The second and final installment of Tim Burton’s Batman franchise, Batman Returns employs a markedly different approach than the film that preceded it. At times, it adopts a lighter tone, with Bat-hangers and silly puns. But at others, Returns goes darker and creepier than perhaps any Batman film before or since. No character bears more responsibility for this latter shift than Danny DeVito’s Penguin: a filthy, murderous creep bent on making Gotham suffer for the sins of his own parents.
Returns has a mixed reputation among fans, and I would put myself in the camp of folks who don’t hate the film, but don’t particularly like it, either. And yet, from the moment I first beheld NECA’s new Mayoral Penguin figure, I knew it had to be mine. As gross as DeVito’s Cobblepot is in the movie, and as uneasy as his meticulously-detailed 1/4-scale likeness makes my wife and children, there’s just something about this bird that has me interested.
So it’s January of 2017, I just received mine from NECA, and now—through the power of the internet—I will share it with you.
The box, and its inevitable unpacking
I don’t keep product boxes, because I don’t have the space. But I do appreciate nice packaging and good design. This one has “Batman Returns” set in the font used on the film’s promotional material, which is a nice detail—particularly because the font is not instantly recognizable, and they could have taken the easy way out and used an approximate match. Most folks would not have noticed, but I appreciate the fine-grained approach. Beyond that, there are some pics of Penguin, a nice front-page view of the Gotham Globe, and—my personal favorite—a reproduction of the “Oswald Means Order” button that was visible at the campaign headquarters in the film.
Unboxing is a fairly simple affair. Plastic-coated wiring secures the figure against a “Cobblepot for Mayor” backdrop (also straight from the film), and other than the two large wires holding his paunch and his legs, I was able to remove everything without the aid of a tool. With a little more work, I might have been able to get those ones loose, too, but it was easier to just cut them from the back.
If, like me, you don’t save your boxes, be careful to remove the scale-sized “Cobblepot for Mayor” poster at Oswald’s left side. It’s part of the box, so it’s easy to miss if you’re moving quickly. You’re instructed to cut along the perforation, but I was able to remove it easily without a tool.
Out of the box, Ozzie looks dapper, but not quite all the way there. In his most basic configuration, he’s got his dress pants, shirt, vest, and tie. But why leave him so naked? The box also includes his signature top hat, cigarette (in holder), and monocle, as well as a combination coat and overcoat (two separate pieces in the movie, but NECA has made them a one-piece) and a half-eaten fish—much like the one Cobblepot carried downstairs before meeting his campaign team and pinning a button on the chest of an aide in a completely non-creepy, innocent way. Last—but not least—is an extra right hand, featuring a more open posture that allows the would-be mayor to hold his delectable comestible.
Is it any good?
Yes. It is good. As indifferent as I am toward Returns, there’s something pretty amazing about a figure with this degree of likeness. The sculpting, skin tone, and detailed paint work on the teeth and eyes make this a dead ringer for DeVito’s Penguin. While there are elements of the rest of the figure that make it feel less authentic, the most important feature is spot-on.
So beyond the pretty face, yes: not everything can be mistaken for the real deal. Oswald has strands of hair on the back of his head, which looks fabulous when he’s got his hat on, but it connects to plastic, painted hair a little higher up, and the combination looks worse (with his hat off) than if all of the hair had been plastic. If you think you’d like to display this figure in its simplest form, you might be disappointed by that (I plan on keeping mine fully decked out).
Moving south, while the pants and coat are made from fabric (and the coat has a nice faux-fur collar), the shirt and vest are plastic, and you can tell unless you’re some distance away. The lack of real fabric has another, more significant drawback: you can see the arm sockets and elbow joints, because the “shirt” is just paint on the textured arm of the figure. Again, this should only be a problem if you’re displaying him without the coat, but it’s still good to know before you get it. And if the visible joints don’t bother you, the “dirty” paint job on the shirt is nicely done.
The interchangeable right hand is a great feature (though expected in the industry at this point), but on mine, a little bit of paint chipped off of each right hand while I was switching between them. Most of that paint was on the shaft—which is invisible with the hand installed—but some of it was from the heel of the hand. NECA told me that they don’t have any documented cases of this being a problem during testing, or with other customers, but this is a new figure, so time will tell. Regardless, they offered to send me two new right hands, so if you experience the same issue, just reach out to customer support and I’m sure they’ll work with you.
As for the accessories, the coat, top hat, and cigarette are fantastic. In addition to looking great, they’re all fairly easy to put on or in. You have several location options for the cigarette, and yet the mouth design and paint do a great job of masking those locations, even when you’re looking closely. The top hat, like the upper-body clothing, is plastic, rather than fabric or fabric-covered, but the inherent stiffness of the real thing makes it easier for the plastic to fake it here.
The fish is disgusting, as it should be.
The monocle isn’t all that impressive. It looks like cheap plastic—both the frame and the lens—and the tiny length of string attached might be the least-convincing reproduction in the box (besides his shoelaces, which you won’t see if you don’t lift his pant legs). It doesn’t look awful (see for yourself in the picture), but you don’t even have to get that close to see that it isn’t hitting the mark. What’s worse, it’s terribly hard to get into the hole that’s meant for it (on the inside corner of Oswald’s left eye), and my impatience led to me breaking the peg after a few days. It’s not NECA’s fault that I broke it, but the hole is very tight, and the plastic (by necessity) is not the stoutest stuff, so beware (and be patient!).
But can he dance?
The articulation for this figure is, unsurprisingly given the character it’s modeled after, limited. You can rotate and raise the arms at the shoulder, and you can bend the elbows, but only into two distinct positions, with no smooth trim along the way. It’s very hard to bend them, as well, which should be great for keeping a pose, but a little frustrating while you’re trying to do it. The hands allow for more smooth movement at the wrist, with rotation and flexion at the joint.
The legs can move in and out where the thighs join the body, and they can rotate a very small amount within the limits of the pants. The knees offer three positions as well as rotation, and the feet can be angled side-to-side or front-to-back. Like the arms, there isn’t a whole lot of articulation here, but giving up that movement makes for an incredibly stable figure, and for the Penguin—particularly in these clothes—dynamic poses probably aren’t what most folks are after.
But Brian, does Oswald really mean order?
So, given the shortcomings, should you still buy this? It ultimately depends on what you’re after—an impeccable reproduction, or a really excellent figure that gets the most important things right and won’t cost you several hundred dollars. At just a little over a $100.00, this is a great deal, and with the coat and hat on, it looks amazing. If you’re a fan of the film, or you like what you see here, order one—it’s a great addition to any collection.