I really liked the first Hobbit set I put together, 79012 Mirkwood Elf Army. The movie it was (very loosely) based on… not so much. With the Mirkwood Elves, I at least knew a bit about what was there, and they were entities I remembered from the book. I won’t really say characters, because none of the elves, other than Thranduil, even had names as far as I can remember.
Dol Guldur, on the other hand, wasn’t something I remembered. Which meant I had to go to the great source of infallible information… Wikipedia, and it’s cousin that we don’t let near any matches, Wikia. Turns out it was mentioned in the original movies, as well as the books those were based on, during the Council of Elrond. In the book, it was just called the “Dungeons of the Necromancer” and never visited. Especially by Beorn, the skin-changer guy who played a crucial role in helping the dwarves and then at the Battle of Five Armies (and no point really in between).
This is the smallest set in the second wave of Hobbit sets, coming in at $20, and includes an Beorn as an exclusive figure, a couple unique parts, and of course, flick-fires. There might be some minor spoilers in here, so just a warning.
So we get a lot of people that like to complain about our reviews when they’re opinionated or negative. I could rant about stuff like that for a whole post, but instead, I’ll go with this disclaimer: If you don’t want to read an opinionated review about this movie, just skip this post. That and I should have come up with a good joke about spoilers to put in this post. Yet all I have are spoiler-ific rants to put below the fold. So… spoilers ahead.
By now, anyone who has read my reviews know that my method of choice is flimsy analogies, name calling, and long, drawn-out comparisons to other movies. This movie actually makes it kind of hard to take that route, because there were so many ways for me to tear into it I ended up giving myself a headache (watching my Cowboys play like the * bleep * Keystone Cops of football right after watching this movie probably didn’t help). But hey, I can push through and give it a shot…
In Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, a movie I think most everyone here will agree with me is just terrible, there was a specific scene that had me wanting to walk out of the movie. I know, it’s like picking the smelliest piece of a manure pile, but the only reason I stuck through the movie in the theater is that it was towards the end. It was while the kid that ruined Indy 4 ran through some ruins that were supposedly by the pyramids (which were actually like 90 miles away) in order to get to Petra, a city in Jordan and nowhere near Egypt, for those keeping scores. It was perhaps the most Michael Bay scene ever done this side of wingsuits.
LeBouf was running across walls and rooftops, dodging explosions (in slow motion), shards of stone and concrete, shrapnel, and jumping out of clouds of dust. The part that bugged me was the whole shrapnel thing. I can suspend disbelief in a guy falling for a few thousand feet and somehow getting caught and saved (instead of shredded into several smaller pieces). I can look past the stupid mom-on-pot jokes, or the general racist tone of most of the characters (though not easily… let’s say we snuck some “refreshments” into the movie theater to help). But what I couldn’t look past was the fact that Sam would have been turned to hamburger by the shards of rocks and shrapnel flying around him. I got to see exactly what that stuff was doing because of all the slow-motion scenes. That scene, more than any other in there, was just horrible.
All of that being said, that the action in that scene looks like the opening of Saving Private Ryan compared to what we get in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. (more…)
Wait, the title of this article doesn’t give away my conclusion, does it? Because I enjoy a good setup. So maybe just try to ignore what I wrote there and read everything. Of course, I actually have to issue an official retraction for a comment I made on the forum when these sets were first leaked…
Based on the price conversion and random guessing, prices would look to be $25 (perhaps $30)… no way it would be $20 for Ambush, $40 for Mirkwood (though I could see this being $50 and replacing Attack of the Wargs in the lineup), and the Fortress is likely replacing Goblin King Battle at $100. No way it’s in the $50 range.
Turns out, Ambush is $20, Mirkwood is only $30, and Fortress was only $70. Given the recent trends in Lego prices being somewhere between “are you kidding” and “those greedy *bleeps*,” it seems like something is up here. I mean, this set is basically a $30 battle pack with six figures, five of them being generic and the kind of things you want a whole bunch of. What is this, opposite world?
The second movie just came out, and to be honest, I have no idea if this scene is in it, in the extended edition release that’s going to trick us out of $20 next year, or in the third movie that we haven’t even been disappointed in yet. But on the Lego front, there’s a whole lot to love in this wave of sets. After some shaky initial releases, it looks like both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sets are hitting their stride. Anyway, let’s see how much value can be pulled out of your $30.
Batmobile. Bat Ice Sled. Batwing. There was one major Bat-vehicle that was missing from the first couple of waves of DC Super Heroes and it was the Batcopter. New for 2014, 76011 Batman: Man-Bat Attack comes in to fill the gap and it does not disappoint.
Weighing in at a mere 184 pieces, it won’t win any awards for price per piece ratio. You do get three minifigs out of this set: a pretty standard issue Batman in a black outfit, and newcomers Man-Bat and Nightwing in red.
Ah, I love the holidays. The smell of freshly baked cookies. The sounds of classic Christmas music filling the air. The twinkling of ten million billion multi-coloured lights strewn about everywhere you look. The trampling of poor unfortunate shoppers in the way of that perfect gift and the smiles of the children as they eagerly await the arrival of the man in red. But wait! Who is that man in red this year you ask? Well, you’ll just have to wait until the 24th to find out because it’s time again for the Star Wars Advent Calendar!
2013 marks the third year of my spamtastic daily reviews of these tiny balls of potential awesomeness/nerd rage and I thought I’d try something a little different. At least until I get bored. This calendar coincides with the planned re-release of Attack of the Clones, this time in fabulously profitable 3D. Well, that release got scrapped, but the LEGO stops for no one. Unless it becomes unprofitable. Let’s get down to business shall we? It’s time I took these little plastic packets more seriously. After all, it HAS been three years, so…
When I saw the leaks of the second-half sets for this year, it wasn’t the RGS that excited me (I didn’t like it at first, and I was totally wrong about that), or the Sail Barge (still think it’s awful), or even Jar-Jar’s Taco Truck. It was this simple little set, and for a very basic reason that I’ve decried in a lot of other reviews: because of a mini-figure. Jango Fett is one of those figures that I never managed to pick up.I disliked Episode II, and didn’t invest in many of the sets, being both freshly out of college when they came out (and as such, poor) and investing in other things like rent.
The sets I did buy, like Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter or Bounty Hunter Chase were on the cheap side. I have gone back and filled in some of those gaps, like the AT-TE, but never wanted to pay the price to get Jango or his little, totally ineffectual, clone. Of course, I’ve been very hard to Boba Fett in my reviews, mostly because I think he’s just terrible at everything other than playing hide-n’-seek (R2-D2 has more confirmed kills than the most dangerous bounty hunter in the galaxy).
Jango, on the other hand, actually managed to kill a few Jedi, had an entire army created from his genetic code, and actually managed to live up to the “coolness” that was the Mandalorians. His only mistake was trying to take on Samuel L. Jackson… something that is never a good idea. The only thing that can kill SLJ is terrible writing (see Episode III).
At $20, this set is downright budget, and makes getting Jango easy (young Boba is in the Advent Calendar, so hopefully those old figures will drop in price). This is also one of the easiest sets to get a Clone Trooper in, something that’s missing in a lot of sets that need them. The droid tank itself is forgettable at first glance, though it did exist in Episode II (right up until it was blown up by a lot of Clone Gunships)… worst, it’s based on a design that was absolutely horrible when first introduced in the first Episode III wave and later revised in the first Clone Wars. It was fragile, flimsy, and kinda ugly looking. So for that part, there are reasons to be skeptical about building up your armies here…
Sometimes, it’s fun to just sit back and pretend what’s going through the heads of TV show writers and producers, because you sort of just wonder what insane stuff goes on there. I’ll just skip past all of the drug and money jokes, because this is a family site (at times). It had to be especially tough to write things for The Clone Wars, because there’s considerable evidence that they were hamstrung by just about every bad idea to ever spill from George Lucas’ noggin (see, midichlorians).
Producer: “You know what the kids love? That red Santa Claus looking guy from Episode I.”
Writer: “Darth Maul? He died at the end of that movie. Obi-Wan cut him in half.”
Producer: “What the heck is a Old Boy Juan?”
Writer: “He was the main Jedi from that movie, the one who found… you know what, never mind. He died too.”
Producer: “We should bring Darth Maul back! His death was pretty ambiguous, right?”
Writer: “He was cut in half.”
Producer: “See? Ambiguous! It’s the future-”
Writer: “Actually, it’s the past. Long time ago, in a galaxy far… never mind. But we already replaced him with his older brother, Savage Opress”
Producer: “I love that guy! That name was my idea I know, it’s subtle. That’s why his last name is slightly misspelled.”
Writer: “Yeah… so we already have someone in that role”
Producer: “He’s yellow, kids hate yellow. They like red. They see him and they think ‘wow, it’s like Big Bird.’ Big Bird is yellow, and kids hate Big Bird.”
Writer: “What?! He’s one of the most popular children’s characters ever. Everyone grew up watching-”
Producer: “I’ve got it! We give him Robot Legs! That way he’s a robot and red! It’s brilliant!”
At least, that’s how I imagine it going. Because… Darth Maul with robot legs. I know, I know, it was touched on in the comics, but the comics are to canon and the EU the same way that Twilight is meaningful source material to any Dracula movie. They gave us a white-armored Vader in an awkward pose with his daughter, after all. The Clone Wars are firmly in the EU canon, though, which gives this some sort of legitimacy.
At $25, the Mandalorian Speeder joins a less-than-illustrious group of speeder sets from the last few years, most inspired from the Clone Wars. It gives us two Mandalorian Commandos, a half-AT-RT, half Zabrak Darth Maul. But it’s in a price point that competes with the BARC Speeder, A-Wing, and Desert Skiff sets (and it’s not too far off from several great $30 sets). 211 pieces is perfectly average in something like this, so hopefully, there’s something to carry this set.
My love of walkers does have its limits, and the Spider Droid is one of those things I just never really understood. I mean, this is a universe where things can hover, jet into space, and use magic. I get why Republic and Empire used walkers, it was a mixture of intimidation and needing to move people from point-A to point-B. Droids don’t have that problem… this guy is basically an elevated target that has limited movement and a firing arc. Like the rest of the Episode II sets we got in this wave (well, except the Geonosis Duel), this set is a revised Clone Wars set. The AT-TE and RGS had a very high bar to live up to (and went 50/50 on that front), the Tank Droid was for a forgettable set, and the Spider Droid has one of the lowest bars imaginable. The original spider droid was fragile, ugly, and overpriced (compounded by being a TRU exclusive if I remember right).
This version keeps the same price ($30), loses the exclusive tag, actually increases the piece count, and adds a new Jedi to the ever expanding palette of victims of poor decision making. That’s not saying it’s all roses in the improvement category, but at least things look a bit more promising on the “I don’t feel like I’m being robbed” front.
I have a bit of a history of tearing into Episode I, something which it still richly deserves. Recently, I decided to give all six movies a run-through, from start to finish. There was a momentary break between Episode II and III for me to sleep off a pretty massive “headache” (let’s just call it a side-effect of the process of fortifying myself for six hours of Jar-Jar). Once the screaming inside my skull stopped, I produced a pretty amazing realization: Episode I isn’t the worst Star Wars film… Episode II is.
Episode I is the “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” bad. It was a bad film, it had some bad characters, it didn’t properly use the actors that were in it, and it had all kinds of dumb references. But there was an actual conflict in the movie. There was an invasion of a world, there were actual ramifications to what happened, and people actually died. And I’m pretty sure there was a Gungan fan dance in there somewhere.
Episode II is more like The Motion Picture, which was just terrible on all levels. The Clone Wars had no risk to anyone except to a few small groups (the Jedi, politicians, Geonosians that got cut to pieces). It was robots vs. clones, two groups that only existed to fight each other. Beyond that, as stupid as I thought midichlorians was, the whole “truly wonderful, the mind of a child” is absolutely worse. Midichlorians was bad because it tried to explain away something that didn’t need to be explained. That whole missing planet thing was horrible because it revealed that the Jedi are basically dumber than a poorly-watered potted plant. What, the planet isn’t in the archive? Maaaaaybe someone erased it. I get that they were trying to paint the Jedi as overconfident or oblivious or something, but come on.
What? Oh, you want to know about the set? This was actually the set in the entire lineup, when I first saw it, that had me most excited. A new Yoda, finally, a proper Christopher Lee, and an update to a very underrated set from the original Episode II set, what’s not to like? Dooku had almost as long of a “yellow or Clone Wars” run as Padme did, with no real updates despite many opportunities to do so. And his Clone Wars figure was particularly bad, so I was excited to see him. The time was obviously right, given that the head was already done for the Lord of the Rings stuff.
At $40, this set isn’t cheap, but it’s hard to not ooh and ahh at some of the pieces just at your first glance. Brown round grill bricks? Lots of arches? Poggle the Lesser (seriously, what did you do to get that name)? You can be forgiven for not noticing that this set isn’t just a remake of Dooku’s speeder… it’s also “inspired” by one of the worst Star Wars LEGO sets ever made…
Ah, the AT-TE, otherwise known as “you know what was cool, the AT-AT, we need more of that in the Prequels” walker. As I talked about in the AT-RT review, I love me some walkers, and this thing is no different. It also marks the one big set that I own all three varieties of, so for the purposes of this review, I didn’t bother to photograph the other two. Okay, to be fair… they were packed up while getting carpet installed, but still.
This is the biggest of a whole series of Episode II sets we got with the fall release. We haven’t seen much in the way of leaks yet for next year, but given what we’ve seen, you sort of have to assume we’ll get an Episode III wave some time between now and the Episode VII / Rebels sets start to land. Hope you like some Clone Turbo Tank sets. Well, and that one AT-PT walker we’ve seen already.
At $90, this set manages to occupy the exact same price point in all three iterations (though the other two were $80, inflation and what not). Along with the Gunship, it’s a pair of big sets that you’d think would fit together (but don’t, that’s a whole different dropship). While the RGS was featured prominently in Clone Wars as the chariot that took Anakin to his surgery date, the AT-TEs were mostly background fodder for the CGI guys to play with. The last AT-TE was a wonderful big set, even being Clone Wars, and the original was one of the better first release sets (though it had to get a service pack to make it work). The question is, how does this guy stack up?