Whatever its other flaws may have been, Star Wars Episode I had some of the best swordfighting ever put on the screen, due in no small part to the work of choreographer/stuntman Ray Park. Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1975, Park holds a second-degree blackbelt in wushu and was ranked second in the world by age 20. He took his acrobatic style to Hollywood, and was a stuntman or choreographer for several films before gaining fame for his portrayal of the mysterious Darth Maul.
Darth Maul, the evil Sith Lord, prepares for battle with the Jedi by dueling with lethal attack droids. Darth Maul's hatred of the Jedi fuels his desire to perfect his skill with his double-bladed lightsaber.
Darth Maul was an instant hit, primarily because he looked like such a total badass. That red and black visage stared out from merchandise on shelves throughout the land: Darth Maul lunchboxes; Darth Maul toothpaste; Darth Maul pajamas; and, of course, Darth Maul action figures. Can't forget the action figures.
But it wasn't just Maul's attitude that made him the Star Wars merchandising posterboy;
his tattoos were a graphic dream. Bold lines with strong contrast are always a good design element, and a nice visual hook. There was some debate about whether he had black skin and red tattoos or red skin and black tattoos, and even if the markings ran further down his body, though that would never be answered by the film.
It fell to Dark Horse Comics, holder of the official Star Wars license, to shed some light on these questions with a limited series that focused on Darth Maul's training days. Artist Jan Duursema laid out a harsh graphic pattern across the assassin's body, finally revealing what lay beneath those dark robes. And while that may have been cool and all, Hasbro took things a step further when they released this figure - they took Duursema's designs and gave them three-dimensional form.
Part of the 3¾" "Power of the Jedi" line (which ran from 2000 to 2002), this Darth Maul figure is sculpted in a highly dynamic pose, looking as if he's just swirled
his lightsaber to slash at the ground in front of him. The few clothes he's wearing are billowing with movement, and it actually looks like real muscles are stretched beneath his skin.
The figure's a bit hunched over, so he stands just over 3" tall, but he has 10 points of articulation: head, shoulders, biceps, forearms, waist and hips, and everything is a swivel. You might need to be wary of the arm joints, however; the sections of his arms pull apart quite easily. They go back together just as easily, so it's not like this will ruin the toy - it just means that you might accidentally dismember Maul and need to put him back together before anything gets lost.
The training droid, basically a big bronze sphere, is 1½" in diameter and has various metallic red sensor eyes dotted around. There are several weapons jutting from the droid's surface, including three articulated pincher arms that hang off the bottom. The droid can plug into a 1¾" tall clear plastic base to simulate hovering; press a lever on the base, and the droid pops to the ground in defeat. Mine's yellowed slightly with age, despite being stored away from bright lights - it was originally clear. Still works fine, though.
Maul comes with his lightsaber, of course, a two-piecer that splits in the middle. The thin peg on the "male" end is easy to break,
but there's a thicker base below that which will still allow you to fit the halves together. Though the figure is only intended to hold the weapon in his left hand, you can fit one of the halves in his right with some work.
Red stripes run down Maul's torso and arms,
geometrically twisting and overlapping as they go. There's even a concept sketch on the back of the figure's over-sized card so you can compare how the artist's vision translated into a solid object. The lines don't always line up perfectly at the joints, but I think that's a good thing - it allows you to have the figure in more than one pose and still have him look correct. The edges are a bit fuzzy, but that's not apparent except upon the closest inspection.
So what color is Darth Maul's skin?
Well, logic would tell you it's black: his palms, eyelids and the underside of his nose are that color. Meanwhile, a story in Star Wars Tales #24 showed a pre-tattooed Maul as being all-red. Of course, every other member of his species who actually appeared in the movies was brown, so it's most likely that both the red and black are tattoos, and none of his original skin is showing. Whatever you want the truth to be, this is a decent figure (though it's showing its age), and it has a great design.