Here we have something a bit special in the Minimates line. Following the success of the DAVE School-animated short “Batman: New Times” last year, here we have a pack containing a new Minimates animated movie called “Darktide” and 4 of the Minimates seen in the movie. This set is available from comic shops but will be hitting Target and TRU in the next few weeks, as well as Borders. This is a great jumping-on point for new fans and will hopefully ride on some of the hype generated by the next X-Men film which is due out in May. Thanks once again to Jose Lagos for picking me up this set.
The packaging is in a style not seen for any Minimates sets so far, because of the need to incorporate a normal-sized DVD case inside. I like the fact that they didn’t skimp on this aspect, as it would have been a lot easier to put the DVD in a paper slipcase or a smaller jewel case. The blue used as the main colour is very vibrant and stands out, and they have wisely focused on a large “X-Men” logo and pictures of the 4 Minimates, who will all be appearing in the upcoming X-Men 3. The Minimates ae all their original versons rather than the new facial expressions, which is slightly odd.
The back of the box has some details on the Minimates included, which is a great touch that I really like. I always find a little bit of biography information on action figure packaging (GI Joe, Marvel Legends etc) to be a good thing, as it educates people who may not know anything about the figures. That’s something that previous Minimate packaging has lacked. Also on the back are some screens taken from the Darktide movie. The side bars have pictures of the 4 Minimates and headshots taken from the movie, to further solidify the connection between the DVD and the figures.
The DVD is encased in a plastic tray in which the Minimates sit. A plastic cover held on by tape prevents the Minimates from falling out. Overall, it’s very dynamic packaging that works to show off all it contains.
The Darktide movie is a computer-generated animation starring the X-Men taking on Sentinels before going head to head with Magneto and his fellow villains. It was produced by the talented students of the DAVE School. The Minimate style looks fantastic in animation, as it did in last years Batman: New Times mini-movie, and the dialogue is good, with the highlight for me being an amusing reference to another film. The main drawback with it is that it’s only 9 minutes long. However this was done as a student project and they did not have the staff, time or funds to do anything longer. It’s nice that Art Asylum and Marvel are getting this film out to the mainstream toy buyers because it’s a great advert for Minimates.
It appears to be Region Zero, so should work in any DVD player. Don’t quote me on that though. It worked on mine and I’m in the UK.
The first Minimate in this set is Cyclops, in his New X-Men uniform first seen in wave 9. Of all the Minimates featured in this set, he is the newest and therefore has the least number of production changes on the Minimate body.
Each Minimate in this set gets a new facial expression to differenciate them from the originals. Cynics would say that this change has been made to ensure collectors buy the set but I would hope the Darktide movie would be regarded as a big draw regardless. Cyclops originally had a very detailed face, which was almost too busy compared to some of the other versions of Cyclops like the Ultimate versions. Here we get a much simpler face which fits in more with those earlier releases, especially with the mouth which is in an angry grimace. The visor/hairpiece is removable to reveal Cyclops’s red eyes, and even they have been done much simpler this time.
The rest of the figure is identical to the wave 9 version, with the only difference being the copyright date on the back of the legs which has changed from 2004 to 2005. Straight re-releases tend not to get new copyright dates. As a later version of the Minimate body New X-Men Cyclops always had C3 feet and the double-V torso connection.
No Cyclops figure ever comes with accessories and this one is no different.
Overall, the new expression on this Cyclops works for me in that it is quite different to the original and is a nice nod back to the earlier Cyclops Minimates.
MMC Score – 7 out of 10
The second figure in the set is Wolverine in his New X-Men costume. Previously he was available in wave 6 along with the New X-Men Jean Grey. Jean, I’m sure, would have been very close to being included in this set, as she has a lot of screen time in Darktide, but I’m guessing they didn’t want to include two figures that were previously available in a single two-pack.
Wolverine has the most extreme-looking facial detailing change made to his face. His formally smiling countenance is replaced by a very toothy snarling look which makes him look suitably wild and feral. It’s actually a good thing that it has changed so much, as it really changes the overall attitude of the Minimate. The first Wolverine is the one that’d be in the X-mansion, having a bit of a flirt with Jean whilst winding up Scott. This one is Wolverine when he is completely out for blood, and it’s a useful face to have in setting up a fight situation if you are playing or posing them.
Apart from his facial detail, nothing else has been changed. However, wave 6 came out several years ago, so the copyright information has changed from 2003 to 2005. In addition, as the original Wolverine Minimate was created with the Minimate body of the time, there are a couple of cosmetic changes. First off, Wolverine gets C3 feet. Second, the torso peg has changed from being the horizontal <> shaped type to the current vertical double V shape.
Still no accessories for Wolverine. I’ve been banging on about extra sets of non-clawed hands for years but still no sign of them.
Overall, this is variant that is nicely different to the original.
MMC Score – 7 out of 10
The third Minimate in the set is the unstoppable Juggernaut, who we haven’t seen since way back in wave 5. Juggernaut is one of the many Marvel inhabitants who have been both a villain and a hero, but in the Darktide story he definitely counts as a villain to be reckoned with.
Juggernaut always had a scowly demeanour, and this new face gives him… a scowly demeanour. Minus the ginger eyebrows, which is probably a blessing. The eyes are slightly more crazed, and the overall detailing, whilst still quite busy, is definitely “cleaner”.
Juggernaut suffers more than the others in the paint and detailing department. First, he is missing a paint app on his chest. The original has a the lower lined torso in a different colour to the upper torso, but on this new one there is no extra colouring. In addition, the paint apps on the boots (sometimes a problem area with Minimates) have been applied very sloppily. There is a tremendous amount of bleed between the dark red of the boots and the brown colour above it, and the black detailing lines are very sloppy, especially on the back of the figure where they don’t even meet. This makes the figure seem a bit shoddy. The copyright information has changed from 2003 to 2005, and Juggernaut features C3 feet now. The torso peg has changed from the old circular one to the new vertical double V shape.
Juggernaut is the only Minimate in the set to come with an accessory, a hairpiece. It’s the same one that the original came with, and it was always a nice inclusion. The Juggernaut seen in Darktide makes use of the bulkier body overpiece given to several of the Thing Minimates in wave 8, and it works really well in the animation. It’s such a shame that they could not do the same thing for the toy as Juggernaut is crying out to be beefed up.
Overall, Juggernaut’s expression isn’t very far removed from the original, I do like it slightly more but it’s nowhere near as different as the others expressions are compared to their originals. This is a so-so addition to the pack let down by bad paint and the missed opportunity to do a larger, more imposing version.
MMC Score – 5 out of 10
The last figure in the set is the main villain of the Darktide movie, the evil Master of Magnetism, Magneto, who was originally available as an AFX exclusive back in 2004.
The original Magneto face was quite cartoony, but showed a lot of character (mainly arrogance). This new expression shows his angry side, as his mouth is open in a rage. The expression is very different to the first one, with a more “realistic” style (the red background in the mouth, the almost individual teeth etc). Like Cyclops and Wolverine, this facial expression would make sense if posed in a fight scene.
Apart from the facial detailing, there isn’t a whole lot new here. The helmet may be a slightly brighter red than before, but the rest of the costume is the same – with the cape having the 2003 copyright molded in, it’s not worth retooling it to change it. The copyright on the legs does change to 2005 from 2003 though. Magneto also gets C3 feet and the torso peg changes from the circular one to the vertical double V shape.
Magneto comes with no accessories. I also want to add here that back in 2004 when the line was young, Magneto was one of the first Minimates to get a cape and it was very exciting. A couple of years later, we have many other Minimates utilising capes in new ways, from the dynamic flow of Street Fighter’s M.Bison to the pivoting cape of Street Justice Batman, and Magneto’s cape doesn’t seem quite as exciting anymore in 2006.
Overall, Magneto rounds off the set nicely, being a key part of Darktide and a solid Minimate villain.
MMC Score – 8 out of 10
Overall Thoughts: From the collectors standpoint, despite the addition of the DVD which is a nice, if short, extra, this set offers nothing much that is new. However I firmly believe that this set has not been designed with the collector market in mind. This set is designed to appeal to a younger audience, with a attention-span friendly DVD that they will want to watch over and over, and a set with two heroes and two villains from the DVD to fight each other. In my previous reviews, I have always been a strong advocate of getting the hero/villain ratios right. My ideal is always one hero to one villain. That’s not always possible in a market where the good guy toys sell better than the bad guy toys but I always feel if you are providing kids with a hero to face off against a villain then that encourages play, and here we have a nice 2 v 2 situation.
I haven’t given the Minimates in the set very marks compared to, say, the Street Fighter Minimates, but truly this set is more than just its component parts. From the excellent DVD to the play-friendly Minimates and the nice packaging job, it just all works together extremely well.
Review and pictures by Danny Mills