Mandalorian Raider – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, September 2021

The weekend was quite uncomfortably cold for late August, so I was looking forward to the latest LEGO Star Wars magazine even more to take my mind off things, even more since I knew that it would contain a buildable model which I still favor over minifigures.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2021, Cover

The first comic takes us back to Kashyyyk, home of the Wookies, and features an aerial chase with some large dragonfly creatures which of course in turn have inspired similar vehicles as can be seen in Revenge of the Sith.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2021, Comic

The second comic as usual is meant to provide context for included extra and revolves around The Mandalorian. Since Disney are hanging on to their Disney+ exclusivity and still haven’t released at least the first season on alternate streaming services or Blu-Ray I still mostly don’t know much about the details apart from watching trailers, clips and summaries on the Internet, so I’m pretty clueless about the specifics.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2021, Comic

Both comics are drawn reasonably dynamically and do their job, though unlike other times I haven’t detected a specific panel that got me excited to a point where I would want it as a poster. A similar lack of enthusiasm is creeping in with the puzzles and quizzes, which just don’t seem to evolve (not artistically nor in their contents) and are really getting long in the tooth. I’m pretty sure that if I had a halfway smart kid he or she would be bored to death by this point.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2021, Poster

The posters are okay, though perhaps recycling an old poster from The Last Jedi and ineptly smooshing in the imperial flag is not a great effort. You know, the usual five-minute Photoshop hack job. They should at least have spent more time on mimicking the texture of the cloth waving in the wind. Of course I have been advocating bringing out the Mos Eisley wimmelpicture as a poster, but somehow it still feels terribly small. I guess it’s really a candidate for one of Blue Ocean‘s XXL editions where they bundle up regular LEGO polybags with a special mag and the poster is a huge eight-fold spread. The problem is, though, that currently there aren’t any new Star Wars polybags, so it may take a while before we get to see something like that.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2021, Poster

The extra is the AT-ST raider from The Mandalorian with its colored legs and a few other brown replacement parts bashed together from scrap yard finds. You could of course build it in consistently grey colors from your own parts if you have all the pieces at hand. In fact it would have been a fun experiment if they had included all two versions here or sold the magazine in two variants, considering that the Kashyyyk comic also features an AT-ST in its default appearance. It would be totally worth it since the model is very well designed and just looks the part. Aside from a good helping of the ratcheted hinge plates no super rare or special pieces, though.

I quite like this issue. The model is nice and the comics and posters are likable. As so often a little more love and attention could have made it even better, but it’s more than acceptable.

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.

Failure Explained? – A Look at Solo – A Star Wars Story

Since I’ve already reviewed two sets associated with the Solo – A Star Wars Story movie (see here and here) I figured, now that it’s available on Blu-Ray/ DVD/ Digital, it would be time to take a look at the film itself and possibly find the reasons why it failed to make an impression in cinemas and how that may relate to the LEGO sets.

Solo - A Star Wars Story, DVD, Cover

The movie itself in my view is not as terrible as all those reports about the changes and the turmoil behind the scenes made it sound. What becomes apparent rather quickly, however, is the “Too many cooks…” problem. Even if you are not a Star Wars buff at all you will quickly notice the constant shifts in tonality. There are very dark scenes depicting the evil side of the syndicates and The Empire intermingled with supposedly funny bits and action pieces and you can tell that they all come from different versions of the script right down to the very different shot compositions used by the different directors and production units. It’s highly inconsistent and only underlines that the movie and the people producing it in the end didn’t have much of an idea what they wanted it to be.

Where it totally fails is the interpersonal relations between the different characters. You never buy into that relationship between Han and Kira and neither do you ever feel that the interactions between Han and Beckett or Han and Lando serve any other purpose other than providing a background for exchanging some quips or old-man-wisdom. Even Han‘s relation to Chewie isn’t really explored and comes about very casually as if you could meet any stranger on the street and be life-long best buddies the next day. A lot of that can be blamed on very poor acting. Most of the time it’s simply incredulous and artificial like a B-movie and by that I don’t even mean Alden Ehrenreich‘s failed Harrison Ford impression which he was forced to put on.

Regardless, the whole thing is entertaining in its own way. The Conveyex train heist is easily the best sequence in the movie and if more stuff of that kind would have been included, it would have been quite a ride. Unfortunately the other action scenes don’t live up to it and like many other parts in the movie feel dragged out. E.g. the scene with the Maelstrom beast feels unnecessarily long. You really find yourself thinking “If the gravity well is really that strong, why doesn’t this beast die already?”. Similar observations can be made elsewhere, leading to the simple realisation that excising some of that filler stuff would possibly have made for a better, more exciting movie.

Getting to the LEGO-specific parts, things turned out as I feared. Most vehicles are barely even in the movie and if they are, only very shortly. According to the bonus materials of the Blu-Ray there were plans for a whole story thread involving Han in a TIE Fighter, but this isn’t in the final version, so any you see on-screen are just small renditions used as background filler. The Landspeeders are also only in the first ten minutes and then completely forgotten. For the most part the only vehicle that regularly and consistently appears on-screen throughout the entire duration for better or worse is the Millenium Falcon. This lack of exposition of the individual vehicles clearly isn’t helping sales.

What’s also not helping is the half-baked nature of some models. When you watch the movie, LEGO‘s poor efforts on the Imperial Conveyex Transport (75217) and the Imperial AT-Hauler (75219) really become agonizingly obvious. It’s not just that the train is way too short/ small and incomplete, but the figures and some construction features in the sets make it painfully apparent that the whole scene was initially meant to play out completely differently and LEGO just didn’t have any opportunity to adapt their sets, no doubt based on early concept art, to the later script changes. So by all means this is a bloody mess.

Overall I feel once more vindicated that LEGO perhaps would do better to let Star Wars rest for a while. As this example shows, chasing every buck and hopping onto the bandwagon isn’t doing them any good, least of all when a movie totally bombs just as this one did. I also can’t help the impression that neither side, meaning Disney and LEGO, are committed enough to really care for the products. It feels too much like that Monday morning call: “We need something by Wednesday for presentation on Thursday, so the CEO can sign it off on Friday.” . Everything looks thrown together with the barest minimum of effort while at the same time maxing out the profit margin. Under those conditions it won’t be long before even the most ardent Star Wars fan finally gets fed up for good…

Expensive Brick – Moloch’s Landspeeder from Solo – A Star Wars Story (75210)

The Solo – A Star Wars Story movie is going to be released on Blu-Ray/ DVD/ Digital tomorrow, so it’s fitting to review a model based on a vehicle featured in the film – Moloch’s Landspeeder (75210). Not having seen the piece in its entirety and only relying on the bits and pieces you can find on the Internet like the trailer, I’m not going to obsess about how realistically the set portrays the actual film prop, though, and will judge it on its own merits. From what I hear, the vehicle is barely used in the film and only seen in a few shots, so it shouldn’t really matter that much, anyway.

LEGO Star Wars, Moloch's Landspeeder (75210), Box

First let’s get the big elephant out of the room: once again the price. Yes, if you buy this at full price, LEGO not so kindly ask you to part with 50 Euros, which is outrageous and simply totally bonkers. At around 460 pieces this means a per-piece cost of more than 10 Cents, making this even more insane for such a relatively small model consisting almost completely of smaller standard parts. It’s really like LEGO (and by extension Disney) have gone completely off the rails and lost their marbles, attempting to gouge the customer here. There’s really no way to put it more nicely. So by all means see to it that you get this set as cheaply as possible during a sale/ special promo. Biding your time and waiting patiently can save you a good chunk of money. I did so and got my lucky break unexpectedly one Saturday evening when I was able to order the set for just 30 Euros.

LEGO Star Wars, Moloch's Landspeeder (75210), Overview

Not having seen the movie and being fully aware of the pricing madness, why did I want this model in the first place? Well, as a graphics artist I probably have this odd sensibility of enjoying simple, but perfectly balanced forms and shapes and this strikes me as one of those cases. In a way it’s reminiscent of some design furniture with blocky legs and grand arches and while no doubt you could simply call it a flying brick, it’s an elegant one no less. Additionally, as someone who also was/ is into scale model building to some extent I also like the varied structure of the surface panels for a used, worn look.

LEGO Star Wars, Moloch's Landspeeder (75210), Left Side

Being based on some simple design principles, the build is pretty straightforward. The model rests on wheels and can be rolled around, so you start off with creating a frame from Technic bricks onto which you then stack more bricks and plates to form the walls, capping them off with rounded bricks and arches. That’s classic LEGO for you. There are some oddities in that you need to leave room for the hollows, as a result of which some bricks’ ends hang loosely in the air. Once this would have been considered an “illegal” building technique, but it seems LEGO don’t care much for this anymore and instead have lightened up to a “whatever works” approach.

LEGO Star Wars, Moloch's Landspeeder (75210), Right Side

The stud shooter seems totally superfluous (Then again, aren’t they most of the time?) and totally unnecessary. I can’t quite tell what it actually is on the movie vehicle, but there appears to be a jet intake/ outlet of sorts instead. It would have been perfectly possible to reproduce this with some parts and I think the model would have looked better for it. On the bright side, the mechanism is handled through the old perpendicular gearbox which is only used on few models ever, so now I have one of those as well and it might come in handy one day.

LEGO Star Wars, Moloch's Landspeeder (75210), Aft View with closed Loading Bay

The aft box/ frame uses a sideways building technique, attaching the sidewalls with pins  to more Technic elements to get that inset/ spacing. I was extremely wary of this as it means that almost up to the final point only a few steps before finishing the model those walls will wiggle around a lot, making you wonder if this is meant to be this way. Only when you add the top to bridge the two sides will it stiffen up and stop wobbling around. I feel that this makes the whole affair unnecessarily delicate and it could be disconcerting to less experienced users. Naturally it also increases the risk of inadvertently breaking of those arches while their ends hang loosely in the air.

LEGO Star Wars, Moloch's Landspeeder (75210), Aft View with open Loading Bay

The loading bay is likely used quite differently in the movie, but on the model it holds supplies for the Corellian Hounds. Those are ugly as hell and I don’t feel that LEGO has done anyone except the figure collectors a favor by including them. I certainly wouldn’t play with them if I was a child. The same could be said for Moloch‘s figure. It looks kinda disgusting and unattractive even if it may fit into the lore of the film and be technically correct. Speaking of which – I believe the engine exhausts on the actual vehicle are blue, so LEGO probably got that wrong.

Overall this isn’t the most attractive model and LEGO make it unnecessarily difficult to sneak it in as a casual purchase due to the way too hefty price. On the other hand, if you can take it for what it is, it’s still in a weird way enjoyable. It’s a relaxing build with some interesting techniques, it just quite likely isn’t a model you would keep around forever. It’s simply too forgettable and doesn’t hit the right beats for a collector’s item. For me it’s also once more a nice collection of very reusable bricks in Dark Tan and Dark and Light Bluish Grey, which made this a justifiable purchase, after all. If none of that applies to you, keep your cash and buy something else.