It's been a long wait, but the fourth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie has hit theaters and the merchandising blitz
has hit the stores. (Okay, its actually been in stores for months now. But at least I beat the DVD release.) Since
there is currently a five foot high stack of movie toys in my living room, I guess it is time to start the reviews.
After several disappointing offerings in the Fast Forward line, the movie line represents a great chance for Playmates
Toys to relaunch the toy line. But the question is, will they take advantage of the opportunity?
Packaging - 8/10The movie figures sport a complete graphic overhaul from the regular TMNT and Fast Forward line. The physical design is pretty standard, a rectangular bubble on a standard card. Taking their lead from several other toy lines, the bubbles have been expanded to fill the entire width of the card. To accomplish this, the edges of the bubble are folded over and attach to the back of the card along the sides and bottom. The new design is nice since it not only provides more room in the bubble but serves to protect the edges of the cards as well. The drawback is that they have not yet perfected the means of securing the bubble to the card. The edges are simply taped to the back. But that tape doesn't hold as well as the edges which are glued. On the plus side, it does mean that the new design is fairly collector friendly. By slicing the tape and along the bottom, the figures can be removed and later replaced and the flaps on the sides will still hold the bubble in place. Graphically the new design is an improvement as well. There are several inserts in the bubble showing the four turtles and a manhole cover displaying the figure's name. The inserts with Donatello and especially Michelangelo seem to have problems staying in place. I have seen quite a few figures where the inserts have come loose and slid around in the packaging. The card has the TMNT movie logo and a view of the city as seen from a manhole. The back of the cards show the first twelve figures that have been produced along with a very short description of the movie's plot. The new look matches the style of the movie well and show off the figures nicely.
As is so often the case, there are several packaging variants out there. All of the figures are available with a bonus CD containing a demo version of the TMNT PC Game and a sticker on the upper left corner of the bubble announcing the addition. Around the time that the movie was actually released, another sticker was added to the left of the figure's name promoting the Fast Forward cartoon. And of course, the figures are also available without either addition.
Sculpting - Casey Jones 8/10, others 7/10The sculpting for the movie figures is a step up from Playmates' recent offerings. All four turtles use the same body sculpt as far as I can tell. But it matches the style from the movie well. It captures the disproportionately large feet and hands without going overboard. I do wish they had flattened out the bottoms of the feet so they would have been a bit more stable. But getting them to stand isn't really an issue. I am surprised that they left the skin smooth. In the movie their skin appears to have a slight texturing to it. Their plastron (front shell) has sculpted texturing but not the skin. Michelangelo's grin is a bit goofy looking too, but then again, Michelangelo is a bit goofy. Casey Jones is a great sculpt that matches the look of the character from the final fight well. April is almost as nice. her arms should probably be thinner, but there is a limit to what a company can do without having the figures snap like twigs. The head sculpt is very close to perfect but a bit too round. The chin should be a bit sharper. Splinter is another great mold. There are a few compromises for the fur hanging down from the neck and the length of the sleeves. The shoulder pads are also thicker than they should be, presumably for strength. Overall, these are some nice sculpts. But Playmates does have some room for improvements in the scale department. There is some sense of relative scale. Casey is taller than April. Splinter is shorter than the Turtles. But the Turtles should be a bit smaller. As it is, they are just a hair shorter than April. And Splinter should be a lot shorter.
Paint - Mike & Raph 3/10, Leo & Don 4/10, Casey 5/10, others 7/10The paint work is pretty solid in terms of quality control. But the effort seems half hearted for most of the figures. the Turtles are the most noticeable. I already mentioned the lack of skin texture under the sculpting section, but they could have made up for that with a paint wash. But they did not. Another minor short coming is not painting the joints for the knees and elbows to match the pads. If they had done this, it would have camouflaged the joints quite well. Instead they left them unpainted which makes these joints that much more evident. Raph and Mike also have a problem with their eyes not lining up properly. Casey Jones' main problem is also lack of effort. The details on the boots, the knee pads, the body armor, it is all left unpainted. The figure doesn't look bad, but it could look much better. Both April and Splinter turned out quite well. There is a bit of paint rub onto April's neck. The yellow for her outfit could stand to be toned down quite a bit. It should have a bit of an orange tint. Splinter is the best of the seven figures. The only drawback to his paint work is that the attempts to feather the grey paint for the fur along the edges of his chin line and particularly on the eyebrows didn't turn out as well as they could have. Of course there is also some room for improvement such as highlights on the fur or a separate color for his toe nails.
Articulation - April & Splinter 3/10, Casey 4/10, Turtles 8/10One of the highlights of the new movie figures is the articulation that has been put back into the Turtles. At nineteen points of articulation, they aren't the most articulated Turtles. But they are the best articulated. Most importantly, after four years Playmates has finally gotten the hip joints right. Like most of the recent turtles, the hips have both a rotating and hinged joint combined. But where previous figures have gotten the geometry of the joints wrong, the movie figures finally adjust the joints so that the hinge is used to provide forward movement or raise the legs to the sides. But what it really means is that for once the Turtles can stand up straight. Casey Jones is almost as well articulated. But he has severely limited range of motion. The knees and hips in particular are extremely limited. The use of simple rotating joints for the shoulders is a shame. The design of the figure would seem to provide the perfect opportunity to hide extra articulation. And with no elbow joints, the figure could use more articulation for the arms. April is the least articulated with eight rotating joints at the neck, shoulders, elbows, waist and hips. I can cut them a little slack for the limited articulation due to the character design. But Mattel and Toy Biz have both put more articulation in similarly thin limbed figures in their Avatar and Marvel Legends lines. Splinter is better at eleven points of articulation. But over half of that is just the arms which have rotating shoulders, elbows and wrists. Below the waist, Splinter is more statue than action figure. The legs and tail rotate where they connect to the body at the bottom of the kimono. But that means the legs have no lateral movement. You can only control which direction the legs face. But where April's limited articulation is somewhat justified by the design, not having fully articulated legs on a figure that has a robe to cover the joints is just lazy.
Accessories - Raphael 6/10, Casey & Don 7/10, others 5/10Donatello has four accessories: his bo staff, night vision goggles, his hand held scanner and a grappling hook. The bo staff, goggles and scanner all look nice with a few paint application to add visual interest. The grappling hook is more simplistic, but a nice bonus.
Michelangelo has just three accessories. The two sets of nunchukas are no big surprise. But it is nice to see that they made a new, more details sculpt for them. The third accessory is his skateboard. The skateboard makes sense for the character and did show up in the film. But the one included with the figure is a thin plastic deck with plastic wheels and no decorations. There are so many very nice skateboards produced that would be in scale with the figures. If you've seen a Tech Deck, you can't help but be disappointed with this one.
Leonardo has a pair of katanas and his hang glider. The katanas are nice and store snugly in the sheaths on his back. But how about tossing in a broken katana too? The hang glider makes sense for those who have seen the movie (or at least the right trailer). But it is tiny. It is so small that I'm not even sure if it is suppose to represent a folded or deployed glider.
Raphael comes with four accessories, two sais and two hand weights. The hand weights are recycled from the Ripped Up Raphael figure. The sais are new molds with larger handles and sharpened blades. They look nice and the extra effort is appreciated.
Splinter has just two accessories. The first is his walking stick/staff. The other is a short staff with a blade/hook attached to it by a length of string. The walking stick is quite large, as long as Donatello's bo. But the figure is so large that the walking stick actually matches it well. The other weapon is nice, but it would make more sense for a figure like the turtles that has more mobility to its arms to wield it.
Casey Jones comes with his golf bag, another weapon holder, two baseball bats, a cricket bat, a golf club and his hockey mask of course. The sculpting for the weapons is pretty simplistic but it works. The paint work for the accessories is minimal, just some red for the strap on the golf bag. And even that has several spots missing. More disappointing is that they got the color of the hockey mask wrong. They used a traditional white. But in the end of the film, Casey is wearing a mask with a metallic color. Ideally, it would have been great if they had made all of his body armor removable so that we could have gotten a civilian Casey too. But that would be quite ambitious.
April comes with a katana, a sheath, a nightstick and two pieces of armor. The katana and sheath, while a bit too large, are accurate to the movie. In truth, they should have stopped there. The nightstick and armor are way too large and not very attractive.
All of the figures are also available with a CD containing a demo TMNT game and a few extras. The extras include a few screen savers, wallpapers, icons and a trailer of the full video game. The game is a simplified 2D side scroller. Why they didn't just include the actual demo of the PC game is puzzling to me. If you want to put your best foot forward to encourage people to buy the game, this isn't the way to do it. While free stuff is always good, all of this stuff could be found online for free. And personally, I think the wallpapers, screen savers etc... available on www.ninjaturtles.com are better. So it's hard to see where the demo disks really add anything to the figures.
Value - April & Splinter 5/10, others 7/10I suppose it can't all be wine and roses. There was bound to be a thorn. And for these figures, the thorn is the price tag. The Movie figures carry a price tag of $8 in most stores. Compared to other figures on the pegs, that isn't likely to shock anybody. But it does represent a significant increase over the previous Ninja Turtles figures. For the Turtles themselves, I have no problem forking over the extra bucks. And to a lesser extent, the same is true of Casey. But for April and Splinter, while they are nice representations of the movie characters, it has to be noted that they are not very impressive as action figures.
Happy Hunting:If you live in the United States, you should have no problem finding the Movie figures. Toys R Us, Walmart, Target, Kmart, KB Toys, and just about any other store that carries action figures is likely to carry the TMNT Movie figures. They aren't much harder to find online. But Toys R Us.com and KB Toys.com both have a good selection of the figures. The only caveat I would give is that if you want mint packaging or have a preference for the packaging variant you want, don't buy online.