Wait, I know what you’re thinking… “a review of a set that’s almost two years old?” Well, except Don, who’s probably thinking about R2-D2 in a bikini, but the rest of you are probably on the whole “old set review” thing. There is a reason for this madness, and it begins with the original Batman line. I had the original Batcave, and liked the set well enough (though really, I just loved those baseplates used for the different components in it). In fact, I owned several of the original set… because a lot of people skipped them, and they ended up showing up at my local Tuesday Morning, where bad toys go to languish on shelves for years.
Once the sets were discontinued, everyone suddenly realized that Batman is awesome, and wanted a piece of the set. I sold every figure I had from the original batman sets and recouped all of the money I made buying sets from the entire line… like four times over. Fast forward to now, when this set is going to be hitting it’s end-of-life within the next six months (at least through retail chains). Super Heroes shows no signs of letting up, and that is a good thing, and LEGO is under the completely mistaken belief that you can’t make a DC superhero line without including a Batman minifigure… the chance of another Batcave showing up within the next few years is miniscule at best.
At $70, $30 lower than the first iteration, and the piece count is down almost 400 for your savings (1075 in the original, 690 in this one). And that leaves the question, with more Batman sets on the way, the last one being in big demand after it retired, and this one getting close to being locked away… is it worth your money?
The last Batman line was a great idea with bad execution. It sat in a weird little niche between movies. Batman Begins had been a hit in 2005, and the line hit in 2006, but the sets not really being directly based on any of the movies. The sets were far more influenced by the comics, cartoons, and TV show, as well as little hints here and there of the new movie. I don’t know if that was because the licensing rights were owned by someone else (I don’t think that Mega had the DC building license, but I could be wrong on that), I think that a good part is that the first movie really didn’t lend itself to marketing.
Sure, you had the Tumbler and… well, you had the Tumbler. Ra’s al Ghul wasn’t exactly a top-shelf villain the kids are going to recognize, and the movie was far darker than anything LEGO puts into a set. So instead, we got The Penguin, Bruce Wayne, Robin, Alfred, and Mr. Freeze to go along with our Batman minifigure. The new sets have no such disjointed nature… they all show up from either the Nolan Batman movies (like Bruce Wayne in this set) or from the LEGO Batman games, which is heavily influenced by the cartoons and comics.
We only get five minifigs in the new set: Poison Ivy (sadly her LEGO PG version, not an awesome Arkham Asylum version), Robin (a modern costume, not the campy one from the game), grey-suit Batman, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, and the comic version of Bane (because the movie version was so lame looking).
First up is Poison Ivy, the lady who kills guys and controls plants. Obviously, this is a mostly-new minifigure, with everything being uniquely colored. The hair is the same as the CMF Hula Dancer figure, just in red and with ivy, and the face is unique, but similar to a lot of other female figures. Since this is a comic-based character, not one from the movies, she has more of a cartoon look in the costume and hair.
She’s got an alt-face as well, one that’s angry. On her as a figure, it fits, since in the comics, Poison Ivy was both a seductress and a three-leaves-short-of-a-salad psychopath. A good figure, and better than the original. It also adds another female figure to the DC Super Heroes lineup, which I think is some sort of record for a line… they have what, four female figures now? Diversity, LEGO style!
We also get a robin. One of my favorite figures from the original Batman line (and one of the few ones other than a Batman that I held on to) was Robin from the last batcave. There is something absurdly campy (and awkward) about the 60s-style Batman figure, and that orange/green/yellow mix of colors was horrible and wonderful, all at once. Also, only one of those colors was actually on a robin, so there is that.
This is obviously a more modern Robin, but also is quite a bit more common, appearing in a polybag and two sets (so far). It’s not a bad figure, per se, and the face is generic enough to be used in other figures. But this variety of figure just isn’t as interesting as the old one is, yet it is shockingly expensive to get on Bricklink (but 1/3rd the price of the old-school one).
Batman is still batman, of the blue/grey suit variety. Yes, I know that this style was in the comic books for a long time, until Tim Burton and the 1990s made black the only acceptable color in an outfit (seriously… anyone who grew up in that decade can tell you about black+black+black clothing well before it was ruined by the emo set), but it’s always going to be about the cartoon series. I’ll admit Adam West never had a 6-pack like that (despite being 100%… pure… West), and this Batman doesn’t look like he can do the Batusi, but does have more ability to take down the Joker.
He’s unchanged… take whatever comments that we’ve made, around the headband, oversized head, terrible face, etc, and add them here.
We’re up to three Batman suits now (and various configurations of them, like with the wings in the Catwoman set), which is actually pretty cool. That being said, the blue-cowl version is on its way out, and none of the previews for next year show it (and we got white and black suits this year). While I’ve been critical about the misconception that Batman has to be in every DC Super Heroes set in order to sell it, if they’re going to expand out to all of the absurd Bat Suits, I welcome it.
An interesting fusion out of this set though, has got to be Bruce Wayne. Unlike the comic-inspired figures, this figure is pure Christian Bale. And while his Batman was fairly sub-par (check out this thread on our forums for some discussion about it… some disagree, but I stand by my assessment of him as Batman), his Bruce Wayne was absolutely spot-on.
And given that the next Bruce Wayne minifigure is going to look suspiciously like that guy from Reindeer Games… you might want to jump on this set to pick up a good Bruce Wayne. Apart from the figure itself, that suit torso is just fantastic. Then again, I may be bias, since every sig-fig I’ve ever made has featured me in a suit. Which is strange, because I never wear suits.
We also get a Bane figure. A Bane figure that is obviously from the comics… sort of. While I’ve never actually gotten around to watching “The Dark Knight Rises,” I know that the Bane figure in that looks nothing like this. This is the figure that pounded me a whole lot in Arkham Asylum, except not the size of the hulk. Bane is apparently wearing a pair of biking bibs, and while it looks okay on the front and back, the big issue is that it’s just flesh colored across the top, and it makes it look like something missing. This isn’t a new problem, as any character that has flesh printing and skimpy clothing (Slave Leia, the CMF Wrestler in Yellow, etc) is always missing that.
I like the minifigure well enough, though it feels a little underwhelming for the Man Who Broke the Bat. Since they went with the comic Bane, it would have been cool to see him on a bigger form factor, like Hulk or Troll size… that could have made this a whole different kind of set (especially if they worked in a Bruce Wayne to Batman, and Regular Bane to Venom Bane as part of the play features).
Sadly, that’s about it for minifigures. The biggest oversight in this new Batcave past the original is the lack of an Alfred figure. He was a nice solution, and played an important role in the latest movie. Plus, I would just love a Michael Caine minifig.
The set also includes a Batcycle, kind of. This isn’t the two-wheel number that comes flying out of the Tumbler in Dark Knight, more of just a cartoon slap-up of the cycle. It’s a thoroughly underwhelming little vehicle, especially compared to the wide-variety of other bat-vehicles we’ve gotten. It’s basically just a couple of technic arms with some pegs, a sticker on a slope, and some flick-fires.
Even adding a figure to it really can’t help it out all that much… it’s just kinda boring and plain. On the grand spectrum of crazy Batman Vehicles, I give it a D+. It’s far too plain and practical, and in truth, feels every-bit a tack-on in this set.
Bane’s Drill, by contrast, was given a lot more design-thought (though it still has some flick-fires). It’s fairly simple, to be sure, but it also has more detail and doesn’t look as slapped together. That being said… I don’t recall him ever using a drill in the comics (being has he was defined as super-smart without the Venom, and super-strong with it), but hey… a drill!
Maybe it’s just that I have some longing for some From Bombs to Boulders, but I like the little thing. It would have been nice to get red bionacle eyes on the flick-fires, but some treads and engine exhausts are all cool for parts.
The actual “Batcave” portion is obviously smaller than the previous version. Instead of a center bat-computer (Batman loves his bat-branding) and two cells, we get the central area (with doors) and an armory section and a holding cell. In both cases, this seems like a bad thing in general, keeping your dangerous prisoners in the same place as your ultra-secret hideout, but hey, I guess he can always just kil- oh, wait… yeah, bad idea.
This is, in theory, a play-set heavy set straight out of the comics. Sure, the Batcave existed in the Nolan movies, but it was also destroyed in Batman begins. There wasn’t all that bat-branding (hard to source parts well when you put the address of your super-secret hideout on every packing slip of boxes getting shipped in from factories in china), but still plenty of bat-shaped things.
The “big” piece of this is the fewest parts, a couple of doors on a bit of a manual slide, made to fit a Batmobile (conveniently not included in this set… you have to buy something else). From the outside, it’s kind of ugly (and lacking some flashy stickers that say “Bat Door” or the such), especially seeing the back of the stairs and the inside of the BURPs. From the inside, it’s not bad, and normally not something I’d focus on, being the back, but it’s obviously designed to go through.
The coolest part of this half is the computer section, with the stickered panels on some wonderful trans-light-blue large flags. This has been a go-to part in a lot of different sets for creating fancy computers, and I’ll admit that it works better than the massive tile slopes used in the old batcave set. It’s self-referential, which isn’t a bad thing, with little easter-eggs for the Batwing, Batmobile, and the ugly cycle, but I wonder if you really need a map for an attack on your own hideout.
The console stickers have a whole lot of use outside of this, even being stickers. You can drop them into almost any cockpit or build that needs some controls, which is cool. Also, there’s some bat-coffee, which I’m sure is free-trade (and punched instead of ground).
The other half of the Batcave set is a “quick-change” section, similar to what we got in the original Batcave, just a little less spinny (and a lot more droppy). We also get a holding cell, this time with laser bars instead of big black gates, and a little armory section (there is no Bat-Flamethrower to tie into the merchandising release… kids love that one).
Tbe change area is pretty basic, with a big sticker to help Bruce identify what he’s going to look like when he comes out. Seriously… who are those screens for? Does he confuse his change area for Robin’s? Or is it just to impress the frequent dates he brings to the rodent-filled cave?
You “activate” the thing by pulling a little pin, dropping the platform down and revealing a different minifg. It’s designed to put Bruce Wayne on top and a Batman minifigure in the middle. While interesting as a feature, it’s annoying to move and reset, so it strikes me as the kind of thing that can go away. I liked the simple flip-around from the earlier set, and that’s something that could have been added (and free up some parts) without altering the set too drastically.
Also, who wants to fall 12-feet just from changing into your underoos? It’d probably just lead to you having to change them again.
That being said, on the top of this changing room is my absolute favorite part of this set… THE Red Telephone! It’s a straight-up reference to the TV Show (where it originated), which was so iconic and pervasive that its what people think of when they imagine the non-existent White House red phone. It’s awesome, and something that should be worked into every set going forward.
There is a little armory put together, in yellow, because why not? It’s conveniently located well above the section where he changes into the Batsuit, which means that either he’s carrying a handful of gear into that changing rom, or it’s there to look cool. Given that he’s branded it at “Bat-Gear,” I’m thinking this is just something else to show off to a date during a tour, but who knows. It could be Batman is the kind of genius that can design all kinds of gear, but can’t identify things that aren’t clearly labeled, even in his own home. Also, he’s a terrible architect… this is like putting the bowl where you keep your keys and wallet on the counter of your bathroom instead of near the door you walk out on the way to your car.
The holding cell is meant to keep Poison Ivy captured, but strikes me as being poorly designed to hold a woman that can manipulate and control plants. Laser bars are cool, but not when spaced in such a way that you could grow a killer vine through the bars, under the gate, above the gate, or in general, everywhere that you don’t want someone with killer vines to be. I’m pretty sure that her holding cell in Arkham had her in a big plastic cube, with no way to “grow” out. Batman… great at face punching, bad at planning.
The actual holding cell is stickered, along with the alert signs and the big panel, and the computer stuff… needless to say, there are a lot of stickers in this set. In truth, most of them, like the big panels and the displays, aren’t all that bad. But the Holding Cell and the computer panels look bad because of the choice of colors for their elements, not the stickers themselves. We’re desensitized to stickers at this point, but something about putting a big black sticker on a light gray plate still feels wrong.
By contrast, the “ALERT” sticker looks okay, even though it’s on the same color, because it looks like a digital screen. “Holding Cell” is a sign (and a little screen), and it would look better on black. The transparent ones look okay because they’re on transparent elements, but the computer keyboard ones just stand out. Worse, there are just so many stickers in so many places that it feels overdone… just like the last Batcave did. LEGO has actually gotten better with stickers in recent years, and even other sets released around the same time (Hulk’s Helicarrier Breakout, QuinJet), aren’t as jarring as this one was.
Ultimately, this set is on par with the old one… and that’s not really a good thing. It’s not a bad set, but it’s also not a good one. There are play features, but most of them don’t fit together. The bat-computer is a great observational tool, and by itself looks cool, but you don’t want to be fighting up there. Poison Ivy’s cage looks to be designed to be especially ineffective against her particular powers (maybe add a weed-eater to the gate or something… just sayin’).
The figure selection is also a mixed bag; individually, they’re all nice, but not having Alfred in here (which was great in the original) and using figures that are mostly available elsewhere (Robin, Poison Ivy, Grey-Suit Batman) hurt the value of the set. We also have a mix of movie (Bruce Wayne), comics (Robin, Poison Ivy), and video games (Bane, Batman) in the figure designs. So
Given that it’s reaching the end of its life, it’s harder to peg the value. As a set, this thing isn’t anything special. Even with figures, if that’s what you’re interested in, you’re better off just picking up Bane and Bruce Wayne on the aftermarket and getting the rest of the figures elsewhere. As a parts pack, there is decent value, with plenty of trans-blue, treads, and other parts. The great bases and spiral stairs from the old badcave are gone, replaced with pillars and plates. The price is lower, but so is what it delivers.
What I liked
- THE Red Phone
- Christian Bale-inspired Bruce Wayne is great. Comic inspired, boring Robin… not so much
- Trans-blue screens, trans blue panels… there are plenty of usable parts in this set
- Bane’s drill, while absurd, is a nice little vehicle
What I didn’t like
- Minifig sources are inconsistent, and lacking Alfred who should be in the Batcave with Bruce Wayne
- Too many stickers. Some look good, some look awful
- Bat-cycle is a tack on at best. Also, why does Batman brand so much of his stuff?
Verdict: Pick it up on sale or clearance as it starts to go away. It’s already out of a lot of stores, but you can still find it at Amazon and Shop@Home. Then use those parts to build a bigger, better, Batcave.