Where does he get those wonderful toys! – The Joker, Batman
Review by Ian Delaney: Batman is famous for two possessions: the high-speed, highly armored Batmobile, and the utility belt. The utility belt holds all the tools the world’s greatest detective needs.
Now, NECA has released a replica utility belt based on the 1989 Tim Burton movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. It comes with several gadgets seen in the movie, as well as devices you would expect Batman to carry.
The packaging is, as you expect, is all black with simple graphics and the gold and black ’Batman’ logo from the movie. The Batarang comes in a separate box with matching graphics. A black vacuformed tray holds the contents of each box.
The Batarang comes in a separate box because NECA previously made it and sold it as a single item. It is made of hard plastic and hinged in three places so that it collapses. Magnets embedded in the body hold it in the open or closed position until you change it. It’s easy to open the Batarang with a flick of the wrist after a little practice.
Inside the large box you’ll find a two-layer tray, with the grapnel gun on the top layer. The gun detail is movie-accurate from what I can see and has one moving part: a pistol grip that folds out and snaps into place. NECA has already created a grapnel gun with a spring-loaded launcher and battery-powered winch. NECA could have included their existing grapnel gun the same way they added the Batarang, but chose not to, perhaps to keep the cost down.
Removing the top tray reveals the belt itself and the smaller gadgets. The belt is a solid circle of hard plastic. The back of the belt expands with a hinged racket to change the size of the belt without affecting the appearance of the front. This lets the belt fit waists from 31.5 to 50 inches. The front buckle snaps together and is released by a center push button. Four vertical capsule pods surround the belt and break it into sections.
The rest of the tray contains the remaining gadgets for the belt. The “Torch”, “Taser”, “Scanner”, “Micro Camera”, “Rebreather”, and “Gas Pellets” all have matching yellow caps and will fit into the pods on the belt. The oddly shaped “Smoke Bombs” will not fit into the capsules or anywhere else on the belt. The last device is the communicator; mostly plain black rectangle with a painted grill and button.
The communicator has a magnet in it, as does the grapnel gun. This lets them stick to the front of the belt, which also has magnets in the front two sections. Getting the communicator, grapnel gun, and Batarang all attached and arranged on the belt at the same time is tricky, and one or more of them are likely to fall off as soon as you move. Since the Batarang comes with a display stand, it’s probably best to use these pieces as a static display rather than part of a costume.
The other major problem is that the gadgets don’t do anything other than look nice. The “Scanner” has a hinged piece, and a couple of sections of the belt pop off to reveal tiny gadgets fixed inside, but nothing does anything. Everything is a static prop, with almost no moving parts and no effects. As I mentioned before, the grapnel gun is static, the Batarang just folds up, and one device flips open. That’s it. I really wish something in the entire set used batteries, and something made a sound or lit up. At least a little flashlight or something.
To be fair, the utility belt is called a “prop replica” rather than a toy, so it’s best for static display or a reasonably screen accurate costume accessory as long as you know that you’ll be able to flip open a Batarang but not much more.
The Batman Utility Belt costs $135.00 US and is available from https://store.necaonline.com .
Iain Delaney was born in the UK but moved to Canada at an early age. The UK heritage explains his fascination with British TV SciFi, including Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, and, of course, Dr. Who. After fumbling through high school, he fumbled through university, emerging with a degree in physics. With no desire to pursue graduate studies he discovered that a bachelor’s degree had little to no job prospects, so he took up a career in computer programming. In his off time he reads, watches TV and movies, collects toys, and makes attempts at writing. To that end he has a small number of articles published in role-playing game magazines and won two honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest. He is working on an urban fantasy YA trilogy and entertains delusions of selling it to movies or TV.