So, it's finally here. Announced on the 50th Anniversary of the classic 60's show it's LEGO™'s Batman™ Classic TV Series - Batcave.
Holy Bank Balance [The box]
Let's start with the packaging, and it's a camp and fun affair, like the series itself. It's clearly not taking itself too seriously.
The front of the huge [580x120x475mm] box has the Gotham skyline, familiar Bat signal, a background image straight from the show of the cave's walls [obviously shonky Styrofoam] and the usual posed set picture. There's a suitably 60's style Batman™ Classic TV Series logo splash, and the Usual Suspects Style minifig line-up. The only oddity for this set is the sheer number of ™ symbols scattered everywhere. 12 of them hide in plain sight all over the front of the box alone. The trademark issue is one we will return to later.
The rear of the box showcases the play features in comic book style with some great onomatopoeic KAPOW! and WHAMM!! action. Unlike LEGO catalogues of recent years that's the most exclamation marks you'll see! [!!] All the Bat vehicles get to showcase their play features, the new[ish] twirly pole SWIRRRL! gets a call out and even Alfred appears to be falling over, or possibly having a stroke.
Batman himself gets the honourable position of demonstrating the traditional box side 1:1 example, the rest of the minifigures keep him company in their action poses, with some more CLANK! shout outs to the original ARRRGH! series' camp, but brilliant, violence censor.
Holy Showcase [The minifigures]
All of the nine figures are almost beyond reproach. Here's their official publicity shots...
Based on their Season 1 actors the villains are perfect in almost every way. Apart from some mild lack of inspiration in the weapons department [when there's so many ludicrous weapons in the show to choose, we get dynamite and a whip?] the 'evil' figs are a great likeness in face and outfit.
Cesar Romero's Joker™ has his wispy painted over moustache and his openly outrageous ostentatious outfit obviously.
Catwoman™ looks suitably splendidly sixties style slinky [and is, of course, handcuffed on the box]. Her hair is a recolour of the CMF series 14 Tiger woman's hair, and it looks particularly groovy.
The Penguin™ is a great Burgess Meredith likeness [with, I think, a better outfit than previous versions], look out for this torso again later this year in the remake of the wedding favor set 40165. Then there's the Riddler™. Mildly uninspired, but in no way awful, just not that exciting. It's a good likeness, the hairpiece is appropriate and the outfit is show correct, just a little meh.
Our heroes [and their butler] are available in crime-fighting and ordinary, everyday multi-billionaire outfits. Batman™ gets a very impressive new printed Bat cowl and Bat Belt buckle; Bruce Wayne™ gets a jacket, cravat and badge design straight from the show.
Robin™'s torso also has an excellent utility belt print, and Dick Grayson™ gets a jumper. One other thing Robin/Dick Grayson gets is the wrong colour hair. This really is understandable, the comic version of Robin almost always has black hair, but the 60's show version of him usually has Burt Ward's natural hair colour, which is very similar to Batman's.
The highlight of the figures, for me, is the perfect Alfred Pennyworth™. The face, hair and glasses are spot on. I can't think of a better match for any part.
See the Bricksafe Gallery for this set to see the backprints [pretty uninspiring] and second faces. The Joker's alt-face is particularly good. Note also that Batman has the new process dual-coloured plastic legs.
Holy Inquisition [In the box]
Inside the box are 5 unnumbered pierced bags containing the support trusses, BURPS and 16x16 plates, 22 numbered bags of standard sized parts, 3 loose twirly pole things, the perfect bound 320 page instruction book and a quite monumental sticker sheet in a pierced bag. The stickers are of the usual quality [excellent] and are wonderfully retro and suitably sixties. The control panel stickers for the atomic pile, and for the Bat Lie Detector are particularly accurate. I can understand the need for this many stickers - most of the design budget, which would usually be for new parts, prints or recolours will have been taken up by the licensing fees. I'm not that annoyed to be honest. New prints in this style would have a hugely limited re-usability. The cockpit WHAMM!! piece for the helicopter needed to be printed, windscreen stickers are universally [correctly] regarded as the highest evil, and on a hemisphere... no chance. Other parts though? Stickers seem to be the order of the day, except for the standout super sexy, smoothly done wallpaper printed brick. What a great design and execution. A nice way to get the wallpaper design without a STAMP [Sticker Across Multiple Parts]. A two or four stud repeat gives a decent amount of flexibility, and I have a feeling this idea, not necessarily colour or design, will be used in the future. The repeat matches really well, the prints on all bricks in the set were perfectly aligned.
Holy Interplanetary Yardstick [The build]
Bag 1 builds Batman, the Joker and the Batmobile. This is a great way to start the build. Iconic hero, villain and car builds really get you into the spirit of the set. There's a connection between a 2412b and a 15712 that would have been deemed illegal until the clip was redesigned. The wheels, hubcaps [new prints] and other embellishments are flat silver and give the Batmobile a classy look.
Bag 2 gives us the lower half of Wayne Manor, and Julie Newmar's Catwoman. It's the first appearance of the 16 total 91176 pillars in this set. You'll see them a lot. Other interesting parts include the twirly poles [you get a spare] and the 6205/3070b tiles in Dark Orange.
Bag 3 builds the top section of Wayne Manor, comprising the office, pitched roof section, and the sliding bookcase, with it's hidden switch. Bruce, Dick and Alfred appear here. Interesting parts include RRIIING! a re-coloured Shakespeare hair for the bust, and the wallpaper bricks. There's 16 of them, and they never fail to impress. As pointedly not mentioned in the Designer Video, there's also a cat!
Bag 4 gives us the Riddler, and the Atomic Pile, called the Batcomputer in the Designer video on more than one occasion. There's a ton of standard printed control panel tiles, and four retro stickers. 6187 makes a first appearance in sand green here 15 times. The control light stickers #9 and #10 are the same design rotated 180º, which seems a little lazy.
Bags 5 & 6
Bags 5 & 6 build a 4 BURP/SNOT surround/roof for the Atomic Pile, and most of the mini Batdevice control units for the core.
Bag 7 builds the Batcopter landing platform, which sits over the Batmobile entrance. This requires putting 2 mahoosive stickers on the 8 x 16 tiles. My sticker sheet curled itself up after only 30 minutes, I still haven't applied these huge stickers.
Bag 8 makes Penguin, Robin, the Batcopter, the Batcycle, the Bat Lie Detector, and some miscellaneous Bat laboratory Bat equipment. The Batcopter is such a good representation of the modified Bell 47 used in the series, it makes the Batcycle look like it was thrown together. I strongly suspect the Batcycle was not going to be included, and something larger or more complex was designed, and was cut and replaced.
And that's it, there's a few pages letting you know how to move rockwork about to join the three sections together, and we're finally done!
Please see my Bricksafe Gallery for this set, there's loads more build and new part photos than there were room for here.
Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods [Conclusion]
The LEGO Designer video for this set really was a bit odd. There was very little mention of the play features, repeated mention of the 'awesome' stickers, and a quick overview of some of the new parts. The atomic pile was repeatedly referred to as the Bat computer. It was as if there was embarrassment presenting the set, as if it couldn't be proud of what it was without some justification. The set was presented as three disparate sections, and just didn't look particularly 'complete'.
In my opinion the entire point of this set was missed, possibly even by the designer.
If you think of this set as a model, not of the Batcave, but of a 1960's TV set of the Batcave, it makes total sense. The fact that the Batcopter was, in show mythos, at the airport, doesn't matter. The fact there's exposed truss-work doesn't matter. All that this set needs is the word 'Set' in it's title.
All three sections of this set, whether joined or not are really evocative of the 60's TV aesthetic. There's a framework, covered by the bare minimum of scenery to imply reality. Two generic minifigs, a director and a cameraman, and a 1960's style podium camera model, and this set would be so much easier to relate to, and feel so much more integrated and 'complete'.
The minifigure design is absolutely apocalyptically awesome in almost every way. The selection will be further enhanced by the upcoming Mr Freeze™ polybag.
This set keeps a sense of fun, it never seems to take itself too seriously.
This set is, without any hyperbole, a billion times better than the last Batcave. I do miss the spinny transform function though.
The Batcopter Bell 47 is an excellent little model, and the flick-fire missiles SPLAAAT! do at least blend in, being black.
The Batmobile is also beautifully done. True to the show, full of detail and function, and one of the few models where I think the stud shooters actually look like they belong. They're so over the top, minifigure scale wise, they actually evoke the show's weapons. Thankfully the Bat wheel hubs are Bat prints and not more Bat stickers.
Those wallpaper bricks. Hnnnngh!
The little Batdevice units, of which there are 10, really look the part. The Bat lie detector is particularly show correct.
The outside wall of Wayne Manor, which doubles as the famous wall climb from the show. Have a famous minifig pop out of the window, recreate famous scenes, do some other things! This never even got a mention in the Designer video.
Scope for improvements - there's so much that could be added to this set - more Wayne manor, Batpole access in one smooth drop, the hidden exit for the Batmobile... Personally I'm going with the TV studio idea.
Batman and Robin get nice floaty capes, not the starchy ones.
It's a shame that this set has been burdened with the almost immediate knee-jerk reaction of 'too expensive' as soon as it's pricing was announced. Considering the piece count, and the few new prints/recolours of parts, it is a little over-priced. I understand the licensing fees will eat into a profit margin, but there isn't quite enough in this set to justify such a high price [especially in the UK where we're paying £30 more than the Euro/Dollar equivalent]. It's really [really, really] close to being a good buy when compared to other licensed IP [the helicarrier was very similarly priced piece for piece], and that's the annoying thing. I think the licensing issues with the series have pushed this set, through no fault of it's own, into the 'recommended for super fans' category. An extra minifig [Batgirl or Commissioner Gordon would have been a good choice] would certainly have sweetened the blow a little. I'm not going to mention the typical UK price differential more than I already have, as I could live in Australia, which gives even worse value. If you can get this set from Canada do so, they're still enjoying the cheapest LEGO, and they have some of the best snack food in the world.
Holy understatements there's a lot of dark tan.
One more minifigure, or nice new printed part or two [maybe Bruce's parents portraits would be the most re-usable] would have made this set land lightly on the side of 'buy now' rather than 'maybe buy later if it drops a bit'.
The choice of minifigure weapons for the villains was so uninspired as to be pointless.
The Batcycle suffers the same issue as the weapons. It doesn't seem to have had a huge amount of thought spent on it, and when the official blurb highlight is a 'translucent headlight element'and 'a cat', you know there's something rotten in the heart of Gotham. The Batboat might have offered a more interesting companion to the excellent Batcopter and Batmobile. I suspect piece count made the Batcycle the chosen third vehicle.
The Batmobile needs some fire from it's exhaust threatening the lives of all passers by.
The perfect bound instructions. I don't like creasing and holding open instructions books, and the recent huge perfect bound books have been an issue for me. Spiral bound, lay-flat is the ideal form. Quality and colour differentiation is much improved, to be fair. Unlike the Brick Bank instructions, these do, at least, lay flat in the middle section.
There's a sense of incoherence and incompleteness. A few small tweaks to the design, or more accurately to the ethos would have lifted this set hugely.
Holy Squirrel Cage [Score]
So, so close to being an automatic recommendation. Get this set, without any hesitation or regret if you're a fan of the only Batman not to disappear into his own cowl in a scowly broody haze of self-involvement. Get this set if you're a fan of the awesome minifigures. Get this set if you want to extend and improve, it's an excellent basis for a full sized super-MOC. Don't get this set if you're annoyed by the price. It's not terrible value, but just falls on the side of too expensive in the UK. In other territories it's comparable with other licensed IP and, especially in Canada, this would - and should - be a recommended purchase.
Details of the long-standing legal licensing issues so loved by lawyers that have made the release of the entire series on DVD/Blu-ray so expensive and, I'm almost certain, the high licensing fee for this set are available in this excellent Wired article from 2014.
If you noticed every image's alt text [except one!] was a Batman quote, and every header was a Robin quote, you win a prize!!™ [!]
Promo images are Copyright TLG 2016.
Other images by me.
Alliteration by Dick Grayson.
Disclaimer: This LEGO set was provided for review by The LEGO Group. Anything said in this post is the opinion of the author and not The LEGO Group.