Do you know this weird situation when you want a specific LEGO set for a number of reasons, yet it never becomes a top priority or you even dislike it for certain other reasons? This weird dichotomy happened to me with the Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612) from The LEGO Ninjago Movie and it always prevented me from buying the set. Fortunately I got a lucky break with a discounted price I couldn’t resist, so things worked out, after all.
To clarify this mystery, allow me to delve into the details a bit. First let’s look at why I possibly wanted this set. In my case the answer should be pretty predictable by now if you have read some of my other articles – it’s about the parts and their potential to be re-used in other projects. In that regard the set is almost a dream.
It’s overflowing with elements in Sand Green. Somehow I have that weird image in my head that on day I might build something where I’m going to need a ton of these pieces, be that a building with a green patinated copper roof, some ginormous sculpture or a vehicle and that’s why I can’t stop myself collecting sets with parts in this color, even if it may not be of any particular immediate relevance. In case of this mechanical dragon those inner urges are amplified by the inclusion of a large number of golden elements and some further ones in Dark Green. If you will, it’s the perfect bait in the sense that procuring those parts separately would be a lot more difficult and costly.
The reasons I was hesitant and that kept me away from buying this set for a long time are equally numerous and complicated, yet still somehow have to do with the parts. Correct, this creature is what I’d like to call a “Joints and Hinges Monstrosity” with half the mass and volume of the set being spent on those bulky large ball joints and 2D pin joints. If I was into building robots and other mechanical creatures all the time I might welcome this opportunity, but since i don’t, those parts are mostly wasted on me (they may come in handy in some form one day, though, I’m sure).
Further contributing to this “I don’t care much!” feeling was/ is the overall blandness and dullness of the set. Indeed I simply do not care for getting the 500th Master Wu or Lord Garmadon and there is little to nothing else to sink your teeth into in terms of details. It’s really just one big-ass dragon. That in itself represents a bit of a problem, as effectively the thing is way too large for kids to actually be able to decently play with it.
Basically you always have to be careful to not whip the tail in your face and hold it with two hands, making it nearly impossible to intuitively pose the model. If you put up the dragon straight in its fully stretched out form, this becomes even more apparent because the actual range of motion of the individual body segments is rather limited, i.e. they can partially move left or right, but not necessarily a lot up and down and vice versa. Ironically this is necessary because otherwise it would be completely unstable. You couldn’t put it on its feet and it would curl up like a snake all the time.
Despite its already huge size the model in no way captures the style and elegance of the version used in the movie. Mostly it simply looks too skeletal with the joints being too exposed. In the film the model is about twice as large, allowing each segment to be shaped with much more elements and looking much more organic. Something has definitely been lost scaling it down, as to my eyes it looks neither here nor there. In fact it would have been fine with me if they had made the best of the situation and actually played with the idea of exposing more of the inner parts, giving it a more mechanical look and feel.
A lot of the odd “caught between a rock and a hard place” feeling in my opinion also has to do with the inconsistent use of color and some crude, simplified parts. Had they run with my idea of a more mechanical creature, they would have had to use more gold and possibly tons of tiny elements in silver as well to represent some inner structure.
Just the same I feel that having a single molded part for the feet is not ideal. It may add stability, but it simply doesn’t look very pretty. They should have used some of the techniques that are commonly employed on LEGO Elves dragons where the feet typically are assembled from curved slopes and other parts and are just as stable while at the same time looking more convincing. That argument BTW also would apply for a larger, more organic version of the beast.
Color usage rubs me the wrong way in that they seemed to be unable to make up their minds about when to use black and dark grey vs. the greens. As a minor I would have expected that they settle on just black or just grey for the joints and not a wild mix of both, but ideally of course those parts would have been in Dark Green or Sand Green as well. Some additional covering up of exposed areas with plates and slopes also wouldn’t have hurt.
The inconsistent colorization makes the various openable/ poseable appendages a lot less attractive than it would seem at first, too. It’s literally like you open up a hood and something ugly that totally doesn’t match in style is staring back at you. In particular the engine section really makes you go *eek*. Not that I think using an L-shaped Technic element is a good idea to begin with, but at least they could have made it black. This would have also made the silver “exhaust nozzles” stand out more and overall simply looked cooler.
There’s a first time for everything and so after having had to get a replacement part for a set a while ago, I now had to request extra parts from LEGO service because they were actually missing. Under the two levers in the cockpit where I inserted some 1×1 round tiles there should actually be golden 1×1 square plates with clips to act as temporary weapons holders while the dragon is being operated.
The parts have arrived ever since I took the photos, but still – I’ll never quite understand why LEGO insist on their bean counting and you even have to use your spares sometimes instead of just throwing in enough elements to begin with. The padded envelope and mailing cost from Billund to Germany definitely cost them more than those two extra parts worth fractions of a Cent. It’s even more ridiculous when you consider that overall there are supposed to be ten of these golden clips on this model, so the jump from those seven to a generic pre-sorted mini bag with ten of these items seems trivial – in my mind at least.
Luckily nothing else was missing, so decorating the head with golden parts proceeded as planned. All of them are movable one way or another, so it’s entirely up to your taste how aggressive you make it look by spreading them out or conforming them more to the streamlines. the same applies to the black spikes which in contrast to the original design I added in their perpendicular position, not flat. The blades not being actually symmetrical kinda teed off my orderly tendencies.
An interesting detail are the golden bananas for the tear bags, which made me grin when I first saw photos of this set and realized what they actually were. Similarly, using a magenta flag for the tongue is an interesting solution. The rest is a mix of some minifigure accessories, Bionicle parts and the already mentioned regular recolored hinges and plates.
Similar to the Elves dragons I’m not friends with the jaws and nose being specifically molded parts, as they end up in the “useless” bin once you disassemble these models and use their parts elsewhere, but in this scale and in light of the absence of some specific curved elements I guess it is the simpler solution than trying to create the from individual parts.
After so much criticism, why did I end up with the set, after all? As written earlier, this was a case of mere chance and the price was simply so ridiculously irresistible, it alone made up for all the shortcomings.
This is going to turn some of your faces blue and green from jealousy, but honest to God, I got it sealed and unused with a 45 percent discount in a regular store. Yupp, hard as it is to believe, I got this set, which is still current and retails for 50 Euros regular price for a mere 27 Euros. The crazy story behind this is that it had been lying unnoticed in a drugstore chain’s toys shelf for a while and when I first noticed it, it already had been reduced to 35 Euros. Because it wasn’t a high priority, I didn’t pick it up, hoping to get it even cheaper one day, most likely in some online clearance sale.
Two months later I stopped by in the same store and lo and behold – the box was still there, now for a lowered price of 30 Euros. I once again abstained from a purchase, still not thinking much of it, though admittedly afterwards I had regrets not having jumped the chance when telling my mom about it. Fast forward another two months and the exact same set was still there and I got this gut feeling of “If I don’t take it home now, it will be gone.”. Still somewhat reluctant i finally got over it and snatched it. This was simply too good a chance to pass up. Things then got even better when I got a further ten percent discount due to an ongoing special promo in this exact week when I buying it. So there you have it – that’s how I arrived at 27 Euros.
I wouldn’t call it a sign from a higher power, but the box having sat there unscathed for half a year in the end must have meant something, considering that despite everyone ignoring it and walking by this is a large and busy store, regardless. I guess sometimes even I get lucky.
In conclusion, my points stick: This isn’t really a must-have model. Similar to the Garmadon shark sub it isn’t in any way representative of the version used in the movie, so in no way is everything awesome in Ninjago City. It also is simply too unwieldy to play with it and due to its size you will be hard-pressed to find a place to store it. Display model collectors will also likely scoff at the simplifications and lack of some details as well as the color usage.
Don’t get me wrong – I feel that I got what I wanted, but I never had plans to keep the assembled model around for long to begin with and primarily had my eye on the parts. That being the case, getting the whole package for 27 Euros certainly is a good deal, but I wouldn’t have gotten it at much more than that, anyway, as essentially in this case I only paid for the useful parts (slopes, plates and details) and got the ‘”useless” ones (figures, joints and integrally molded one-offs like the head) for “free”. Talk about the economics of LEGO…