The path to the dark side is paved in LEGO bricks.
One of the biggest surprises -- literally -- in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the inclusion of Darth Vader's castle. A towering black monolith on the lava planet where the Sith Lord suffered his greatest defeat, it oozed mystery, menace, and the dark side. And now, at last, we have it in LEGO form.
Available exclusively at Amazon.com, LEGO Darth Vader's Castle measures over 16” tall, 11” wide, and 9” deep, capturing the tuning-fork look of the original construct and other design elements, from red-hued windows on the facade to a lava fall. That's not to mention the surprises, like a lookout tower, ancient Sith shrine with holocron, and an actual bacta tank, as seen in Rogue One. The set also comes with a great collection of minifigures, including Darth Vader, Darth Vader (creepy bacta tank edition), two Royal Guards, and an Imperial Transport Pilot, as well as Vader's TIE Advanced. Your LEGO rebel minigures will not want to visit here...
StarWars.com caught up with LEGO designer Hans Burkhard Schlömer to discuss how he combined the power of the dark side with LEGO bricks in this fun new set.
StarWars.com: As a designer, what do you like about Vader's castle as it's depicted in Rogue One and subsequent media?
Hans Burkhard Schlömer: At the time of designing this set, there was only Rogue One for reference. It is great to be finally shown Darth Vader’s lair on Mustafar, albeit briefly. Living in a lava castle may be a cliché for a bad guy, but if there ever was a villain entitled to a dark fortress surrounded by lava -- it’s definitely Darth Vader.
StarWars.com: Vader's castle is such a huge construct within the Star Wars universe. Where do you begin adapting something like this into LEGO form?
Hans Burkhard Schlömer: Here at LEGO in Billund, Denmark, we are experts at shrinking things, so to say. We adapted Star Destroyers, Cloud City, even a whole Death Star to fit into LEGO boxes. Before assembly, that is. So, the size of Vader’s home wasn’t an issue. The challenge here was to build the exterior as large as possible in order to allow for enough room on the inside to add all the features needed. To build the walls, I experimented with 3x12 wing plates, and indeed they allowed me to get the angles of the fortress’s walls right. Adding a floor inside those angled walls was a different story, though!
StarWars.com: I love the surprises on the inside of the castle. You have the bacta tank, but also some creative additions, like Vader's chamber, a Sith shrine, and a lookout tower. How did you decide what would be featured here?
Hans Burkhard Schlömer: It is important to have many play features and details in a LEGO set, when they are appropriate. Sometimes it is necessary to fill in blanks -- like the meditation chamber. We only see it in Empire [Strikes Back], on board of the Super Star Destroyer Executor. But certainly, Vader would have another pod at his home, right?
StarWars.com: We don’t see Vader's TIE fighter in Rogue One, but presumably, he would have a place for his ship somewhere near or in the castle. Where did inclusions like this come from?
Hans Burkhard Schlömer: Small vehicles add much play value to bigger sets. At one point I may look at a handful of bricks and try to decide how to get the most out of it: make the main model a little bit larger, maybe not even noticeably so -- or add a cool vehicle that would also look great on the on the front of the box? Right, that’s an easy answer! And the hangar below the castle just needs to have his TIE Advanced, where Vader could tinker with it. Just like little Anakin Skywalker did with his podracer. I believe this is something Vader would do. Everybody needs a hobby!
StarWars.com: What was the biggest challenge in capturing the imposing nature of Vader's castle?
Hans Burkhard Schlömer: Well, Vader’s fortress is a black tower on top of black rock with lava spilling out at the front -- the challenge here lies in finding ways of bringing in other colors and not make it all black! The building experience is a huge part of the overall experience of a LEGO set, and it becomes much more fun, as well as easier for children, when not all bricks have the same color. Also, details tend to disappear on all-black models. In partnership with the Lucasfilm team, we settled on a mix of black and dark gray for the fortress, and dark tan for the surrounding rocks. A great solution for this incredible model, and easily decodable. Add in some lava and the tall transparent-red windows, and the result is super-displayable as well as playable.
StarWars.com: What's single element of LEGO's Vader's castle are you especially proud of?
Hans Burkhard Schlömer: Remember the angled walls I mentioned earlier? Well, I had to connect them together somehow to stabilize the model, but due to their angles there were no connection points lining up anywhere. Very inconvenient! On top of that, I had to add at least one floor. The trick was to take a part of the problem -- the floor -- and turn it into a part of the solution: the floor only connects to the front wall, but interlocks with both sides. This holds the walls in place and adds support to the floor. It may sound technical, but for a designer it is always great to overcome challenges with a unique solution, maybe a solution never seen before in a LEGO set.
LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader's Castle is available now at Amazon.com.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.