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...
For those now curious what I qualify as one of the worst LEGO sets ever made, it's the Ultimate Lightsaber Duel, an Episode III that featured one of LEGOs biggest missteps, the Light Up Lightsaber figures, and pretty much nothing else worthwhile. It holds a distinct place in the lexicon of Star Wars LEGO sets, where at $30 it was about $40 overpriced. Even now, eight years after it failed out of the marketplace, the only reason it has value is because so few people bought it (I just sort of assume that the rest of the sets are buried next to those E.T. carts in the desert).
Of course, the question is how does that relate here? We'll get to that, but if you take a close look at the picture above, and in the actual box art, and look at Yoda's back... you'll see what it is.
The set comes with four-ish minifigures: the aforementioned Poggle the Lesser (who I keep wanting to type as Peggle... I enjoy that game), Yoda, Dooku, and a pilot droid. The pilot droid is an especially odd choice, considering there's nothing in the set for him to really fly. Is this the same pilot droid that we saw at the end of Episode II? I can't remember, because by that time in the movie I was seeing about six Dookus while lying on the floor of my rapidly spinning office.
First up is our buddy, Poggle the Lesser, he of the awful name. On one hand, I like to make fun of his name. On the other hand, every time I read it, the Eddie Izzard sketch over naming kings flashes through my brain (Elthered the Unready... what did he do?). We've actually some new Geonosians recently, which is very cool. Before that, we only had the two-ish (one had wings) from the original Geonosis set, otherwise known as "the only one" back when Episode II first came out. That wasn't a bad set, but it was one that got spread into two different sets when re-released.
There's not really all that much to say about this guy. I don't think he was ever really given a name in the movie, and really, the only purpose he served in the movie was to kick fans of the EU square between the legs with the whole "Ultimate Weapon" thing. Much like midichlorians before it, and naming the twins after, there was absolutely no reason for it to exist. Some things don't need to be explained. That being said, the brick to represent the death star, a trans bright-orange round 1x1 with printing on the side, is very cool (you can see him holding it in the picture of all minifigs up above).
As a figure, he's somewhat average. There's a lot of printing and a custom head, but the printing is close in color to the figure itself, so it doesn't show up all that well. He also has some wings, but you have to fold them to get them on, which makes it so the head just never sits on there quite right. I think there's actually more use for the wings on other figures, especially if you want to go with some sort of castle / fantasy setting. The torso is printed on both sides, but I have more trouble thinking where you'd use it, compared to the wings.
So we're now up to four-ish different Geonosians. One is apparently a zombie (because why not, next up, Vampire Gungans), which is something out of the Clone Wars. So if you really wanted to fill up a Jedi-killing arena, it's a bit easier now than it used to be.
One of my issues with the Ewok Village was that Chewie had about 12 years of no remakes, something that was shared with the non-Clone Wars Yoda (introduced just a year after Chewie in 2002). We now have a new one and... ugh. I don't think the pictures can do justice to just how bad this thing looks when you hold him. I really want to like this minifigure, because the Yoda figure was always kinda... plain. Let's take a look at what Yoda looked like in Episode II, in the very scene that this is supposed to be depicting.
Outside of the Yoda from Empire, which was created at a different time of SFX, this is probably the best looking we ever saw Yoda. The muppet from Episode I was terrible because it was supposed to be like the Empire one, but created at a time when muppets in a huge SFX blockbuster just don't work. Thus, the CGI version of Yoda, which looked the part better (even if the whole "shuffling along from the old" after the fight was dumb).
Our new Yoda does not look the part. I get that this is LEGO, but it really doesn't look like that either on the head. They somehow oversculpted the features and managed to kill both the Star Wars and the Lego elements of it. The Clone Wars looks like Clone Wars, but still captures Yoda. The original one actually looked pretty good for the Empire one (though no eyes looks out of place with modern figures). Both both of the older ones show the most important feature, and that would be, you know, being older. The new one doesn't.
Of course, none of this is helped by the fact that you're supposed to stick him on the end of a long little pole to flip around like some sort of drunk golden marmoset. We get brand new printing on the torso and back too, but much like the face, it's overdone. The clone wars torso just looks better to me than this new one, even outside that setting, and I think they should have gone with it. Don't get me started on that hair on the back. In short, he looks far to Muppet and not so much Yoda.
We also get some Dooku, who plays a smaller role but has been updated the same number of times. Lego isn't one to miss a beat on reusing parts, so it made sense to use that wonderful Christopher Lee head introduced with The Wizard Battle. If there is one thing this world can always use more of, it is certainly Christopher Lee. The torso is new, and fits the general black outfit he wore well.
That being said, it's only printed on the front side, with the back and legs both being plain. The cloak is only brown, which fits, and of course there is the same alt face it had before. It's not a huge problem, but I do kinda wish that they'd extend the belt around, just because they do that on pretty much every other torso.
While the Dooku face and hair is probably the most Clone Wars face in the history of Clone Wars figures, it's also the one that makes the best jump from CW to non-CW. You can certainly see the connection a lot better than Obi-Wan or Anakin (Yoda is probably a second, so long as you ignore that new one). I do wonder about that printing on the torso for the CW Dooku though... I don't recall Christopher Lee being so... busty. All that being said, this new figure just looks perfect, but that may just be all of the Christopher Lee awesomeness that spills forth from it.
Like I said earlier, the Pilot droid is the oddest inclusion in this set. While we've had more than a few odd inclusions with figures lately (Akbar and Han in the A-Wing come to mind), including a figure that is less a "figure" and more of a part in a totally different vehicle or set is very odd. I mean, this guy can't even seem to move on his own, being that he has no legs, so... just weird. In truth, there's nothing special about the figure, he's just leftover parts for the most part.
There is a vehicle in the set, but it's the speeder that Dooku uses to get away from the people he just basically declared war on.
It's a nice remake of the original, and nearly a part-for-part reproduction of the speeder from the AT-RT set I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, just featuring different colors. It's not a bad representation, I suppose, though in the movie, the speeder was much rounder and a bit smaller, and far more silver/grey than it was brown. But as a small thing you can toss on the battlefield, it works. You can't put that poor little droid pilot on there, though.
The most notable difference between this and the blue version is the total lack of stickers, which in no way detracts from the model. It's also fairly different from the original, which was sand blue, for some reason.
My only real beef with this little speeder is the steering panes at the back of the bike, situated on a couple of hinges. You can't easily adjust the pane / panel without knocking them off, since there's nothing bracing it on the underside. The small "foot pedals" are likewise fairly easy to knock off, but since you can't actually put a minifigs feet down there, you don't really notice it.
The set itself does try to distance itself from the worst set in Star Wars history by actually trying to looks like the background from the scene in question. Ultimate Battle was an arena, something that was distinctly lacking from Mustafar. Of course, that really only works to a point. If you think about the scene in general, it only really happens because of horrible planning on Dooku's part. I mean, why was his escape vehicle parked what seems to be a few thousand km from where he was at? Given what he was doing, executing a popular and well-liked politician along with a couple of well-known Jedi, he had to know that something was going to come of it. In fact, we know that he did, given that he had Jango and a whole mess of droids and Geonosans on hand to fight.
The bulk of the set is the little arena where Dooku was tracked to for his escape, Obi-Wan had to deal with an apprentice that basically got his teacher injured (and earned Anakin the nickname "Lefty"), and Yoda showed us that he has never once "Just Said No." On one side, you have a big platform that Dooku could have used at pretty much any point and time to escape once the Jedi were just sitting there. It's not like they had blasters or something.
The platform itself is just one of those oversized plates that usually has a sticker plastered across it in other sets, some arches, BURPs, and other stuff. The entire set is designed to be fragile as well, to show battle damage. The reason there are two flick-fires tucked away are to knock out some parts in the picture below. The same thing with that big light piece, which Dooku tried to use to give Obi-Wan a tongue piercing.
From a playset perspective, that's not a bad thing at all. The individual parts aren't all that bad, and the light, while kinda basic, has some unique use of stuff like the blasters to make a light. I don't quite get the spyglass parts, but you work with what you get. Any of that aside, when you look at it for parts, there's a whole lot to love about eight 2x3 light grey slopes, a non-typical size that can now be bulked up on.
The burp part here also opens, as a way to hide... I have no idea what. This is an odd thing to really include here, since there wasn't any reason for it. You have jedi jumping around here, so there's not much need to stow equipment. I'm also pretty sure that the rocks weren't hollow in the movie (but I was in no condition to remember anything the last time I watched it). Really, you don't need the rocks at all for this particular part. They would have been better served as a backdrop instead of a feature.
All of the damage parts hold in place well enough, since the technic pin is actually shaped like it should be. More amazingly, with those flick-fires, we actually have a reason for them to exist (unlike the ones in, I don't know, Weathertop).
The other "half" of the set is a series of arches, a pillar that is used to pin Obi-Wan in some of the most unconvincing physical acting ever, and the stick that just sort of destroys this entire set. Maybe I'm just too old, or I remember my childhood wrong, but I have a recollection of what happened when I wanted two action figures to have a fight: I picked them up and made a whole bunch of sound effects. I mean, I made some lightsaber effects while writing that sentence. I'm writing this while at lunch at work, and my co-workers just looked at me funny.
I make fun of playset features a lot, but that's because I'm an adult and I rarely play with my toys, no matter how much I talk about actually doing just that. Reality and responsibilities can be a terrible thing, especially when you think that "wow, I can finally afford this" goes hand-in-hand with "but I don't have the time to enjoy it!" As a kid though, there were some fun features to toys I think are dumb now (flick fires, shooters, launchers).
But you know what I always thought was dumb? Things that basically tried to replace my role with the toy. Why would I want to attach Yoda to something that makes him worse at doing what my hand holding a figure can do? Sending a figure flying had some entertainment (or floating, like in that old Ewok set), trap-doors and things like that are nice.
This is not a nice thing. Yoda basically flips around on the peg, but the movement is decidedly annoying. There's a decent range of motion, but it's only Yoda that has it. You're left holding Dooku if you want him in on the fight, and you can't use much of the other playset features when you use them both. It's hard to describe with pictures (and I failed pretty bad at making a video of it), but it just feels wrong when you try to play with it. The desire you have is to just skip the stick and swing two minifigs at each other, smashing into walls and making swoosh sounds.
Discounting the whole mess with the peg, there are more damage pieces, complete with little push-pins to send rocks flying inches. One cool thing about the entire arch section is that its modular and hinged, so you can arrange it a couple of different ways. There's also the possibility of purchasing two of these if you really wanted to fling around some Dooku. Or at the very least, make some more arches.
The pillar to knock over on to an Obi-Wan minifig is probably the most eye-catching part of the set, if for no other reason that it combines some unique pieces. As an effect, it's nice, but I can tell you, if this goes on sale, I wouldn't put it together before just tossing those in my parts bins. I have a lot of those little tread discs from liberal purchases of the TIE crawlers, but I like the round grill bricks.That little lever for flipping it up and down is a little odd, if for no reason other than the fact that it's basically a brick-built version of an existing part. There's a technic part uses like a piston top or exhaust pipe that looks pretty much exactly like that.
That's actually kind of the story of this set... great parts that are better before you put it together. 390 parts for $40 isn't a bad deal in the current LEGO ecosystem, and there are some very quality parts in there. Sure, there are the usual padders of cheese slopes and technic pins, but also slopes, grill bricks, and force lightning (which you hide in those boxes inside the hill for some reason). The minifigs are likewise a contrast. Dooku is amazing, Poggle is good, Yoda horrible, and the droid is leftovers. Part of me really wishes that they would have dropped Poggle and the droid and included Anakin and Obi-Wan instead, since that would, you know, make sense.
What I liked:
- I cannot get enough Christopher Lee minifigure love. Seriously, if they made a Dooku Battle Pack, with just four of the same figures, I would still buy multiples. He was very overdue for a decent makeover
- A nice selection of parts, some that are fairly unique, and has value outside of just the minifigs (even if they're better in a pile, unassembled)
- I like the excuse to write a review where I call Episode II worse than Episode I
What I didn't like:
- The "playset" stick that you stick Yoda too is just a terrible feature that ruins part of the playability for the set. Would have been nice to seen it dropped and the arches built up a bit more. Other playset features are just sort of forgettable
- Yoda is still overdue for a decent makeover. This is probably one of the worst "updates" to a figure I have ever seen
- It reminds you of Ultimate Lightsaber Battle, and that is never a good thing
You can buy 75017 Duel on Geonosis at Amazon.com right now