belt of choice.  Both belts attach at the rear by three small male and female connector 'plugs'.  Although the belts have the appearance that they are hinged linkages much like a wrist watch, each link is in fact glued onto a foam rubber strip on the inside face of the belt which gives it the flexibility required.

The grapnel gun itself I am pretty sure does not make an appearance in TDKR, although as mentioned above, is an integral accessory of the Batman character.  It is coloured in the usual golden colour scheme of the Nolan characters (as opposed to the bright yellow found on the '89 figures) and features a spring loaded cocking mechanism as well as a removable cartridge which attaches on the underneath.

DSCF9640Also provided which doesn't make an appearance in TDKR is the sticky bomb gun, which as per the previous film TDK is comprised of two parts that fold out and interlock together to make the gun complete.  Both pieces are magnetised and attach to the second belt at the rear.  It's fairly easy enough to work out how it all unfolds and lock it together, and is a nice inclusion from Hot Toys to provide equipment from previous releases which makes this figure something that can firmly supersede the original figure and also for those who were not lucky enough to grab him the first time round; there is no missing out.

Something that is new and unique to TDKR is the 'EMP Rifle', a clever invention from Bruce's ally Lucas Fox that temporarily renders any electronic device (including the engine management system of vehicles) inoperable.  It is supplied with a small mounting bracket that allows it to be attached to the Bat-Pod as seen in the film, although I can imagine the vast majority of people will pose their figure holding it.  Slightly disappointing I'm afraid in comparison to the promotional shots that showed the face of the rifle fully lit with a slight blue tinge; in reality there is a single LED and poorly designed 'light pipe' that does not fully diffuse the light which means there is a single lit point, not how it was portrayed in the prototype photos.  The 'EMP rifle' is powered by three watch batteries which can be replaced following the instruction booklet provided with the figure; it is activated by simply pulling out the plastic tab.  As per the film the entire front piece slides back and fourth in a 'cocking' action.

Two other small items provided with the figure complete the line-up of accessories, these being the mini-mines and the iconic 'batarang'.  There is no where specifically to store these items, e.g. they do not clip to the belt etc...  However Hot Toys do provide you with a hand especially for holding a batarang, which makes for an excellent pose.  I've simply placed both the mines and the batarangs at his feet on the display stand for now, and they look good enough there for the time being.

And this brings us nicely to the last item included, which is the fantastic stand.  Styled to resemble the steps of the Gotham streets it incorporates realistic weathering and wear to the fake 'stone' surface, with a beautiful 'Bat' logo carved into it.  Small mounds of snow that we see falling during the fight sequences in the streets finish off the overall finish, with a brass etched logo panel on the front.  The stand requires 3 x AAA batteries (not supplied) which power the two powerful LED lights which are ball-jointed on the front two corners.  These allow you to position the beams of light perfectly so that they illuminate the figure with a bright but eerie glow which casts beautiful and atmospheric shadows.  It really does finish off the package wonderfully.

Conclusion:

DSCF9581Towards the beginning of the review, I mentioned that I would discuss further some of the modifications that the 1/6th community have been making to improve upon certain areas they feel were lacking in DX-12 release.  I thought it best to save these as my closing words because I didn't to give the impression that this figure is indeed lacking in anyway, these are merely other peoples opinions on suggested improvements that they have made to their figures; you and many will be, happy with as it is.

One of the most underlying criticisms is the lack of articulation.  It is unfortunate that in creating a more realistic fabric suit, Hot Toys intended to improve upon the previous Dark Knight release, especially in the pose-ability of the figure; this did not materialise as intended.  What we have learned from others who have been brave enough to dissect their figure in looking for ways to improve upon it, is that underneath the armour is a modified, black, true type body.  In order to add the necessary 'bulk', Hot Toys decided to use a padded under-suit, it is this part that restricts the movement so much that the thighs are only able to move upwards about 20-25 degrees, and bend at the knee is not much better.  As a consequence there have been many people who have either removed the padded under-suit all together, or some who have made some discreet and 'tactical' cuts to the backs of the knees for and hips on the under-suit, but still kept it to keep the bulk but have improved upon the articulation greatly.

We mentioned earlier on in the review regarding the elbow pad on the gauntlet and some of the steps people have taken to resolve these.  In fact, I carried out these very same modifications on a friends figure as he did not like how they appeared.  For now, I will keep mine as it came, however I did turn my attention to the head sculpt.

I had to agree with those who thought that the area around the eyes needed to be a little blacker which would improve upon the illusion that they are too large in general.  A quick easy fix for this is to simply paint the eye area, making sure you don't get any on the eyeball itself.  I found by placing the head in boiling water for a few minutes it was easy enough to pop the PERS system out with a pair of needle nose pliers, complete the paint work, re-heat the head and reseat the eyes back into position.  I've included a picture with a side-by-side comparison so you can decide for yourself.  Please note however, this is an expensive figure to be modifying so please take care if attempting any modifications yourself!

In terms of value for money, although I am generally very pleased with my DX-12 figure, I can't help but feel the price could have been a little lower, especially when compared to the DX-10 (my other most recent HT purchase) which was over £10 cheaper.  It does seem that as of late, Hot Toys prices have been yet again on the increase, but that is a whole other debate I would rather not be having!

If you haven't already grabbed yourself one, and are thinking of doing so, I would highly recommend the DX-12, especially if you missed out on the some of the earlier releases.  Despite some minor tweaks that are required, this figure is still the best and most accurate representation of the Dark Knight character that we've been offered so far, and with the conclusion of the Christopher Nolan franchise, it's likely to be the last we see too.

Special thanks to Collectable Kitbash who, as always, offered an excellent service and communication throughout.

Rise.

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