It was 1983 when I got my first taste of Star Wars on the big screen in the form of Return of the Jedi. I had seen Star Wars a couple of times at that point, but never in a theater due to the fact that I was too busy not being born in '77. When I think back to that trip to my town's old Paramount, I am quite often surprised at how much I remember of the experience. I still have the orange bordered Tribute magazine that I picked up in the lobby on the way into the largest of the two theaters. At five years old I was incredibly excited to see the movie and my older sister who had gone to see it opening night came home immediately and told my mother that I HAD to see it. The die was cast and from the moment of the opening crawl to the end credits I was treated to an experience that I would never be able to repeat. It wasn't just that seeing it again during the rerelease in '97 was a pale shadow of that years earlier, but I actually went again the very next week back in '83 and it wasn't the same. The magic just wasn't there and I had my first taste of what millions of movie going geeks had done and would continue to do (at an increasingly frequent rate since then, thanks internet!), I analysed the movie I'd loved unconditionally just a week before.
Still, I always look back with great fondness at Return and it remained my favourite for two years until I happened to notice a little film called The Empire Strikes Back at my local video store. Questions were answered, dots were connected and I simultaneously had a complete story and an understanding of where each movie fit in how I thought and felt. Of course that ranking had changed and breeds internal conflict to this day, but there was one thing that I never questioned and has remained constant since that viewing 30 years ago: getting the band back together on Tatooine is one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a movie.
Jabba's Palace is big, expensive and chock full of nostalgia wrapped in tan coloured plastic, but just because something is big doesn't mean it's good and just because something is expensive, certainly doesn't mean it's worth your hard earned dollars. Thirty years worth of memories is a lot to live up to, so let's request an audience with the mighty Jabba the Hutt and see what happens.
Warning: This review may contain: Opinions, Analogies, Spoilers, Random Musings and Futile Attempts at Humour. Translator not included.
Based on how many of the props and models were built for the Star Wars films, Jabba's Palace could have easily been an old set of coffee, tea and sugar cans like the ones perched on many a grandparents kitchen counter dressed up to look more "alien". Or at least more exotic. Regardless, it's the swankiest place we get to see on Tatooine and while that's not really saying much, it is a level of potential that few places on Luke's home world could present as a stand out LEGO set. Whether that potential is lived up to will be what I'll address and we'll start by taking a look at the minifig eye candy. Feel free to click on the pictures and peruse full size images here on the site, without being whisked away to Flickr-ville. In case you hadn't noticed we've switched that up.
Let's get the oldies out of the way first. Good old dependable Chewbacca. Other than his shift from old brown to reddish brown back in 2003, Chewie's been one constant in a world of rampant minifigure evolution. What more can be said about this guy? Well, I still wish he were taller and maybe he needs a new rubber head/torso cover, or just a mold and paint update like Watto or some characters in this set. If LEGO never changes him, I would be surprised*, but alright with it. Even if he is too short. Honestly, I blame Woody.
Han and his carbonite prison have already appeared in 2010's Slave I set, but this figure does have a new face print as a minor update. This Han is a bit more introspective, a bit deeper, able to consider the vastness of the galaxy he's been from one side of to the other. Actually, I guess it would be more of an "I have a bad feeling about this" face. Rightly so, because to the best of his knowledge in these scenes the poodoo has gotten real, hit the fan and is going down. Luckily, he comes with a hibernation sickness alt face that gives him an option to writhe in pain or take a nap. Nice to have another closed eye face for MOCers to play around with too.
Out with the old and in with the new. We get two brand spanking new minifigures in this set and two updated ones. The updates are great and the Gamorrean Guard is the real treat in that camp. He got the full Watto treatment with a brand new sculpt and a paint job. I never liked the old molded heads with no printing, so I'm quite pleased that in the last few years those are being remedied with some superior releases. The new mold is fantastic in both proportion and shaping with a much more accurate head that captures the screen masks expression. The hand painting seems to be a little off in some of the smaller details, specifically the eyes, but it's minor and gives a bit of variety.
Bib Fortuna has the same old head piece (if it ain't broke) with a vastly improved face print. The "bared teeth" look fits him better because he spends most of his screen time talking and very little, if any, with his mouth completely closed. Like many a vampire and Ferengi that would come before or after, it was a challenge for the actor to completely close his mouth and extremely uncomfortable when achieved. The torso has a more subdued version of the original with some tweaking and on the negative side, I can only say that it kind of annoys me that his head piece mangles the cape. Not a big deal, certainly not a dealbreaker because I don't know how it could be fixed right off.
On to the lovely ladies of the Palace Hutt.
Boushh is probably one of the most requested minifigures I know of, but since the majority of the figs that seem to be the most clamoured for are either female or Tatooine related freaks, I'm calling this a double win. The helmet is great and they made sure to include a hairpiece Leia borrowed from the CMF nurse so people can play "Plot Twist!". I think the printing is top-notch on this one with details right down to the shredded knees and seemingly pointless bullets on the bandolier. The face is the same one used for her a couple of times since they first appeared in the Prince of Persia sets, but it's still good to have. The binocular backpack is a great way to deal with whatever that was supposed to be (don't Wookiepedia me, I don't actually care what it was), but personally if I was to display this I'd probably leave it off to avoid the long necked look. Also, she's holding a thermal detonator... and she comes with a spare.
Oola was a bit of a surprise for me, but with Leia still playing Boushh at this point someone has to fill the gratuitous slave girl quota in a Jabba related set. The printing captures the fishnet, genie... nothing the actress wore perfectly. If I had more room or the Star Wars portion of my minifig display cases wasn't already allotted to astromechs, I'd be putting some of the visitors to Jabba's court up on my wall. I love the face on Oola, (both of them) and wish I could get the exact same print in regular flesh tone and brown... and red. Hell, I'd take one in every head colour they have if getting LEGO to release female figs wasn't like pulling teeth. The second Twi'lek head piece is a nice addition, though it will unfortunately be the last in all likelihood. Unless they start pulling more characters from the EU I've never heard of or mine those couple of Twi-heavy episodes from the Clone Wars, which again is unlikely at this point. As I understand it, the actress who played Oola was the only original brought back for pick-up shots on the RotJ Special Edition because she was in better shape 15 years later. I'd like to think she'd be happy that her figure looks as snazzy as her... figure. Not all is rosy in this set though and it's time we look at the non-humanoid in the crowd, but I've got to say that I'm disappointed in how he turned out this go 'round.
They gave us what is basically the exact same version of the B'omarr Monk as the last time around. They moved the round plate and ditched the square one which does precisely nothing towards making it look like the actual cyborg... thing. I've seen so many MOC'd versions of this guy over the years that fit into the same scale while not inflating the parts so much that a set this size would notice in the least. I'm left to think that either they just don't care about giving us an accurate monk, or that it was included as is to be a sort of throwback or shout-out to the old palace set. I may have to put together my own for kicks, but I've always thought it looks more like a microspace starfighter anyway.
If that last inhumanoid sticks in your craw, then this guy should help with that. The namesake of the set, the slug of the hour, the host with the most... slime, Jabba. The only possible complaint I could conceive about this updated space slug is that his tail no longer moves, but the old versions tail didn't move the way the Muppet's did anyway. The sculpt is more accurate and natural looking, the arms don't look like they were transplanted from a standard minifig with a glandular issue and the upgraded printing is fantastic. Wait, there was no printing originally, riiiight. They did a fine job with the paint and I enjoyed how often the tattoo brought out the "He had a tattoo?" reaction. Spoiler alert! He had a tattoo. The eyes are very expressive on old slimey, even if they are half closed all the time and a virtual high five to whoever uses the eye of Sauron from the Wizard Battle LotR set to make a successful brick-built Jabba.
Poor old old Jabba. He just looks so sad. Not, "I'm overweight and even my slave girls can't pretend to find me attractive in the hopes of special treatment" sad, but more like the outdated look of a 70's sci-fi/super hero show when compared to a modern blockbuster sad.
Now take a look at the toy I believe influenced this new Jabba, at least in part. The Galactic Heroes line has been quite popular for Hasbro and while I don't like they way the toys have evolved into less static action figure fare, I certainly see the appeal in how they help bridge the gap for younglings. It looks like the new LEGO Jabba and moves like him too, thanks to the LEGO version split at the... waist? Either way, the ability to spin Jabba's upper body while raising the roof will ensure it's always a party at the palace.
I think that this new Hutt, whether he has taken inspiration from his Squadie brother or not, leaves the original in the dust in every non nostalgically emotional way. Bye-bye old Jabba, I'd sell you on bricklink if I wasn't too lazy to open a store... and box you up... and go to the post office, oh just get back in your bin. Maestro, cue up The Lonely Man Theme.
There's one last bit to check out on the minifig side of things. He doesn't really qualify as a minifigure actually, more of an accessory or a pet. Salacious B Crumb is a crazy little critter that added a nice random accent to Jabba's crew as court jester. I really expected that if he ever showed up it would be in standard miniform with short legs, but this solution is far more accurate. The detail is great and as such I have not shown this little guy to my mother. The SW equivalent of Kermit the frog's one night stand with Gizmo is her favourite part of the film and I would surely lose him at that point. My twisted sense of humour forced me to take this picture of the cackling monkey-lizard, but I would suggest you don't look at it and when you're finished looking at it, wash your eyes straight away.
This ends the figure portion of the review, but for the few of you out there that also enjoy the Galactic Heroes line I took a few extra pictures of the characters from the set with their squad counterparts. You know who you are, which is good because I forget.
Here we are again. I actually wonder how many people just stop reading reviews after the fig portion is complete, which is why I switch the format up from time to time. I think I'll do that with the next one. This setting is a character all it's own and that puts a lot of pressure on the designers I've no doubt. Another thing working against them is scaling and size restraint. Jabba's Palace is huge. How do you begin to incorporate the parts seen on screen into the set while maintaining playability and coherence while sticking to the piece count set for you as a designer? Well for starters, you cut out the Rancor pit and put it in a separate set, but we'll get to that in the next review. Let's split this set up a bit and look at the tower first.
This isn't a complex set by any means, but the effort shows and while I could infinitely expound on what they could have done, I won't. Or at least I'll try not to... much. The tower is a tacked on build that really only serves one useful purpose beyond creating a more accurate overall shape. It houses the gate. The front door of Jabba's pad is a massive slab of toothed metal that is guarded by a Gatekeeper Droid. This was the first appearance of this droid and he wouldn't be seen again until 1986 when he got his big break playing Pee Wee Herman in Flight of the Navigator. The mechanism for this droid was well thought out and kept very simple. Blinky sticks his eye out and says his spiel, press him back in and the door can be pulled up by the tab with the dark red 1x2 grill tile. The set up may be a bit too simple because it basically employs a hood prop to keep the door open, but at least it works though and they tacked on a little turret to help fill the sets quota of PEW! If I could change anything about this set up though, I would have had the printing put on a Technic ball with hole instead of a 1x1 round tile. If that had been the case though, we may not have gotten two.
The second floor adds to the outer aesthetic, but little else other than a box to store spare weapons for whatever guard pulls the unlucky duty on the third floor. I do think they should have included a ladder to gain access to the third floor lookout, but it's an oversight that most kids would play straight through and so will I. I quite liked the rounded construction of the upper part of the tower and it's a fine collection of tan parts from the ground up with a few stand outs like the tan 3x6x6 half cylinder that my OCD directly made me want two of. The guard room is a perfect place for a pig to hang up his binoculars and blaster, then proceed to get glazed. Other than the nice parts and the gate function, there's really not a lot going on and that leads to making up your own fun. That makes me happy, but usually leads to more inappropriate things and pictures that don't get taken.
The main part of the set is the largest of the buildings in Jabba's compound. No shock there. It is designed to approximate his throne room in the most efficient way possible and I understand that a lot of people don't like how it seems to waste parts trying to make it look like the outside of the palace. Afterall, the original set skipped that idea and put all the bricks to use building up the inside, so there could have been more going on. That's true, but this playset follows in the footsteps of the 10188 Death Star. Approximate the shape to make it recognizable and then fill the little rooms with scenes, but in this regard it didn't live up to that standard. The tower could have had the droid assignment room/torture chamber or the cell they put Chewie and Han in (though I can't be sure that's not what the second floor of the tower is since it only contains a box). I still think they hit all the right parts in the scene with this section, so let's take a closer look.
The roof is a fantastic concentration of sweet parts and really nails home the caricaturish look of the palace. Other than that, it's only good for keeping some of the dust off of your space gangsters. It has what is one of the most laughable flick fire mechanisms I've ever tried. It doesn't fire well, goes nowhere and they didn't even try to disguise it properly. It actually takes away from the look of the set and brings no playability to the table. Total misfire there. Unless you're displaying it, the roof will be spending most of it's time somewhere out of the way. My unsorted bin hungers for this flying saucer, greatly.
The other removable bit (but I doubt that will be the case as often) is Jabba's throne. It's a solid slab of space slug storage, splendidly suspended to slide slickly. As a LEGO interpretation I think it works really well as the actual prop just looked like a cement slab with a few carved grooves. The simple stud decorations work for the ornate brass heads on the front and the exclusion of the organic seat back and hookah stand seems like a better option than a brick built attempt that would most likely require increasing the thrones footprint. The 1x2 tan tile is basically standing in for that construct and the rest of the surface has the needed raised tiles with studs to hold Jabba and a "guest" securely, but not too tightly.
Now I was fooling around with this set for quite a while before I remembered building the back door feature. To give you more room when playing with this one the back swings wide open, which actually lets you make better use of some of the play features this section just happens to have the lion's share of. Words of warning, this section can feel a bit flimsy when you pick it up and even more so when it's open. Always pick it up by the base and preferably closed with the lid on. It'll most likely hold if together if you don't, but it is undoubtedly a bit fragile and the single 1x12 plate doesn't do much to help. I was glad it was there on at least one occasion though.
There are three basic play features incorporated here. The first is simple, Jabba's hookah/snack bowl is mounted to the wall. It is very fragile in it's construction and Jabba doesn't really seem to enjoy using it as much as he did on film, but they included it and that says something. Also, any chance to get those pearl gold Ninjago hilts is welcome for me.
The second is Jabba's favourite decoration. Again, the way this was incorporated is simple to a fault. The carbonite slab just clicks into a 1x2 plate with clip mounted on a 2x2 turntable. It seems firm, but I don't know how long that clip will hold up before getting loose and becoming useless if not replaced. The spinning function allows Han to be "thawed out" for play, but I wish they had used a 1x2 plate with bar instead of the 1x4 reddish brown plate above it and then attached it with a couple of droid arms to allow it to hang. It's a small nitpick and it doesn't replicate the thawing feature, so it comes down to personal aesthetics versus play. The wall panel is a nice touch that could have been easily overlooked too.
The last feature is the main show really and the reason we got Oola. Jabba's trap door is not just a terribly disturbing thought, but it's such an important part of the film for setting up an iconic creature and establishing Luke as a Jedi and not just a whiny little farm girl. The set up is very well built into the base and manages to maintain all of the sets sturdiness. The trap door just slides to the left buy pulling the tab on the side. Once your Oola has fallen into the hole, you just press a second tab that protrudes from the back to slide Jabba's throne forward for a better view. You can also just slide the slab forward without the tab if you have the back of the set opened. Two odd things in this scenario worth noting if for no other reason then the absurd humour. First, the tab that moves the throne forward was integrated into the spot that Jabba apparently keeps his hot plate. No wonder Jabba is so fat. Put down the frog big guy. Secondly, speaking of frogs, Jabba has a secret compartment under his throne that he keeps his valuables in. Gold, a blaster in case Boba isn't around to protect him and... frogs. I think at this point it is safe to say Jabba is married and his mate is monitoring his frog intake from his hookah/frog bowl, so he needs to hide extra under his seat for late night snacking. That or some slippery ones get away and breed in the corners and now the palace is overrun by... FROGS! The trap door works perfectly well, except for the fact that the figure doesn't go anywhere unless you have the additional set that I won't get into here. I'll continue down that road in the next review, so stay tuned.
There are other little details, like the studs that represent the mood lighting, tables and random box, but they're all in the pictures and nothing to write home about. One last thing I haven't touched on is pricing. The price of this set is terrible and even more so at $150 in Canada and I'm sure more elsewhere. The price per part ratio is an outdated gauge, but this is a case where you're paying for the collectability of the figures more than anything. Don't get me wrong, it's a great bunch of parts and the figures are really sweet, but there's no substance beyond status. I did not get $150 worth of fun in this set, luckily nostalgia has a decent exchange rate on this one.
What I Liked:
- Great assortment of parts in useful colours and quantities.
- Nice assortment of figures that contains some long-awaited favourites and each one makes sense to be here.
- Pretty much everything in the original set has been upgraded and in the case of the pig guard and Jabba, greatly.
- Thermal detonator x2
What I didn't Like:
- The B'omarr monk is just confusing. Is it a purposeful shout out, an oversight or a slight?
- That last one was rhetorical, so feel free not to answer.
- The price. I feel like I should have gotten more and my desire has been exploited on a whole new level.
Verdict: I don't regret buying this, but it wasn't a given at the price. Having said that, it appears it's been on sale at a more palatable price for quite some time and has even been scooped up on clearance in some cases. At a good discount, it's a no brainer. Price aside, I would suggest buying it for minifigure collectors, parts monkeys or those who would display something like this. The only way I would suggest skipping this one is if you're just looking for a fun set with a lot of playability. It simply can't hold its own in that department.
Buy 9516 Jabba's Palace from Amazon for 20% Off:
*Very surprised now that some leaky pictures of next years sets have popped up.