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Mattel Wins With Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is done justice in the latest line of DC Multiverse action figures by Mattel.

I’m gonna be straight with you– my plan was to pass on Mattel’s Wonder Woman Multiverse toy line. Yea, they looked nice enough on first glance, but the buyer’s remorse I felt from 2016’s Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad collections was still fresh enough in my memory. That buyer’s remorse wasn’t the fault of Mattel– I appreciated the effort they put into the Batman v Superman line, and loved their commitment to completing the team from Suicide Squad– but those movies were so dreadful, it became harder and harder to separate the pretty solid toys from their awful source material.

I did an instant about-face after seeing Wonder Woman, and realizing DC had finally released an actual GOOD movie… so one of my first stops post-screening was Toys R Us, where I was compelled to get the whole Multiverse toy line. And you know what? I’m really glad I did.

The basic toy line is composed of four figures, each packed with a Collect N Connect piece to assemble the movie’s villain, Ares.  And the lineup Mattel chose was both smart (based on the movie), and refreshingly progressive (continuing their reign as leaders of the pack in terms of representation and equality in both the boys’ and girls’ aisles in the stores).  We get two versions of Wonder Woman herself– Diana of Themyscira, in her Amazonian training armor, and a cloaked figure based on her appearance during her adventures in World War I with Steve Trevor.  Steve himself is the sole male figure in the line, which is rounded out by Diana’s mother, the Amazonian queen Hippolyta.

Each figure in the assortment features a great sculpt, especially for mass retail release figures.  The actor likenesses are spot on, especially Gal Gadot’s figures and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, and each is well articulated, in a manner similar to past DC Universe Classics and DC Multiverse releases.  What really makes these figures pop, though, is the paint work, which is both clean and remarkably intricate, especially on the faces.  We can all think of a million times a great sculpt has been taken down by sloppy or limited paint apps, but Mattel’s latest figures have really upped their game in this regard.

All four figures include at least one relevant accessory– Diana is packed with the lasso of truth and the “godkiller” sword, Steve gets his trusty rifle, Hippolyta her sword and a spear, and WWI Wonder Woman the same godkiller sword, which she can store beneath her robe.

Some people have complained that this line lacks a “standard” Wonder Woman figure, but Mattel did still include her, as one of two Toys R Us exclusives (the other being the Amazonian lieutenant Menalippe).  I’m honestly fine with Mattel’s choice here, as Diana spends the majority of the film’s run time in her training gear or the cloak, so relegating her most iconic look to an exclusive actually makes a ton of sense… especially since we got the character in this outfit less than a year ago, in the dramatically inferior Batman v Superman release.

What I WILL say is a legit strike against this series is Ares. There’s a lot to love with this build-a-figure… his metallic blue armor is eye catching, and a perfect offset to Diana’s bright pallet, and his height makes him imposing without being cartoonishly oversized compared to the other figures in the set.  But Mattel (among most other toy partners, based on what we have seen from LEGO’s releases) based Ares on early concept art, which was changed dramatically in post production.  So the figure we see here is entirely inaccurate compared to the villain’s on screen appearance… his armor looks similar enough to Ares’ look at one point early in the film, but his cow skull helmet looks nothing like his cinematic style.

This is always the risk toymakers run when dealing with major movie properties… the production timeline for a toy takes 12+ months, while CGI creations like Ares can be changed and tweaked literally hours before a film is released.  But the drastic change in Ares is one of the more notable examples of this discrepancy since The Hobbit’s infamous eleventh hour decision to change the practical Orcs (many of whom saw release in toy form) into fully CGI characters.  In the case of Wonder Woman, it also doesn’t help that the film’s final design for Ares is infinitely cooler than the production design Mattel had to use for their figure.

Your mileage may vary, but I’m not going to count the inadvertently off-model Ares as a strike against Mattel here.  Not when they get so much right, both in terms of the execution and the concept and character selection of this toy line.  This is an ACTION FIGURE toy line– being sold in the “boy’s section” at retail and based on a major summer blockbuster tentpole– that features about 85% female characters (!!!) and that is truly commendable, a huge step in breaking down the ridiculous gender barriers that have oppressed the toy industry for far too long.  Mattel started breaking down this notion last year, but products I loved conceptually, like their 2016 Ghostbusters toy line, never connected due to poor production quality.  With the Wonder Woman Multiverse collection, Mattel has passed that hurdle, releasing some damn fine action figures by any retail-friendly standard… while maintaining the feminist edge that made them a company to watch in 2016.

The Wonder Woman Multiverse line is available now at all major retail outlets, and you can find classic Wonder Woman and Menalippe at Toys R Us and online at ToysRUs.com.  Seriously– if you, like me, were on the fence about this series, do yourself a favor and pick them up.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Wonder Woman Multiverse series is THE toy line to beat in 2017.  These figures, like the movie they’re based on, are honestly just that good.

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