Darth Vader FX Lightsaber
Reviewed by Adam Pawlus
Photography by Adam Pawlus
Reviewed on May 14, 2004
Some reviews are easy to write because the photos aren't taken of a large item by someone who does not have a studio equipped to take said photos. As such, this review has iffy photos. Bare with us, next week's will be better, we swear.
This item is big. Really big. If you were a kid, you'd look at this and go "Hot Damn," smile, and then say "you know, that's really big." Measuring in at nearly 44 inches from tip to tip, this is probably longer than I was tall when I really got in to Star Wars, which is nifty. Of course, you probably could gather this from just looking at it, so read on for the nitty gritty.
The large weapon comes in a box with a stand and requires 6 "AA" batteries.
While slightly larger than the actual prop to be able to hold the batteries and electronics, it's a nice, heavy replica that looks a lot like the prop from the film and is a definite improvement over the Hasbro role-play weapons we're used to.
The shiny metal of the handle combined with the black plastic pieces creates a piece that looks just like the prop. While not heavy, it is hefty with the batteries and if you hit somebody with just the grip part of the weapon you'd probably bruise them. As such, we do not advise you bludgeoning someone with the area holding the electronics.
While prop replicas are nothing new, this is a new spin on the idea of a replica lightsaber. People have cranked out their own via graflex tubes, and other companies have made them, but the idea of giving it some sort of functionality is a little different. On display, it looks like there's a big white tube sticking out of it and depending on what you're looking for in such an item, it's a bit of an eyesore. Still, in the proper display or on a nice long shelf, it makes an excellent display piece even if you can't have the blade lit at all times.
Ah, electronics. While sometimes complained about in toys, it's what makes this a great piece. In a dark room, or a normal room, it looks great. In a brightly lit area with a green background in which there's a lot of light, though, it doesn't quite look so hot, and as such we opted out of including additional images of the lit replica.
The neatest visual trick of this toy is in the tube, as the blade lights up gradually and has the illusion of extending from the handle. In a dark room, it looks nothing short of awesome when lit, appearing very similar to the practical light-up props used in very few scenes in the movies. It stays lit while you swing it around and there are no sparks or anything like that, but when you turn it off the red part of the blade "retracts" into the grip, just like the movie. Obviously, the white blade remains present, but the visual is quite striking and is a nice change from the binary "on or off" options we usually see when we would turn an item of this nature on. Granted, for the higher price point, it needs some zing.
If that wasn't enough, additional zing comes from the speaker buried in the handle. The weapon sports several sounds including an "on" sound as well as an "off," an idle humming sound, a "crash" and yes, even a special motion-sensitive sound, just like the movie. The sounds come right from the LucasFilm archives and this sound quality meets my expectations, and the sheer delight in feeling like you're holding something that came from one of the most popular sci-fantasy franchises of all time is hard to explain, but it's an experience no fan should miss.
The sounds aren't perfect, though, because on our sample the motion sounds sometimes reacted too quickly, causing a hum to interrupt a humming sound. This unfortunate quirk ruins the illusion of movie magic in the palm of your hands, and a few non-fans I showed this too loved the sounds and lights except for the slightly wonky sound problems coming from the weapon's movement.
That said, there are very few items designed to employ electronics to recreate the lights and sounds from a specific aspect of the Star Wars experience. This one manages to nail the look and the sound of the weapon, with one minor hiccup.
It's a stand, and it's simple.
It looks good, and is a fairly dignified way to hold up this freaking huge prop replica. It would be nice to have had a larger stand to give the piece slightly better shelf presence in your home, but this more or less works. The stand was not designed to fit like a glove, but it performs its function admirably and cannot be accused of not working properly.
This items typically sells for a little over $100, around $120 direct from Master Replicas. This piece was also blown out under $50 during the great purge of FAO, so prices are really all over the board.
If you have some money to spend, odds are you'd do well to buy at least one of these electronic FX Lightsabers. Darth Vader's is pretty fantastic because, well, it's Darth Vader's weapon, right there, in your hand, and it makes noises and lights up and has the cold feel of metal. It's hard not to have a stupid grin on your face while you move a lightsaber about and the hums and crashing noises come from the weapon and not your own mouth.
The item may be the most visually exciting prop to ever come out of a LucasFilm licenses, however the fantastic illusion is diminished by that one sound glitch. Still, kids would go crazy to see something like this, and most adults would be hard pressed to admit that the end result isn't cool. It is expensive, but if you want something in your collection with a switch you can flip and someone can see, in a moment, just how cool it is... this is it. It's easy to feel like you got your money's worth, although like most electronic gimmicks, the novelty may wear off if your kid is running around the house with it running all day long. As such, follow the "ages 12 and up" warning on the box, and you'll be a happier person.
Our sample was donated to Galactic Hunter in February 2004.