I guess I should count myself lucky, but somehow that warm fuzzy feeling just won’t come. Exactly the opposite is true – the Imperial TIE Fighter (75211) from the Han Solo – A Star Wars Story movie leaves me rather unhappy on so many levels.
The huge irony here is that I got it as a gift, or more exactly as a prize in a questionnaire, and to top it of, one of the many that pop up on the LEGO website itself, no less. So yes, I’m totally going to complain about a free lunch here, but perhaps you still care to hear me out and even share some of my reasons and concerns. I even tried to swap this set for another one via some open Internet marketplaces, but alas, things didn’t gel and since I didn’t want the box to sit there forever, I decided to build the model myself, after all.
Could I have just left it untouched and bided my time to sell it with a profit in a few years when it’s no longer being produced? That is extremely unlikely since it’s already being sold with massive discounts ever since the movie totally bombed in cinemas. Anyone who considers himself a collector/ trader of antique LEGO sets will no doubt use this to their advantage to stock up, which totally ruins any hope of getting a decent price in the near future.
The TIE Fighter itself is an unmistakable iconic design that even people who barely know Star Wars will recognize easily. That should be conducive to selling the models, but there’s the next problem: Since they appear in every movie of the series in one form or another, they have been done to death even in LEGO in the last fifteen years. You can do a web search and in there has always been some such model during all that time. Speaking of a certain oversaturation would be an understatement. Unless you are a die-hard fan who really needs to have every variation in his collection, chances are you won’t feel much of a need to get yet another of these things.
Of course it’s not entirely LEGO‘s fault. Or is it? Yes and no. As recognizable as this particular spacecraft is, it makes one hell of an example for what I do not perceive LEGO to be about – endlessly, tediously plugging together plates and other repetitive structures. The design is simply far from interesting when it comes to providing an enjoyable building experience nor does it actually showcase any advanced techniques or expose interesting details once it’s finished. The assembly more feels like a chore.
Once you have finished the assembly you are left with a “So what?” feeling like you actually haven’t achieved much in those two hours it took. At least to me it’s a pretty joyless affair and I honestly don’t quite know what to do with the model. It’s too large to keep around with my limited shelf space, even more so since it doesn’t have any details worth exploring that would provide an excuse for keeping it.
Like so often, in my opinion this model suffers from the “150 percent scale” problem – had they built it bigger, they could have crammed in more details on the main fuselage, added round slopes here and there to make it look more realistic and all that good stuff. That would have ramped up the price, of course, but would also have resulted in a more classy-looking model.
At least the model is extremely stable. Of course after a decade of basically re-doing the same design over and over you would expect this, but at least for that you have to give props to the designers. The main fuselage/ canopy are built on a massive bar made of Technic bricks wrapped with SNOT adapters onto which then again plate strips are plugged, making for an extremely robust “handle”. At worst you can accidentally pry off a few of the smaller sloped elements, but that’s easy to repair.
The massive wings/ panels are built separately and then slide into hinge clamps guided by some slopes, which makes for a very sturdy connection while at the same time allowing to disassemble them for transport. I was very skeptical about this, but it works surprisingly well and is almost indestructible.
The same can however not be said for the panel areas extending beyond the “core” where they are plugged on and least of all the grey frames on and around them. A bit too much pressure in the wrong places and you can easily see things cracking again. Not the end of the world and easy enough to rectify, but slightly annoying, regardless.
The fact of the matter is that I even would have been willing to accept this limitation and be more forgiving about it, had there been any special parts to mimic some extra details, but as it is, this is mundane beyond believe. It’s dull to the point that it makes you desperately crave for a single printed “computer screen” tile in the cockpit, because it is utterly barren except for the steering column.
Not having seen the movie at the cinema (always wanted to go, but didn’t get around to it, so now waiting for its home media release) I can’t judge how realistic the minifigures portray the protagonists, but I definitely like the finely detailed prints of the camouflage patterns and mud splats. It makes them feel very lively and is a nice deviation from the typical extremely sterile look of most Star Wars characters.
The crux of the set as a whole is that it exactly shows why LEGO Star Wars is in such deep, deep shit. The unholy alliance with Lucas Arts/ Disney seems to keep forcing them to churn out mediocre sets as tie-ins to the movies while at the same time everything appears so micromanaged, it can ever only be more of the same we already have and everybody loses in the process.
Here it is particularly bad because the movie failed to make an impression, so LEGO (and the distributors/ resellers) are in a pinch to sell sets that barely anyone takes any interest in, because only a fraction of the populace ever saw the film and knows its story. You could predict that there will be a slight improvement and resurgence of sales once this becomes available on Blu-Ray/ DVD and streaming services, but the damage is done.
As I pointed out, I like a few aspects of the model like the clever interlocking mechanism, but on a whole the set doesn’t do anything for me. It leaves me emotionless and I won’t feel bad about dismantling it for using the parts in other projects. Those black plates could be handy for all kinds of roofs, after all, and I’m sure those long tiles and plate strips will find their use as well. I never would have remotely considered buying this set and if I had, I’d be even more disappointed. It’s really that bad.