Star Wars Vintage Collection #86
Height: 9.5cm to top of head.
So the older Star Wars figures were, as I mentioned, clearanced out in early 2012. In favor of what, precisely? To support the toyline for the latest theatrical release, more or less. That release being the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace. Whee! On the upside, this gives us an opportunity to get some characters that haven't been done up to the current standards. On some, like Qui-Gon Jinn, we're sadly getting reissues of almost-current-style figures... but Darth Maul, he's all new - and this is as it should be. If any character in all of Star Wars needed the extra jointing in the hips, this is it.
But really, Darth Maul's costume is one of the most difficult to do in an action figure that emphasizes poseability. After 25 years, George Lucas finally got the Sith warrior in flowing black robes that he originally described Darth Vader as being. Because of this toymakers have to deal with the issue of what to do with the skirt of the robe to best represent the costume while hopefully not killing articulation below the waist. Here, Hasbro has chosen to go with "soft goods," AKA cloth. The same very thin cloth that is used for Jedi robes and Vader capes and what have you represents the lower half of Lord Maul's robe in seven strips: five in front, two in back.
The real problem is that there's nothing you can afford to put on a $9 toy that both moves and looks like real person-scale cloth, so anything you do, in plastic or soft goods, is going to look off. It's unavoidable. The advantage plastic has is that it doesn't create the incongruity of materials and textures that rendering something partway in cloth does, but again, it kills articulation. So this figure decides to favor flexibility over appearance, and so since there are plenty of nice-looking Darths Maul but this is the only super-poseable one in this scale, I think it's a worthwhile sacrifice. On a technical level, what I dislike about this cloth is how easily it folds, rolls, creases, and collects dust and dirt granules. Again, for something thin enough to layer five-deep in the front, this is unavoidable. But I'm incredibly nervous about keeping it clean and in good shape until I get the photo shoot done.
On the sculpting side, The sculpt does a pretty nice job of detailing the layers of black-on-black clothes and giving different textures to the various parts of the outfit, particularly the nice, glossy boots and gloves. The sculpt and deco on the head seem pretty decent for the scale, but that's a tough call, considering you're not going to go mistaking Darth Maul for somebody else. You're not going to aim for Christopher Lee and end up with Vincent Price instead, here. But it gets the point across. The control cuff for the Sith Probe Droid is molded into his left gauntlet, but I'd have preferred this as a separate piece, as it was when it was included in a Sith-themed accessory set way back when. More on that when we get to accessories!
The ball-joint for the neck has full swivel, and decent tilt. It tilts forward and side-to-side very well, so he can't really look up too much but he can give that "Oh hell, I'm about to get cut in half" head-tilt at least. The shoulders swivel freely as well, and the lateral range gets them well above collarbone level, which I tend to look at as above-average range for this kind of joint; about the maximum range an ordinary person can have. The elbows flex to a 90-degree angle, about the best you could get for this kind of joint with a flared sleeve on the upper arm. And the swivel is unrestricted here as well. Sadly he doesn't have the new-style wrists, as they opted instead for swivels below the glove so as to not interrupt their sculpt. The mid-torso joint is somewhat restricted due, I think, to the soft-goods skirt and the desire to not have a large gap in the torso between the folds of the robes and the belt. Not that you'd likely be able to bend at the waist very well if you were wearing a thick leather kidney belt either.
The hips are the stars here, able to do a split easily enough to be a pretty good representation of Ray Park's own flexibility. They swivel out at angles, as the Star Wars versions of these hips tend to do, but the plainness of the pants and the voluminous skirts will hide any incongruities a given pose may have. The knees swivel well and flex to about the same 90-degree angle as the elbows. The ankles are good- not the best I've ever seen, but enough to lean in and out of various poses. Balance hasn't been an issue so far- he can balance on two feet in any pose I've tried, though I'm probably going to opt for a stand for some of the fancier stuff.
Remember how I was talking about the incongruity of part-plastic, part-cloth pieces before? Well, the robe has the same problem and it's just the start. The hood is a hard plastic piece, which at least ensures that it hangs correctly. Problem with plastic is that it has to be pretty thick to act as a hood or other cloth piece, which is pretty noticeable here. I've never seen a cloth hood that hangs quite right either, so you're kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't with this design. The rest of the robe is a similar kind of cloth to the skirt, but it's also somewhat thicker and more textured. Again, hard stuff to work around at this scale. What isn't that hard to do is get the robe's pattern right, which wasn't done here. Darth Maul's robe in the movies has sleeves that end above the elbow, but are elongated there, nearly touching the ground. This is, as with Deleted Scene Luke, pretty much the standard Jedi Robe they include with everything except without a hood. So the robe we're looking at here is incongruous and off-model. Not a winning combination.
If you want a better robe for your Darth Maul, there's a pretty cheap and easily accessible alternative: the Sith Accessory Set from the Phantom Menace toyline will net you a cloth robe with the proper sleeves and a cloth hood. It might be a little narrow at the shoulders, but I feel it looks better than the robe included with this Darth Maul. If you could take this robe's pattern, widen it at the shoulder, and make it from the material from the 2012 Vintage robe, it'd probably hang properly and look great.
There are two: one with blades and one without. The one without blades has a peg presumably for attaching to Maul somewhere, though someone forgot to tell whoever sculpted the figure, because there's nowhere to attach it. The one with blades has a peg in the center so you can separate it and use half of it as when Obi-Wan cut the famous double-bladed lightsaber in half. Neat! ...one problem: there's no way to use the intact lightsaber with a single blade, as when Qui-Gon and Darth Maul first fought on Tatooine. With a figure that's otherwise trying to make the definitive version of Darth Maul, that's an oversight. (It's also something the Sith Accessory Set can't help you with; you'd need the robed Darth Maul from 1999 to get that lightsaber.) The sabers do both fit in his hands well, though, and he can pose with them very nicely. I do miss the new wrist joints, but I understand why they're not here.
They're decently-molded, though they should be black- as they were in the aforementioned Accessory Set. And sadly, without the new wrists, his arms aren't up to the challenge of getting the eyepieces to his eyes. It's another Tatooine-specific accessory though, like the probe control cuff, which again makes the single-blade-lit lightsaber omission a bit of a nuisance.
It does practically everything I want it to- in a choice between Tatooine Darth Maul and Awesome Duel at the End of the Movie Darth Maul, I want the latter. But it's trying to be a definitive release of the character, and it's not quite there. The addition of some but not all of his scene-specific accessories is a frustration rather than a bonus to me, and that robe is just really bad from where I sit. But still, the figure itself looks good and the articulation is close to everything I wanted. It's not perfect by any means, but still Very Good on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale.
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