Risen or Fallen?

Since it’s kinda relevant to LEGO, even if only tangentially, I figured I’ll sneak in my review of the latest Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker here. I won’t obsess about the sets too much, as the involvement of the various vehicles is rather minor, after all, but more on that later.

Going into the movie I did not have a particularly predetermined opinion. Of course I already had read and watched some written and video reviews and knew how potentially unsatisfying it could be, but suffice it to say the movie is not nearly as bad as those negative reviews make it sound in my opinion. Sure, it’s not without issues and has a lot of lapses in logic even by Star Wars standards with all its canon-vs. non-canon mess created when Disney took over and declared a lot of the old lore no longer valid, but it’s still enjoyable and, which I guess is important, structured well enough so even a casual fan like me can follow the story.

There’s no denying that the film is overstuffed, which contributes a lot to the inconsistencies and jumps. Now it would be unfair to totally bash Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi, as it sure has a few good moments, but the fact of the matter remains that it didn’t do much to progress the overall story arc and was to busy turning everything on its head when it didn’t need to. Had it not squandered so much valuable time with pointless story points, it most definitely would have been easier to tie up everything in episode IX without it feeling rushed.

Personally I was a bit miffed by the many, many unnecessary small cameos and guest appearances, too. It seemed everybody & their mum wanted to get one last moment on screen for bragging rights or was brought in as fan service, yet very few of those moments carried much meaning, either. It didn’t help that they also introduced several new characters that had to get their due as well. Arguably some of them were planted as seeds for spin-off movies to explore their past or send them on their own adventures, but still… It felt unnecessary.

The overall story isn’t anywhere as dramatic as the trailers made everyone think and Disney once more have proven that they are the masters of deceptive trailers, with many of the shots used in the trailers not being what you may have thought or more or less being pretty unimportant in the film itself. That goes for instance for the Knights of Ren who ultimately act as just another hunting party chasing the heroes, the much touted Sith Troopers, who are barely actually seen in the film but just as well applies to the secret fleet. The final battle is not even close as impressive or innovative as e.g. some stuff in Rogue One.

Probably owing to the overall forced nature of the script, the acting is quite terrible at times. Much was made of Palpatine‘s return, but to be honest, his appearances feel like extracts from some cheap B-movie. It’s just so over the top, at least I could never take it seriously. Similarly, a lot of dialog felt like it had been ripped from a textbook on what not to do in writing school. Some of it was extremely cheesy and the less Poe Dameron we get, the better. I’m sure it’s not Oscar Isaac‘s fault, but this is as one-dimensional as it gets. At least the interactions between Kylo Ren and Rey were pretty good. I even liked the idea of them actually physically sharing the world when communicating through the force.

The comedic elements felt a bit out of place. I didn’t mind Babu Frik, but the “hairdryer on a wheel”, D-O, really didn’t have to fill the “yet another cutesy robot” niche. Him having of course important info on where to find Palpatine‘s secret hideout was a bit too convenient. Likewise, the whole plot with C3-PO built around the same premise of deciphering Sith glyphs didn’t make too much sense. It also seemed to me they didn’t quite know what to do with BB-8 as well this time.

Visually the movie is of course pretty impressive, but these days with even Open Source 3D programs like Blender offering an unprecedented level of realism one can take that pretty much for granted, even more so on a 200 million dollar budget.My favorites include the ocean simulation on the planet where the Death Star crashed, which made me almost seasick, as well as some other environmental stuff. The space battles left me pretty underwhelmed and just felt too static. You know, those Star Destroyers lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery was perhaps not that believable, after all.

On that note: Of the vehicles you can buy as LEGO sets only a handful get notable screen time those being Kylo Ren‘s TIE Fighter, Poe Dameron‘s X-Wing and of course the Millennium Falcon. Most others have “blink and you’ll miss it” moments, are disguised and/ or can only be partially seen for the majority of the time or like the new Sith TIE Fighter with the triangular panels only appear as background filler. That makes it at times nearly impossible to judge the validity of LEGO‘s representation of these items and you’ll likely have to wait for one of those tie-in art books to come out.

So what’s the verdict? As much as the movie is riddled with flaws and shortcomings I still enjoyed it. However, there can be no denying that it could have been so much better. My biggest gripe is that JJ Abrams seems to indeed have been focused too much on pleasing a certain type of fans and it shows how things have been bent into place. It’s just too obvious that many characters didn’t need to be there and it’s equally apparent how some of the new characters along with open-ended story threads for existing ones were planted for future movies.

After all, most of the actors are quite young and there’s nothing speaking against another Rey-centered trilogy ten years down the line, as much as Disney may proclaim they have no plans for it currently. Mark my words – they’ll do it because passing up such an opportunity to make more cash would be stupid. Who knows, by that time we probably all have dissected The Rise of Skywalker and watched it a million times and the speculation game will start all over again…

Another Star Wars Dollhouse

Ah, LEGO… *sigh* While the rumour mill is always in swing and makes the Internet tick, it seems lately many of those turn out to be true – and usually not in a good way. After the Vestas Wind Turbine (10268) it now seems that some people’s guessing game hit bullseye once more with Darth Vader’s Castle (75251). Images can be for instance found here and elsewhere of course.

Unfortunately the set continues the trend of toy-ish Star Wars sets and indeed is more like Cloud City than a genuine UCS model as everyone hoped it would be. It looks nothing like the imposing architecture you briefly get to see in Rogue One, but rather just a tiny crammed guard tower. At least they kept the lava fall (since this is allegedly on Mustafa to remind Anakin/ Vader of his origins and form a spiritual connection to the place), but aside from the overall shape and recognizing a few details like the isolation chamber and Bacta tank there’s really not much there. They also included a hint at the hidden Sith shrine and Holocron at least, though.

Once more LEGO can only be described as being out of their minds with the price – 130 Euros for only slightly above 1000 pieces isn’t exactly a bargain even. Many of them being larger items the build is going to go rather fast and you probably won’t feel like you get your money’s worth. The minifigures aren’t much to write home about, either, so this would be tough to justify as a purchase. The only thing that really gives this some air of exclusivity is that you can only get it on Amazon and of course in LEGO‘s own shops/ online store, now that Toys’R’Us has fallen off the cart for that kind of thing, but otherwise this strikes me as a rather mundane set where the hype around it doesn’t live up to the actual content.

Why or Y? – 75172 Y-Wing Starfighter

After the Jakku Jumper (75178) hat whetted my appetite, it wasn’t much of a stretch to see where this would be going and I quickly made plans to get the next model. Sticking with my 50 Euros limit out of financial necessity and only looking for some reasonably large and complex thing I quickly set my sights on the Y-Wing (75172).

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Box

Ironically, despite its interesting looks, this particular fighter only has mostly “blink and you’ll miss it” appearances in any of the Star Wars movies. It’s standing around in hangars or quickly sweeping by in some shots of the Death Star destruction sequences for instance. That irony doesn’t seem to have been lost on anyone, so a lot of images you can dig up as references are actually photos of other models in different flavors, making it even more difficult to gauge how technically accurate the representation may be. To add to the mess, LEGO themselves have released versions of this, big and small, including of course the gorgeously looking collectors edition 10134.

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Overview

This current set is based around the version seen (or barely seen) in Rogue One, but to me feels mostly like an amalgamation of all the versions and sub-types that we ever got to see, with further simplifications imposed by the scale. Again, the actual details are hard to verify, but I guess as a whole it’s a valid representation of the real thing.

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Left

The distinct feature is of course the stripped away panels and housings, exposing all the inner wiring and tubes. Whether or not this makes any sense is debatable endlessly, even if it looks cool. My thinking is that you would still want to protect your electronics and fuel lines, as even far out in space microscopic debris and dust float around and can do damage, not to speak of larger items in proximity of planets.

Also in strict terms in my view this is not a fighter, but rather a close air support (CAS) vessel, meaning it’s to a good extend aimed at “ground” attacks (as indicated by its weapons outfit) and in turn taking hits from ground defense forces, so it would likely be better protected. not meaning to be nit-picky, just saying.

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Right

The construction of the set is pretty straightforward and logical, with the separate sections packaged into numbered bags. You start out with the cockpit region and then work your way backward to the fuselage and engine pods.

The front has some clever engineering with e.g. hinges being used to attach the curved panels on the side at an ever so slight angle, mimicking the tapered appearance of the actual design, but overall this section is strangely barren. The cockpit doesn’t even pretend to have a seat (imitation), much less any other details. At least the main canopy part is pre-painted, so you don’t have to put up with getting some stickers on there

I also think that using more curved bricks/ tiles would have helped because on images the surfaces look curved and the edges rounded, regardless.

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Front

The mid section with the engine pylons is a whole different thing and covered with lots of those small hinges and snap latches this takes up a good chunk of your building time and is at times extremely finicky. Unfortunately, since because of the chosen size/ scale many elements end up being only 1 x 1 stub they are not necessarily particularly stable and easy to accidentally snap of while you handle the model. Similarly, some larger elements end up only being fixated on two stubs of another element, so up to a certain point this doesn’t feel particularly robust

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Aft

The engine pods thankfully are to be built separately and are later only plugged on to the main body using pin connectors. This also makes it possible to transport the model easily or stow it away partially assembled without taking up too much room (which for me is always a concern, too). The size of the rounded parts matches that of the Jakku Jumper, so I now have enough of them to put together a “pencil” rocked by just stacking them.

Assembly of the engines themselves is a bit repetitive and to some extent also quite fiddly. For instance the blades/ fins in the dark aft section are ice skating blades from minifigures that must be plugged into 1 x 1 hinges and then attached. Conversely, plugging together the beams from a ton of axles and then inserting those small clamps to attach them to the round sections is perhaps not the most exciting thing, either. You need to plan to spend some time here and be patient. Once it’s put together, it’s rewarding to see, though.

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Bottom

I don’t ruin my models by using stickers, so the engine nacelles look a bit *meh*. Arguably, though, it wouldn’t have hurt to use smaller parts and kit-bash some tubes and protrusions onto them. The same could be said for the underside in its entirety. A few more details wouldn’t hurt and it wouldn’t look as barren. There’s definitely some fuel lines visible in some pictures and some versions of this fighter also seem to have a distinct bulge under the cockpit which would not have been too difficult to replicate. I would have much preferred that to the toyish arrow shooters.

Lego Star Wars Y-Wing 75172, Bomb Bay

In the play department, like most Star Wars models, the kit hasn’t actually that much to offer. The bomb bay shown in the above image with its rotating bomb rack is a nice gimmick, but you can’t even full load it with four rockets – one is always bound to drop out. Likewise, the arrow shooters always have me going “So what?”.

In this package this lack of functionality isn’t made up by the minifigures and ancillary details, either. The figures look by all means generic. If they had at least included options for different squadrons (some with orange/ red suits like in the original movies, you know) and alternative color schemes by ways of including differently colored bricks it might have had some more charme.

My niggles notwithstanding, this is still a nice model and quite okay for the price. It’s an interesting showcase model and if you have the parts and spend some time it would probably not be too difficult to improve and fancy it up a bit. I’m not in that category (yet), but for the time being I’ll keep it around in its assembled form.

One day I’m pretty sure I’ll disassemble it and then those many tiny parts might also come in handy for detailing other projects, annoying as they may occasionally be during the build. Interestingly enough, this set also has a ton of 9 L and 11 L axles and for me as a Technic builder this is a good thing. They are not that common and here you get a whole bunch of them plus a matching supply of connectors.