Star Wars Action Figures

  Yodasnews Review:  Darth Revan and Darth Malak 

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 

Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498) 

Review Date: October 22, 2007

 

FIGURE SPECIFICATIONS 

While Timothy Zahn’s seminal Empire Trilogy played a major role in bringing Star Wars back into the public consciousness at a time when it was on the edge of oblivion, reaction in the fan community has been heavily divisive when it comes to the Expanded Universe.  For as many fans who embrace the novels, comics, and games as a legitimate extension of the cinematic lore, there are just as many who label the EU as sub par, poorly conceived, and not an official part of Star Wars canon.  Hasbro, reacting to what they perceived as popular opinion among consumers, stayed extremely close to characters established in the six theatrical entries in the Star Wars Saga, and visits into the Expanded Universe were few and far between for many years.

However, there was always a very vocal constituency within the collecting community that hungered and clamored for Expanded Universe figures.  In the post-Episode III era, Hasbro’s freeze on the EU has steadily thawed—especially after seeing the success of the Clone Wars juggernaut.  Now, consumers have a healthy batch of EU figures in a single shot.  Arriving in the form of the 30th Anniversary Collection Wave 5, Hasbro released an assortment that includes two of the most highly-requested characters in recent times: Darth Revan and Darth Malak, the fearsome Sith Lords from Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. 

Knights exploded onto the gaming scene and became a major hit with players and Star Wars fans alike when it debuted on the original Microsoft X-Box.  In an age where the validity of most EU was hotly debated, this game managed to rise above the melee and take a place among the more respected Expanded Universe entries.  Its tale of the Jedi and Sith in an age millennia before the time of Darth Sidious’ Galactic Empire fascinated the fan community as did Malak and his mysterious masked master Darth Revan—a mystery that lies at the heart of the storyline. 

Fans clamored for these dark sorcerers since Knights of the Old Republic debuted, and Hasbro delivered.  Of course, it certainly helped that Revan was the winner of Toyfare’s “Fan’s Choice” competition. 

But are they the figures we had hoped to have?  Read on and find out. 

 

PORTRAIT (Darth Revan) – Above Average (Bordering on Average) 

As Darth Revan’s gender depends specifically on how one chooses to play the game, the figure’s portrait is entirely masked.  This would have been an ideal choice for a random chase figure if Hasbro had given Revan a removable mask.  One version could have a male portrait, and the other a female visage.  Alas, we only have one version, and the presence of a bald head as well as the use of “he” in the character description clearly confirms that Hasbro followed the canonized ending that was established in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. 

Darth Revan was once a Jedi warrior and a hero in the Mandalorian Wars, a past that eerily parallels a particular Sith Lord who would rise several thousand years later.  As such, Revan’s choice of facial concealment is a red and black Mandalorian mask, which has shades of both Darth Vader and the Fetts in it.  The mask on Hasbro’s figure is very well sculpted with attention to detail such as the slight grooves carved where the top of the mask presses into the Dark Lord’s forehead.  The angles, indents, and etchings are well-defined as well. 

Sadly, the portrait suffers from several deficiencies.  First, the paint applications on and around the ears are sloppy and run beyond their intended boundaries.  The metal ring securing the mask on the back of Revan’s head is worst of all.  There is no metallic paint on it, and that missing paint is replaced by paint from both the pasty skin tone and the black mask overlapping onto the ring.  On top of all this, screen caps from the game do not even show a wrap and clasp—just the faceplate. 

Next is that the mask on the figure differs from the mask pictured on the card in several ways.  The visor on the card is a straight black strip, but the visor on the figure has an area that droops down on each side of the mouth shield.  The depicted mask is red with silver plates on the mouth shield whereas the figure has purple plates as well as the same purple shade where there should be red (e.g. – the area above the visor).  Adding to the confusion, the video game version differs from both the figure and the cardback.  In the game, the visor is a thin black strip but the drop-down areas are also present.  However, they aren’t a part of the visor but rather they are the tops of the mouth shield. 

Ordinarily, such a substantial amount of discrepancies would result in a lower rating.  In this case, however, the errors are not obvious unless closely examined with a reference picture present for comparison.  As for the paint runs, the hood covers them all, meaning they will not always be seen.  These elements were taken into consideration when arriving at the final category score. 

Of course, accuracy is always preferred—especially in a “Fan’s Choice” figure.

 

 

PORTRAIT (Darth Malak) – Average (Bordering on Below Average) 

As opposed to his master, Darth Malak finds himself with a portrait that slides lower on the spectrum.  The overall design is good, but it is in the details that it falls short.  The most flawed of these details is the splotchy paint application.  Rather than applying an even light gray coat to the skin, Hasbro mixed a darker shade of gray with a light pinkish-gray, and the result is a marble-like mixture of skin tones.  Additionally, Malak’s right eye is lazy, and the eyes lack a sense of menace.  Instead, they look like a deer caught in headlights—although they are an improvement over the very bizarre eyes on the prototype.  The last paint flaw is that the silver-gray pattern on Darth Malak’s head is not crisp.  Instead, the borders waver as they move around his head. 

The actual sculpting of the portrait is in fact quite good.  Malak’s lightsaber wound has been reproduced very well—even if Hasbro did leave a little too much of his jaw intact.  While not sculpted per say, a nice addition is having two painted white lines amidst the red to simulate what is left of the Sith Lord’s teeth.  With all of these subtle nuances, it is unfortunate that the sloppy deco on the skin tones and tattoos severely hurts the visual integrity of an otherwise good sculpt.

 

ARMOR AND ROBES (Darth Revan) – Above Average 

Unlike the multiple discrepancies in the Mandalorian mask, Darth Revan’s body armor and robes are extremely faithful to the depiction in the video game.  In fact, the only sculpting error is that the reddish-purple sash that drapes down in front of the legs is too wide on the figure.  The rest of the “flaws” are small paint omissions.  The boots should have some silver paint on them instead of flat black, and there should be silver on the gloves as well.  Lastly, the loop design on Revan’s mid-torso should be filled in with gray.  None of these would be obvious without carefully comparing the figure with the game version side-by-side.  They are not major issues. 

However, general paint flaws are many.  On the lesser end of the spectrum, the silver on some clasps and rings are a tad sloppy, and there is a darker wash at the bottom of the front sash that looks out of place. As for the larger flaws, the black robes on Revan’s chest are extremely sloppy with black paint smeared onto the purple-red areas. 

As stated earlier, Darth Revan’s gender is contingent upon how the player plays the game, so the armor and robes are appropriately and convincingly androgynous.  There are also substantial shadings of bondage to the costume through the use of various corset-like straps and metal buckles.  If one wished to draw a cinematic comparison, Revan’s robes look very like those of a Cenobite demon from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser—especially when the hood is down and Revan’s pasty yellowish head is visible.  Even the color palette manages to betray no clue toward gender.  The purplish hues can suggest femininity, or they can imply the non-gender specific concept of royalty. 

To say that this figure succeeds in retaining the mystery of Darth Revan (hooded version even more so) is the highest compliment possible for the sculpting of this costume. 

So be it then. 

This figure successfully keeps the Dark Lord a mystery.

 

 BODYSUIT AND ARMOR (Darth Malak) – Average (Bordering on Below Average) 

Whereas Darth Revan’s attire is a virtual facsimile of the video game source, Darth Malak’s bodysuit and armor is more loosely based on the source material rather than a faithful translation.  The overall appearance is there, but the details are greatly different upon closer examination, and this applies to both components.  

We will begin with Malak’s armored pieces, which include his belt, collar, and the half-face mask that hides his gruesome injury. 

The belt in the game is thin on the sides but slopes down sharply to a pointed and wide buckle.  The action figure version, however, is thick all around and has only the slightest slope toward the buckle.  It is also very simplistic as opposed to the detailed version found in the video game.  A good example is that the game version of Darth Malak’s belt has a thinner orange belt above the main belt.  On the figure, it is simply a thin orange stripe on the main belt, and it ends up looking like a paint error. 

Moving up to the collar, it is also far too thick and bulky compared to the video game version.  The shape should be a smooth curve like an upside-down bowl, but the figure’s collar has several indentations that are completely inaccurate.  Also, there is a large mechanical seam that splits the collar in half right down the center.  The figure’s collar, on the other hand, completely omits this detail. 

The half-face mask is the most accurate piece of armor, but for the third time, this piece is too thick.  A better approach would have been to include interchangeable heads and forgo any removable pieces of armor. 

And now that the armored pieces have been sufficiently criticized and ripped to shreds, it’s time to eviscerate the bodysuit. 

Honestly, the bodysuit fares better than the armor because the flaws mostly center on the sculpted texture of the suit, subtle details that only show their inaccuracies upon close inspection.  Therefore, they don’t affect the figure as much because they do not draw unwanted attention. 

But there are still two major errors.  First, the game version of Darth Malak has a large and thick seam that runs from the center of the belt straight up into that missing seam in the collar.  The Hasbro figure does not have this seam, and that is a major and quite noticeable omission.  The second significant error concerns the five crooked yellow-gold lines on the upper chest.  Not only are they completely non-symmetrical, but they don’t even exist on the digital rendition of Malak.  It appears as though Hasbro used these lines to stand in the place of sculpted patches on the Sith Lord’s chest—patches that aren’t even gold in color.

  

CAPE AND SASH (Darth Malak) – Excellent (Bordering on Above Average) 

As with Darth Revan, the only shortcoming here is that Darth Malak’s front sash is a little too wide.  Everything else is highly impressive.  The folds and layering are sculpted very realistically, and there is a subtle bluish-gray paint wash that adds definition to the “cloth.”  The most impressive element here is that the angular cut of the cape’s bottom hem has been accurately carried over from the video game.  Of all this figure’s components, this is the area where Hasbro succeeded the most.

  

ARTICULATION (Darth Revan) – Above Average 

Because of the lack of lower body articulation in combination with the restrictive and bulky armor, Darth Revan’s poses rely heavily upon the upper body’s articulation.  For most figures of this “salt shaker” ilk, this would not end well.  However, Revan’s upper joints and costume allow for very sinister poses—often by using the articulation in subtle movements.  Many of these potential poses work well within the context that Darth Revan is a Sith Lord akin to sorcery or a dark priest.  Again, the Cenobite influences are prevalent here. 

Some of the poses that Revan can do are a two-handed overhead lightsaber grip, pinning his cloak down with a hand behind his back, and holding both arms outstretched in a replication of Darth Sidious welcoming the Senate’s cheers upon the creation of the Empire.  On the other hand, Revan cannot kneel, cross arms, and do any stance requiring knee and/or ankle articulation. 

Still, the poses you can do are so powerful that the articulation nevertheless scores higher on the spectrum.

 

 

ARTICULATION (Darth Malak) – Below Average 

Darth Malak is very stiff and awkward, and you can thank the swivel cut elbows for that.  Some figures can pull off that style of articulation.  Malak cannot.  When “at rest”, the arms are completely straight as if the Dark Lord is being verbally assaulted by R. Lee Ermey.  When swiveled into ninety-degree angles, the arms slant inward toward the stomach, and Malak ends up looking like a T-Rex.  With the inclusion of ball jointed knees, the leg articulation stood a chance, but the lack of ankle joints limits the legs’ ranges of motion.  Malak can’t even kneel before his master because of the rigid cape as well as limited leg articulation.  There just really isn’t much you can do with Darth Malak that doesn’t look horribly awkward and stiff.

  

DESIGN STABILITY (Darth Revan) – Average 

Darth Revan may look incredible, but that is only half the battle.  Exceptional aesthetics can only help or hurt to an extent.  The rest of the burden falls upon a figure’s stability and functionality.  To that end, Revan is somewhat disappointing, which is a surprise considering both the anticipation for it and that it was the Fan’s Choice figure.  For the latter reason alone, one would expect Hasbro to go for a grand slam. 

Instead, Hasbro produced a figure that, from the waist down, is reminiscent of “salt shaker” figures such as Palpatine and Orn Free Taa.  Darth Revan emulates this statuesque effect through the heavy robes and sashes that fall down around fixed pose legs (although they do have swivel joints at the hips), and these legs don’t even have feet that are sculpted flush with level ground.  Between the poor sculpting in the legs and the complete lack of knee and ankle articulation, Revan, in both cloaked and uncloaked forms, is difficult to keep standing upright without a figure stand.  There are a few “sweet spots” where you can shift the figure’s center of gravity enough to balance him, but long-term stability is still very unlikely. 

DESIGN STABILITY (Darth Malak) – Above Average 

Darth Malak can stand upright without issue as well as in a wider stance because of tight knee joints.  In fact, the only reason to include this category for Malak is to provide a comparison for Darth Revan and highlight the importance of lower body articulation beyond swivel hips. 

REMOVABLE CLOAK (Darth Revan) – Excellent 

This is one of the better sculpted plastic cloaks to come along in recent times.  The thickness used makes the cloak hard enough to keep its shape yet soft enough to be malleable.  The hood is sculpted asymmetrically and with an irregularly-shaped opening.  Major kudos to Hasbro for this as it makes the hood very naturalistic, an attribute further solidified and enhanced by the realistic folds and shape of the cape portion.  The dry brushed gray paint wash adds good definition to the piece because it is subtle enough to emanate texture but not so heavy that it overpowers the overall look.  Instead, natural shadows and highlights play off of the sculpting to provide three-dimensionality to the cloak.

 

LIGHTSABERS (Darth Revan) – Below Average 

Someone, please explain why Hasbro is starting to make a habit of including ignited and unignited lightsabers with completely different hilts.  This happened with Obi-Wan from both the Jabiim comic pack as well as the McQuarrie concept figure.  Now, we get Darth Revan with an ignited version of his lightsaber plus the unignited hilt of Darth Malak.  Both hilts are well made, but the blatant disregard for consistency cripples this score. 

The potential argument that Hasbro intended the accessory to be Malak’s saber doesn’t really hold up well here.  First, Hasbro has never before done that (to the best of my knowledge).  Second, this is not the first time lightsabers have been inconsistent, so the likelihood that this is another error is quite high. 

The final analysis on the lightsabers: well made and aesthetically pleasing but completely inconsistent with each other.

 LIGHTSABERS (Darth Malak) – Above Average (Bordering on Excellent) 

Unlike the snafu with his master’s lightsabers, Darth Malak has very impressive weapons.  There is a slight amount of leniency with Expanded Universe lightsabers because they are usually much less defined than ones used in the films.  In this case, it is even trickier to draw comparisons because video games from Knights’ generation still had very polygonal characters, resulting in poorly defined lightsaber hilts. 

With all those caveats in place, Malak’s lightsabers are sturdy and well-defined.  The basic shape is intact, and the prong-like emitter shroud has been recreated in accordance with the reference source.  Paint applications are mostly spot-on with only one or two slight smears.  The blade is a tad too pinkish, but this is hardly the first time Sith Lords wielded such rosy instruments of death in the Hasbro line. 

Overall, Darth Malak’s lightsabers are well-made and consistent with each other—everything that Revan’s sabers should have been.

 

  “FUN FACTOR” (Darth Revan) – Above Average 

Despite the substantial limitations of the lower body articulation, Darth Revan is surprisingly fun.  Some of that fun is quite possibly derived from my personal enjoyment of the video game as well as the character.  Most of the fun, however, is a combination of the terrific upper body articulation and the enigmatic costume.  For the majority of Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Revan creates a menacing yet faceless presence by remaining hidden behind a mask—until you realize the Sith Lord was hiding in plain sight all along, that is.  That suspenseful nature translates superbly to the figure, and the ball-jointed head, shoulders, and elbows allow one to create subtle poses and gestures that channel authoritative menace.  Being able to manipulate a figure into emanating such emotive poses is a whole lot of fun. 

“FUN FACTOR” (Darth Malak) – Average 

Darth Malak’s standing in this category is dependent upon Darth Revan.  Without Revan, Malak is not that much fun because of the stiff and awkward articulation.  If Revan is present, Malak’s fun factor goes up because the two can be posed together, which makes the pairing more dynamic. 

So we’ll just go middle of the road on this one.

 

OVERALL RATING: (Darth Revan) – Above Average;  (Darth Malak) – Average (Bordering on Below Average) 

One has to wonder if it is an ironic quirk of fate that Darth Malak finds himself always coming up short when compared against his master.  Darth Revan, despite his own flaws, proves to be the superior figure, aided by fantastic sculpting, great paint applications, and excellent upper body articulation.  Darth Malak, on the other hand, suffers from inaccurate designs, splotchy paint on the portrait, and inadequate articulation. 

As for the question “Are they the figures we hoped to have?”, the answer overall is “No”, but Darth Revan is closer to the other side of that fence.  And to the question “Are they worth my money?”, the answer solely hinges on Darth Revan.  Revan is a definite must-buy.  Malak can be an easy pass—if bought alone.  If you buy Revan, then Malak is worthwhile if only to keep master and apprentice together.  They do make a good set, and with a price tag of seven dollars, you really aren’t losing much money by adding Darth Malak to your receipt 

While Hasbro clearly failed to bring their complete “A” game to the table with these figures, it is very nice to finally have these particular Sith Lords in action figure form, and Darth Revan is truly a worthy purchase.