In all the reviews I've done, I can be called nothing if not timely. That's why we're bringing you the review of the Queen Anne's Revenge a prompt six months after it came out! I could say that it's because I was waiting for the DVD release, but that'd be lying. We all know what a stinker the movie was by now, even if you're like me and still haven't gotten around to watching it, relying only on Wikipedia entries and the discussions of customers when hiding inside the DVD rack at Walmart.
Let's not beat around the bush on this review: the Queen Anne's Revenge (QAR) should be the best of the Pirates of the Caribbean sets, by a pretty big margin, right? Unlike the other sets, it's a vehicle (of sorts), and who doesn't like a good pirate ship? QAR is a central piece of the new movie, the ship of the bad guy, and you just can't help but be awed when you see the movie art or even the box art of the set. You know a few things about Blackbeard right away. First, he liked dark colors, and really likes to decorate with bones. But how does the set hold up when you put it together?
This review will be a bit different than others in the series, since we've had two pirate ships in recent years I can compare it too: The Imperial Flagship and Brickbeard's Bounty. So, impressions of the set are colored by those right away. Let's not hide it... let's compare this ship to an average pirates set and one of the greatest sets LEGO has ever made. Should be fair!
The initial impression of the box and art are somehow less than impressive. This isn't a knock against LEGO, who has always had colorful boxes, but a lot of the pirate sets feature embellishments to make the set seem more in place. The carved wood motif, the ocean the ship would never float on, the logos and treasure maps, these all are there to distract you from a somewhat boring ship. Unlike most of the other sets in the line, the only thing this consists of is the boat itself and the minifigs. That's not a ding, it's kind of refreshing to not have to remember all these little extras when putting together a review or pictures.
Also, if anyone ever gets a round brick to fire that far with a pull/flick cannon, you let me know. That thing could put out your sister's eye, and I think all young boys dream of that.
As for minifigures, we get a nine in the set... sort of. Maybe ten, though seven would be a lot closer number. What was that? Yes, I was a product of American schools, but I do know how to count. Seven is the "official" LEGO count, nine is the Bricklink count, and ten is what you actually come up with when you lay them out. The discrepancy comes with the skeletal figures. The ram and figurehead includes a skeleton with a torso done in trans-orange. He's never counted as a figure, and just done up in parts. There are also two other skeletons, identical to the jobs we got in those somewhat abysmal Castle sets a few year back.
I'd count them all as minifigs too, but nothing all that special, save that orange torso, and he's got arms for legs. If you own any castle sets with skeletons, you have plenty of legs to throw on him. Seriously though, why is his torso orange?
We get several "again?"'s in this set: the two zombie crewmen that also show up in 4191 and 4194, Blackbeard identical to how he shows up in 4192, and Jack Sparrow just like he's been in all the other expensive sets. Feel free to check out some of our other reviews to see how these figures stack up. The three unique figures are Cook, Zombie Quartermaster, and Angelica.
The cook is a good generic figure, has an open shirt and legs with a printed apron. The legs are actually fairly cool, and I could see those being worked into city builds (or even castle or similar stuff) without any problem. The tan tri-point hat is also very cool, and the face is unique. I can see this particular guy ending up as a fairly expensive figure in the end, just given the rarity of everything about him.
Zombie Quartermaster is pretty much the opposite. While he's still unique, I don't care for any of the zombie figures. His torso printing doesn't match colors with the flesh arms or head, the legs are just normal grey, and the face has no utility. So, if you want the zombie, that's great! If you want a minifig you can use in some other setting... well, not so much.
Angelica, the last unique figure, is the replacement Elizabeth Swann. I'll reserve any discussion on that, because I don't know how she fits into the movie, but can venture a guess why she was cast. Here, we have another, mostly unique, figure. The upside? We finally have a minifigure with a full hat and hair! The downside? They're all one piece. The hat and hair looks great, complete with feather.
The torso is printed on both sides, isn't a bad pattern, and the figure looks cool. We get another double-sided face, which is becoming the norm for a lot of fleshy faces. It's always nice to get another female fleshy faces for balancing out the sausage fest we get in most other licensed sets, but you'll need to bring a different hairpiece. Unless you like hats.
One thing to note, while I didn't have the issue, there have been more than a handful of complaints on the printing of the figure in this set. Seems like they either were smudged, misprinted, or off. LEGO quality has been slipping for years, but this set seems to be a hot point for it.
Now on to the ship... it's big. We've seen two other pirate ships in recent years, the revision of Brickbeard's Bounty and the wonderful Imperial Flagship that sort of wrapped up the latest Pirates series. It's the same three-mast build and length of the Imperial Flagship. It's long enough to sport 12 gunwells! Putting it next to Brickbeard's and the Flagship shows exactly how big it is. If you've ever seen the Flagship, you know that thing is a monster, and QAR is just a bit shorter than it.
And you only build spaces for 8 guns, two of them are just for decoration, I guess. And because LEGO has never been able to count effectively when building a pirate ship, you only get 3 cannons with the ship. Seriously, LEGO, if you're going to build places for that many guns... INCLUDE THE BLASTED CANNONS!
As an aside, I complained about that fact to LEGO, and the CSR was nice enough to send me cannons to fill it up. They look nice, but it should have been done in the set. But this is the third set I've bought in the last few years looked like pieces were missing because of empty gunwells.
The whole cannon thing sort of underscores a problem with this "pirate" ship, and it's something that really bugs me in the whole thing. It's just too shallow. There is no cargo hold, no place to store booty, no place for the crew to bunk. The Flagship had a raised deck, Brickbeard's had the pretense of one (at $45 less than this set). I get that this is LEGO, and you have to work in the piece and size constraints, but this feature, more than anything else, ruins this whole ship. It's effectively a really long canoe.
The additional problem with being such a shallow build is that it makes the build boring and the ship somewhat fragile as you're assembling it. It's a lot of brown, more brown, and then some other colors to mix in because we'd never want the hull of a ship to look uniform and matched. I know, complaining about tedium at the same time I complain about variety is a bit hypocritical, but hey, you write a review if you don't like it! I don't mind variety, I just want it in the right places.
The rest of the ship consists of the captain's cabin (not to be confused with the set, the Captain's Cabin, because it has absolutely nothing in common with it) and the foredeck. In a rather amazing feat, they actually managed to make a cabin that was even flimsier than Brickbeard's, and by cabin, I mean a few walls. There actually isn't a cabin in there, it's just the shell for it.
You get some nice windows... that are stickered... and cloth parts that sit on the outside and don't look right. So, I guess it's more of a Captain's Alcove. Just a note though on the stickers. While I've been hard on this set, and stickers in a lot of my reviews, this is an example of how to use them right. They look good on the windows, and give it a lot of flash. I don't mind them, and would like to see things like this add more variety to some sets.
Hanging off the back of the alcove is a cage/prison/lamp thing, and it is, without a doubt, the worse way to connect something this side of the wings in the ancient Ewok Attack (or the entire Wookie Attack set). You have repurposed black tail, connected to one clip that holds up the cage. It just doesn't work.
On the note of the sails, these are somewhat of a letdown. I get they're looking for a movie feel, but they don't need accuracy as much as they need the LEGO feel. And most are just sort of "also there." The whole back mast is a great example of that, it's just sort of built up with a single sail tacked on. That's actually had it's supposed to be, since this is based on a real ship and all, but that back sail was bigger than all of the other sails! On this, it's one of the smallest sails. It just looks out of place, like they forgot to build it. Oh, and they are not backwards. The printing just shows through a lot.
That being said, the masts are just the giant bricks, like we always see, and the cross spars and beams are better than we got on Brickbeard's (sails slipped off too much) and worse than the Flagship (thick, brown technic pieces and joints, looked great). But how the spars are fastened to the mast leaves a lot to be desired. Unlike the Flagship, it uses a vertical brick that's sort of stuck on the masts, and then a hinge bit to stick the flags.
This puts the weight of the spar pointing down, instead of tied directly to the mast. And that feature contributes to this set's biggest flaw: it's fragile. Very, very fragile, once you get all the other stuff. The base of the boat fares well once you have it all put together. Not so much on the sails and the ram at the front of the ship (see below). Just while moving the set around, not swooshing, just rearranging, the mast and ram came apart on me three or four times. The ram actually came off entirely when my cat poked at it out of curiosity.
I hate to do this too much, but compare how the sails and spars are done on the Flagship. Yes, I get that it's a more expensive set, but it could have been scaled down and still done right on the QAR. LEGO didn't even try.
Both Brickbeard's and the Flagship have similar problems with their ram, but not with the masts, and both of their solutions are fairly simple to put back on. The ram on QAR uses another strange setup, with a technic pin and a bit of offset, to hold the mast brick that goes forward. The leg-less skeleton clips on, so he's a bit sturdier, but everything he's connected to comes off if you look at it funny.
The instability of this is made even worse by the forward sail that connects between the ram and the forward mast. Instead of connections to something solid, it basically just floats there. That means that anything that hits it tends to pull the mast and ram off the ship. So, about 1/3rd of the ship is jut waiting for it to fall apart.
QAR has a "distinctive" style set up. Please note, I did not say good. Without seeing the movie, I can guess that Blackbeard likes bones and skulls. He probably has a boiling plant sent up just to get the bones set up for his use. The handrails, the accents, everything around the edge of the ship are done up in bones. Skulls ring the captain's alcove, and bones of varying size go around the whole ship.
Sadly, most are just held in place and staggered to make it look like a rail. At the front, it gets worse, and we incorporate torsos and arms into the mix to ring around and add to the fragility of this whole mess. Each of these also falsely inflates the piece/price ratio, worse than any technic parts ever could.
In the end, what does all this mean? The Queen Anne's Revenge disappoints, big time. I didn't expect a whole lot from other sets in the line, because they were supposed to be playsets. But this was a pirate ship, something LEGO has managed to perfect in recent years. I know that the Imperial Flagship carries a bigger price ($50 more), but you only need to see these two side-by-side to see how many misses are in the QAR.
Even as a part selection, the ship isn't that wonderful. It seems like you're getting value, with nearly 1100 pieces for a $120 set. But those are inflated by too many clips, too many bones, and too much technic junk. Too much of the ship is incomplete and there isn't enough depth for a ship this size. It should have been made smaller with better features, or made some other trade-offs to improve it's looks and build. You do get a Jack Sparrow Voodoo doll though, so there is that...
- Um, pirates?
- A decent selection of minifigs, even with some rehashes
- Stickers used effectively for once
- Just about everything
- Extremely fragile and poorly shaped
- Lack of a deck makes this one big canoe
- Overuse of skulls, bones, and the like pad piece count greatly (all of the accents to make them come to nearly 100 parts)
- Sails are not scaled well to the build, and masts are both lazy and ugly
- The entire thing qualifies as ugly
- 3 cannons when the ship has space for 8
Verdict: Skip, unless you want a good ship to base a MOC on. Save up some more money and buy the Imperial Flagship or just build yourself a good pirate ship.
Buy 4195 Queen Anne's Revenge from Amazon