Bulk Toy Review: Man of Steel 3 3/4" (Mattel)

It looks like this year will go down as one of my favorite movie years of all time. Not only do we get Star Trek Into Darkness and Pacific Rim, but also an all-new Superman movie that looks like it won't suck: Man of Steel! Although Trek was a great movie and I'm sure Pacific Rim will rival it with its giant monster awesomeness, MOS has something neither has: extensive kid-oriented merchandising. And as I've mentioned before, the merchandise of a movie is way more important than the movie itself for me. So let's see what Mattel's 3 3/4" Man of Steel line has to offer!

For this bulk toy review, we'll take a look at six figures: Split Cycle Superman, Tread Attack Superman, Auto Assault Superman, Wrecking Ball Superman, Concrete Crusher Superman, and Shadow Assault General Zod. The line probably has another half dozen other figures, but these were the ones that really caught my eye.

This isn't my first bulk toy review; you might remember my review of the 3 3/4" Green Lantern movie line from a couple years ago. There are a lot of similarities here. Obviously they're both toy lines from DC movies in the same scale, but the figures themselves are similar in style and execution, too. Like their Green Lantern counterparts, these Man of Steel figures have detailed sculpts and dynamic coloration, but the paint detailing just isn't there. The main problem with the MOS line is with the eyes.

The eyes are delineated by just a line for the upper eyelid and a dot for the iris. Action figures nowadays usually have the pupil and sclera (white of the eye) also defined, even those that are kid-oriented like Green Lantern. But the MOS look is reminiscent of vintage Star Wars figures, and not in a good nostalgic way, but in a cheap and antiquated way. Still, for toys that are clearly not intended to be collector-grade, they look cool. The bold colors and cool colorways are what sell the appeal.

I'm not sure if I'd say that the Superman head sculpt looks like Henry Cavill (at least, not as much as the Green Lantern sculpt looked like Ryan Reynolds), but I appreciate all the details and textures in the costumes. The General Zod head sculpt fares a little better, though.

Hyper-articulation fans will likely scoff at the MOS articulation: the only joints are the swivel neck, swivel-hinge shoulders, hinge elbows, and swivel hips. But as discussed before ad nauseum, hyper-articulation leads to stability and quality problems, which are especially bad for action figures designed for kids. So I'm cool with having less... just as long as the articulation that we get is meaningful for the character. I think of Superman and Zod as "punching" type of characters, so the swivel-hinge shoulders and hinge elbows work well for the figures. I'm okay with the limited leg articulation too, because Superman isn't a "kicker" or a "sitter" like Batman, who needs to be able to do ninja kicks and sit in the Batmobile. Besides, more leg articulation just means that the figure is that much more difficult to stand. It's nice to just plop the figure down without needing to sculpt it into a stable pose, hoping it won't topple over and bring all the other figures around it down along with it.

That said, the hips are limited in their backward movement by the butt sculpt and I wish they could rotate back more because the figures have the annoying tendency to plop forward when they try to hold their accessories (hence, the Star Wars stand you see in the pictures). Also, although waist articulation isn't necessary, I think a chest crunch joint that simulates Superman's flight pose would have been perfect.

The figures cost $7 each at Wally-World, slightly cheaper than the Green Lantern movie figures from 2011. It's a good price for a figure that comes with a substantial accessory, and it's reasonable enough to qualify as an impulse purchase for kids (not to mention collectors like me on a tight budget).

Overall, I give the Man of Steel line a 3 out of 5. They're not as cool as the Green Lantern movie figures (mainly because of GL's variety of aliens), but I dig the different Superman colorways and the fun accessories that come with the figures. Better paint apps (especially in the eyes) and a chest crunch joint would have been awesome, but the figures work well for what they're supposed to be.

Anyway, that's my impression of the line as a whole. Let's take a look at each figure individually:

Split Cycle Superman

This is the "hero" Superman, the figure that's supposed to represent his appearance in the movie. It's the strongest figure in that not only is it the "hero" but also it has the coolest accessory: a motorcycle that Superman can rip apart in Kryptonian rage. Unfortunately, it's not a working motorcycle... it's all one block of plastic with no moving wheels. But it looks great nonetheless.

Tread Attack Superman

I really dig the colorway for this figure (especially the black "S"), and I really, really dig the cape. Instead of the usual cloth cape, this cape made of see-through red plastic that is very similar to the strip you used to get with Transformers for reading tech-specs. I'm not sure if it's all that durable (I'm sure the first time it folds it'll be ruined), but it sure looks cool. This Superman also comes with a wheel attached to some suspension; squeeze the suspension and the wheel flys off!

Auto Assault Superman

This Superman comes with a wrecked car door. Big whup. But his armor is what makes him cool. It is similar, if not identical, to the armor that Jor-El wears in the movie. I'm not sure if Superman ever dons the armor in the movie himself, but whatever... the figure's cool anyway. Of all the colorways of the armored Superman, this one works best for me.

Wrecking Ball Superman

Besides the bold red colorway, this Superman is distinctive for his nifty wrecking ball accessory. Unfortunately, it's so heavy he has difficulty holding it (especially without the assistance of a stand), but it's pretty groovy. Mattel had some fun Frankensteining sculpts together with this figure, as a Jor-El armor right arm is attached to a normal Superman body. It's cheesy but the dynamic red coloration sold me on this figure.

Concrete Crusher Superman

This is, by far, my favorite Superman, even taking into consideration the "hero" figure. It's bright, bold and dynamic with saturated colors and red striping running down the chest and arms. I think this should have been the costume for the movie. Unfortunately it seems like this figure is short-packed, so getting one without wonky eyes can be challenging. In fact, I'm not all that enthusiastic about this sample's eyes. As you might guess, "Concrete Crusher Superman" comes with a concrete block that he can rip apart.

Shadow Assault General Zod

And finally we have the diabolical General Zod! I opted for armored Zod rather than the skin suit version because it looks that much more menacing. The sculpting for the suit looks accurate to the movie, too. But check out his sword and gun that combine into one unreasonably huge weapon of Kryptonian evil! Cool stuff. Scroll down for more pics!

Yet more pics!

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.