At first glance, it could be an extension of the
— Set details —
Theme: LEGO Star Wars Set name: 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber Release: August 1, 2021
Price: £59.99 / $69.99 / €69.99 Pieces: 663 Minifigures: 2
— Build —
At £70 for 663 pieces and two minifigures, 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber certainly comes across as one of the pricier LEGO Star Wars sets currently available. Relatively speaking, it doesn’t compare too well to other notable releases of late – for £30 more you can getreview), which gives you all the members of the Bad Batch and their ship, while for £10 less you can get review) complete with three unique and new-to-LEGO-Star-Wars characters in minifigure form, and for £15 less you can get the quite wonderfully-designed review), also with two minifigures including a highly-desirable older Boba.
However – and in spite of being the only LEGO Star Wars set not to be reviewed before release – 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber was the first to sell out on August 1, ahead of that trio of sets, before two then followed it out of stock soon after. Even though on paper it seems a little more expensive, there is something quite obviously unique about 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber, and pleasingly it translates into the LEGO set that you actually get to build and enjoy (once your order arrives, several weeks after release day…).
As mentioned in the introduction, into LEGO Star Wars’ third decade, 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber remarkably manages to offer something new to build from the original trilogy. It is a complicated, moving structure that story-wise arguably serves very little purpose, but develops Darth Vader’s character both visually (this is our first, gruesome glimpse at his scars) and tonally (socially-distanced force choking), and so as a setting is rather memorable.
Tied so specifically to Vader, it is a space that separates him both literally and figuratively from the Empire he is surrounded by, as this lone Sith warrior. Given his popularity and indeed the number of LEGO Star Wars sets to have included him over the years, it is quite a surprise that this is the first time his meditation chamber has been put into LEGO form.
Accordingly, with the build standards and techniques that LEGO Star Wars offers in 2021, 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber more than delivers on the wait, striking a brilliant balance between the intricacy of the setting and the functionality behind it. This is an interesting, geometric model that captures a lot of the unusual twists and turns of the pod-like room quite wonderfully, while managing to keep it more-or-less minifigure scale. Balanced against that is the play feature that has been skilfully built into the model, allowing you to lift the top section up and down, reflecting its movement in The Empire Strikes Back.
As an overall design, it’s interestingly realised and as a LEGO build it is far more stylised than most. The way the base to the model comes together is almost how an experienced fan builder would complete their latest custom build, with an almost unnecessary level of tiling to smooth out the floor and give it that extra level of finish. It contributes to the overall aesthetic of the environment being recreated, which does indeed include shiny black floors, but in a lesser LEGO Star Wars set, you can’t help but wonder if those would be left as just large black plates.
In spite of this almost luxury level of building and detail, none of it comes at the expense of practicality, with the construction of the three circular steps up to the chamber well and truly locked into the display base beneath, giving the overall model a greater stability and structure.
In the same manner, while the design of the mechanism to lower and raise the top half to the chamber seems surprisingly loose, it demonstrates a keen understanding of the LEGO system, which results in making what is already a rather unique play feature that much more enjoyable. On a side note, and as a little insight into the considerations that these sorts of models go through, the design team did let slip in conversation with Brick Fanatics that they had been working on a version of the mechanism that would also twist to the side once open, but instead opted to stick with the film-accurate up-down movement only.
With regards to the chamber itself, it shouldn’t be overlooked how effortlessly the design team have achieved the sharp contrast between the bright white of the interior and the jet black of the exterior in a way that hasn’t thickened the walls beyond two plates. It’s only a small thing, but maintains a level of authenticity and attention to detail simply by avoiding something that a LEGO set could so easily have otherwise settled for.
That being said, one compromise that has been made is in how those angled walls leave rather large gaps at the point they change angle. Where the in-universe chamber seals fully shut, the LEGO set rather awkwardly leaves you making uncertain eye contact with the Dark Lord – did he… see me? Is he looking at me now? I know he’s definitely seen me by now. I should leave.
It’s perhaps an issue reflective of meeting the design criteria to otherwise come in as close to minifigure scale as possible. Within the parts selection available to the LEGO Star Wars design team, this was the best solution available. They could perhaps have moulded a new piece, but that would have upped the budget as it’s not likely to be a piece re-useable elsewhere in the company, or they could have built a fully-closable chamber at a larger scale, but that would leave you with a redundant pair of minifigures, when as characters their interaction in and around the chamber is part of what makes it so interesting as a setting.
An understandable issue, if not still an unfortunate one. Even so, the inclination when having this on display (which is going to be its primary function for most and is why it has been built on a black square base) is to leave it open, so if it’s the biggest issue with the set (and it is) then it’s at least easily ignored.
A lesser issue but one still worth mentioning is the absence in the model for something in the top half of the chamber to lift or at least hold Vader’s helmet, as it does in the film, and indeed as 2017’s 75183 Darth Vader Transformation manages to achieve in a similar fashion so brilliantly.
Leaving behind those issues brings us to the best feature about the set – the stickered screen that has been created and built into the back of the chamber. It’s a bonus extra part to the overall model and helps recreate one of Vader’s most iconic demonstrations of the dark side of the Force, when he chokes Admiral Ozzel, with Captain Piett watching on the sidelines. Bringing that element of story into 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber is as brilliantly done as it is unexpected, and it really completes the set.
— Characters —
75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber comes with two characters – Darth Vader and General Veers, whilst Admiral Ozzel and Captain Piett are wonderfully represented on the stickered screen built into the back of the model.
Darth Vader comes with printed arms and a starch fabric cape – a combination only seen before in
And just like with 2017’s brilliantly-executed 75183 Darth Vader Transformation, 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber is also a set where it’s as relevant to have Vader without his helmet as with it, meaning there’s added appreciation for the always-detailed design of his head print, front and back.
General Veers has appeared in minifigure form throughout the years and indeed only as recently as in 2020’s
— Price —
Price doesn’t seem to be an issue with 75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber given it was the first set to sell out in the summer 2021 wave of releases.
In spite of its function as primarily a display piece, some nice but hardly super-unique minifigures, and some small imperfections in design, this is a set that just appeals at even the pricier £59.99 / $69.99 / €69.99. There’s a novelty factor to the set and there’s a simple brilliance to its design that really helps justify the cost.
— Pictures —
— Summary —
75296 Darth Vader Meditation Chamber continues the summer 2021 run of truly unique LEGO Star Wars sets, taking something from the original trilogy never before built in LEGO and realising it in all its glory with a fun, clever and visually-interesting model.
As a display piece this set comes in at a decent size and looks fantastic, and as a LEGO set it surprises with how much the simple aspects of being able to swivel Darth Vader in his chair and lift and raise the top half of the chamber are a delight.
It’s the sort of set that is noteworthy for any number of reasons, from those just mentioned to the fact we’re not likely to see this in LEGO form again anytime soon, and for how it just starts the imagination going on what other small scenes and environments might translate into similar LEGO Star Wars display pieces. Anyone else see the perfect opportunity for a complete Carbon Freezing Chamber?
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