Anyone who's been on the forums for more than a few years can tell you that about every six months, a new thread pops up (or the old one is revived) that asks a fairly basic question for collectors: "What is your favorite Star Wars set?" There are a lot of variations on the thread (favorite minifigure, least favorite, set you'd most like to be stranded on a desert island with), but it always ends up back to that same question.
And there are always two sets that dominate the list in the LEGO Star Wars line... 2006's Jabba's Sail Barge and 2008's Republic Gunship. Both of these sets are showing up in the second-half of 2013, and share the same $120 price point. Apparently, LEGO has declared war on our wallets (especially since the Tower of Orthanac is here and the Ewok Village is coming soon). I have, and love, the last version of the RGS, and that's saying something since it was a Clone Wars set.
I never cared for the Clone Wars sets or the demonic Clone Wars faces in general, but I can respect the 2008 RGS for being a very good set. When I first saw the previews of this set in the FBTB Toy Fair coverage, I came to the same conclusion that a lot of our readers did: "just another rehash to make some money." While LEGO has proved that they can remake a set and greatly improve it (see the Second Slave I, the latest X-Wing, the B-Wing/Y-Wing remakes, etc), they've also had some mindless cash grabs with them (the last Slave I, umpteen million Jedi Starfighters).
So the real question is, at $120 (US), does the first Republic Gunship in five years fit into column A or column B?
Oh, and before we get started... I realize that I have a couple of pieces reversed on one of the engines. I'd popped it off to take it apart to check out the interior again, and put it back together wrong. Oops!
As a warning, at some point in time, you're going to think that the real dWhisper has been abducted by aliens and replaced by a LEGO-paid clone, because most of the snark and hate have been drained away to construct a glowingly positive review. This set is so far into the Column A on "Gangbusters Remakes" that it might take over Slave I has the best remake in my mind.
You want the highest praise I can give to any set? My disdain for the Prequel Trilogy is fairly well documented on the site, and building this thing had me wanting to watch the PT, including Episode I. I was humming Duel of the Fates while putting it together at one point. When my 10-month-old daughter decided she wanted to help daddy put together the set (and place as many parts as she could reach into her mouth), I picked her up, swooshed the half-built model around, and put on the soundtrack. She provided the pew pew pew sounds for the lasers.
For a licensed set, the best of them are defined as the ones that you can picture the film (at least if it's a good part of the film... it's probably not great if it reminds you of a movie scene you hate). This set goes even beyond that... it got me wanting to watch a scene in a movie I don't even particularly like! Now that is a build.
It's easy to just dismiss the RGS as a rehash when you see it packaged with a brand-new Padme (who finally gets a figure not based in Episode I), new versions of Obi-Wan and Anakin, two new Gen I clone variations, and a couple of Super Battle Droids (which have been fairly limited in recent years, only showing up in the 2012 Advent Calendar and the absolutely terrible Swamp Speeder set).
For our Clones, we get a couple of more variations to the ever growing army of rainbow clones. Okay, these aren't nearly as bad as some of the Ice Cream Clones, and a fairly curious addition in a set based in Episode II, but I suppose LEGO needs an excuse to make them unique. Yes,
Edit: As our forum readers have pointed out, there are some color accents for the sharp-eyed in Episode II.
One is a pilot, the other a
These aren't Clone Wars figures, they're movie-style figures. Not surprising, considering that Episode II 3D was supposed to be in theaters this summer, before being scrapped by Disney after they took over the franchise.
In part, I'm glad about that, not caring for 3D, but it does kind of stink that we probably won't get an Episode III wave to go with a future 3D release. So, we dodge the Clone Wars faces going forward, but we also lose out on the sets that would have replaced them...
Neither of the Clones have an alt face, which is a welcome change of pace. The printing on the torso looks to be the same, maybe a little bit sharper.
Sometimes, it's nice to know that a figure just remains the same, even if it is the Super Battle Droid. I like some consistency in my figures. That being said, these things are still made of the same hard plastic, so expect them to eventually break or get very loose. I wish there was a solution for them, just like I wish that they had a full back instead of the mold patterns. But what can you do.
We also get our young Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, fresh off his murder of a tribe of Sandpeople, wooden acting, and scripted kiss that no one seems to have noticed. Seriously, how is their relationship a secret when they come into the open making out? One would think there is a Jedi or two that saw the telecast of them on the Kisscam before coming out to die.
That being said, when I first saw this picture, and saw subsequent pictures of it, I thought it looked absolutely terrible. Were they trying to remake Anakin, or just going for a new version of Jedi Jimmy?
Edit: Thanks to multiple people for correcting my nerdiness... the replacement saber was, in fact, green.
The hairpiece is the same as the one that didn't look right on Zod, and it doesn't look right on Anakin here. His head is partially shaved and he has braids, because the Padawans do that for some reason. I'm certain there's an explanation for that reason on some place like Wookiepedia, but I refuse to learn it.
Is this slicked-back hair LEGO's answer to people with close-cropped hair in a licensed theme? Apparently, short hair = used car salesmen in the minifigure translation. I mean, does Anakin's hair in Episode II really look like Killian's hair in Iron Man 3 or Hawkeye in The Avengers? Cause they're the same hairpiece.
We're also given an alt-face, because of course we do. I think I ran out of snide comments for alt faces three or four reviews ago. It's actually not all that bad, but the problem with always using alt faces is limiting use of the heads with anything other than specific hair pieces or helmets.
You know what's kind of crazy? These are the first Episode II versions of the main characters since the original run of these sets back in 2002. We've been given several different versions of Anakin in recent years, but they're all from the Clone Wars and Episode III. Same with Obi-Wan, and the deep-seated hatred LEGO holds for female minifigs in general and Padme in particular means that there are no previous versions of her.
The face / head for this one looks better than the Clone Wars one (not a high bar to hop over), but the hair looks worse than previous versions. However, if he shows up in some of the Episode III sets in the future (I can hope), it would be an upgrade over previous ones. Especially if they do that hair correctly.
Obi-Wan, on the other hand, has improved quite a bit from his last Episode II version, Clone Wars or otherwise. Admittedly, he looks closer to his Episode III hippy-shag form, but the torso and uniform are very jedi knight looking, but the printing really is near what his Episode II robes looked like. And at least they had the good sense to give him a blue lightsaber.
I'm not sure if that space where the robes open is skin or an undershirt. The color is way off if it's skin, the look is off if it's a shirt. It's the same torso as the last Obi-Wan we got, but we now have printed legs to match it.
Printing on both sides is the norm for Star Wars Jedi minifigs, and this one is no different. I think I made a comment like this on the Podracer set minifigs that first introduced it, but it seems like these torsos are almost reversible. If the arms weren't facing one direction, I'm not sure I'd know how to install these right.
Like most minifigs (especially in Star Wars), Obi-Wan has an alt face. It's odd, since anger really isn't his thing, just disappointment and indifference, but it's not a bad face. The face seems to be the same (or very close) to the Obi-Wan face for Anakin's Jedi Interceptor.
We've had a few more Obi-Wan figures than we've had Anakins over the years, with the aforementioned Episode III version looking almost identical with a different hairpiece and more basic legs.
Last, and most certainly not least (except in LEGO's eyes, as it's been 11 years since this movie came out and we're finally getting this figure), is Padme. My first impression of this figure was "at last!" My second impression, which followed pretty quickly after the first was "I think LEGO could use a book on anatomy."
I love Natalie Portman... she's probably my favorite actress, and she shows amazing versatility across a ton of roles (Garden State, the only part of V for Vendetta that was worth watching, Black Swan). She's far more than her physical appearance, and rightly so. But there are a couple of features about her appearance you're unlikely to notice in the picture above that are on her minifig torso (and spaced strangely apart).
Once you get over that and take in the rest of the figure, you can't help but come away impressed, however. The costume is spot-on for how she looked in the arena fight for Episode III, complete with cuts across the back. More than that, the new hairpiece they introduced for her figure is absolutely spot-on. It's that perfect balance of capturing the look of a figure and still keeping the LEGO aesthetic.
She's got an alt-face, and either one looks great for the character. Seriously, go compare the two faces above, and the look of determination she's go, or the smile she's got here. Along with the subtle lipstick and beauty mark, that is probably one of the best LEGO faces to come along in awhile.
The hair pieces in the set are interesting, especially Padme's hair, and we're starting to get even more variety.
Normally, at this part in a review, I'd make some joke about how the remainder of the set is basically a set of parts for a glorified battle pack, but we're in no danger of that here. While the minifigs are quite cool in this set, this set is all about the Gunship. It's somewhat rare to say that these days, even on some of the big sets (*cough* Rancor Pit *cough*), for the model to take center stage, and figures to play a supporting role.
When I first saw this set, my first thoughts were that it looked like a fairly minor upgrade over the Clone Wars RGS, which is the best of the Clone Wars sets. Or so I thought. Let's look at the two sets, side-by-side...
Just in case you can't pick up on it right away, that's new one on the left, old one on the right. And I have to say, my first impression was totally wrong. Not only is this set an upgrade in almost every way, it's just a fun set to build. In some ways, after 14 years of collecting Star Wars LEGO, it's saying something for me to get excited when building a set.
The last set I was this excited to put together was probably the UCS Falcon, and that set was most certainly NOT fun to build. By the fourth bag in the RGS, you have the generic shape of the ship set up, and can swoosh it around. More than that, you can see the differences in the set almost immediately.
To do the comparison on the two ships, I actually had to put my old RGS back together. It's been in storage since my daughter was born (and has since gone back in there... I lost a lot of shelf space to childproofing), and I'm starting to think that how we remember this ship fondly isn't an accurate description of the model.
The guns fall off easily, the wings are fairly flimsy, the engines wiggle, and the cockpit can get knocked off easily. It's hard to hold, the doors don't line up with each other and they cover the storage containers. The best feature, the Sticker of the Twi'lek, is very Clone Wars-ish, and wouldn't fit on the Episode II version.
The new ship is sturdy. We're talking like action-figure ship sturdy. It includes a little technic handle that you can grab to pick it up (or hang it from a shelf, which I'm going to explore), but it's strong enough that you can easily grab it from the bottom or top and it will stay together. While I wasn't quite brave enough to drop it and see what happens (you know that joke about how babies put everything in their mouths... my daughter has actually opened up a LEGO bin to get at the parts to put in her mouth), I'm confident that it could survive the fall relatively unscathed.
The big difference between the two sets is on the doors. These gunships are designed as a simple dropship (and they always remind me of an AH-1 Huey, for some reason), and the door is more of a shield than a hatch. So it slides up and covers part of the ship, but not all of it. It was a bit strange to see at first, and I'm honestly not sure if it's accurate or not. All of the pictures I see of these from Episode II show the doors opened, and they aren't spaceships, so it could mean the doors aren't meant to close.
For the model itself, this version re-adds the gun-bubbles from the original RGS. I wish I had that ship, but it was one I'd never purchase (being both Episode II and during my dark ages way back when), which take up the space that the door doesn't when closed.
The new bubble swivels, rotates, and slides in, while also letting you seat a clone. The old version had two studs and a couple of the very fragile handles inside the bubble. The entire thing sat on a flimsy hinge and technic arm (at least from what I see in the instructions).
The new one actually builds a proper chair, and still has the flimsy handles, but actually makes a spot for the clone. A great feature I didn't even notice until after I'd started to load up extra clones was that the entire back for the seat is designed to have the helmet fin fit right in to the top of the chair. That's just one example of the little details that make this set so much better than its predecessors.
It's still held on by a technic pin, but no hinge to pop off this time.
The cockpit, along with the front slope, are so much cleaner as well. The rounded slopes are gone, replaced by 1x4 long slopes that make a much cleaner edge. The mounting of the cockpit line is similar to the 2008 version, except that it locks into place is firmly seated. The old one basically sat there, and the brick that held the single hinge at the top was easy to knock off (usually when tearing apart top above it).
Probably the biggest improvement, however, is the guns on the front of the ship. The 2008 version held the gun pods in place using a 2x2 hinge that fell off when you looked at it longer than three seconds. Now it's got some backing, and they're held in place much better. The entire front is better, built and locked in place instead of just connected by a couple of technic pins and then locked above.
Compare that to the old one, and the shape is just so much better. It's subtle, but it does. True, we've gotten new cockpit glass since the 2008 set came out... in fact, we've gotten a lot of new parts, and it shows. With a lot of redesigns, we usually get a set that amounts to "we need to put as many of these things as possible in there!" even when it doesn't make sense. Case in point: cheese slopes.
I mean seriously, look at how nice this thing looks staring down the front of it.
The back of the Gunship also has a few improvements, especially on the rear-facing gun. It's actually a ball-and-socket joint that sits inside the build. There is also a little storage slot for you to fill up with guns or the like, I suppose. It was a small playset style feature that was just put on there because there was space. Close it and the ship looks perfectly natural, which is a great thing.
There's also a hatch that holds a speeder, a feature from all of the Gunships have had, along with some brackets that slide down and hold it up.
The speeder is simple, the kind of swoop design that you see in the background. There's not much to it, but I'm glad to see something like this, instead of just the RotJ speederbike that the last gunship had.
This version still includes some storage boxes where you can stash clone guns or gear. And luckily, they're not blocked by the door, so you can get at them without having to open up the whole thing. There are also some stickers on the ship, but they're the good type of stickers, used as accents and not to convey all of the style.
The wings for this ship are also a lot smoother than they had been before, and the gunner spot is also improved. The seat for the clone is better designed and stronger underneath.
In fact, the whole mechanism to mount the wings has changed. Gone are the hinges and "flapping" of the wings when you try to move it around, replaced with a long technic axle that locks the entire wing in place. When you build the wing, you think that it's going to have pins to snap in to some technic axle holders you put on the body, but those are actually for the engines. The axle slides through and lines up, and that short axle holder snaps into place to hold them together, and it works very well.
The engines themselves, even when one is built incorrectly like I did, are a lot more solid and locked than earlier versions. Inside the cylinders are some plates that attach to the technic axles that lock the whole thing. This keeps the engine from rotating or bowing, like the previous version did.
There's also a pair of long technic bars that hold a row of flick-fires. While I've been hard on Flick-fires before, I have no real problem with these. They're matching the rocket pods that the RGS had in the movie, and they don't have a lot of elaborate parts that took away from the rest of the model.
In the end, what you get is a total-package of a set. Like you can see above, when I indulged myself and tapped the clone collection to fill up the gunship, this is ready to mix into your collection and add figures into a display. At 1175 parts, this set feels like it's worth the $120 price tag it commands, and a worthy upgrade to a well-loved ship. The minifigures you get are unique and fit the set (even if one of the weapons doesn't), and it's ultimately fun to swoop. In short... this is one great set.
What I liked
- Just about everything. This was a fun build and a great set to put together
- Pieces and build actually seem to justify the cost
- New Padme minifig is excellent
- Ship is a big upgrade over previous versions
What I didn't like
- Anakin's hair just doesn't seem to belong
- Would have been nice if it included a couple of regular clones to occupy some of the other seats, especially since there isn't a good battlepack with them right now
- Set was so fun that it didn't really give me much chance to use the number of snarky jokes that I usually like to put into a review
Verdict: Buy it as soon as you can. You can order the Republic Gunship from Lego Shop@Home, starting August 1st.