I was really looking forward to Avatar – The Way of Water, but admittedly I haven’t managed to actually see it in cinemas. Things have been a bit too chaotic in the last few weeks for a multitude of reasons ranging from health issues to family stuff and it really killed my mood. So all my knowledge is still merely based on the trailers and the film snippets you can find on various sites. I feel that is enough to judge the subjects of this article, the Ilu Discovery (75575) and Skimwing Adventure (75576) sets, but of course I won’t make any claims to the accuracy of my observations and interpretations.
Pricing and Contents
As products based on licensed IP the sets inevitably are more expensive and thus the real question only becomes by how much and whether that is justified. To make a long story short the answer is “No!” for both sets, only to a varying degree. The Ilu Discovery (75575) comes in at a measly 179 pieces at 25 Euro suggested retail price which is a crooked price to begin with. This is only mitigated by retailers offering a discount, which brings it down to around 17 Euro, which is what I got my package for, but when you think about it, it is still 10 Cent a piece, making this anything but a steal. The Skimwing Adventure (75576) fares even worse. 259 pieces for 35 Euro is really nothing to write home about and the typical thirty percent discounts don’t change that. 25 Euro is still quite a bit for so little content in return, no matter how you spin it.
Ilu discovery (75575)
This set is literally the smallest set in the Avatar range, not just for this second wave but also overall. that applies to the piece count as well as the size of the model. The creature is in a very true sense some sort of “sea pony” used by the kids of the Metkayina tribe to move around faster underwater.
Those children are represented by minifigures depicting Tsireya and Tuk, her Na’vi friend. Them being kids also means that they come with the medium length movable legs introduced for the Harry Potter series three years ago and the non-movable even shorter “toddler” ones as opposed to the extra long versions used on the adults. The prints are again of excellent quality, though at this point the loin cloths and various trinkets made from natural materials feel a bit repetitive. But what can you do? They’re all running around pretty naked on Pandora…
Similar to the previous sets these ones come with smaller landscape side builds, in this case meaning all sorts of reef and sea floor stuff. The only distinct feature is that its extremely colorful, but at the end of the day it looks more like LEGO were just recycling random leftovers than having a genuine plan. There isn’t much in the way of actual structure and the rationale seems to be that as long as it looks flamboyant enough people won’t make too much of the absence of some real details. Unlike with the mountain pieces in the first wave there is also no provision to connect these little bits from different sets, further diminishing the usefulness. The point here really is that there should be some sort of large reef in one of those packages and then all the action happening around it.
The Ilu creature itself looks a bit like a cross between a dragon and a dinosaur and clearly took some inspiration from a Plesiosaurus. The model is rather small and the build is very minimalistic with the body being only slightly wider than two studs. The problem with that is of course that it also looks very blocky and rigid, in particular in the neck area. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that this model would have benefited from being at a larger scale, but of course I do get that they wanted to match the size of the minifigures. After all, it’s a film tie-in meant to re-play the scenes from the movie.
The beast itself is just fine, but doesn’t really offer much of a challenge in building nor any special revelations. For me the most interesting thing are the wedge pieces for the fins now also being available in Sand Blue and of course there’s a new custom mold for the head. Just too bad that the print quality is once more terrible and the yellow looks very faded. This is in stark contrast to the wings and some of the yellow elements. The wings are in their own way also problematic. While they look okay from the top, once you see the underside the massive Technic axles and connectors ruin everything. This issue will also come up for the second set.
Skimwing Adventure (75576)
The Skimwing is a larger creature used as sort of an attack/ infantry transport vessel similar to a horse by the adults in the movie. It’s name already hints at the fact that it more or less glides over the water instead of fully swimming in it. This is similar to those Foiling boards that have become the latest fashion in the last few years or if you want to go back further of course boats and ships, in particular ferries, that are built as hydrofoils for speed.
The minifigures represent Jake Sully and Tonowary, one of the Metkayina warriors. There’s not much more to say here that hasn’t been said in regards to the other figures. They’re executed well enough, but don’t offer much in the way of special features. It probably would not have been a bad idea to create at least some new weapons molds to make them more collectible.
The landscape pieces are even more barren than those on the Ilu. However, they offer at least some interesting pieces. the 1 x 1 cone in Yellowish Green is a never before seen color for this element and the Dark Purple horns are also nice. Aside from serving as the stand for the big fish itself, the small extra island can be used to create the illusion of one of the characters floating. That is also featured in the Ilu set, by the way.
The Skimwing is an intriguing design featuring aspects of a Northern Pike/ Eel, Sturgeon, Crocodile and a Marlin mixed with a Flying Fish. That would offer lots of potential, but similar to the Ilu it falls a bit flat due to the limitations of LEGO in general and adhering to minifigure scale. The only consolation is that in the movie the creature appears to be in “stiff mode” most of the time, so its somewhat rigid appearance and limited articulation is not that far off. I just wish there wouldn’t be those ugly large gaps between the segments.
The wings are a bit of a disappointment, not only because of the once again very visible Technic underpinnings, but also the way they are executed. You see, on the real creature they can fold up like zig-zag blinds and conform to the body plus they appear very opaque and more in a Dark Red tone. That makes me think that this would have been better emulated with those starched cloth pieces you sometimes find for skirts in Friends sets or as sails and capes in Ninjago and Star Wars. In fact this could have been stable enough to completely eliminate the supporting structure and make this look more elegant.
The second major disappointment are the prints on the head. By now we’ve all gotten used to opacity of bright colors on dark backgrounds not being great, but the way it’s here is simply unacceptable. It’s not even close to looking reasonably like the Tan color on the jaw next to it. Moreover, the colored area has scratches, likely because it was not handled properly while the paint was still fresh. And finally to top it off, the replacement I ordered from LEGO shows the same issues. This is a big “No, no, no!” and they deserve to be called out for it.
The only other thing of note is the Sand Blue propeller blade used on the tail. After it had been available only in Dark Bluish Grey for a decade, it seems now one of the designers has discovered more creative uses for it and after the Red one in the Aston Martin themed Speed Champions set (76910) and the White ones in some Friends sets we’re now getting this version.
Both the models are okay for what they represent, but the massive flaws and shortcomings cannot be overlooked. The most annoying of them is how crude the structural parts on the wings look on those small creatures and the overall very rigid-looking design. What was tolerable for the Toruk and the Ikrans really becomes a problem at this much smaller size. The proportions are just completely out of wack and the thick axles and connectors make the supports look like heavy wale bones. One really wishes LEGO hat at least found it in their hearts to make them transparent or come up with another solution entirely, possibly based on some new elements.
On top of that there are of course the massive quality issues with some of the prints. It’s simply incomprehensible how the company claiming to be the market leader in these kinds of toys doesn’t get a handle on the problem when even some cheap knock-off brands do it better. There is in fact a sense of deep irony here as for once they managed to print the blue minifigures decently, but can’t manage to do the same on the animals despite the base color being somewhat similar. Go, figure!
Outside that the sets really only appeal to Avatar fans or people with a love for slightly more exotic stuff and crazy colors. There’s not much to gain here. The builds are straightforward and in their simplicity a bit boring while the overall appearance of the creatures and the surroundings feels lacking. The reef parts are the bare minimum and nothing really comes to life. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if those beasts would be circling a larger reef? Wouldn’t it make sense to have them appear in groups/ swarms like in the movie?
With all that in mind I cannot seriously recommend either of these packages. The Ilu Discovery (75575) could still be a little snack if you’re looking for something different every now and then since it’s affordable enough, but things already get fishy (no pun intended) for the Skimwing. It’s simply too expensive and for the money you can get better Creator 3in1 sets or something else.