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Review: 70909 Batcave Break-in

70909-batcave-break-in-full-set

I’ve owned all of the versions of the Batcave save the ’66 one, probably in some vain attempt to build a proper Batcave someday. The reason behind skipping the Classic TV version is that I honestly don’t think it looks nice enough to drop that kind of money on. Once I get over a certain price point on a set, I expect it to be displayed all of the time. If it won’t be (looking at you, Hoth Waste of Money), it’s probably not worth the investment. I’d rather just pick off any minifigures or the like and be done with it than have a giant set that doesn’t look good on a shelf.

At $99.99 and 1047, this isn’t an insignificant investment… $30 more than the last version but with a whole bunch more parts (and less giant panels everywhere), but still a whole lot easier to accept than the $270 for that big tan monster. LEGO was kind enough to send us 70909 Batcave Break-In along with the Lowrider and Batmobile sets for review, but if history is any indication, I’ll likely end up buying more than one of this set to try and build something bigger (I’ve actually had three each of the previous two Batcave sets). It’s kind of hard to watch the LEGO Batman movie trailer without wanting to build what you see in there.

If you’ve watched the trailer (or, if you’ve like me and have watched the trailer a couple of dozen times), the thing that stands out about this set compared to the other two we’ve reviewed is that it’s clearly inspired by the movie, but not really based on it. While there are little elements of the movie in everything we see here, it doesn’t really look like any of that stuff. If anything, at first glance, this looks a lot like a new skin on the previous version of the Batcave. That being said… putting Batman in a gold cape is probably worth an extra point or two in any review score.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that the Batcave is what stole the show in the SDCC trailer. The whole idea of Batman having a carousel of ever-changing Batsuits, ranging from the practical (Scuba Batsuit) to the Silly (El Mariachiago) to the what the (Merbat) was the perfect mixture of Batman and LEGO. There was even a Christmas Bat, which always has me hoping for a great Batman Advent calendar some day…

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We get a whole bunch of minifigs, and for the first time ever, four of them are Batman (five, if you want to count Bruce Wayne). Unlike previous Batcave sets, we only get one bad guy, the Penguin, in his new Batman movie form. It feels very inspired by Danny DeVito with a bit of Burgess Meredith style thrown on top. Rounding out the mix is Alfred, featuring a lot of parts introduced elsewhere like the bald hair and coat tails.

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Batman is the same as what we got in the Batmobile set, so pretty much everything still applies. I think, at least… there might be a slightly different mix of features, but not enough to really review it on its own.

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This is the Raging Batsuit. Are kids (or even a lot of adults) going to get a Raging Bull reference? Honestly, without the name, I wouldn’t have even gotten it, and I love that movie. It’s no Rocky IV, but if anyone other than Rocky could punch communism to death, it’s going to be Batman. I like that there’s something about the top, if you swap hands, that feels almost like a ’66 throwback. Too many muscles sculpted into the shirt (everyone knows that ’66 Batman’s abs were 100 percent… pure… West…), but I love that huge belt buckle with them.

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I’d actually love to get more of this particular figure for the legs and for the boxing gloves. I keep working on that Sporting Goods store modular, and they’d be some great additions and gear and a mannequin. What I really wish is that they would have taken the crazy even farther, and put on fleshy legs towards the bottom, making it Batman top and just straight-up boxing trunks on the bottom. Still, a great little fig.

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Apparently sculpted abs don’t work as well underwater, so Scu-Bat gets a more traditional, and, again, very classic ’66 look (no inclusion of Bat Shark Repellant is a huge oversight here, but will be rectified in the CMF line). On one hand, we have another scuba-suit Batman thanks to the regular Super Heroes line… on the other, this one looks so much better. The blue suit, the blue cowl top, orange utility belt and re-breather… there’s a whole lot to love here.

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I like this figure a lot more than I was expecting to, I just wish the back had a little bit something more, or there was some gadget for it.

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The last suit is called the Bat-Pack Suit, which is far less Rat Pack and much more “lounge singer telling stories about that one time he met Sinatra in the lobby area outside the Coppa room at the Sands when he was in Vegas that one time before heading back to Branson for his opening gig at Presleys’ Country Jubilee.” That would also really fit the narrative that the movie seems to be establishing as well. All that being said, how can you not love a gold-caped batman with a bat-shaped bow tie and a tuxedo? I mean… seriously.

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This is easily the most reusable of the figures, since only the gold cowl is distinctly Batman. The cape is also different from any others we’ve seen, since it’s much thicker and metallic on one side (plain black on the other). The black part is the spongy material, but the rest is solid, giving this cape a feel between the old and new styles. I’d love to see the material make a return elsewhere… but I’ve said that before (printed capes, sparkly capes) and it never seems to happen, so it’s probably a one and done.

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Alfred here is very much in the style of the Animated Series and DCAU (up until the more recent, post-Nolan versions); he typically has had hair when in popular media, and the age jumps around a lot. Personally, I’ll always like Michael Caine’s version the best (though if given more time, I think Jeremy Irons could do a great job as well), but I like that this one has a personality all his own.

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I like the use of the bald cap that the CMF line gave us, though I’m not that big of a fan of the long coattails, mostly because the texture and color difference. I’m not sure how they could have fixed it, but it seems like going plastic over cloth might have matched better here.

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Oswald Cobblepot is a character that has run the gambit in the Batman universe. Outside of the DeVito version, he’s typically not one of the psychopathic or insane character types… he’s just a crook that’s got his gimmick. In the comics, he’s gone from nemesis to neutral to informant to… crazy guy with penguin costumes. In the shows, he’s been all over the place as well, usually more on the comic effect side than the sinister, and it seems like they’re going that way here. Also, that umbrella part is awesome.

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The scarf part is also a great little addition, and I want to see that pop up in some of the winter sets or other stuff. That’s the accessory I’d love to get in order to put on figures in my modular collection… it’d work especially well around the Theater. Which makes me think I should set up a hidden section behind it where the Waynes are getting mugged. Or is that too dark?

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We get another version of Bruce Wayne here, which is distinctly different from what we saw in previous sets or the LEGO movie. That version was far more Christian Bale-inspired, so I get the change, but I would have liked to see the face stick a bit closer. That being said, the white tux, the bow-tie, and that hair are all great additions (the change in hair was even played up in the latest trailer).

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What really wins with this character, however, is that alt-face. I can totally buy that Bruce Wayne in the LEGO universe is insanely charming and charismatic… but he’s really the “fake” identity to cover up for Batman. That being said, I’m not sure this version is ever going to ask us about a sound system.

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Not quite minifigures, but we do get a couple of Hench Penguins, which add to the ever-growing line of brick animals. I liked the old brick-built ones, but there’s something nice here that makes me want to make some sort of evil zoo enclosure. The little stud in the back of the birds lets us attach backpacks, but I found them to be far to big and they unbalanced the bird. An interesting idea, but it didn’t work well in practice.

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You know, I’m not exactly sure when the Penguin got all obsessed with Rubber Duckies. Is the implication here that at some point, Ernie stops talking to Bert and becomes some sort of homicidal criminal that’s dedicated to bend birds to his will in an effort to take over both Gotham and Seseme Street? Given how much Bert loves Pigeons, it seems like they’d work better at partners. Maybe Bert got killed in a skirmish with Batman (who may not be in to killing people, but apparently doesn’t know that traumatic head injuries can do just that), and that turned Ernie into the Penguin.

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At least that’s the head-canon I’m going to go with to explain why the Rubber Duck car showed up in Batman Returns. It certainly makes more sense than anything else that happened in that movie. I actually like the vehicle here, but I kind of wish we would have gotten something more… penguin-y. We’re only a year or so removed when a thematically similar vehicle with the same character was available, and while there’s more to this one, it still feels very much like a rehash.

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This version of the Batboad, christening “Riptide,” presumably because Batman is a huge Joe Penny fan (if you pause and look very closely, you’ll notice that the Bat-blimp is named “Jake and the Fat Man”… at least in my imagination). I’m not precisely sure where this inspiration for this one came from… comics, probably.

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It’s not a bad ship, and certainly has a nice line to it. I’m not a huge fan of the big slopes on the side, they just sit there and don’t precisely follow the line of the boat. The stud launchers, however, fit quite nicely into the setup, and the stickers that are used on it are used quite well.

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I think my big issue with this boat is that it feels so lazy compared to everything else that I’ve built from the LEGO Batman movie sets. It lacks the charm of the Batmobile or the style of the low rider. Even compared to everything we’ve seen in the trailer, this feels so… ordinary.

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Even in the short bit of the trailer, we got sight of multiple boats that could have been made instead of this one… I’m not sure how the part count would have worked out for some of these, but somehow, I’m thinking that a patrol boat or a cruiser would have worked so much better than the “Riptide” does.

70909-batcave

The Batcave should strike everyone as familiar, as this is a basic set design we’ve gotten several times since the Super Heroes line launched. The original Batcave had similarities, as did a couple of the Marvel sets (Helicarrier Breakout comes to mind, kind of). The biggest set this really reminds me of in recent memory is the Star Wars 75093 Death Star Final Duel. While there certainly are differences, so much about this build shares aspects with a lot of the other playsets recently.

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There are a few different areas built into the set. The extremely undersized computer screens… which is understandable, given the excessive setup that’s really in the trailer, and some walkways which exist in no form at all in the movie Batcave. Still, it would have been nice to see this spread out a whole lot more, or at least some of the stickers made bigger. The screens are supposed to look like the Batman logo, and instead we get some sort of moth logo (and Arthur isn’t even here to dispense justice).

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In front of it, we get a small desk area that feels more like Batman’s travel desk than the multi-station setup that we saw Alfred hiding behind. The platform itself is just far too small, and comes off as being a big misuse of parts. That’s true of a lot of this set… there are a lot of parts, but most of them are used to make things look all wrong. This could have easily just been flattened out to give us more substance to the platforms instead of having to raise everything.

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The right side has a little “quick change” spinner where you’re meant to hide Bruce Wayne and turn him into Batman. In practice, I guess it works, though the original Batcave had a similar device with less parts that was equally not fun to use.

The big issue I had with it is that you have to be very deliberate on how you place the figures. There’s not quite enough room to put them straight… Batman needs to lean forward a bit for it to work, but at the same time, if you put them on the studs at the front, it will hit the side as it spins (and likely come off the platform and get stuck pack there). Maybe there will be something similar in the movie… but again, this just feels like things that could have been used elsewhere to do better things.

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We get a little prison section with walls that were apparently sub-contracted to LexCorp. I’m not sure I understand the wisdom of Batman hiding criminals in his secret lair, but I suppose sometimes he needs to do things like interrogate them or separate members of the World Council into the Bat Centerfuge. It’s not a terrible part, just not a very useful one. It’s too small and tacked on. Again, maybe it will fit into the movie, but I see nothing in the Batcave we saw that makes it seem like it’ll show up.

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The star, though, at least for me (and my daughter), is the little costume carousel. It featured very strongly in the trailer with Robin, so it makes sense to come out in this set. That being said… in the trailer, it basically ran the length of the platform end. The whole mechanism for Batcostumes wraps around the entirety of the Batcave.

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I mean, there must be thousands of suits back there. I seriously hope that someone did an Easter Egg where there’s a version of Iron Man’s armor. Obviously, they were never going to make that in any sort of set, but they could have done so much more here. For one, I wish it was incorporated into the main walkway, so we could set up Batman and Robin to look at it. Instead, it sits off on the side and has no real connection to anything else.

For another… the mechanism is simply too short. I know it’s a cost thing, but seven spots seems small with the number of suits we already have plus what is coming. Nothing about the setup or display looks or feels right compared to the trailer. The tread needs to be wider (at least twice as wide), the positioning should be at the front, and there should be a big red button off to the side for someone to push.

Because of the size, you’re also going to be restricted on what suits you can really put there. Space Batman can work if you’re willing to put up his wings… what what’s the point of having cool space wings if you’re not going to leave them out. Armored BvS batman doesn’t look out of palce, but the shallow setup of the platform means that you have to bend him forward. Pirate Batman ends up with a backwards torso… mostly because I let my daughter play with this and apparently she decided some minifig torture was in order.

batcave-size

This set feels like a huge missed opportunity, given the general look we get with the new Batcave. I’m obviously not expecting a set that large, but the general layout, look, and feel are unique in the trailer, and they could have built and planned the set more in line to what we’re seeing in the trailer. Instead, everything about this feels like such a rehash of so many other sets and nothing really like what we see. There’s plenty to like in it, but if you own the previous Batcave, there’s not a lot to want here other than the Batman sets. It has plenty of parts value, but unlike the other sets I’ve reviewed thus far, it lacks the charm that the rest of the stuff seems to ooze.

Compared to everything else we’ve seen in the LEGO Batman Movie line, this is simply a poorly designed copy/paste set. Unfortunately, it feels like LEGO has been doing more and more sets like this lately, where there’s a general style or process that a designer has, and we stick parts on it until it can be sold again. If the set was only about the minifigs, it’s fantastic… but really, it’s always going to be about the set too. There is a better set waiting to be made for the Batcave, and I think it could have been done in the part budget this set already had. Get rid of the jail, or the change room, and of all the raised elements. Make the costume changer twice as wide and figure out a way to swing it so it can move from the side to the end of the platform when the button is “pressed.”

The biggest issue I have with the figures really isn’t the figures, but more the fact that it seems like Dick Grayson should be in there (and it should have the Bat costume he eventually picks for his own). The change between them to Robin could have been a really fun feature here, and something to tie the whole set together. Instead, because we’re trying to put some sort of “conflict” around the Batcave, we get a very subpar set with a figure selection that doesn’t make a lot of sense. There is plenty they could have made just making a Batcave set, and still played into the “Batman is alone” joke. Instead, this set just goes and gives us the same old thing, and a Batman with a shiny (yet awesome) cape.

I’m left wanting a different set than what we got here. There are some great figures and good parts, but the whole of this thing is just… meh. If you own previous versions of the Batcave, you’re going to wonder what this one really has to offer you, and the unfortunate answer is “not much.” What should have been a marquee set is probably the weakest in the lineup thus far, and I’m going to have to call this a two out of five. Great to grab on sale or if you don’t have a similar set, but otherwise, wait for a deep discount.

What I Liked

  • An excuse to listen to Strangers in the Night while building the Bat Pack suit; rest of the suits are equally fantastic
  • A decent selection of parts and variety, and decent value in parts for the money
  • Everyone needs “Duck and Cover” stickers

What I Didn’t Like

  • The whole of the Batcave is just a missed opportunity, doesn’t match up to what we’ve seen of the movie, and is like so many other sets we’ve had in recent years
  • Lack of Robin / Dick Grayson feels out of place with what we’ve seen so far
  • Penguin feels shoehorned into the set, and his vehicle is too much like the one we had in a previous set
  • The Batboat lacks the style and charm of the other vehicles in the line

Verdict: 2 out of 5. You can buy 70909 Batcave Break-In right now at LEGO [email protected], along with the other three LEGO Batman Movie sets.

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Final Score: 2 out of 5 stars.