If I was terribly wealthy, collecting scale figures could easily be one of my hobbies. In my youth I was quite a bit into doing little maquettes and figurines using colored clay/ plasticine and even today it fascinates me how those artists go out of their way to scale reality and capture tiny details. There are of course some excellent collectibles from companies like Sideshow, but since they are financially far out of my league, I have to settle for smaller, more attainable options, whether that be cheaper toy store products or alternatives like the LEGO Star Wars Buildable Figures. One would at least think that way, but it’s not that simple, either.
Like with so many things LEGO these days, there’s literally a dark side to these figures just as well. The blatantly obvious answer could be that they are merely another way of milking the Star Wars license. There’s per se nothing wrong with that, but in order to do deliver, they better be good and unfortunately that is not the case a lot of times.
Of course it comes down to those figures using skeletons similar to the old Bionicle, Hero Factory etc., which by their nature are very robotic. In turn they really only work for similar characters in the Star Wars universe – Droids, Stormtroopers, Jango Fett and a few others. Basically everything that disguises their human form with harnesses and armor plates. For the rest – not so much. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or weep when looking at Chewbacca, Rey, Finn and Poe in this format.
What makes this even worse is that despite the pricing being relatively reasonable (again given the current state of affairs with LEGO, not in absolute terms), they don’t offer much incentive to actually buy them by providing additional details. Many of those figures could easily look twice as attractive with some extra parts or a custom pedestal made from bricks reflecting their environment. Imagine Chewy standing in a hallway section of the Millenium Falcon, Rey being strapped to Kylo‘s torture chair and so on. You get my drift. The one exception that already plays on that idea therefore is the Stormtrooper on the Speeder Bike for the time being.
Before we even get into the details, let’s talk about the most contentious issue here: color. Of all the possible choices, the Reddish Brown (or poop brown as I like to call it) seems the most undesirable one, Yes, those speeders are some sort of dull, dark-ish brown in The Empire Strikes Back, but just not this exact color.
In addition you could argue that there would be specifically camouflaged versions for every environment and this opens it up to any color from White for snow environments to Tan for deserts to Sand Blue for more generic city patrol duties. What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that they could have aimed for something a bit more fresh.
Even if you stick with the brown color, you could have thrown in a few elements in Dark Orange, Dark Tan or other colors to add a bit more variety to simulate field repairs with quickly swapped parts or wear from usage. In fact I would have even accepted a bronze/ copper metallic color. That’s what it looked like to me on the box art for a long time, anyway, until I actually researched the contents.
Why is that so important to me? Of course I’m always thinking ahead. If I ever disassemble this piece, what am I going to do with quite a bunch of brown Technic panels, liftarms and connectors? Of course I won’t exactly know until I cross that bridge, but it seems to me that unless you intend to build e.g. a military aircraft from the 1930s with a Bakelite seat there would be limited use for those elements unless you hide them under other stuff. That said, life tends to give you unexpected surprises, so I’m reasonably optimistic that I would find some good use for them, no matter what.
As it is, there’s quite a few of those panels and as you would expect, they are mostly used to simulate the hoods and covers, but also the air guiding panels at the front. Many of them are attached a bit flimsily with often only one pin/ axle holding them, but for something that most of the time presumably will end up as a static exhibit in a showcase, it seems okay. You just have to take care to readjust everything after you handled the model and may inadvertently have whacked the panels out.
The overall proportions are okay, though it seems the model would have to be even longer for a perfect rendition. I guess there’s simply no longer crane arm/ mast in LEGO‘s portfolio. That’s not a big thing, though. The whole set already is pretty huge once assembled, something I always underestimate. You’re going to need quite some shelf real estate for a good presentation.
Most technical details on the bike are represented adequately – within the limitations of the Technic line. The foot supports on the real thing for instance appear to be partially arched/ curved/ at an angle, here they are mostly straight. Minor stuff. Other items are a bit *meh*. An example for this are the thee Tan colored small liftarms in the aft. Unless you investigate, you probably never figure out that they are supposed to represent the rolled up tarp those bikes carry around. I’m pretty sure they could have represented it easily with an actual piece of cloth and some Minifigure belts/ head bands repurposed as straps. Or perhaps there is even some rolled up sack or something in the pirates-centric series. That is to say it could have been just that bit better and it seems they didn’t go the full mile.
Similar things could probably be said about the two engine exhausts. With some printed-on fan blade imitations being readily available at the right size in the Jakku Quad Jumper and other models would it have been too difficult to include them here as well? It’s one of those things that riles up people so much about LEGO – inconsistent design and leaving out Cents worth of elements for no good reason. Apparently they have no issue with throwing in their arrow shooters in every kit on the other hand, which is another of those questionable things.
While we’re there – the supports/ stand aren’t/ isn’t that great. For one they are fully integrated into the actual structure of the bike, which is pretty evil. I get that they want kids to hold the thing like a pistol and fire the shooter, but it’s probably safe to say that everyone else doesn’t care for this feature. In the interest of clean looks and satisfying collectors, it should be a separate piece that can be plugged on and off with some pins.
I’m definitely going to give this a makeover because the balance is also a bit wonky. Someone didn’t consider that despite its length the front section is lighter than the aft with its larger number of parts and thus greater weight, so the model is always prone to tipping over backwards. The black parts also make everything look very dark and give a wrong impression about how the thing works, so as a third point it would have made perfect sense to have transparent elements for the stand. After all, this is a hover bike with “magic levitation” that when under power never actually rest on the ground.
As an alternative, and that brings me back to my hubbub from the introductory paragraph, they could have included some piece of ground made from bricks. Granted, it would have had to be quite a lot of bricks for a stable connection and decent representation, but it might have looked cool to see this resting on a hidden liftarm in a fern bush, a rock or some toppled over tree trunk. If I were more into traditional stub-based LEGO, and had the parts, I’d definitely already be at work on something like that.
Regardless of all my niggles, this is actually a nifty little model. As a Star Wars fan you get one of the better Buildable Figures, as a Technic aficionado you get some good parts that you may not yet have (and in a not so common color to boot). This makes even more sense when you consider how cheaply it is being sold in some places. Even if you splice out and write off the figure, this could be totally worth it, assuming you have a project where those brown elements can be used to good effect.
In any case, I believe it illustrates my initial point. Those figures are so much nicer when presented in some context. So while it’s pretty likely that LEGO will axe this series at some point (sales seem not so great here in Germany, judging on how overcrowded with last year’s leftovers store shelves always are compared to other series), adding more collector value might actually be a way of turning this around.