June Walk(er)

Last month’s IG-88 wasn’t exactly a priority item for me, as I really prefer buildable bricks with my LEGO magazines, so the June issue of the Star Wars mag represents a return to form of sorts for me.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, June 2019, Cover

The model purports to represent an AT-M6 walker as seen in The Last Jedi, but to be honest it looks anything but. The lanky feet and overall flimsy construction simply don’t impress. The model is basically just a collection of hinge plates of various types. On the positive side it has the small 1 x 1 rounded hinges in Light Bluish Grey, which aren’t as common as some might think. Most sets use this part in Black. There are also two 1 x 3 on 1 x 2 jumper plates in that same lighter grey. This part is just so useful and has become indispensable ever since it was introduced last year, so one can never have enough.

The comics are okay, with the Vader droid one actually possibly not being that much off-canon, at least from my passing knowledge of these things. Allegedly indeed clones and droids were used as decoys and training partners. The other is dealing with a mishap involving an AT-M6 and a TIE Fighter, which kind of undermines the whole point and only shows how flawed the concept of these walkers is to begin with. On that note, though, I would have loved a nice large poster showing the various walker types as nice illustrations rather than just having three very specific ones pointed out on a page in their LEGO-fied form. With a bit more thematical consistency those mags could be so great even for adults…

May Dinos

I love dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures as much as the next guy, having spent hours and hours as a kid looking through the same books on the subject again and again as well as watching documentaries of this sort even today, so naturally, the LEGO Jurassic World magazine specials bring two worlds together.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World Special, May 2019, Cover

Admittedly, I haven’t bought any of the actual big sets. They’re not economical because quite literally there’s pretty much only one species of dinos in each of them and you’d have to spend a ton of cash. That wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the sets were useful as parts sources, but since they are very play-centric, even that doesn’t add up. Therefore I’ll likely resign myself to buying those magazines and possibly buying a bunch of the creatures from Bricklink. Regrettable, though, as I’d be totally game for a box with just the dinosaurs at the right price.

Anyway, people in a similar pinch might appreciate getting at least the mini version of Blue in this issue. I was lucky enough to snatch the polybag back then due to my little anecdote at the LEGO store, but otherwise you’d have to have bought a set for this little tyke just as well. It’s supposed to pop up from behind a bush in that little contraption you can build from the parts in the bag. It indeed works with the little platform on which the dino sits sliding forward and the wedge-shaped brick pushing aside the leaf elements on their liftarms.

It’s a bit flimsy, though, and to me the “rock” pedestal feels a bit lackluster. They could have included a few more pieces to cover it more fully. The rear ends of the black slide rail bricks should at least have had 2 x 1 tiles or plates matching the Reddish Brown and Dark Orange ground pieces and embedding them fully with some slopes on the sides would have been perfect. Still, good overall value on the parts.

The rest of the magazine naturally ties in with the latest movies and the The Secret of Isla Nublar animated mini series and is on long advertisement for the sets, but at least the comic is drawn well and has tons of images of different dinosaurs, so your kids will be happy and pull out the mag from under their bed and sift through the pages more than once, making this an excellent investment. There’s another issue already announced for October, though sadly it will not feature another mini dino. Would have been nice, but understandably they’ll keep the new prints exclusive to the not even released T.rex vs. Dino Mech Battle (75938) set for the time being. So we’ll have to make do with yet another Owen figure then…

 

May 88th

Another month, another LEGO Star Wars magazine. Yepp, that’s how quickly a month passes.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, May 2019, Cover

First, as usual, let’s have a look at the included extra. This time we’re getting an IG-88 droid, otherwise known as the bounty hunter that’s barely in any of the Star Wars films, yet somehow managed to become quite popular on its own. I could perhaps get behind one of those collectible larger sculptures out there, but otherwise it’s probably safe to say that I don’t care much. The LEGO version looks okay-ish, being based on standard droid parts. However the separate pieces will likely be more useful to me. People who are into minifigs are going to love it, though. They even included two blasters and you can never have enough of those.

The comics are great, with one playing out on Dagobah with Yoda and the other on some unnamed rather colorful jungle planet. The environments alone make for a nice change from the usual desert, rock and “muddy clay lump in space” planets used so often in these comics and they also offer some good inspiration. I can’t vouch for how much Yoda‘s adventures training Luke might deviate from the canon that may have been explained to death in some books that I never read, though.

The posters are kind of okay this time, though we’ve seen similar ones a million times. It seems they’re simply running out of ideas…

 

Boring Blue Elegance – Han Solo’s Landspeeder from Solo – A Star Wars Story (75209)

It’s been a while since I reviewed Moloch’s Landspeeder (75210) from the Solo – a Star Wars Story movie, so I’m kinda late giving you my opinion on its counterpart, but bear with me.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Box

The reason why I’m late to the party is that originally I didn’t plan on ever buying this set. When the tie-in sets for the movie came out fresh last year I pondered the idea for a while without actually having seen the film, but then decided against it.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Overview

The reasoning for this may sound ludicrous – the vehicle just looks too slick which not only makes it so stand out compared to the more rugged, used look in Star Wars, but also feels kinda boring. To me at least, since though I can get behind a nice car model and sure would love to buy e.g. the Ford Mustang GT (10265) from the Creator Expert series, I’m anything but a car aficionado. The circumstances under which I may like a vehicle are very specific and they figured into the buying decisions for this set insofar, as somehow that attempt at capturing that feel of 60s and 70s cars like the aforementioned Mustang, a Corvette, an Oldsmobile or whatever you may consider your favorite from that era just didn’t click with me. Not in the movie, not on the LEGO set.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Left View

None of that is of course LEGO‘s fault and I’m not going to say that the model is bad. It’s in fact surprisingly good within what the limited design would allow in terms of making things interesting. If anything, this impression of the design being a bit out of place in the given context is most definitely what is impacting its reception the most. If you appreciate a little design exploration then you’ll love it, if it ruins established Star Wars design tropes for you then you’re going to seriously not like it.

My moment of revelation came when lately my need for Dark Blue parts increased due to dabbling with stuff based on the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) and I began to see those tiles etc. in a different light. Apparently many people share reservations similar to mine about the landspeeder, so this set doesn’t appear to sell that well and has dropped noticeably in price. I got my example for a mere 17 Euro, but on average it retails for around 20 Euro now. The original 30 Euro MSRP aren’t that unusual for these types of sets, but especially in this case feel like “the Star Wars tax” , i.e. licensing fees, is/ are making things unnecessarily expensive.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Top View

With my expectations being pretty low, I didn’t think I’d be enjoying the build that much because it would be simple and thus short, but it is surprisingly complex and takes just that bit longer that makes it feel like you got your money’s worth in terms of the fun of actually assembly duration. It’s in no way negative and the actual building process has a nice overall flow. There are a few repetitive bits like plugging on a ton of brackets to attach the half-cylindrical shapes on the sides, but it never gets to the point where it would be a nuisance. There’s always enough variation across the individual steps.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Front View

The techniques employed aren’t revolutionary, but work very well and retain the elegance of the original. Walls aren’t overly thick, there is a sort of detailed interior and even the airfoil section in the aft is not overly massive. During the build things can be a bit confusing and nerve-wrecking, though, as in many places Lime 1 x 1  studs are inserted that have you wondering whether they will remain visible later on. Thankfully all of them disappear behind or under other elements, making for a very clean impression. Personally I also like the use of Tan for the interior instead of the usual greys, giving the look of fine leather.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Right View

People have speculated about the origins of the asymmetrical layout of the exterior, with the left side merely exposing the innards due to the covers having been shredded in an accident or something like that. That has led some of them to rebuild this side in the same fashion as the right one to get a better maintained/ repaired/ factory-fresh version of this speeder. While it’s certainly a valid interpretation of the circumstances, it’s not one I share. Point in case: As soon as you try that, the model loses its optical balance. Therefore I’m inclined to think that this is more a matter of a) conscious film-centric design using the asymmetry to add interest and b) even if they were closed, the left side covers likely could still have been shaped and arranged differently.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Aft View

This point could be debated endlessly, naturally, and is very much a matter of personal view, but since the spoiler wing most definitely is intentionally designed with different left and right sides, I would argue that it’s not too far-fetched to assume the left side of the entire vehicle could have looked different once, too. Either way, exposing some of the tubes and wires is still nice. To me it feels like they could have gone even further and really tried to include more of the engine turbine, its fuel lines and electrical cabling.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Reactor Insert

The rear section is by and large the weakest part of the model. It looks like nothing in the movie, as it’s basically just the aft of a historic automobile where the round rear lights have been replaced with the jet exhausts and the two large boxes stand in as bumper bulges in order to cover the actual mounting points. Inevitably they couldn’t do much about it, so it looks pretty iffy, even more so since LEGO to this day hasn’t done a proper jet nozzle element and the ever same wheel hub elements are used instead. As a minor, they could have done them in silver at least.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Closed Hood

As seen throughout this article, the model can accommodate the two minifigures just fine and the proportions look okay-ish. The model has almost the size of Moloch’s Landspeeder, which depending on what shots from the movie you look at could be about right or too big. It’s hard to judge, but in my opinion it boils down to the fact that LEGO‘s version of the Moloch vehicle is simply too small by comparison, or more to the point not “heavy” enough. Having minifigs furthers this impression even more. Therefore perhaps you should not put both vehicles immediately next to each other on your shelf or showcase.

LEGO Star Wars, Han Solo's Landspeeder (75209), Open Hood

On the whole this is a pretty decent model. It’s just not very exciting. The original was not used well in the movie and in fact that whole chase sequence to me felt forced and unnecessary (it seems they really just crammed it in to pull a cheap joke referencing the mishap later in the film). Inevitably that rubs off on the set as well and limits its attractiveness. It’s just not a must-have when every other vehicle in the Solo movie looks a ton of times cooler.

20 Years and a whole Lot of Nothing

In case you didn’t know it: It’s 20 years of LEGO Star Wars. That anniversary should be reason for celebration – or so you thought. It mostly isn’t. Now of course going on about the steady decline of Star Wars as a whole, Star Wars‘ further decline in the hands of Disney and the decline of Star Wars toy sales in general would be redundant and seems kinda pointless. However, it cannot be ignored when it comes to LEGO.

Most notably I’m baffled by how lackluster the releases this year are. I’ve never been the greatest Star Wars fan on earth and I can’t keep the character names, ship types and locations straight on the best of days, though watching the movies every now and then is just as much a guilty pleasure of mine as for many others, yet even an ignorant fool like me can’t help but feel that LEGO Star Wars is no longer what it could be or was meant to be.

I was already wary when that Cloud City thing was released and it seems that unfortunate trend of making the Star Wars sets more toyish instead of more realistic only continues. From the small battle sets to the new sets based on Star Wars – Resistance animated series to the actual 20th anniversary editions the rationale at LEGO seems to be that they can turn this train wreck around if only they either add some abstract idealistic nostalgia value or a ton of questionable play features on otherwise rudimentary sets.

Similarly, the few items that fall into the high-quality range like the UCS models or the 20th anniversary Slave 1 (75243) only re-tread the same paths over and over again. Such is also the case for the Tantive IV (75244) announced at Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago. To say that some people’s reactions were less than enthusiastic would be an understatement. The irony is of course that everybody expected it to be this model thanks to rumours long having permeated the interwebs, but it just didn’t turn out as the super detailed UCS level model everyone predicted or wanted. It’s just another toy at a rather hefty price.

Now of course none of this means that this stuff won’t sell well in a “LEGO (and Disney) still make a buck.” sense, but the lukewarm reactions from a specific subset of fans don’t bode well and should cause some concern even for the upcoming Episode IX movie, the teaser trailer for which was also just released. Are we perhaps in for another slew of mediocre sets that just tick boxes without being truly great? I’m really beginning to worry. It’s just disappointing that they couldn’t come up with something better…

Tatooine Tag Team – Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228)

For me Star Wars at best remains a peripheral interest and most LEGO sets of that series therefore don’t interest me that much, but every now and then there comes one along that you just can’t pass on. The Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228) set, in the Microfighters sub-line no less is exactly that, so let’s explore the reasons.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Box

Apparently the Microfighters are limited by their scale, so the models are pretty hit & miss and their attractiveness depends hugely on the chosen subject and how well it can be represented with the limited number of parts available. Some of them are actually quite good, others not so much. This particular set falls most definitely in the first category, as it’s genuinely well-executed.

A strong argument to that effect can already be made since it’s a dual set. Those usually are a bit more generous in terms of parts allotment, so the models tend to look slightly more realistic to begin with. Here this is further helped by the choice of subjects – a small escape pod and an equally relatively small animal. Unlike sets where e.g. huge Star Destroyers are represented with only a bunch of elements and all the finer details are mostly left to your imagination, here you actually get something you can recognize and work with.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Overview

The minifigures in this set are not really that noteworthy except for the Stormtrooper. C3PO and R2D2 are just the plain garden variety you may have seen a hundred times over the years and which are and have been included in so many sets, magazines and books that you may already have a storage box full of them, assuming you bought other LEGO Star Wars stuff ever. The Stormtrooper/ Sandtrooper, aside from the fact that you can never have enough of them, stands out in that it uses the latest version of the helmet and has a unique print of sand/ dirt patterns, distinguishing it from other troopers.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Pod, Left View

The escape pod is – shall we say – a very loose and liberal interpretation of the genuine article from the Star Wars – A new Hope movie, but a far cry from an exact replica. The funny thing is, to me at least the much bigger-looking engine exhausts look way better than they would if this were a more realistic rendition. The front section on the other hand somehow just doesn’t feel right. As a minor I would have hoped they use a larger cone for the nose so it doesn’t look as stubby.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Pod, Aft View

The construction of the pod uses a conventional “rocket” style method where the round plates and other elements are simply stacked and then tilted on the side pretty much as you would expect. This keeps the overall build simple and quick, taking only a few minutes. The downside is that you basically have to completely create your own design from scratch for anything else. There’s just no built-in flexibility where you could do trivial things as just leaving off a brick to expand the available space the lady would just fall apart. The kids won’t mind, though. There are also a few parts highlights like the silver roller skates that should be useful.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Dewback, Left View

The highlight of the set and no doubt the main reason for many buyers is the Dewback that comes as a fully buildable figure instead of a solid custom mold. this provides an interesting challenge and extends the building fun. Additional incentive is provided by the many Sand Green parts, some of which haven’t been available in this color until last year (the wedge plate with cut corner) or not been re-released in a long time in this same color (the inverted slopes). Especially if you are into buildings, creating patinated roofs, sculptures and the like or just generally like to use this color this will be super useful. I also love the 3 x 2 jumper plates in Reddish Brown.

The one thing that is amiss with the Dewback is its size. It very much looks like a baby version of the creature. This isn’t so much an issue of the scale not hitting that magic minifigure threshold nor is it that the Sandtrooper would look excessively oversized in relation to the beast, it’s more a case of the whole thing just looking way too cute due to its compact proportions and large eyes. I genuinely think it therefore should have been about one-third larger to at least somewhat mitigate that perception. In particular the body should look more bulky and be longer while the small head is probably okay.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Dewback, Right View

In its entirety the set is lovely, though. It’s fun to build and when you are done, you actually feel like you have something nice to play with or put on the shelf. Personally I would have preferred a bit of a different spin with the escape pod being half-buried in sand and a group of troopers standing around with two of the Dewbacks, which probably also would have made more sense story-wise (as in the movie the robots and the search party never meet). It might also have better justified the MSRP of around 20 Euro, as at least to me R2D2 and C3PO simply don’t count because they have been so over-used. More Sandtroopers would simply have been cooler and more useful. Luckily you can get this set for around 14 Euro in many online shops and that’s absolutely okay, so this is a definite recommendation.

April U

Months fly by quickly and so here we are again having a look at the LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2019, Cover

As I already wrote last month, the cover design derived from the then current centerfold poster is beyond lame as are basically the overall stylistic inconsistencies between poorly touched up photos, mediocre CG renderings and the occasional traditionally drawn stuff. Guess what? This month’s posters aren’t that great, either. The little ones won’t mind, but for adults it’s sort of off-putting. One really wishes they’d make this more oriented towards grown-ups and hired some good illustrators that could do movie quality posters at least every once in a while…

The main comic feels a bit stretched out and jumbled this time around, as apparently there never really was a real Boba Fett doppelgänger and the Mandalorians were only introduced after the original movies as far as I’m aware. Those breaks in the timeline logic seem weird to me, even if only for a kids comic. Of course the second comic had to squeeze in a story about the U-Wing, though to me it seems equally odd to “plug” the large model (set 75155) so obviously when you can no longer buy it. Try to explain that to your younglings!

The included buildable model is a little treasure chest of very interesting parts. It comes with two 4 x 1 modified plates with offset, which at least in White aren’t used that often, so that’s definitely a nice addition to my parts repository. The same goes for the 1 x 3 jumper plate in Yellow (!) that so far only appears in the Voltron (21311) set. Finally there’s also one of the new T-style brackets in Dark Bluish Grey, a single White 2 x 1 plate with rounded corners, plate-height hinges and hollow 1 x 1 studs plus naturally some blue parts and a few others.

Considering that due to their rarity some of those parts are still expensive on Bricklink, buying this mag will give you a good return value on that alone. Not bad at all, though the U-Wing itself isn’t really the most attractive vehicle in Star Wars to begin with and the construction of the model is a bit flimsy. Arguably that’s true for all of these tiny versions, including the Microfighters one or the polybag that came out some time ago. In any case, it’s nice to see LEGO putting those newer parts to use where they can do a lot of good on those miniature sets.

Overall I’m happy, but this is a situation where 80% of my good belly feeling come from the model and its parts for apparent reasons. It would be nice if they could improve on the mag in the same manner and make things more balanced…