The Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader Sixth Scale Figure from Hot Toys Review

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I may be a little late to the party on snagging and showcasing this figure, but things happen.  I did have it for pre-order but house stuff and taking care of pet bills in the summer left me having to cancel my order.  My wife was kind enough to buy me this figure for Christmas and I’m ecstatic about it (thanks, baby)!

While I already have Sideshow’s Return of the Jedi Darth Vader figure from many years ago, I still picked up the Darth Vader that was a part of the Tarkin/Vader set that came out early last year.  I like both of them quite a bit, although the Sideshow Darth Vader is starting to really show its age.

When Hot Toys announced they were making a Darth Vader from The Empire Strikes Back, it put me in a position.   Did I really need another sixth scale Darth Vader? On one hand, there’s enough variety in the costumes to justify having representation in my collection of all three original trilogies Darth Vader figures.  On the other hand, these things aren’t cheap.  I could get a character I didn’t have with that money! Not only that, I know there are very few people who would come over and notice any difference between the three Darth Vader figures.  I said screw it and added it to my Christmas list instead of a new character and here we are.

I’ll be giving my thoughts on this figure (of course), but I’ll also be comparing it to the A New Hope (Episode IV) Darth Vader for most of the feature.  For those who would like to watch instead of reading and looking at pics (or both), there’s a video embedded from my YouTube channel at the bottom.

If you’ve been collecting Hot Toys figures, there’s no surprise here with what the box looks like.  There’s a picture of the figure on the front, the credits on the back, and a cool picture of the figure on the inside flap.  Like usual, things were packed securely in the plastic trays.

Out of the box, the figure seems pretty similar to the Episode IV Darth Vader from last year and that’s OK because I thought that figure rocked.  Thankfully, Hot Toys kept the scale the same and they are both the same size, coming in just shy of 14″,  That’s a tall sixth scale figure! Click the pics to see full size, of course!

The outfit underneath the cape and mechanics appears to be the same as the Episode IV Vader but it looks just a tad glossier to me.  It’s tight on the figure so that’s going to affect the articulation.  You can extend the arms out horizontally to a degree but you don’t want the seams of the materials to rip if you go too far.  You can bend at the elbows and knees but you know that if you keep the knees or elbows bent, you’ll get bunching marks/wrinkles permanently on the under suit.  That’s the con of having these things so realistic looking and the high quality materials used.  There’s barely any movement for the legs although I am glad the cod piece is smaller than the Ep. IV figure.

The cape material that hangs in front of the figure near the legs differs from the Ep. IV Vader in two ways: a) there’s no wiring to help you position it and b) it feels like a lighter material.  Not only that but the cape material is tucked under the shoulder armor and not over it like the ANH Vader.  The cape itself also doesn’t feel as heavy as the cape on the other figure as well.

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The robotic/computer pieces look more high-tech on The Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader.  I’ll show some comparison shots later but as you can see now, the little bits of writing on the main chest piece, the additional pieces above the squares and in between the rectangles in the middle piece do make it more modern looking.

Just like the Episode IV Vader, the two pieces on the belt can light up after inserting the included batteries.  The chest piece on this figure also lights up, whereas the Ep. IV Vader’s does not.  I’m curious as to why Hot Toys didn’t add that feature for the other one.

The helmet on this figure really differs from the original movie helmet.  Many people love the look of the original because it’s slightly asymmetric, isn’t as refined, and it’s the original look, scratching that nostalgia.  This one is symmetric and it’s also glossier and has both of the little pieces at the front of the helmet painted silver.  The eyes appear larger because the dome sits a bit higher and hugs the top of the eyes more.  The dome has some slight scuffing from the factory or from being packed but it’s nothing like my Ep. IV figure had (note: Sideshow did send me a replacement for the Ep. IV figure head, thankfully).

If the shape and minute detailing of the helmet wasn’t enough for you, this figure comes with a removable dome so you can see the back of Vader’s head, just like the scene in his chamber.   I love the detailing done on the bottom of the helmet.  The texturing behind the bolts and connectors is a really great touch and attention to detail.  The pale skin and wounds are very life like and really match what we saw in the film.  Same goes with all the circuitry on the top and front of the helmet.  The only downside to having the removable dome is that you have to press hard for it to stay in place and even then, it can become loose.  Some people may drop it or, in my case when moving the figure to take photos, the dome shifts positions when moving the head.

The figure comes with seven additional gloves/hands, bringing the total to nine.  You have hands to point, force deflect, force choke/pull, and hold the lightsaber.  There are so many different iconic positions you could pose Vader in from the sequences on Cloud City, you’ll have a hard time deciding how to pose the figure.

The main gripe with this figure has to do with swapping the hands/gloves. I really wish each additional gloved hand had the pegs actually inside the glove because if you’re swapping hands and the peg comes detached from the wrist, you’ll need pliers near by.  Out of all the sixth scale figures, this is the hardest figure to swap the hands for.  It literally took me almost 10 minutes each time I tried to have the tiny peg find and get inserted into the glove and/or stick in the wrist hole.  It doesn’t help that the gloves are so hard that it makes it all even harder.  It’s definitely not fun and takes away from the figure.  It’s frankly a pain in the ass.

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The lightsaber hilt is pretty damn accurate to the changes from Episode IV.  You can hang the hilt on the side of Vader’s belt or add the blade to make it an active lightsaber.  If the single blade isn’t for you, you can add the “in action” / swinging blade to recreate his battle with Luke or if you want to pretend he has just cut the posts on the diorama. As I was taking pictures after my video was filmed, the top piece of the hilt became loose and fell off. I just have to glue it but that was another WTF moment with this purchase.

The figure also comes with an additional forearm piece where you can insert batteries and make the lightsaber glow.  It was such a pain in the ass to swap the arm out for the Episode IV Vader that I am not doing it for this figure.  My apologies if you were looking to see it, but the seam/area Hot Toys left to even do the swap on this figure looks even smaller and I just don’t want to wreck the outfit or wrestle with the headache for an hour. I can only imagine how hard it would be if swapping the gloves was so damn tiresome.

The diorama piece is something that really tipped the scale when deciding whether or not to get this figure. Yes, the figure has a slightly different look, but it’s the extras like this that really cement what film the figure is from really that helps add some pizazz to displays.  It’s a lightweight piece that looks like it’s lifted right from Cloud City.  It comes shipped in two pieces but slides together with no problem.

There’s some slight weathering around the base although it’s quite smooth and clean looking where the figure stands.  If you want some extra support for your figure, you can attach the figure holder to the base.  I think this may take away from the overall look but I’m glad Hot Toys put that option in for those who are overly cautious.  I would have liked them to have a small little piece to put in the hole for those not using the stand.

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The work on the pillars and other objects on the diorama are done very well, adding realism to the piece, especially the section that Vader cuts with his lightsaber.  They look very crispy.  For those of you wanting even more realism, you can add three AAA batteries (not included) into the base and flick the switch to have two of the lights blink.  They usually start off blinking at the same time until they begin to alternate.  I go through it all in the video at the end.

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Depending on if you have an older Sideshow Collectibles Luke Skywalker or Hot Toys’ awesome DX07 Luke, you could set up a section of your display with those figures battling it out.

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Below are comparison shots of the ANH Vader that was released earlier in the year with Tarkin with this more recent ESB figure.  You can clearly see the difference in the masks and computer circuitry.  For giggles, I also took a shot of both those figures alongside Sideshow’s Return of the Jedi Deluxe Darth Vader figure.  Its amazing to see how tall that figure is when the two Hot Toys figures are already tall.  As well, it also shows how far sixth scale figures have come because while Sideshow’s is a good figure, it’s kinda showing its age.

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I don’t think there’s a question of if Hot Toys will do their own Darth Vader from Return of the Jedi, it’s when.  They’re currently working on their 1/4 scale Vader from that movie and I can see them taking that design and shrinking it all down to 1/6 scale for 2020.  Only time will tell if I snag that one, too, or just keep my Sideshow piece….or both.  I never thought I’d have three sixth scale Darth Vader figures, so what’s one more? Oh yeah…you may say I need to track down the Rogue One Vader, too! Decisions, decisions….  I guess the main positive to take away from all of this is that people can have their favourite look for Vader from the three movies for their collection.

Wrapping up, this figure looks great.  I love how accurate it turned out.  The negatives, though, really tick me off.  It’s so hard to swap the right arm and the gloves, which makes it not as enticing to reposition often.  The dome being removable is a great idea but it just pops off so easy that the potential for damaging it is high.

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Enjoy the video!

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