Review: 9499 Gungan Sub
The second half releases for Star Wars served to remind AFOLs of a few things. First, it’s that LEGO has absolutely no regard for us and our wallets. Second, that Star Wars Episode I exists, now in 3D, and it featured a lot of terrible, terrible things. For those of you that have blocked Episode I out of your brains (and I can’t blame you for that), the Gungan Sub was from a completely forgettable middle section where a Young Ed Bloom and Ra’s al Ghul visit the Snorks and have to borrow a car in order to get Jar-Jar to the prom to make sure that his dad punches the bully and rescues his mom through a series of imaginative stories and flashbacks. I’m pretty sure I’m remembering that right, but those blocks I put in place for Episode I were very, very strong.
The new Gungan sub presents something kind of unique for me… a set that’s a rehash that I never picked up (the only other set with that distinction is the original Gunship… anything else I’ve got the original, the rehash, and sometimes the rehash of the rehash). It’s not that I had any more disdain for it than for the other Episode I sets… I was just a poor college student.
When it came down to the choice between LEGO or beer, the Gungan sub could not inspire sobriety like the X-Wing could. And back then, the sub was just a
$25 set, so how does the new one stack up at almost triple the price and less than a hundred more pieces? $50 set… so how does the new one stack up at 50% more and less than a hundred new pieces
[Edit: Thanks to forum member ytjedi for pointing out that the brickpedia entry for the price was incorrect... like I said, I didn't buy it, so never knew]
Badly. So very, very badly. This set was first teased to us through a panel at last year’s San Diego Comic Con. Okay, this set wasn’t, but a brand new, detailed, Queen Amidala figure was. At first blush, it looked amazing, and they put it next to an equally amazing looking TIE Fighter. A character that had been ignored almost entirely (despite being one of the main characters of the PT) was finally getting some affection? How could LEGO possibly screw this up?
Back then, we didn’t know that LEGO was going to violate our wallets to put it out there, and tack it on to some rehash set no one liked all that much in the first place. On the other hand, one has to hand it to the marketing team that through up adding such a radically new figure to a set like this. I’m sure more than a few bought it just for Queen Amidala.
Worse, when you look at the PT, and Episode I specifically, you have so few “good” things to choose from. We’ve already seen the amazing Pod Racer’s set remake, a wildly overpriced Naboo Starfighter… and well, that’s been it lately. A lot of other Episode I sets have been remade in recent history (MTT, ATT, Droid Ships, half of a Sith Infiltrator), but usually with a spin from a different movie or the Clone Wars series. Side note, it’s hard to quantify time after 13 years of collecting Star Wars LEGO… I was going to say “couple of years,” and then it dawned on me, the MTT is five years old. Turns out, Episode I just kinda sucked as a building source.
Yet it’s given us a lot of decent sets over the years (both MTTs, the ATT, Battle Packs, Battle for Naboo), and good minifigures have always been a part of this one. Looking at the sub, we’re off to an iffy start.We get four figures in this set, the aforementioned Queen Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Qui-Gon Jinn. Really, there’s only one truly new figure here, Amidala. While Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn have been updated, they’ve been in other sets recently, and Jar-Jar is still available in The Battle of Naboo.
So let’s cut to the chase and look at the figure that exemplifies George Lucas’ complete misunderstanding of government and civics, our elected Queen. Don’t get me wrong, at first glance, this figure looks amazing. But looks can be deceiving. Look at the first picture, and how the torso and the base line up. The base is an obvious one-off, and apparently, no one ever bothered to whip out the measuring tools and make sure they were the right size.
On a centerpiece figure like this, it’s just a lazy choice. The printing itself is also different, most likely due to the fact that the base is the cheaper plastic we saw show up with some of the Toy Story 3 figures (Lotso, the monster guy). It feels light and extremely cheap. The interior is hollow as well, which means that this figure is very top heavy, especially since the headpiece is the traditional LEGO material.
Broken down, you see that scary white face (which would make an excellent head for castle stuff, courtesans, jesters, etc), the base, and a huge headpiece. Sure, it’d be nice if the hair broke down more, but I get why that’s not. I just have to wonder how much of the $70 for this set went in to printing some of those little pieces and making the detail on the hair.
Everyone’s favorite despot and slayer of millions, Jar Jar Binks, shows up in this set. He’s identical to the Battle of Naboo version, and that’s a good thing. Hate the character all you like, but he’s a great minifigure, and one that really benefitted from the updated printing. Every time I see him, I keep thinking that someday, SOMEDAY, I’m going to build that “all Gungan” TIE FIghter squadron. Because you know they totally existed.
We get Qui-Gon Jinn. I wanted to find the last revision of him, which came with the Sith Infiltrator last year, but he was hiding from me when I snapped these pictures. That version is actually quite close to this one, and I instead found the version from the Republic Cruiser, which shows the difference a lot more starkly. Both he and Obi-Wan have alt faces with their little electric toothbrushes that somehow let them breathe underwater.
I love that super mullet he sports. Probably the best thing to come out of Episode I. I mean, is there a better hairpiece if you need to build a good crew chief or redneck? Of course there isn’t. Plus, this may be the most unchanging part in Star Wars history. This version actually shows a bit better details on the hair, but it’s obviously just a touchup of the same thing.
When you compare him to the older ones, like some other figures, it’s mostly about details. There’s obviously more of it on all newer figures, but the lines are thicker and more defined, even than the one from last year. Also, that whole grin and mustache thing he’s going going makes me think “serial killer” more than “jedi master.” Anyone who shows that many teeth when they smile are just trying to show off what they’re going to eat your face with.
Obi-Wan is in a similar boat to Qui-Gon, he’s recently been through a revamp (Podracer set), and mostly what’s changed is detail. We have a lot more Kenobi minifigs to choose from than we have Qui-Gon figures, and he’s as boring as ever. Also, I think his chin-butt is now actually larger than anything else on his face… he’s slowly becoming Jay Leno.
Biggest addition is the padawan braid, which I guess is now growing out of his shoulder. Someday, it’d be nice to see a legitimate padawan mullet, but I guess, for now, we can take iffy printing. The one from the Podracer set (not pictured), also has a bigger smirk for the alt face, but does not have the braid.
The sub itself is an interesting looking ship. I get the style in the movie, the sub was obviously inspired by a devil ray, and it has those kinds of curves and flow.
It’s really hard to pin down this set while building it. The sub is built to be modular, kind of. The back section pulls off, and opens up to reveal a little seating area. I honestly don’t remember this being a “thing” in the movie, and I really wonder why so much detail was put into this (and not into, let’s say, the front anchor thing). You get to sticker some stuff, but in this set, it sort of works, because the stickers are accents, and not the whole point of the set.
The tail itself is fun to build, and so simple it’s just kind of ridiculous. Take 4 long bars, put on either end, and then twist it. The end effect works quite well, even though it takes a few extra twists as the shape bends back. After awhile though, it holds and works.
The main body itself is somewhat interesting to build, at times. The curve on either side is done through a combination of hinges and well-placed jumpers. One beef, though, is that the instructions make the placement of the curve very confusing, with a lot of counting from difference places to make sure you have it lined up just right. There are also a few different places where parts were added to completely different areas on the ship, which means there’s some back-tracking if you missed them. The worst of it though, has got to be that anchor that’s just slapped on the front. It looks so ugly and jarring, by comparison to the rest.
You do get a couple of little accessories, for some reason. The ship comes with a couple of crates that only serve to fall out when you swoosh (or is it spwoosh underwater). I really don’t understand what these add, was there something in the movie that I’m forgetting? At least the little orange depth charge makes a bit more sense (even if storing it under a glass canopy in a cockpit does not).
One of the most exciting things about the set was seeing the new bubble canopy, in trans clear, that gives starship builders (like myself) another option for shielding our meaty little passengers. It’s been a good few years for ship builders, with all of the new molds, colors, and styles coming out. That you can attach it to any clip part is a huge plus, and one of the best changes to canopies in recent years, at least in my opinion. A lot easier to use these than hinges.
The bottom is what you’d expect, which is to say, nothing. There are flick fires (of course, what set doesn’t have these now? Are they in the Friends line yet?), but thankfully they only take up minimal parts and are tacked on. What is nice are the trans light-blue bulbs that go on the end… I can see plenty of application for them. One beef though is the boat bottom discs, which serve more than a way to slide it around. In a lot of cases, these are basically holding the plates together. This is a somewhat fragile ship on the bottom, and I had these pop off and a tile break out, more than once.
I get that the whole price-per-piece ratio is a dead horse, and an outdated one at that. I’d love to come up with something new (and have been working on it), but even without that measurement, this set is a terrible value. We get one totally new and unique minifigure, two revisions of figures that were revised just last year, and a duplicate of Jar Jar Binks. This set has
tripled greatly increased in price over the original without a substantial increase in quality or parts, and it’s a vehicle that few people care about in the first place. I have several years before I can ask my daughter her opinion, but I can guess that when it comes to kids, few are clamoring that they want to play with the Mighty Jack of the Star Wars universe.
I think LEGO missed the boat on this one. There are better things that need a rehash out of Episode I (like, say, the Flash Speeder) that would have been better to put Amidala in. This one is the worst kind of mix, a set that’s bland and a bad value. Or they could have added something more to this to make it work (maybe Boss Nas, or a brick fish or two). In the end, the actual model looks good, it really does, but that can’t get you to forget the price and how bad the value is.
What I liked
- Amidala starting to get a little more attention, even if the figure is more about look than quality
- New canopies make my MOC’er sense tingle
- Stickers actually used right, and the sub itself does look good
- The tail section is interesting and fun to build
What I didn’t like
- The price. This is probably one of the worst value Star Wars sets LEGO has ever made
- Set is a juxtaposition of great building elements and experience (tail, canopies, slope curve) and terrible, tacked-on ones (the anchor in the front, junk inside the other cockpits)
- Figures make sense for what the set is, but not when compared to other sets still on the market
- The price again. It’s so bad it’s worth mentioning twice
Verdict: Skip it, unless you find it on a huge sale. Amazon has it on sale for $5 less than MSRP. Better than nothing: