I'm very conflicted about this review. I'm going to try very hard to judge this set on it own merits, but I may veer off into a mini rant about the movie from time to time. I'll try to keep it focused on how the set and flick pertain to one another, but I'll apologize in advance
I said I was going to try, not that I'd try very hard. I make no apologies for my opinion of the film. I did not enjoy it, or at least not as much as I feel I could have. I had no choice in seeing it other than in 3D (which I have no use for) at 48 FPS at my local theater, so we bought our tickets as soon as they went on sale and continued looking forward to it. I felt the combination completely ruined the entire movie for me and I want to see it again, at home at a standard frame rate with hope it will be more enjoyable. Perhaps this is what people want now from a film, to feel as though they're surrounded by the reality of the world around them or that they are simply gazing through the looking glass at another world. A world as crisp and real as our own, but seperated from us by an invisible barrier with our immersion as simple as a trick of light. This is not what I want. I liken my experience to watching episodes of The Littlest Hobo on CBC as a child. Bright, blown-out and as realistic as a video clip from the nightly news. This compounded the issues with the story and the special effects for me and delivered a sub-par movie from start to finish. Gone was the beautiful brush strokes Andrew Lesnie had achieved with the Lord of the Rings films, replaced with a view so real it felt more plastic to me. The "cinematic" experience was repalced with a view of my own back yard, filled with Dwarves and Wizards and horribly CGI'd bunny pulled sleds that had little to no impact on the physical world around them.
This was not the middle earth I remembered.
Before anyone defends this film stating that The Hobbit is not supposed to be The Lord of the Rings and it's meant to be its own story, I am well aware of that. Remind Peter Jackson. I went for a charming tale that gracefully introduced the world of wonder in LotR and instead was treated to a movie that looked totally different, but hit you over the head every five minutes (and that's a lot of times with a movie this long) with "HEY! REMEMBER THAT SCENE IN LOTR? THIS IS RELATED TO THAT!". I think the thing I dislike the most about prequels is the extremely heavy-handed foreshadowing they tend to employ and this film drips with it. At this point in time, whether or not my wife and I see the next two films is directly based on our at home second viewing of An Unexpected Journey. I'll admit that this makes me kinda sad. I really loved the other trilogy and was looking forward to this film/films/3...seriously?
I don't want to bash this movie and it gives me no joy. It certainly isn't a movie I wanted to see fall flat on its face and prove to the world it should never have been created. No worries there because it made a billion dollars and lots of people seemed to like it. I've certainly seen worse movies that managed to fail on every conceivable level (I'm looking at you Skyline!), but I'm still hopeful this is redeemable to me.
Now that that's out of they way, let's get on to the set. I'm sure it'll be great and completely redeem the movie for me!
This set definitely contains a motley crew of minifigs if i've ever seen one.
The dwarves are the best part of this fig line up for me and they're two of the more... established characters in the film. Scratch that, Thorin Oakenshield is fairly well established, but Bifur is one of the two sets of "triplets" that I feel were glazed over in the film. They were there, but that's it. Regardless, I feel the minifigs are very good replicas of these two dwarves. I really like Thorin's hairpiece as it's so big and ratty with the ability to have something stuck on his back under the hair, which is always welcome. One complaint is that they didn't put any grey streaks in his hair when they even added them to the beard print on the head. His torso is my favourite of the set and It's one that I think is as useful for the back print as it is for the front. Bifur's torso doesn't really do it for me and TBH, neither does his oddly scarred face prints. I do like his hair piece though even if it is fuller than his film counterpart.
The orcs are a different story. You get two basic orcs that are almost the same as the ones from the Orc Forge set, but they come with ratty loincloth legs instead of pants. I don't have the forge set, but they appear to be the the same colour as well and yet they'd probably be considered brand new figs. They're new to me and if you want a lot of orcs, at least they offer a little bit of variation. Yazneg is a mess though. First off, he doesn't have hair so we don't get ears and that bugs me to no end. When I see a new head piece coming for the old man in CMF series 10, I makes no sense why they couldn't come up with away to do a bald Orc/Elf/etc. I'm sure they could use it in further LotR sets and in other themes over time, like The the Goblin King set where it's already being used on three figs. So yeah, that ticks me off. The torso print is a pretty good approximation of the character and just as ugly. The thing around his neck, baffles me. I'm guessing LEGO only had concept art or a description to go off of, but so many other figs are spot on. In the movie, he wears some kind of tattered Gallifreyan collared coat and somehow that translated into... whatever the heck this thing is. Why it has a pronounced medal-like part on the back is also beyond me. The inclusion of this character in this set makes no set either because by the time this scene takes place, he's already been executed by his boss Azog (who should have been in this set instead) for failure. I'll get into more inaccuracies of the set later. Let's get to the main focus first.
WARGS! I love these guys! They had a bit of a shift in design from LotR to The Hobbit and now they look more wolf-like and less like hyena, which is fine with me. To be honest, I'm not as upset by most of the additions and changes between the movie and the book. I'm sure many came from the appendices and other works that I'm unaware of and I figured they were going to squeeze in everything they could get their hands on when the three film announcement was made. My wife is much less forgiving in this respect and it fills me with pride to see her raging against the proverbial pop-culture machine.
The Wargs fit a standard saddle and are enough like a wolf or other beast to fit well in many a scene. I sincerely hope to see a future LotR set with a brown version and (wish list) a black one if at all possible. I liked how they packaged the beasts, individually with all parts for each warg together in the same bag. It's pretty simple because it's just a jawless warg and a warg jaw in each bag, but it should make for easy storage for Bricklink stores. Their range of motion is limited to the head/neck and clicking jaw that holds objects fairly well, but I still think you can get a great variety of poses and had fun taking pics of a few of them.
I could play with the wargs all day, but it's time to get on to the build.
The first part of the build is the rock. It's the spot in the film that Thorin had his dwarf hide handed to him by Azog and nearly ended up a lot shorter than he already is. The rock is solidly built and it includes a small catapult that is a bit too static to work well, but it blends in far better than most of LEGO's little slingers. The whole thing is basically three parts with the outcropping ledge attached with a standard bar and clip plate assembly and the two base components connected by a 2L axel. In respect to the parts, I'm always happy to get more green plates and it's basically a very nice pile of light and dark bley slopes that compliment the castley LotR sets well.
The tiniest part of the build was the two small bundles of flames that are supposed to represent the massive blaze of the film. Rather underwhelming and I actually built the second one as a mirror of the first to keep it less repetitive. A welcome collection of little bits at least.
Last but not least (or is it?), the tree. It's the best LEGO tree I can remember building and there seem to have been quite a few in the last couple of years. I for one can always use more browns and foliage and I like the larger rounded green plates as well. All in all, the olive leaves, 3L bars and pile of dark and reddish brown parts made this a really nice parts pack in the end.
Parts aside, this tree has a number of play features and the main one is really kind of neat, if absolutely pointless. It is constructed as four main segments with 4x4 turntables at each joint which allow the segments to spin around, so you can set the tree up in any number of slightly different configurations. It has some pressure switch technic axel shooters that can fire the transparent 1x1 round bricks and flames, simulating the flame and magic flinging fight from the climax.
The mechanism works, more or less. As always, the issue is the placement of the pin and the amount of pressure you put on it. Having the firing pins in the positions we do, it is possible to wrap fingers around the tree and apply the needed force. If you don't hold on, you can knock over or break parts of the tree off in the process as play proceeds. It also has a small spot at the base on the bottom that is supposed to be a spot where the Orcs can set the tree on fire and an alcove with a piece of gold on the next segment up. Why this is incorporated is also a mystery. It makes no sense for the scene and I'm left to assume it's simply a little feature to break up the fact that this is basically a big boring tree that spins. If that's the case... fair enough, it's not like the whole movie wasn't based on the Dwarves need for revenge/profit. Violence, monsters, greed, destruction, vengence, rocks, trees and a sense of entitlement. This set has it all!
What it doesn't have is any of the more likable characters that salvaged this scene and kept it from being a slaughter, like Gandalf or the titular hero. Without Bilbo this scene would have played out very differently, but I'm not really upset by this oversight. Afterall, we don't want Gandalf and Bilbo in every set even if it makes sense to do so. Let's just agree to behead the dwarf on this one and move to the biggest issue with this set.
WHY DOES THE FREAKING TREE SPIN!?! In the movie the wargs and orcs uproot the trees and this tree would have fallen off the cliff taking the characters to a very untimely demise if some feathered friends hadn't dropped in. This set would have been infinitely better if they'd included a mechanism to knock the tree over. It could even just fall to an angle instead of smashing to pieces, enough to knock the dwarves out of the tree and add some play value that actually makes sense. It really, really bugs me because it would be such a simple mechanism. Also, it would really make the set stand out as one that seemed to be designed by someone who saw the movie, instead of someone who came up with it based on a synopsis they found scrawled on a napkin. At least the set also had these guys...
...which are awesome and you get an extra to boot!
What I Liked:
- Wargs are great and you get two different colours which is nice, but also accurate!
- Nice prints and hairpieces on the dwarves.
- It's a treasure trove of brown and bley parts with some nice foliage too.
What I didn't Like:
- The Orcs are OK, but Yazneg is terrible and shouldn't even be in this set.
- The tree spins. I don't know why, but it's not even the weirdest thing about it.
- Most of the play features are clunky or pointless and the one that would make actual sense (falling over), has been curiously or stupidly omitted.
- The whole thing is well built, but just feels wrong on too many levels.
Vedict: I'd still buy it and I did, twice. The wargs are great, the parts are nice and I know the figs would be of great use to some. At this point I don't know if I'll bother finishing my dwarf company, which sucks because there was no question about doing so with my fellowship. I loved all the LotR sets to varying degrees and am excited for the majority of the upcoming line. I don't yet have the Barrel Escape, Riddles or Goblin King sets and I honestly doubt I will unless I find a really good deal. On the other hand, Unexpected Gathering and Mirkwood Spiders look really good to me, so we'll see. I'd suggest going for a sale on Attack of the Wargs because while I'd recommend it, that's strictly based for parts, wargs and completionists. Happy hunting!
Buy 79002 Attack Of The Wargs from LEGO Shop@Home: