- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mattel’s Movie Masters series of action figures offers older fans of the latest live-action Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” an affordable option to appreciate some of the movie’s key characters.

Each of the detailed 6-inch-tall multi-articulated figures highlights the work of designers from the famed Four Horsemen Studios who interpret Christian Bale as the Dark Knight, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer John Blake and Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane, the villain known in comics as “the man who broke the Bat.”

Figure profile: From the book “The Dark Knight Rises: The Secret Files Scrapbook” - Little is known about Bane. He was born in prison and trained in the darkest forms of deception by the League of Shadows, but rumor has it he was cast out due to his extreme behavior.

Bane is a ferocious hand-to-hand fighter and is in peak physical shape. He must, however, wear a breathing apparatus that feeds him with pain-relieving gas due to an old injury. He’s never been photographed without his mask.

While his true motives remain a mystery, he appears to be building an army of followers in the dark tunnels underneath Gotham City to create his own League of Shadows.

Accessories: Our bald, backpack-wearing brute looks very much like his onscreen counterpart. He gets 14 points of articulation and solid ball joints to offer plenty of poses. He has a soft rubber, molded and sleeveless trench coat (the sleeves are part of the arm sculpts) and a permanent ventilation mask. The mask was slightly out of line on my figure. Nice paint detail includes silver boot buckles, multicolored strapping for his olive green and brown shirted torso and plenty of textured plastic for his paramilitary garb rounding out the design.

Mattel offers a reward for collecting all six of the series’ core figures. Owners get enough pieces in each package to assemble a light-up Bat Signal that can be projected onto a wall. I know, it’s not as exciting as the 2009 Marvel Legends collection with pieces to build a Fin Fang Foom figure or DC Universe’s 2008 Classic Series that provided parts to amass an impressive Metamorpho figure with base.

I’ll also mention the Movie Masters’ Catwoman figure. It has a better head sculpt that only slightly resembles Miss Hathaway, looking more like artist Jim Lee’s vision of the character. An alternate version of the figure comes with goggles that can be carefully lifted to view her eyes and mask.

Price: $14.99

Read all about it: Bane first appeared during the extended cross-title Batman story arc Knightfall back in 1993. The easiest way to appreciate the core events unleashed during that epic is through DC Comics’ trade paperback Batman: Knightfall, Volume 1 New Edition ($29.99). The massive, 640-page color tome collects Batman: Vengeance of Bane Special no.1, Batman nos. 491 to 500, Detective Comics nos. 659 and 660, Showcase ‘93 nos. 7 and 8 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat nos. 17 and 18.

What’s it worth? Although Mattel delivers a more than adequate representation of the “Dark Knight Rises” villain, Bane is just not as interesting as the grinning star of the last Batman film. Simply put, the figure is boring compared to the company’s own awesome version of Heath Ledger’s Joker from 2008.

Also, tweens are still the target audience here (whether Mattel agrees or not) thanks to the rugged, large figures. Yet, $15 for a character with no real accessories is a tough price tag to swallow (the 4-inch versions do not cut it).

So the latest Movie Masters will require owners with deep-pocketed parents or a hardcore fan with not enough disposable income to buy a more impressive collectible (such as a statue from DC Entertainment) but still looking to showcase their Batman pals in a desk cubicle.

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