Space Wedge – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, December 2022

The LEGO Star Wars magazine remains one of the staples of that whole LEGO magazine business and while not always outstanding, it usually has at least something interesting to show. Let’s see if the December 2022 issue lives up to that.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Cover

I’m not a friend of those “Palpatine behaves like a teenager” as you know, so the main comic doesn’t really go down well with me. Too much implausible nonsense and too way off the mainstream canon even if you take a liberal approach and allow for some wackiness.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Comic

The secondary comic isn’t doing much better, in particular since the vehicle it is supposed to promote as the extra, the Imperial Light Destroyer, isn’t really shown that much.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Comic

The poster on the front features Captain Vaughn from the Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283) set in all his glory. Stylistically it is similar to the one in the last issue, so they would look nice next to each other. The backside has an X-Wing zooming toward the Death Star, but it’s not nearly as interesting.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Poster

The extra is the Imperial Light Destroyer mentioned earlier. It was introduced in Rebels and recently played a bigger role in The Mandalorian. As you would expect the model is pieced together from a few wedge plates, which is sufficient to match the contour, but does not really provide the necessary volume for the ship’s body. In terms of pieces there isn’t too much special here. There’s a pair of triangular tiles in Light Bluish Grey, which are always nice to have, but the rest is standard fare – with one exception: Inside there’s a Black 1 x 5 plate (!) for the central spine, which I think is the first time ever this element has ever been used in one of those foil packs on any of the LEGO magazines. If you never encountered it up close and personal in a set (since it’s still being used rather sparingly) here’s your chance to get acquainted with this marvel of modern engineering. ­čśë

This edition of the magazine holds very few surprises, but is overall a solid affair. The posters are decent and the comics are serviceable, though I’d prefer them to be a bit more serious and in line with the rest of Star Wars. Though personally I prefer buildable models, fans of minifigures will be pleased that next month there will be another one in the form if a Hoth Luke Skywalker with snow goggles, vest and all.

Six O’Clock Shadow – LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574)

Birthdays are always nice and being gifted a bunch of Amazon vouchers is even better, so the stars aligned and I was able to afford myself the LEGO Avatar Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574) package despite it being way over my usual budget. As I explained in my previous article on the subject the movie is a bit of a guilty pleasure and as I also already mentioned there I simply like the colorful nature of the whole thing. So I couldn’t resist temptation and committed to it – not just for this review, but because I really wanted to have it.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Box

Pricing and Contents

As the biggest set of the first Avatar wave of course this doesn’t come cheap and as usual LEGO are trying to milk the cow by adding a premium because it’s based on licensed IP. The original asking price for this is 150 Euro, which is way too much for 1212 pieces if you apply the conventional metric of 10 Cent per piece. Luckily you don’t have to let them get away with it as those sets are only mildly popular (people seem to want the unique minifigures and a few other things, but not necessarily the actual sets as a whole) and you can get decent discounts even from smaller retailers. I got mine for 111 Euro and currently with the Black Week/ Black Friday promos I’ve seen it drop below 100 Euro. This is reasonable, but nor perfect.

Realistically I feel this is more around the 80 Euro mark, with the point being that despite getting quite a bit of volume on the individual models, a lot of it has to do with the lofty nature of those builds. Yes, the tree is quite large (and so is the Toruk), but that’s mostly down to using some very large/ long elements enclosing/ circumscribing lots of open space. My “kitchen table photo studio” was almost to small to accommodate everything and I had to touch up a few spaces at the edges where I ran out of grey background, but individually each model feels pretty lightweight and like you’re not holding much in your hand. It’s really more that you have to be careful not to break off some dangle-y thing than the models being weighty.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Overview

Minifigures & Direhorse

As already mentioned, the minifigures for the Avatar series seem to be reasonably popular among collectors, a lot of which no doubt has to do with their unique appearance due to the blue skin and tall legs. With only for of them this package feels a bit understaffed not only because of the bigness of the set but also more generally based on what the set is supposed to represent. It could have done well with another three to five “generic Na’vi warrior” figures to deck out the scene. The characters in this line-up are Jake Sully again in a different warpaint, of course there’s also Neytiri and the two others are Tsu-Tey, the former’s ex-lover and Moat, the female chieftain of the tribe. The prints are distinct from those of the other sets and well-executed, which no doubt contributes why they are so coveted.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Minifigures

The animals of Pandora so far are seriously underrepresented aside from the big flying beasts and the Thanator, so it’s good to see that be expanded upon as well. I’m not saying that I’m a fan of the Direhorses, though. That whole Ant Eater like appearance and behavior with them licking honeydew from flowers just feels odd and of course the six legs just feel awkward and unnecessary. It has also always bugged me that conveniently these creatures have USB cables to connect with the Na’vi‘s minds. All of that is a bit hard to explain away and rationalize no matter how willing you are to suspend disbelief for the movie. The horse as such is just fine, but has zero posing options. It also looks a bit too uniformly colored for my taste and should have some more organic patterns, especially in the “mane” and the rear section as they can be seen in the film.

The Landscape Pieces

The landscapes of Pandora are their own character in the movie so it’s only appropriate that the corresponding LEGO sets also at least make some effort to render at least parts of it in brick-built form. I already mentioned the pros and cons of how well the translation into this miniature format works for me in my other review and this is no different here. While the landscapes are certainly colorful and other-worldly, they have very little to do with how this stuff is depicted in the movie. The building techniques are very restricted without any recognizable effort to actually re-create plants from the film and the color choices are not anywhere close to how most of this looks and feels. It’s all rather arbitrary and gives the impression of “As long as it looks different enough, it’s good enough.”.

This is still tolerable for the smaller pieces, but for me the wheels come of the cart on the big one. This is supposed to be the entry “gate” to the glade where the Tree of Souls resides and even if you’re only superficially familiar with the movie you will immediately recognize that it looks nothing like it does there. Many of the rock formations on Pandora clearly have the appearance of lava frozen along the magnetic field lines (due to the floating mountains and the Unobtanium) , which makes them look like actual arches. None of this is present here and one can’t help but feel that the designers didn’t even try. Yes, it would not have been easy, but there are enough curved/ arched elements in LEGO‘s portfolio to at least hint at this on some form.

On the bright side this large assembly is quite stable and thus easy to handle. You can literally just grab it in the middle and carry it around like a suitcase on its handle. This robustness is of course needed in order to perch the huge Toruk Makto on the short axle on the “floating” mountain piece.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Landscape, Large, With Toruk

Tree of Souls

The Tree of Souls is mostly a simple affair. It’s very obviously based on a Weeping Willow constructed from a bunch of arches, slopes and Technic connectors with the base being pieced together from different rounded and cropped corner plates. It’s really not too advanced or fancy and if you inspect the images closely you can see the simplicity of the build and the overall symmetry. It’s just disguised by the dangling boughs/ twigs and the cyan-green vines on the ground that represent the “magic” moss/ lichen used to transfer souls into a new body or revive someone.

Sadly it could have looked even better if LEGO had placed more emphasis on a consistent coloring. Especially the black parts on the tree trunk draw too much attention and overall there’s just a few too many different colors used with the real irony once more being that of course a lot of them were/ are available in Reddish Brown or could have been manufactured in this color. This is again this weird dichotomy with LEGO where somehow they seemingly cannot be bothered to consider these points even if sets like these would be more relevant to adult collectors that want things to look coherent than children who play with it.

The construction of the tree overall is rather tedious and after I was done with it, I didn’t feel like I wanted to finish the set that evening. It really helps to spread out the build process across multiple sittings on different days or else you get a bit aggravated. In particular the repetitive nature of plugging together the transparent antenna pieces is not very enjoyable and i even forgot some on the inner three petals. If you don’t know it, you won’t see it, though. Unfortunately it is nigh on impossible to make everything hang down perfectly straight. My gut feeling tells me that this would require treating the leave elements and the whip/ leash pieces with a hot air fan to relax them or bend them into place.

Toruk Makto

The Toruk Makto, which translates to The Last Shadow (because it’s the last thing you see before you die) is the evil big bad of the movie in terms of the animals. Unlike his scrawny distant cousins, the Banshees/ Ikrans, he’s a lot harder to catch and does not as easily bow to your will. That’s why anyone managing to do so is highly revered among the Na’vi. That of course is the only reason they are even willing to listen to him (or his remotely piloted Na’vi avatar clone, more precisely) after the big disaster of the Home Tree being destroyed by Quaritch and his goons.

The model of the indomitable creature is quite ginormous, not least of all due to the enormous wingspan. However, also the body has more “flesh” and is much more voluminous compared to the wiry Ikrans. This helps a lot to make it actually threatening and also presentable. It has real legs and the wingtips can be folded backwards. underneath it all is still an awful lot of Technic axles and connectors, though, which isn’t my favorite. It always reminds me that LEGO perhaps should have developed a Ribs & Spars system not just for this, but also for their Ninjago dragons and similar. You know, something that looks more like natural bones or bent swords, not ugly fat tubes.

There’s inevitably a dedicated new head piece and with the ones coming up in the second wave this shows that they invested quite a bit of design effort and money for the molds into this. The feet with the huge claws are quite a bit of building and feel massive. Interestingly enough, while absolutely not accurate to the film, this still feels natural. It only turns the logic of thee creature on its head a bit. Whereas in reality it would mostly use the claws to balance on rocks and trees or hang on walls, here it makes the Toruk look more like it would walk around on the ground as well similar to a dinosaur. Indeed a rare case of where the limitations of brick building still resulted in an accidental positive outcome.

While all this certainly sounds a lot more positive than the Ikrans, I’m still not convinced this is the best way to go about this. Somehow I can’t shake the feeling that if they had gone the full mile and created molds for the body and legs I would have liked it more and even perched the creature on my shelf. Sorry for the language, but this seems a bit half-assed and even more so given the price.

Pieces from another Planet

As you well know one of my considerations for buying a set is the potential harvest of pieces I can add to my own stock, in particular new ones and interesting recolored items, and in this regard the set offers quite a bit. The most visible new elements are inevitably the ones on the Tree of Souls such as the Trans Dark Pink antennas, the Lavender leashes/ vines and the Light Aqua clips and tail/ Bionicle spine pieces. Underneath it also has one of the newer 8 x 8 round plates in Reddish Brown. I also babbled on about the new column piece in my last article and it appears here in Trans Clear, which will be super useful for building nice presentation stands. Of course there’s also the new whip/ connector cable pieces in Black and Bright Light Blue. The Toruk has a few hidden surprises. One of them is the inverted rounded plate for the first time in Red plus there’s a completely new double-curved 4 x 6 slope piece.


Concluding Thoughts

Compared to the two smaller Avatar sets I reviewed earlier this has been a much more satisfying experience overall. You’re actually getting a bit of volume of stuff and everything looks reasonably nice. The only thorn in my side is the price or else I’d give this a full recommendation. At 80 Euro or thereabouts this would be some nice fodder for multiple evenings during the winter, but at double the price this doesn’t really work out. It’s simply too costly for what it offers and in particular people who have no relation to the movies nor a love for weirdly colored parts won’t get much out of it.

That said, I still believe these sets would work better if LEGO had just made them as nice display sets for adults instead pretending they would be play sets for kids, most of which likely never even won’t get to see the movies due to their age rating. The models are a bit too fragile for serious play and the functions too limited to really make it worthwhile. The thought of a five year old running around with the monstrous Toruk is equally odd, though it would probably be funny. so for what it’s worth, LEGO missed the mark on both these fronts. Again, this is for fans of the movie, but won’t hold much appeal for the uninitiated while at the same time being unsuitable for kids.

Pandora’s Boxes – LEGO Avatar, Neytiri & Thanator vs. AMP Suit Quaritch (75571) and Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572)

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit slow around here lately, which is not necessarily just to blame my laziness. Many sets I have on my list only came out in September and October and some others that have been out already for a while don’t have great availability, which means they sometimes are out of stock and if they are there are sold at high prices. All of that makes it more complicated for me to obtain stuff within my budget constraints and likely that’s going to remain this way for a while. So be apprised that the long gaps between reviews may be here to stay despite my best efforts to make things work. Now on to the article.


We all have those “guilty pleasure” movies, that is films that we know aren’t actually that good, but we keep watching over and over again for a specific reason. One of mine is undeniably Avatar. The reason for this is pretty obvious – as a 3D artist myself I was simply enawed by the sheer amount of hyper-realistic rendered graphics on display, even more so since virtual plant and landscape creation was one of my secret obsessions and I just knew how hard it was to make a leave sway in the wind or some stalks interact with an animal touching them. Combined with the fact that in 2009 a lot of this was still a lot harder to do than it is nowadays and many of the technologies used were in their infancy, how could one not be impressed?

Then there’s the whole other side that triggers my inner film critic – the story is very run-off-the-mill and full of corny stereotypes, terribly written dialog and yes, even those awful names for locales like the Hallelujah Mountains (!) make me cringe. Why am I telling you all that? Naturally, the upcoming sequel movies have caused a bit of a renaissance and brought the original movie back into everyone’s mind and view. They even went so far as to bring back an enhanced version of the original to cinemas. While this seems a bit too much hype for my taste, of course I can’t evade all the buzz. Knowing that The Way of the Water will likely be the same mix of weird and terrible storytelling with eye-popping visuals will not deter from making it a point to watch it, regardless.

All of this is the perfect opportunity for LEGO to bring out a few sets. when I heard about this, I was quite giddy with anticipation, hoping they would bring out the Dragon Assault Ship (that big flying pancake thing), but as it turns out they had other plans. Instead we’re getting a bunch of scenes from the first movies for people to relive their memories. The first two I chose for my review are Neytiri & Thanator vs. AMP Suit Quaritch (75571) and Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572).

LEGO Avatar, Neytiri & Thanator vs. AMP Suit Quaritch (75571), BoxLEGO Avatar, Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572), Box

Pricing and Contents

It seems to be one of those “unwritten rules” that licensed LEGO sets are considerably more expensive than others and this is unfortunately the case here just as well. Combined with the recent arbitrary price hikes they imposed on their costumers under the pretense of the overall situation in the world inflicting economic pressure this makes these sets a rather costly investment. The Thanator set comes in at 45 Euro, which on first glance isn’t all that terrible for 560 pieces. However, as is evident from the overview picture, many pieces are small and the individual models are also not the largest and most complex ones.

LEGO Avatar, Neytiri & Thanator vs. AMP Suit Quaritch (75571), Overview

The Banshee set fares a lot worse at 55 Euro┬á for 572 pieces. The problem here really is that right out of the gate you know that you’re not getting much for your money’s worth with the Ikrans being super skinny and the wings inevitably gobbling up pieces plus the actual wing “skin” undoubtedly costing a premium since the foil pieces need to be printed and cut specifically just for this set (an observation that applies to similar Ninjago dragon sets as well).

LEGO Avatar, Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572), Overview

With all that in mind, it’s once more time for retail discounts to save the day and make this work. Lucky for us the original movie has dropped from most people’s memory and at this point the new film isn’t even out, so demand for these sets isn’t that high and there is some wriggle room, so I got the Thanator set for 32 Euro and the one with the Banshees for 37 Euro. If you’re patient and wait for upcoming special promos in the pre-Christmas season or Black Friday in particular, you may be able to get even more discount. On the other hand popularity could grow once the new movie hits and people flock to theaters, so you can’t hesitate too much and have to trust your gut feeling.

Minifigures

A standout feature of these sets are of course the tall minifigures for the Na’vi, the oversized blue smurfs that roam Pandora‘s forests. This is achieved in two ways: One are the very obvious long legs. Instead of having two stud holes they are three holes long and at this scale this makes quite a difference. Those leg pieces are not the same as the one specifically used on Woody┬áfrom the Toy Story sets a few years ago, by the way, meaning they’re a new mold. The second trick to gain some height are the elongated heads with an actual chin area. Again, a minimal change, but noticeably contributing to the overall perception of those creatures being 2.5 meter tall. This can be easily seen with angry Colonel Quaritch next to Neytiri, both from the Thanator vs. AMP Suit set.

LEGO Avatar, Neytiri & Thanator vs. AMP Suit Quaritch (75571), Figures

Since the Na’vi are basically butt-naked bar a loin cloth and some of their tribal garbs and trinkets, the whole body is Medium Blue. All the details are printed on, including their blue skin stripes and the aforementioned decorative items. the designs are very nice and each character is immediately recognizable.

LEGO Avatar, Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572), Figures

The Landscape Pieces

As stated in my lengthy opening paragraph, the landscapes of Pandora play a major part in the appeal of the whole movie. They lend to the credibility and even if in the first movie we only ever get to see sub-tropical regions, there’s already a lot of variation and diversity there which will only expand once we get to know other areas in the new movies. That said, of course re-creating those landscapes in the real world and especially in LEGO is a whole different exercise. Since most plants and creatures were specifically designed for the movie, there are no exact matches for them in our environment.

That can mean that a plant doesn’t exist at all in this form on our planet or that the designers drew inspiration from existing species, but changed their appearance. That can be anything from simply changing the scale (unless you’re into it, very few of us really know how weird some microscopic fungae or small herbs look up close), changing the color or blending features of different plants into a new one. Very experimental genetics, if you will. Apparently this means that LEGO would have to create a ton of new molds and recolored elements and as we all know this would not be realistic or reasonable in terms of manufacturing cost and in turn price. So they had to get creative and look at what they already had and could easily use.

A very obvious candidate are the palm leaf elements. The Magenta ones were in a few The LEGO Movie 2 sets along with the super rare Bright Light Orange variant and I for one am glad that we’re getting them back and from what it seems in notable numbers, given that they appear in more than one of the sets. Regrettably this is also where LEGO stopped being “nice to us” and giving us new colors with most other elements being pulled in from existing sets such as the small leaves in Magenta and Bright Light Orange having appeared in various Disney sets or the Sunflowers (40524). The only highlight other than that for me were the two Dark Red flower stems hidden in the green capsules. Those were only introduced last year in Minecraft and are still relatively rare.

Mind you, I’m not saying that this is bad and the designers didn’t try, it just doesn’t feel very Pandora-ish. A particular beef of mine is that many of the scenes with the Thanator (pictures at the top) for instance play out in the shadow of the forest and at dawn, so everything has slightly bluish tint. This surely could have represented better by using colors like Dark Turquoise, Dark Blue, Sand Green, Sand Blue and so on. Also the overall density of the jungle could have been better with “simply more stuff”. And with that we are also getting to the point of the glow-in-the-dark elements: The crowns (top) and upside-down carrots (below) would make so much more sense in a dark environment.

In the Banshees set there’s also a completely new element. Since it’s not yet listed on Bricklink I can’t provide you with a proper name and description, but it is basically the counterpart to this also rather rarely used support beam, only that instead of a flat surface it is a half-cylinder. Here it is used to create the illusion of a waterfall down the floating rocks and thus included in Trans Light Blue, in other Avatar sets it is used in Trans Clear to similar effect, only without the illusion of water. It’s actually a nice new element and I would predict that especially in the clear color it would also make for a nice support on other models that are being displayed mid-air.

On a final note: As you can see when studying the pictures closely they have clips and “hook” bar elements at their ends. This is meant to allow you to connect the individual pieces into a bigger ensemble. While it’s a nice touch, it doesn’t exactly make sense. The landscapes each have a different feel and appearance down to the color of the “grass” being different greens and there’s no real transition between the zones.

Also the landscape models are not very robust, being that they are only built on a two plate thick base with not much structural reinforcement and the risk of pulling stuff apart is rather high. Did I mention that he bar and clip elements being different colors is also kind of annoying? There’s some good intentions here, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. it would probably have been better to focus more on making each segment as detailed as they possibly could or in the opposite direction harmonize everything so that the individual sections could be plugged together with pins and form a solid piece of landscape.

The Thanator

The Thanator (simply “death bringer” derived from the ancient Greek word thanatos) is one of the first large creatures we get to see in the movie and it also plays a vital role in the grand finale. That latter scene where this creature is turned into an ally is what the set is about. Personally I never found it to be all to terrifying contrary to what the film wants to make you believe, which perhaps is already saying something. To me it’s just not the most interesting beast to begin with.

One of the factors that contributes to this feeling is the decision to have six legs, which makes the movements look awkward. It’s one of those sub-conscious things that you cannot put a finger on at first, but it becomes more and more clear the more you think about it. The second thing is the odd coloration. Yes, it makes sense for a creature that moves through the shadowy underbrush of the forest to have a dark skin to blend in, it’s just not visually attractive. The third and final reason why this fails to impress me is the odd sense of “He’s wearing a mask.” with the leaf-shaped skin appendages and the extremely protruding teeth. Yes, that no doubt is the intention – to create the feeling of the creature wearing a skull mask like a shaman or tribal warrior – it just doesn’t really work for me.

Based on my limited enthusiasm for the actual film creature I wasn’t expecting too much, yet LEGO managed to make things even worse. Just looking at the box art made me go “RLY?”. Everything about Palulukan (as the Na’vi call him) looks wrong and at no point do you believe that this is a slick predator stalking other animals in the jungle. The most obvious shortcoming is of course the extremely blocky appearance. You can see that to some degree the curved appearance of the body was captured, but everything else feels like rigid limbs hanging from a marionette.

The stiffness not only affects the look, but also the play value in that it is nigh on impossible to pose this creature other than the most basic stances. You can forget about that typical attack pose because the trunk doesn’t have a joint and at the same time the leg joints are way to weak to e.g. allow the thing to stand on its hind legs and rear up. In reverse, it is equally difficult to even get all six feet on the ground at the same time. When you manage to get it working it still feels wrong due to the claws just hovering above the actual ground plane due to how they are constructed. This just feels so wrong!

The other thing that rubs me the wrong way is the head. I mean what is the point of creating custom molds, if you can’t get it right? I may be critical of the skull mask design, but smoothing things over extremely can’t be the answer, either, don’t you think?! To me this looks like they are planning on re-using the mold on some Ninjago dragon with a bird-like head. In other words: It looks very generic. As it stands, I consider the Thanator a complete failure.

The AMP Suit

The second model in the package is the AMP (Armored Mobility Platform) “suit”, of course just a mech. Unlike many Ninjago mechs this is more reminiscent of the original Mechwarrior bots with the bulked-up, gorilla like chest and raised shoulders. From a mechanical engineering standpoint that would make a lot more sense. Compared to those overly tall mechs you have a much lower center of gravity and wouldn’t have to deal with some of the instabilities that long limbs bring. Naturally this doesn’t mean that this is “realistic” and could exist as a functioning vehicle in the real world. It’s just more logical and plausible, something the movie designers made a big point of and an established quality of James Cameron‘s movies that lends them that extra believability.

The AMP depicted in the set is not Cl. Quaritch‘s personal machine, which due to lots of repairs and usage has many parts in their natural dark grey “metal” color that never got a coat of fresh paint, but rather a stock model that was stored on the Dragon Assault Ship and with which he escapes as the vessel crashes down. The exact color appears to be more of a pale green similar to RAL 6028 Sea Green, but I guess Sand Green is a good enough match. The good news that brings about is that it required a number of pieces to be specifically recolored like the ingot piece or the rounded 1 x 2 plate. For me it also gives access to some other pieces in this color that have been around already, but in sets I never bought. This helps to bolster my parts stock.

The design of the model is reasonable for its small scale, but not particularly correct when you look closer at the details. For instance the shoulders would need to stand up and out more. It would also have been nice if they had put more effort in making the canopy airtight or create a dedicated new mold for it. After all, the point of this is that you could sit in the cockpit without requiring an extra breather mask. in an odd way this also reinforces my points about the Thanator: A more detailed and slightly larger AMP would have been preferable over so many pieces being wasted on a unrealistic creature. This would also have allowed for a more realistic chainsaw blade, which I consider the weak point of this otherwise neat little model. In the end they could have sold this alone for around 15 Euro and people might have jumped at it.

Jake’s Ikran

Moving on to the second set, we get Jake and Neytiri‘s iconic Ikrans/ Banshees. Jake’s is the bluish one as for whatever reason those creatures come in a million shades of different colors, allegedly having to do with how strong and dominant they are. This kind of diversity within the same (sub-)species is usually only found with lizards or some birds. Other kinds of animals often need multiple generations to develop these variations. That’s why I’m a bit torn on this, as technically these creatures are too large to spontaneously develop such drastically different skin patterns and is kind of a crutches used for visual distinction in the movie.

As you can see from the images, there’s really not much to say about the model as there ‘s just isn’t much volume. The body is more or less just a block of different two stud wide elements and some brackets and to this block a few hinges are attached to hold the wings. Those wings are just large pieces of printed transparent vinyl, a method used on Ninjago dragons as well. In contrast to those fictional creatures here they are extremely large and the wingspan could be sufficient to actually lift the creature and someone riding it. It is kind of realistic in aerodynamic terms.

The wings can be folded up, but not folded within themselves. That’s why these creatures have no feet, as actually they would “walk” on one of their “finger” bones from the wing like a bat or Pteranodon. That makes them look like they’re sitting and hatching when you don’t have them attached to the landscape piece. as you can see, LEGO created yet another new mold for the head, which perhaps is the best part about the whole thing.

Neytiri’s Ikran

Neytiris version of the Ikran is 100 % identical to Jake‘s, only with alternate colors. This makes for a very tedious and repetitive build and would be my main criticism of this set. Similar to the AMP I would have settled on just getting a single model, but a bit more elaborate. I strongly believe that a slightly larger scale also would have allowed for more rounding/ smoothing of the body as well because you would have had room for more slopes. This also would have opened up the opportunity to present a different scene with the wings folded up properly like when Neytiri first calls her “girl” on the big tree or when Jake earns his stripes when catching his one up high on the rock precipice in the floating mountains. An incidental side effect of this would have been that they could have re-created those locations as well instead of just including a generic Pandora-ish looking┬á looking lansdscape.

LEGO Avatar, Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572), Ikran Neytiri, Underside View

LEGO Avatar, Jake & Neytiri First Banshee Flight (75572), Ikran Neytiri, HeadThe underside shot once more illustrates the huge wingspan and the “bone” structure built from Technic elements. The funny thing here is that in fact the wings are robust enough, but the attachment with the hinges doesn’t live up to that. it can barely hold the weight and moving the wings into other positions makes them come off quite bit. At least for the large wings they probably should have added a second hinge or at least some clip/ bar combo to make it more stable.


Concluding Thoughts

I regret having to say that both sets are quite disappointing. The irony here is that you can see the seeds of what could have been, but the result is a letdown. In particular the creatures, which should be the highlight, leave a lot to be desired. The new custom molds for the heads can’t disguise the fact that their bodies are severely lacking in details and the proportions are weird. It’s not even that more realism was sacrificed in favor of more playability, because that isn’t the case, either. A six-legged creature that doesn’t get its feet on the ground certainly doesn’t count and neither do some “flying wire frames” whose wings come off.

As it is, I cannot really recommend either of the two packages. The parts that are interesting (landscapes, AMP suit) are not elaborate and refined enough whereas the rest makes you feel like a lot of pieces are wasted on mediocre models that in no way manage to capture the magic of the movie. This really feels like someone was trying to “ride the wave” with the original movie having been re-released in cinemas in a spiced up version and the immanent release of the first of the new films for which LEGO sets have already been hinted at. In other words: This comes across as a cash grab preying on peoples love and nostalgia, but the substance of the sets is as lacking as the story of the movie itself.

Once more these are sets based on a licensed IP (intellectual property) that make you wonder who is signing off on those deals and whether the products are being reviewed thoroughly enough before being declared ready for release. I really have a hard time believing that the people making those decisions even care…

She’s that Girl – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, November 2022

I decided to take things easy last week with my birthday and all, so I’m a bit behind on my schedule and only present you with the latest LEGO Star Wars magazine today.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Cover

The comic takes us underground into some crystal caves and as a result everything is very colorful. It’s always nice to see stories play out in such locations as opposed to the rather sterile imperial ships or the Death Star. The story arc itself is just another of those “Vader chasing someone and being a moron about it” things, though.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Comic

The shorter secondary comic introduces us to Princess Leia as she tries to escape some admittedly cool looking bounty hunters on an abandoned imperial base.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Comic

The posters are really nice this time. As you know i prefer a clean graphical style without too much “noise” and the “For Mandalore!” certainly delivers. it immediately reminded me of the poster for the The Rocketeer movie, both in terms of composition and that 1920s/ 1930s graphical style. That reverse poster mimics the style of some movie openings with scenes stenciled into the text, only of course this one uses comic panels.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, ExtraThe extra this month is a minifigure of Princess Leia and it’s actually a pretty good one because it’s rare. This version with the new skirt piece depicting her in her classic white dress from A new Hope so far only had been included in the ill-fated (because bad) Tantive IV (75244) and the current Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter (75301) I also reviewed here on this blog. Therefore the little lady has been an expensive investment if you wanted to buy it without getting any of those sets. Just buying this issue of the magazine will give it to you at much lower cost, even if the devaluation probably has Bricklink sellers grinding their teeth.

Already having owned the minifigure I could have skipped this issue easily, but of course this will be the main attraction for many readers. I still prefer buildable stuff and the next edition is going to give us a nice Imperial Star Destroyer once more, so I can live with that. Overall this is a decent issue that will be a nice bit of fun.

Non-Float Boat with a Goat – The Goat Boat (76208)

The Vikings are easily one of those people who are the most misrepresented across all media. There seems to be an over-emphasis on their exploits as conquerors and warriors, and while some of their legendary ruthlessness and brutality cannot be denied, a lot of other things like their rich culture and craft skills all too often are swept to the side or only presented in those aforementioned contexts. One of those are there ship-building achievements and while I’m not a fan of the Vikings per se, the elegance of those water-based vessels can’t be denied. That’s ultimately what interested me most about The Goat Boat (76208), as in fact like so often the movie it is based on didn’t interest me too much and I haven’t seen it yet.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Box

Pricing and Contents

The film this set is based on, Thor: Love and Thunder, barely made a blip on the radar here in Germany with a measly box office of just shy above 5 Million Euro and quite generally this is not Marvel‘s best and most successful movie. It came and went without much fanfare and barely anyone even remembers it. That being the case, the one good thing that comes out of this is that the set can be had at good prices with retailers sitting on stockpile that just didn’t benefit from the movie. I got mine for 32 Euro, which isn’t bad for a 564 pieces set and 5 minifigures. The original asking price of 60 Euro is once more utterly ridiculous, though, and under no circumstances would I have bought it for that. While it’s nice and reasonably large, the boat isn’t worth that much in my opinion for reasons explained later.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Overview

Minifigures

The figures included in this package are of course Thor himself, his love interest turned substitute Mighty Thor Jane, some Valkyrie (no idea about her actual name), Korg and of course Gorr, the God Butcher. A few special items aside like Jane‘s helm, the figures feel very generic to the point where Gorr looks like just another zombie. Something just doesn’t click here, which isn’t necessarily the fault of the LEGO designers, but rather those odd armor designs of the film not translating that well to the scale. For lack of a better explanation, the prints to me just look noisy, not detailed and interesting. Real fans may disagree and appreciate them more, so I’ll just leave it at that.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), MinifiguresLEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Minifigures

The Goats

The goats towing the boat aren’t ordinary ones, but rather oversized beasts more alike to donkeys or smaller cattle. They are of course also “magical” creatures rooted in the mythology. The big bummer naturally is that they are built from bricks, not molded items. When the set was first announced it had everyone wondering whether at long last this would be the moment when LEGO brought back the highly coveted and super rare goat or at least a different new version of it. None of that materialized, unfortunately, so likely we will have to wait another eternity before one of those horned animals appears in either a shitty City set similar to this year’s massively overpriced animal farm or a super expensive collector set. The goats themselves are just fine for what they are and at least they have printed slopes for the faces, but at the same time things could of course have been better.

The Boat

As far as I can tell from the trailers and bits of info available the boat itself is mostly some sort of a shuttle/ sightseeing vehicle in New Asgard and a quick way of transportation for Thor, but does not have any significance beyond that. At least the scenes I know are rather tame/ lame. As such, it is almost too elaborate for this mundane usage even if thanks to Asgardian technology it is a flying boat.

The appearance is immediately recognizable as being derived from original Viking/ Norse designs, though perhaps more along the lines of a smaller boat operating along the coast lines, not one to cross large oceans with, since most definitely there wouldn’t fit more than ten or twelve people at most even under best conditions. There’s only eight shields on the sides, after all, and there wouldn’t be that many more people on board if they hadn’t their own weapons at hand.

The construction is interesting as in a way just like on the real boat you build around a central keel with elements attached using sideways techniques. This ensures that the boat stays flat like the original, but at the same time has walls which are credibly thin and don’t take away too much usable real estate from the deck. This is achieved with a bunch of curved wedge slopes and, most interestingly, curved panels mounted upside-down and then cross-connected with each other and the other elements to form a rigid wall. Definitely an interesting technique to keep at the back of your head.

The boat has the typical carved bow and stern reaching very far up. The shapes at the bow appear to be (sea) horses either spitting water or having their tongues out. admittedly in the shots and photos I could find from the movie they look much, much smaller, which could indicate that the LEGO model is based off earlier concept art that later was changed during production.

The small hut/ house is a pretty straightforward build with a few rows of bricks and the roof attached via some hinges and it would also work as a standalone building.

Unfortunately there isn’t much inside, so the ability to fully open it to me is more or less just a side effect of how it’s built or a lucky coincidence, not so much a play feature.

The deck offers plenty of space to put all your minifigures on it (and more), but looks very barren. I know it’s that way in the movie, but this is a point where LEGO should have deviated and added some extra details like a barrel or a rolled up rope lying around. it just looks so terribly boring otherwise.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Top View

A shot from the side once more accentuates the elegance, but also reinforces the “boringness”. This also exposes one big flaw/ shortcoming: If you don’t use stickers, it all looks like no-one’s home. the irony here is that even some round tiles with a generic wood pattern print (as if they were barrel covers for instance) would have made things a ton more interesting let alone we would have gotten some genuine different crests.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Side View


Concluding Thoughts

I’m not going to complain too much, because for what it is The Goat Boat (76208) is just fine, but it’s a bit dull, after all. I don’t even see this being particularly appealing to fans of the movie apart from the minifigures, as usual. On the other hand – there’s naturally “that other Viking ship” the Viking Ship and the Midgard Serpent (31132) in the Creator 3in1 series and the latest LEGO Ideas vote turned out that we might be getting a Viking village some time next year. So if you put one and one together, buying those two packages now while they are still available and relatively cheap may be a good idea of you plan to get the village set and want to create a little diorama around it or have a general interest in that stuff.

Enjoy the Silence(r) – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, October 2022

Time flies as fast as a TIE Fighter and so here we are again at it with the LEGO Star Wars magazine only four short weeks after the last one. This is because next weeks holiday weekend here in Germany is messing with the calendar and release schedule, so we’re getting the October issue almost one week earlier.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Cover

The comics are getting a bit concerning. Every second one of them is in some way ridiculing Darth Vader and Blue Ocean really need to stop it. It’s not that everything needs to be dead serious and strict to canon, but these “Vader is bored and messes up his surroundings” stories are really reaching a level of nonsense where it’s hard to enjoy them if you’re not a three year old.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Comic

The secondary comic follows in a similar vein and makes even Kylo Ren look bad and the empire once more like a congregation of morons.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Comic

The posters have a distinct 1970s early 1980s vibe with striped patterns, but don’t quite mange to pull it off. The back side with Obi Wan is a bit better than the front with Vader, though.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Poster

The extra is Kylo Ren‘s TIE Silencer from The Rise of Skywalker where it gets sliced to pieces by Rey. The model more or less follows the standard build pattern for these vessels we have seen so many times, but swaps out shorter panels for more elongated ones. Just like the Mandalorian Starfighter it uses the new 2 x 6 wedge plates, this time in Black of course, so if you don’t have any yet, here’s a good way to start adding some to your parts collection.

The extra once more saves the day, but otherwise this isn’t a great issue. There’s very little to gawk at and beyond the “I buy it every month, anyway.” There’s really not much to say about it. There’s just nothing standing out.

Mandalorian Blue – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, September 2022

Being a lazy slob in the summer heat unfortunately doesn’t actually make time flow slower, so here we are again already with another edition of the LEGO Star Wars magazine, this time the September 2022 issue.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2022, Cover

I really like the comic this time around, which is rare enough, as you know. It takes us back to Solo – A Star Wars Story, a film which hasn’t been covered that much in the magazine to begin with, and it’s done in an interesting way. Yes, of course the story has nothing to do with the actual movie, but it’s credible and could be a real side quest. The Corellian Hounds remain ugly, though, and the colorfulness of the drawings can’t make them any more appealing in my eyes. Anyway, the comic as a whole is still pretty to look at.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2022, Comic

The second comic is not nearly as colorful, but that’s inherent in what it depicts. When you come to think about it, the Star Wars universe is oddly monochromatic at times, not just when it comes to the many white Stormtroopers. The denim blue Mandalorian troops are just as unusual once there’s more than one guy.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2022, Comic

It’s not yet quite a standard feature in this particular LEGO mag, but coloring pages are always a good way to beef up the content in that apparently it takes a while to fill them in and thus keeps the kids busy for that much longer. I only wish they’d start making this really good with a full-sized blank page on thicker, more felt pen friendly paper.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2022, Coloring Page

The poster is once more giving us Din Djarin, a.k.a. The Mandalorian and his little fella Grogu, formerly known as The Child. The reverse side isn’t bad, either, with a decent rendition of Darth Maul.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2022, Poster

While in the last issue we got one of its occupants, we now get the actual Mandalorian Starfighter in miniaturized form. Compared to the big version from set 75316 of course the detail level isn’t anywhere near as good with the absence of the longitudinal blue stripes being the most apparent omission. The grate tiles really don’t make up for that. Similarly the tips should actually be sharp and pointed, so I wonder why they didn’t include some of these wedge slopes. On the other hand there’s three pairs of the relatively new 2 x 6 wedge plates, which is nice for people who haven’t bought a set yet where they would be featured. They also implemented a swivel mechanism for the landing position, but the smallness of the model apparently prevented them from also rotating the wings vertically like on the real thing.

Overall this is a nice issue and I really enjoyed it more than usual. It’s definitely worth a look, be it just to get a glimpse at what this magazine can look like if only Blue Ocean put in enough effort.

Mando Unknown – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, August 2022

The current weather conditions really make it hard to even get some simple things done as one just wants to be a lazy slob in that summer heat. That’s why I’m three days late with my review of the latest LEGO Star Wars magazine for August 2022. Had it floating around, but just wasn’t in any way feeling energized enough to actually cobble together an article. Anyway, on to the good stuff.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2022, Cover

The main comic is once again one of those odd ones with otherwise stern characters clowning around. This time it’s Palpatine making a scene. Whether that’s up your alley is entirely up to you, but at least it’s drawn well enough. No real poster bait panels that stand out, though.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2022, Comic

The second comic ties in with the extra as usual and has some Mandalorians dukeing it out in mid-air powered by their jet packs. I wonder what that could mean? ­čśë

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2022, Comic

The poster has Boba Fett sit on the throne at formerly Jabba‘s palace as is apparently part of The Book of Boba Fett mini series’s story arc. The back has C3PO and R2-D2 running from some Jawas and escaping their Sandcrawler.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2022, MinifigureAs you would have guessed from my tongue-in-cheek comment earlier, of course we’re getting a minifigure. That makes two in a row after Darth Maul in the last issue. The figure is simply called Mandalorian Loyalist and it’s from the Mandalorian Starfighter (75316) set. This was introduced last year to mixed reception and apparently hasn’t been selling that well, not least of all due to limited distribution, so it’s earmarked to be EOL‘d. That makes it even better to be able to get the minifig on the cheap in this magazine and not having to resort to buying an expensive, yet unattracticve package. How generic the little guy is meant to be can be gleaned from the fact that he doesn’t even have a face, just an unprinted black head under the helmet. The Uzi style blasters seem to have a bit of a renaissance lately and have been in several sets, but it’s always good to have more.

Overall this is an okay issue, but as someone who isn’t collecting minifigures the value is of course limited. That’s why I’m already looking forward to the next issue that will have a buildable vessel from the vast selection of space ships in the Star Wars universe again…

I am Plastic – LEGO Super Heroes, I am Groot (76217)

As I’ve written on numerous occasions I’m anything but a Marvel fan and struggle to sit through any of them once the few “good” sections are over and I had my laughs. There’s one exception from that rule, though, and that is the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I wouldn’t watch it on repeat like I do with some other of my favorite films, but I enjoy it whenever it’s on TV. Regrettably, the second part in the series is nowhere near as good. However, it has hugely popularized Groot thanks to him appearing as a slightly annoying teenager in it right from the opening scene. That’s why it was foreseeable or even inevitable that the pesky adolescent might one day get the LEGO treatment and that indeed happened earlier this year when the LEGO Super Heroes I am Groot (76217) set was released. Everybody just loves the little wooden creature!

LEGO Super Heroes, I am Groot (76217), Box

Pricing and Contents

The set essentially more or less falls into the “just another mech” category. Some people may frown at this statement, but that is what it basically comes down to for me. For all intents and purposes the overall structure is the same and the only difference is that it tries to emulate an organic shell in place of the usual armor pieces. I don’t think there’s an other way to see it, at least in the context of a brick-built model.

This informed of course my expectations in terms of pricing when this was first announced and while I didn’t expect it to be cheap as a Ninjago mech due to the third-party licensing, I was still disappointed at how expensive it is e.g. when compared to the Iron Monger Mayhem (76190). The part counts are pretty close with this set having 476 pieces and the grey bot having 479, so the metrics are comparable. Specifics of the technical details, elements included and so on notwithstanding it therefore just doesn’t feel right that the little wood guy costs 50 Euro MSRP and the retro mech “only” 40 Euro.

What makes this even worse is the discounts being equally askew. Currently Groot firmly sits at around 20 percent off and that’s it. That’s the curse of popularity and in turn high demand for you! I bought my package for 36 Euro or the like in one of those weird surprise flash promos on Amazon that you never know about unless you accidentally happen to check their site, but more or less you should plan having to splash out 40 Euro. That is if you don’t want to wait half a year for prices to drop more noticeably.

LEGO Super Heroes, I am Groot (76217), Overview

Sticker Alert

As unfortunately has become a standard, we’re not spared the sticker treatment. It’s even more regrettable as the only essential stickers, the additional red stripes and the labeling for it could have been printed. The writing could even have been on a single brick and you just flip it over depending on what is your favorite version. Collectors naturally also would love the plaque to be printed, but I find the design done so poorly that I would not have used it either way. The bark elements feel completely superfluous, as this is something where I feel that more actual built details would be a better option, anyway.

LEGO Super Heroes, I am Groot (76217), Stickers

The Cassette Tape

Unlike Quill I’m not a kid of the 1990s, but of course everyone had a Walkman back then. It was one of the few luxuries I afforded myself shortly after the German reunification, being that we did not have access to such technology before here in the Eastern part. The first commercial cassette I ever bought was Jean-Michel Jarre – Live! (later renamed to Destination Docklands) and it ran on a loop for quite a while. I had many more after that.

Oddly enough I was never much a fan of self-recorded tapes, so I never really had an actual “mix tape”. This of course is entirely different in the movie and so the notorious “Awesome Mix” Vol. 1 & Vol 2 make an appearance with many of the 1980s classics allegedly being Peter‘s favorite childhood memories also providing a good chunk of the sound track and framing the action.

I don’t have any actual cassette at hand anymore to verify this, but the size and proportions feel about right and should match the original pretty closely. The details of the actual tape spools are also nice. One omission is the visible tape at the top. I can’t offer an immediate solution, but I think it would have been possible to integrate something like that. It might just have required a different building style. Anyway, one of those things that may be worth figuring out as a MOC.

Groot

The little guy looks the part and arguably even the size is about right if you assume pre-schooler Groot rather than the slightly more grown up version in the film. At around 28 cm tall you could likely even completely re-create that scene from the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie where he’s constantly trying to push the red button to set off the bomb all in LEGO and at real world scale.

The figure itself is rather stiff and has limited posing options, which is common for most of these mech-like builds and in this case not even that much of a disadvantage, as he’s rather rigid in the movies, too. There’s no good way to find too many alternate poses, anyway. The head being so big and heavy tends to get in the way, as things get off-balance quite quickly. You can spread the legs slightly and pose the arms a bit, but that’s basically all she wrote. In order to achieve more freedom of motion you’d have to fixate him by e.g. pinning one of the legs to a custom-built stand.

The building process for the model requires some care and attention. Though many elements are built symmetrically twice as you would expect from such a creature, many of them have minute variations to mimic the irregularities of the bark and it’s easy to get things mixed up. Additional challenges arise from the clips and single stud connections used to hold the vines and leaves plus there’s a whole lot of similar stuff on the head where it’s used to fill in the angled gaps. In the end it’s less dramatic than it may sound, though, and perfectly manageable even with limited experience. As I said, you just need to take your time and check more often.

LEGO Super Heroes, I am Groot (76217), Detail FootA thing that riled me up once again is LEGO‘s unwillingness to recolor structural elements consistently such has in this case soem elements of the large ball joints. why are they in Dark Bluish Grey, when the counterpart just next to it is in Dark Brown? I fully understand that they can’t and won’t recolor every element, but c’mon! This is too obvious and on such a prestigious model mostly aimed at collectors, where they have already introduced so many other recolored elements should not have even required spending a second thought. You just do it!

As mentioned already, the head uses somewhat elaborate techniques to achieve the right look. This includes popping elements onto a SNOT block in the center and filling in the gaps of the resulting octagon with small strips that are clipped on. Similar techniques are used for the eyes and the region around them. This also involves some “invisible” upside-down building as well as the very visible lower mouth of course just being a mudguard piece turned on its head. While it’s pretty clever and perfectly serviceable, the downside to that is that many of those connections are very sensitive to touch. If you grab the head in the wrong places you basically push the elements out of their clips again. Some caution is advised!

Parts Mania

I’ve already hinted at this and it’s really true: The set is a treasure trove of recolored elements. Even better, since many of those are actual visible elements and not some hidden bracket or SNOT brick on the inside, you really can add a lot of pieces that simply didn’t exist before in a given color.

For starters, we have the arch style mudguards introduced with the Speed Champions Mini Cooper (75894) set in Olive Green used here for the eyebrows. Someone at LEGO seems to have recognized the value of this element as lately it has come out in several new colors to be used as intake lips on vehicles, overhangs on windows and so on. I will definitely try to get as many of them as I can for my own adventures as well. The ones in this set already give me ideas for building a small military vehicle. The other Olive Green element that gets me really excited is the triple leaves piece. At long last! Now all we need is Sand Green and Dark Green as well so we can have nice “natural” looking plants and flowers, not just Lime Green salad leaves. ­čśë

The other significant pieces are in Dark Tan, making them suitable for landscaping, all manner of buildings or anything that is supposed to imitate soil, mud and clay. In particular the claw/ rock slope will benefit many scenarios where you want to build a non-hardened road or similar all mucked up by the rain or similar. The smooth wedge element could be useful for some cars, which incidentally could in fact include older models of a Mini Cooper in a subdued contrast livery. The last in line is the other mudguard from the mouth. It’s perhaps the least useful of all the items mentioned, but regardless, it could still be used to build e.g. a car from the late 1970s when somehow people thought those stuffy earth tones looked good.

If you’re building creatures, the printed eyes will please you. They adapt the methodology from the buildable Harry Potter Hedwig (75979), but are executed based on shield pieces instead of inverted round plates.


Concluding Thoughts

It’s hard to resist the charme of this little rascal and one can’t help but think that he’s super cute even if you can’t relate to the movies. It’s also done pretty well as a LEGO model despite some unnecessary sloppiness like the visible grey parts. That reduces the value as a collectible/ presentation piece. That is also not helped by the limited posing options. If that is not a concern, you still get a nice result. At the same time this is absolutely not a play set, not even within the confines of what other mechs would offer. It is far too delicate and fragile and should not be touched too much. Regardless of all the good qualities, the price is still a bit of a head-scratcher. This is the kind of madness that drives me up the wall with LEGO and that is making it harder and harder to even afford the simplest sets. For a company that already makes billions each year this feels so unnecessary and it’s a disservice to fans who may need to think twice about a purchase.

Insignificant Helmet – LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327)

Before we dive into the details of the Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327) from the LEGO Star Wars theme series, let me clarify a few things.

The collectible “Helmets” series has been around for two years now and this (unofficial) moniker not only covers various Star Wars headgear but also some notable Super Heroes stuff like Batman‘s cowl, Iron Man‘s helmet or Venom‘s entire head for instance. Again, there is no “Helmets” series per se, as they’re all filed under their respective other themes, but people habitually call it that because of the undeniable similarities and commonalities they all share with regards to scale, overall style etc..

When the first one was announced, which of course had to be a Stormtrooper Helmet (75276), I was mildly enthused, but not over the moon. The idea had merit and it could be cool to have some iconic helmets lined up on the shelf. Still, even back then I already feared that LEGO would milk this and the pricing would be outrageous, so I remained slightly skeptical. And wouldn’t you know it, what I suspected indeed came to pass, so my reservations were warranted (more on pricing considerations in the next chapter below as usual).

What made this even worse is that the actual results looked rather naff and by that I simply mean way too many visible studs, gaps and recognizable building techniques. That may get some fans drooling, but I decided it’s not for me and basically swore to myself to never buy any of these things. I just want my collectibles to look nice and in case of these helmets that would have meant much more of an effort to make them smooth and rounded and solid without resorting to cheap tricks, which badly enough also includes having to use stickers because even with these expensive items LEGO can’t be bothered to just print everything.

So how did I end up buying the Red Five helmet, after all? I’m not going to pretend otherwise, but the core motivation was simply a number of distinct and unique parts I could add to my collection just by buying this set. Some are also in other sets, but still rare, some are exclusive to this one for the time being. I also of course wanted to check if my own prejudice against these helmets was justified and if a positive build experience could not sway me and convince me otherwise (hint: It didn’t!). So let’s see how things went…

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Box

Pricing and Contents

As already mentioned, I find these sets shamelessly overpriced. That’s nothing new in the LEGO universe and you’re probably tired of me complaining about it, but it still stings/ stinks. Worse yet, they don’t even pretend that this is in any way related to the parts count or other factors. The smallest set, the Classic TV Series Batman Cowl (76238) with its meager 372 pieces costs just as much as the others – 60 Euro. There are a few exceptions with the Darth Vader Helmet (75304) at 834 pieces even costing 70 Euro, but at the same time the Scout Trooper Helmet (75305) with 471 pieces costing only 50 Euro. Does that make sense to anyone? There’s just no rhyme or reason to it and it seems totally arbitrary.

Luke‘s helmet is somewhere in the middle with 675 pieces and on paper when applying the old formula of 10 Cent * piece count the math turns out just fine. However, as you would expect many of the elements are just 1 x 1 and 1 x 2, so this is not necessarily a good price. All things considered, what’s there really feels more like it should have cost you 40 Euro from the outset. Of course you can get this price with discounts at many retailers, but ultimately this is not a sustainable model in the long run. While LEGO keep raising MSRPs and wholesale prices, those vendors barely make a cut. When their businesses crumble, everyone may feel the repercussions.

Anyway, for now I’m a beneficiary of this policy and even if I don’t feel good about it (Wouldn’t it be fantastic, if those products were simply sold for reasonable prices from the get-go and we all could afford that?), in my situation I’ll take whatever discounts I can get. I bought the package for 36 Euro and only recently I saw a special promo for 32 Euro. So keep your eyes peeled! There’s always a chance to get this for a better price if you’re not in a rush.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Front Left View

The Helmet

As mentioned in my intro, I’m not that terribly enthralled by these helmets due to the designers not even attempting to make them more rounded and smooth. This becomes extremely apparent on this particular example due to the stark contrast between the center ridge, the ear covers and the rest. It is even more noticeable when you compare the overall shape to images of the original or other replicas and it just feels wrong on so many levels. Even if you allow some room for the usual limitations that come with brick-built designs it just feels inadequate.

On top of it, the build is of course quite tedious and repetitive. By that I don’t just mean the inevitable symmetrical building, but also some decisions in how elements are laid out and which items are used. For instance there are several locations where the 1 x 5 plate introduced late last year could have been used favorably, but instead you are forced to piece together several sections using 1 x 1 plates in conjunction with a 1 x 4 or a 1 x 6. It is highly questionable why nobody gave this a last minute polish and substituted the elements, even if you consider the potential delays in production due to additional lead-in time. It really would have helped to minimize some frustration.

In a similar vein I found it quite annoying to piece together stacks of plates that barely overlap or are only held together by tiles. Typically you end up building three or four plate high sub-assemblies that are very wobbly and only stabilize once they connect to the various SNOT bricks and brackets on the central block. That can be really annoying if you don’t have a large flat table to built your stuff on and like me prefer to “freestyle” holding them in your hand.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail StandThe socket/ stand is more or less the same standard type as used on the other helmets and heads, but has been extended quite a bit towards the top to allow for the hollow construction and disguising the attachment points. in the upper dome and rear. This works, but naturally only by creating a “black hole” illusion where you can’t discern any of the interior details because it’s all dark.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail Print DamageThe prints in this set are a pain, which really doesn’t surprise me anymore, given how LEGO have dialed down the thickness of their paint application (faster drying = more throughput = larger quantities in the same time). The white stripes on the central ridge are rather faint and thus look pink-ish plus they appear oddly frizzled and uneven. The prints on the various dishes are actually okay, but leave it to LEGO to even screw that up. Yupp, there’s some damage on one of the dishes with the Rebel Alliance insignia where clearly the paint has been peeled of by the stencil or shortly thereafter. This should have been caught at the factory. The irony here is of course that this would actually be cool in a way if the helmet had been designed to represent a worn out version that has seen battle many times.

Now I’m gonna sound like a hypocrite when I tell you that I didn’t request replacements despite my complaining about it. Yes, LEGO would have probably sent them without much fuss, but I just didn’t wanna go through the steps, knowing that the bust would not have a long shelf life and after disassembling it I would just stash the printed pieces somewhere until I may one day have an idea on how to use them for something else.

One thing that is causing me outright agony is the simulated pin stripe on the central ridge. This uses a yellow “rigid hose”, which despite the fact that you can pre-bend it to mimic the curvature is still an element that has tension. Even more critically it is only affixed at two points at the start and end, respectively, which does not bode well once you consider that the elements used are 1 x 1 modified plates with a bar holder on one and a C-clamp on the other. Here’s the thing: This isn’t much of an issue for the few weeks and months I usually have my models around, but in the long run you may end up with a damaged model.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail Strip, Lower Back AreaAs the plastic ages and gets more brittle there’s a good chance that in particular the C-clamps are going to go *kerplang*. The forces here are simply too strong and I find it incomprehensible how this could pass quality control (QC). It’s just one bad decision on top of another. There would have needed to be two more fixation points along the perimeter of the tube. Not only would that have relieved the tension and stress on the material, but it also would have helped to lock the whole thing in place and better retain its shape.

The inside of the helmet emulates the real thing by having the typical earmuffs to isolate the radio voice from exterior sounds. I’m not too sure about the color, as most images suggest that inside it’s actually clad in sheer pig’s leather, but of course anything is possible and I’m not that deep into Star Wars that I would nerd out about it. For all I know, across multiple films there could have been different props with different coloring. The way the inner headphone padding is constructed is interesting, but I honestly felt that the designers really had to stretch their imagination to make it work for the simple truth that to this day LEGO does not have direction inverter plates. If they had, this would have been a walk in the park and they could even have made it more elaborate using different pieces.

On that note – the rounded corner pieces used here were one of the reasons I committed to this set. They appear useful and currently there is no other package that has them in Dark Bluish Grey. That may of course change at any point. The situation is pretty much the same for the 3 x 3 round tiles in Yellow that in large part are hidden under the rounded bulges on the side to again create the illusion of some decorative pin striping.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail GlassesFinally there’s the Trans Orange curved brick/ slope that premiered in the Porsche 911 (10295) last year put to good use on the glasses/ protective goggles/ anti-glare shield, complemented by some other elements. Personally I’m inclined to think that this might also have looked good in Dark Orange with the 3 x 3 pancake piece and some extra slopes and in fact the extra curvature might have produced more convincing highlights and reflections on the shelf. It’s up for debate, though, and the way it is is just fine.


Concluding Thoughts

The short summary of my review could be: “This sucks!”, but that wouldn’t be useful. So who is this actually for? I can basically only see two groups of buyers for this – people who buy all the helmets because they want a full line-up on their shelf and on the other hand Star Wars┬ádie-hards who would be interested to at least add the relevant sub-set of the helmets to their collection. None of that does preclude the random anomalies where people just pick it up for other reasons and enjoy it, but those two core demographics probably make up the biggest chunk.

Outside that I cannot see the appeal. As a pure LEGO set it is simply too boring and even for casual Star Wars fans there are enough alternate options to get a helmet in their home from expensive premium collector’s replicas to moderately priced smaller toys. Funny enough, even some cheap toys beat this model hands down in the accuracy department be that with better proportions or proper prints. At least the latter should be a non issue, but no, LEGO once more chose to annoy their customers with stickers, which of course I haven’t applied anywhere.

Combined with the outrageous pricing the many shortcomings make it a hard sell and I wouldn’t really recommend this. You get a relatively small model the size of an adult man’s hand that has notable issues and won’t stand scrutiny from up close. Given the small price gap to some alternate offerings you may forever wonder if those 60 Euro couldn’t have been spent better. I guess the real point is that i get what they were going for, they just weren’t terribly successful. A lot of that clearly has to do with their usual half-assed-ness and cutting corners and it’s all too apparent…