If you watch Star Wars: Episode I and try to forget everything you know about it, you'll discover something: it's actually a pretty good film. But that's not the point we're making today. No, if you watch it and put all outside knowledge away, you'll discover that Darth Maul was supposed to be a secret.
It's a problem we've talked about before: a movie is written, shot and edited with a big character reveal in mind, but then the advertising campaign blows the entire thing before the film even opens. For instance,
in Terminator 2, you were supposed to think Robert Patrick was the good guy, here to save everyone from another evil Arnold Schwarzenegger. And in The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was supposed to be a mysterious figure: he spent the first three quarters of the movie with his hood up, and only ever fought with one blade of his lightsaber; but damned if every piece of merchandise and every trailer didn't show off the two things they were trying like hell to keep secret (his horns and his "secret" second lightsaber blade). It'd be nice if filmmakers and people who edit trailers could get together and agree on what's supposed to be a surprise.
This figure is part of the Vintage Collection, which means that he's sort of the "ultimate" version of the character - about the only thing he can't do is split in half! He's packaged wearing his (softgoods) robe and (plastic) hood, so it's a bit hard to see what you're getting. The cloak is very nice though, thin enough that it looks the right size on his body, but thick enough that it holds folds well and bunches around his joints. Still not a fan of softgoods at this scale, but this looks as good as it can. The hood sits too high on his head, but that's an effect of putting thick plastic over his horns; no way around it.
The hood slides up off the head, and the robe is of course removable. His head is the best Maul sculpt ever put on a 3¾" toy, even surpassing the Sith Legacy version. The horns are fully formed, not just nubs, and the paint apps are almost comically precise. The only logical explanation is that Hasbro had this figure painted by a team of foot-tall magical elves.
Beneath his robe, Darth Maul is wearing... more robes.
Come on, you know what his outfit looks like. Just like Jedi robes, but black instead of cream. The bits below his belt are softgoods, so they won't get in the way of the articulation, but it's not too bad. The sculpted parts are better, naturally. This is the first Maul to be sculpted with a wrist commlink - there was a separate piece included in the Sith Accessory Set, but this is more to scale and less likely to get lost. That's a small change to the classic design, but it's a nice way to set this figure apart from the others.
One note, though: mine was assembled with his belt on backwards, and that wasn't something you could tell in the packaging; it's not glued to the figure, though, so I was able to spin it around with just a little effort.
Darth Maul's articulation is plentiful and well-chosen. He has a balljointed head and abdomen, swivel/hinge shoulder, elbows, hips, knees and ankles, and swivel wrists. Basically, he can assume pretty much any ass-kicking pose you want. You can re-stage the duel with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and with you in charge maybe he'll be smart enough not to taunt his opponent when there's a working lightsaber within reach. The figure doesn't come with a stand, though, so if you want him to hold any extreme poses, you'll either have to scrounge one from somewhere else, or be really good at balancing your toys.
So, what does he come with? We start with a pair of macrobinoculars, perfect for scanning the beautiful Tatooine
landscape. Then there's the unignited lightsaber hilt, which has a peg so it can plug into his belt. And finally, a two-piece lightsaber that plugs together in the center. Really wish at least one of the blades were removable, so you could have "first encounter with Qui-Gon" look, but no such luck. At least the blades are sculpted with the flare at the base.
There's no question about it: this Darth Maul is the Darth Maul. There's no better toy of him, period. Yes, there are a few things we'd change, given the chance (half-ignited saber, cut-in-half torso), but that doesn't mean this one isn't worth buying right now.