We geeks toss around the word "iconic" a whole lot when we describe the things we love (or hate). We've had whole discussions on the forums about what is and isn't iconic, and we've all had that moment of nerd rage when we think something iconic isn't being treated as such (like, say, my feelings about the new Jabba's Sail Barge). The real problem with all of these discussions is that our idea of iconic and what iconic really is...
iconic (adjective): relating to, resembling, or having the character of an icon
Icon is the big thing there, because that's what people recognize... it's the thing that represents the absolute core of the concept or thing you're looking at. It's why I have to admit that Jabba's Sail Barge really isn't iconic. Neither is the B-Wing, the A-Wing, or pretty much all of the sets I really love. The Death Star and Falcon, sure, absolutely. You see those and you think "Star Wars." The same probably isn't true for a lot of people (not us, though) with the SSD, Imperial Shuttle, or even the Ewok Village. They're all cool (well, except the Lego SSD... that thing is just awful), and while the Ewok Village gave me a whole bunch of fun memories, it's more of a curiosity to someone that sees it on display.
The Ghostbusters' Ecto-1 set, on the other hand, could be put as a picture next to the dictionary definition of "Iconic." I dare you to pick up this set and keep from whistling or humming the Ghostbusters' theme song. If you don't, I question if you are perhaps some sort of soul-less robot unknowingly waiting to take over the world. I got the set yesterday, built it almost immediately, and I've been humming the song since then. I posted a picture of the box on Facebook, and have a bunch of my friends humming it to. We could be looking at the most insidiously powerful set that Lego has made.
It's far and away the best to come out of Cuusoo and ideas, and may be one of the best sets Lego has made in a very long time. That's saying something...
Before we get started, let's get ourselves into the proper mood...
Isn't that like the most 80s thing you've ever seen? I mean, "I Love the 80s" on VH-1 can't come close to that mix there. Also, why were John Candy and Chevy Chase in there?
I haven't ever bought the Back to the Future Time Machine set, because it's ugly and I'd be getting it for the minifigs. I will, and I keep telling myself I should get it while it's on sale (like, say, right now) before it gets retired and goes insanely high on the aftermarket. The problems with the set have been covered in great length. It's too small, doesn't look right, the hood, the top, the tiles, the lack of Einstein... and those weren't even my critiques. My critiques of Cuusoo/Ideas have been apparent on the forums, and look for an opinion article in the near future to expound on them (and probably tick some of you off), but we never would have gotten sets like BTTF or Ghostbusters without it. Maybe that's why were all a bit apprehensive when it was announced the this set got picked, sad that it didn't include the Firehouse, and excited when we saw the reveal at Toy Fair... it looks like Lego learned something from the BTTF set.
Much like the Back to the Future set, and the recent Sandcrawler release, the Ecto-1 features a thicker instruction book. It kicks off with some history of Ghostbusters and the Ecto-1, including some fascinating little behind-the-scene looks that I'd actually never heard. I'm sure a lot have, but I'm not all that big into commentary or behind-the-scenes trivia in general, so hearing that the Ecto 1 was originally black and could become incorporeal was just... odd.
The entire book also has random quotes from the movie, which would be cool if they weren't just random. Instead of being topical to what you're doing, it's some random bit of dialog that doesn't fit at all with what you're building. It's like that friend that we all have that just uses random quotes from movies (or, more frequently, cartoons) in conversations that don't really call for it.
By now, I think we all know what four minifigs we get in the set, the four Ghostbusters. It would have been cool to get Slimer in the set, like was in the Cuusoo build, since it's the figure that it'd be hard to make up a custom on. We can easily do Dana, Louis, and Janine with the various stuff we've gotten in recent years. Even the ghosts and stuff like that can be done thanks to the glow-in-the-darks given in Monster Fighters and Lord of the Rings, but the closest we get to Slimer is Rotta (which I thought of when I got that RGS years ago).
The figures are all good representations, from the face to the hair. The uniforms are very similar to one another, with the only major change being the initials on front, the name on the back, and the skin color at the collar for Winston. I have no complaints, I think they all look great and it's pretty obvious which character is which. They all have an alternate "scared" face, which fits everyone except Egon. I don't seem to recall him ever being scared... more... bemused. I'm torn on the alt faces... I kind of wish they were plain, so I could make a good Carl Spackler minifig with just a hat, but sadly, have to find some hair or something to cover it up.
The real star of the minifigs comes with the proton packs, each of which is a collection of little parts. In a build full of innovative little things, these stand out as a "wow, that's just clever." The real plus, and the first of the "okay, I want more of these" parts are the printed boat tiles that make up the power core (or whatever you call it).
The whole thing is brick built, not a molded part, which makes it far cooler as a "Lego" thing. We've sadly started to get used to everything being molded, so getting a brick-built part, one that's great at that, is just a nice surprise. The top of the lightsaber also introduces 1x1 hollow round studs in dark red (which have been white or yellow previously).
You also build a stand, and one of the first parts you get is the short curved 2x2 sloped tile with the printed Ghostbusters logo, which just sets the tone for the set. This is a great little touch for the set, and really sets it up as a display piece set. There's also a crazy prospect on building a huge number of MOCs or vignettes with these guys, based on the best scenes the 1980s had to offer.
If you don't get that picture, go watch the video again!
While the minifigs in the set are very cool, they're really not the "big thing" in the set. That belongs to the namesake, the Ecto-1. While I'd argue that the DeLorean was a more crucial part in Back to the Future, being the thing that let you go back and to the future, the Ecto-1 is just a cooler piece that reinforced the characters and the movie. The DeLorean was a cool car (and was also very 80s... also, they were just pieces of junk) in its time, but you could have put almost anything in there as the time machine and it'd still work. I'm not sure you could say the same thing about the Ecto-1. Then again, apparently they were going to paint it black and make it look like a hearse that could fade through walls.
The look of the Lego version is just striking, hitting that good little mix between looking Lego and looking like the source. The proportions are off thanks to it being top-heavy, because that's just how Lego vehicles typically look. Yet you know exactly what it is when you look at it, and the proportions really doesn't take away from the build (unlike, say, the BTTF set).
The side is actually very interesting to build, and from a "parts" point of view, it really starts to shine. We have the short curved tiles in both 1x2 and 2x2 (including the printed tile with the logo; there are four of them thanks to the stand), some dark red, and that lovely pneumatic hose that's part of the source vehicle as well. I'd never seen a hose like this before, because I'd never bought any of the air-launcher stuff from racers or things like that. It's far more flexible and thicker than normal accent hoses... and it's bright blue!
The ladder is also in place, and it's pretty basic, just the standard short and long ladder pieces that hang over. We also have the red fins, which are noticeably different from the fan model, but I agree with others here that the Lego one actually hits the look closer (they aren't as big as we all remember).
The front and back feature that nice printed license plate... in fact, all of the parts are printed. The strange thing here is that I usually love printed parts, but this may be the one time where part of me wants stickers, because I would plaster the ghost logo on everything. We also get some unique parts here, at least in color combinations. The front bumper includes 1x1 round bricks and the 1x2 grill slopes in silver, which, when I saw, prompted me to declare that this thing was going to get parted out a lot on the aftermarket. Combine with a lot of silver cheese slopes and 1x1 stud plates, and we now have the new source of silver parts, which have been getting scarcer as Agents got farther and farther into retirement.
There's another new silver part on the wheels, which are the barbells weights that had been featured in the CMF line, to give that lovely white wall and hubcap look, so there's a lot of nice parts. Of course, that just means that you'll have to buy two of the set, because you can't part out the first one... it belongs on a shelf.
The solution for the wheels and white walls is kind of interesting, because this isn't using the normal solution for attaching wheels (frictionless-pins). Instead, it's actually using a fixed axle (just like the car would), that uses a dark-tan axle pin instead attached across. It's an odd part on the build, since you can't push them all the way on without locking the wheel in place.
The top is removable (what, you didn't think this thing had doors, did you) to expose the interior. It's an interesting little build to make the side windows, since it's really window panels that sit sideways and lock on the bottom at an angle.
The roof is held on across four studs, which does make the car kind of fragile to move around, at least in knocking the roof off. The actual build is very sturdy, it's just that the roof will come off fairly easily when you race the car across your table and almost two-year-old daughter grabs it to push around herself.
And while this has been overall a positive review, there is a knock on the vehicle that I have to make when you look inside it... it still seats only one person in the driver's seat. When you're first building the base, it seems like they could be making seat more... the width would support it (being 8-studs wide on the base). They just made it center-drive, for some reason, even though there's spots for the rest to sit in the back. This really does hurt the model a bit, but the promising part is that it feels like the kind of thing that you could spend a bit of time MOC'ing up to fix.
Ultimately, this set is a home run. It's got it's flaws, the seating and the shortness of the height being a bit big, but it hits on so many other things that it's very easy to overlook them. It feels worth every cent you pay for it, the minifigs are just fantastic, the parts are all printed, the model looks great, and it's a fantastic parts pack. I honestly can't tell you the last time I had so much fun building a set; not even the Ewok Village, which I loved, had me as happy as I was putting it together. It's a rare mix to satisfy the AFOL collector, the parts junkie, and the guy trying to reminisce about his childhood in the same set... I've never seen a set that did that this well. It also looks nice enough that you want to keep it together and display it on the shelf.
If you're even remotely a fan of Ghostbusters, or just good Lego in general, you should absolutely go get this set. Probably two, because you're going to MOC up one to fix those little gaps. Okay, maybe three, because you're also going to want to keep one at work to display as well. Maybe even four...
What I liked
- Minifigs are about as perfect as you can make them... from the lines on Ray to the glasses on Egon to the "I want to slap you" on Venkman
- The car is absolutely gorgeous and fun to zoom around
- Even though the build can feel tedious, there's enough "ooooh" moments to more than make up for it
- There are a ton of unique parts and color combinations, and the set delivers a lot of value past its assembled set
What I didn't like
- I hate the center-drive car setup that all Lego cars seem to have. This one even seemed initially like it could have been wide enough for two, but then they closed it up
- Shame the set didn't include Slimer. I get keeping cost down by dropping the firehouse (plus, the designer provided instructions for it), but slimer would have been a huge nod to us 80s kids
- That song gets stuck in your head every single time you look at this set
Verdict: This is a straight-up 5 out of 5. While the BTTF set was a bit of a let down (and ugly), this is an absolute home run. I may still have issues with Cuusoo and Ideas, but I'm glad it gave us this set. You can (and should), buy it right now on Lego Shop@Home!