Darth Vader – Emperor’s Wrath: Character Background
“Although Darth Vader would perish without his body armor’s life support system, he remains a powerful and imposing figure, His black suit and the dark side of the Force protect him from numerous opponents until he loses his cybernetic right hand in a fateful lightsaber duel with Luke Skywalker on the second Death Star.” – Jedi Fact File, Darth Vader – Emperor’s Wrath action figure.
When movie audiences were first introduced to Lord Darth Vader in 1977’s Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope), the character was, first and foremost, the personification of the Galactic Empire’s evil and oppression. He was a dark and menacing figure, dressed all in black, with a face forever covered by a skull-like breath mask that kept Vader alive while helping to instill terror even in the most resolute of Rebel or Imperial personnel. He looked like a droid of some kind, yet the mechanically controlled breathing and his flashes of anger revealed that he was at least partially human. But other than the fact that Vader had once been a Jedi Knight (and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s young pupil) who was seduced by the dark side of the Force and allegedly killed Luke Skywalker’s father after the Clone Wars, Star Wars creator George Lucas revealed very little about one of cinema’s most popular villains.
In the next two Episodes (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), Vader’s role became more complex as his relationships to both Luke Skywalker (the hero of the Classic Trilogy) and Emperor Palpatine were examined a bit closer. Vader was powerful within the hierarchy of the Empire but wasn’t all-powerful because he had to answer to his Sith master, yet his personal TIE fighter (with its bent wings, a hyperdrive and shields) and huge Super Star Destroyer reflected both his rank and his ambition for more power. He was also clever and a powerful fighter, capable of manipulating events to achieve his goals and battling almost every opponent – including a young Jedi trainee half his age – into submission.
Of course, Return of the Jedi (1983) and the so-called Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) revealed that Darth Vader hadn’t “betrayed and murdered (Luke’s) father,” at least not in the literal sense, but that was, indeed, the former Jedi known to the galaxy as Anakin Skywalker. Lucas, as he has said in the various audio commentaries in the six DVDs of the Star Wars series, had always envisioned his homage to the serials of the 1930s and 1940s as being about this fallen Jedi and his twin children, and that Vader’s story arc had been intended to show how a loving and selfless person like Anakin could fall from grace and become evil, only to be redeemed by the power of his love for his son Luke.
Darth Vader – Emperor’s Wrath: The Figure
After having limited success with its Episode I collection of figures, vehicles, and playsets, Hasbro decided to return to the saga-spanning approach that had worked so well for its former competitor Kenner before the two companies merged in the late 1990s. Instead of producing figures and other toys from just one film or Trilogy, the Rhode Island-based toy maker (and creator of GI Joe) now offered young and old collectors alike with a cornucopia of both new figures that had never been made before (R2-Q5: Imperial Astromech Droid) and updates of existing figures, including IG-88, Lando Calrissian – Bespin Escape, and Scout Trooper: Imperial Patrol. Packed in green-black-gold bubble packs, these figures were part of the 2000-2002 Power of the Jedi collections.
Although Kenner/Hasbro had already produced many variations of the basic Darth Vader figure since at least 1996, at least two Power of the Jedi figures were created to depict the Sith Lord as he appeared in two of the Classic Trilogy films. One was Darth Vader – Dagobah, which is a replica of the dark side apparition that Luke Skywalker encounters in the “magic tree” during his Jedi training. (For more on this figure, please see http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/36862/the_power_of_the_dark_side_a_look_at.html)
Another Vader variant is one depicting the Dark Lord of the Sith as he appears in the aftermath of his duel with Luke and his last-minute conversion to the light side of the Force. In this sequence of Return of the Jedi, the long-dormant remnants of Anakin Skywalker resurface as he watches his son being subjected to Emperor Palpatine’s barrage of Force lightning. Knowing he is facing certain death – the lightning would, of course, fry Vader’s life support system – the former Jedi grabs his dark Master with his remaining hand and, withstanding Palpatine’s deadly wrath, tosses the Galactic Emperor down to the central core of the soon-to-be-destroyed second Death Star. In so doing, Anakin fulfills the ancient Jedi prophecy that a Chosen One would destroy the Sith and restore balance to the Force.
The Figure: In some ways, this figure resembles its POTJ stable-mate in that Vader’s armor is rendered not to look like the basic black-with-silver outfit that appears in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. For one thing, the helmet and breath mask, although sculpted from the same mold as other Vader figures, is transparent and has a ghostly blue hue that is, I guess, supposed to evoke the effects of Palpatine’s Force lightning strikes. Also, his gloved hands also look a bit translucent; the one on the right is closed slightly to hold Vader’s red-bladed Sith lightsaber and has a seam at the wrist, perhaps indicating the hand is detachable to recreate a “severed” look.
The cape, like that of Darth Vader – Dagobah, is made of the same plastic as the figure, unlike that of several cloth-caped variants and, judging from both the look and past experience, looks like its detachable.
As is usually the case with figures featuring the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader- Emperor’s Wrath comes with his deadly red-bladed lightsaber. Like most Jedi or Sith laser swords issued with Star Wars figures since the mid-1990s, the “energy blade” is made of translucent plastic that allows light to pass through to simulate a glowing lightsaber effect. Also, the saber’s handle is nicely detailed; unlike 1997’s Darth Vader with Lightsaber and Removable Cape figure’s all-black laser sword handle, Darth Vader – Emperor’s Wrath has a more authentic silver and black handgrip.
Darth Vader – Emperor’s Wrath, as all the figures of the 2000-2002 Power of the Jedi line, comes with a small booklet called a Jedi Fact File with role-playing stats and basic data about the character. For example, Vader’s life form designation is human, and his place of birth is listed as Tatooine.
Although the figure is nicely done, it does come apart. Even older collectors are cautioned that the different components – the right hand, cape, and lightsaber – do come off Vader’s body rather easily, and pieces can and sometimes do get lost.
As with all the Star Wars action figures, Hasbro recommends this toy for children 4 and up since the small parts pose a clear and present choking hazard, especially for children under 3 years.