While the Lord of the Rings LEGO line has only been out for a couple of years at this point, it's still surprising to think that the movies they're based on are twelve years (Fellowship was released in 2001) old at this point. There's a lot that's changed in the years since then, both for LEGO (having more than one licensed line) and the actors involved (remember when people thought Elijah Wood was going to be in everything after these movies).
I remember being in the theater, not yet awed by Fellowship and bought in to the setting that was going on, and thinking about the actors that I knew from other films. Frodo was in that gawd-awful Rob Reiner movie, North. Gimli played Leonardo Di Vinci on Star Trek Voyager (he may have also had some small role in some independent film about an archeologist). Aragorn was in love with Steven Tyler's daughter... I can distinctly remember seeing her and just waiting for some Aerosmith ballad to start playing in the background (Armageddon ruined that band).
But more than that, when the council scene started, it was Agent Smith walking out in a rare break in all the walking that made me snicker. By the end of the movie, I would associate all of the actors with their characters in the film, but for a brief, happy moment, I was just waiting for him to go flying through the air on some wire stunts.
This set sets up a lot of the rest of the movie, and introduces two of the lesser (yet important) characters from Lord of the Rings, Elrond and Arwen, along with giving us another Gimli and Frodo. It also comes in at $25, which means it's obviously not going to have the size/scope of the council scene in either movie (which featured a lot of people in both). I was suitably impressed with the Wizard Battle, the smaller set in the new line, so I'm curious how this stacks up in comparison.
The LotR sets are, at best, a mixed bag. There wasn't ever a site that just popped, like Bag End, unless of course you really liked lots of grey parts. Helm's Deep, Weathertop, and Orc Army were grey part booster packs (which did also include a bit of sand green), while the rest were mostly "buy it for the figures" sort of sets.
Unfortunately, not a lot has really changed here, the main draw of this set is certainly the figures. We get two brand-new figures, Arwyn and Elrond, and two old ones, Gimli and Frodo.
First up, Elrond doing his best Agent Smith impression. This is technically the second Elrond version, though the other one was a pre-order bonus that forced you to frequent GameStop. That or do what I did, and trade someone for it in the aftermarket! The new figure looks far more like Elrond than the bonus one, which was apparently a younger figure from the big war in the flashback at the start of the first movie. Odd, since he was immortal and looked the same, but what can you do?
I like the look of the new figure, as it looks closer to the character, and I'm always welcoming of new hairpieces for elves. He comes with an alt face, that has a smile, which is odd... because Hugo Weaving does not smile. Also, this might just be me... but does anyone else look at his torso and just see a perfect Steampunk-styled suit jacket? Anyone?
We also get a true first, Arwen, which is somewhat surprising, given that LEGO hates girls. Seriously, what non-Friends, non-Modular set can you think of that had more than a single female minifig (there is one that's currently available for sale, but only one, as far as I know). Still, having Arwen is great... now if only we could get Eowyn. You know, the female character that played a major role in two of the films?
As a figure, Arwen looks quite nice. Everything about the figure is unique and new: face, hair, Torso, and dress are all new. The face is a welcome addition to the female roundup, given that by itself it looks generic enough that it can go into almost any setting. There is an alt-face for it that consists of a slightly different smirk and different eyebrows... but that's really it. Seriously, don't those basically look the same?
The hair, like that of her father's, is a welcome addition. Cool thing about elves is that they all have can have the girly hair and still look normal. Really, you could put that on a male figure and it wouldn't really look out of place.
The dress and torso, on the other hand, is 75% great. The printing on the front doesn't line up well in the center, but that's so "par-for-the-course" at this point I barely even notice. The back looks great... until you look at the back of the slope, where there is a total lack of printing. With the hair on, it doesn't look like that big of a deal, but it looks wrong without the hair in place, say, when you're building the figure and start to wonder if there's something wrong with the printing for her dress. No? Just cheap on the printing, I guess.
At first glance, Frodo looks identical to the other iterations we've gotten, and for the most part, he is. The torso printing is the same as what we got on the previous two figures (who only different on the color of their capes), and the legs are dark-brown stubby legs. The hairpiece is also unchanged... really, the only difference is the lack of a cloak, as well as a new alternate face.
Instead of the "I just got stabbed by a spider or stabbed by Ringwraith blade" we get a legitimate alt-face, which is cool. Of course, Frodo had been stabbed before showing up in Rivendale, but was cured by the time this particular scene came about. In fact, I'd say that the face on the alt-side is the same as pretty much the same as what we saw through most of the trilogy. Basically, it's a face that you see and can safely make an assumption that whoever is wearing it has listened to Dashboard Confessional sometime in the last 24-hours.
Gimli is unchanged from other versions seen in other sets. Also, Gimli is still awesome.
The set itself is really two sections that fit together, and in truth, capture two different scenes: one iconic (the Council Meeting), one not so much (Elrond revealing he's kind of a terrible father). Yes, the arch is in the background of the council scene, but Arwen is not there (given that there are only like six women in Middle Earth). The scene where she's talking to her father about the vision of her future son happens in Rivendale under what is presumably the same set and darker lighting, but the arch is somewhat forgettable in the Council scene.
It's a bit cheap to be hard on this set for being so small in representing something so big, because it's a $30 set and there are obvious limitations. On the other hand... wow, this doesn't really look like the Council of Elrond.
Let me be clear... I was not expecting to get what looks to be thirteen-thousand chairs (and a slightly smaller number of beards) in this set, especially not at this price point. But this is that catch-22 of creating a set that makes so many compromises as to be unrecognizable. But the compromises made in the scene hurt it overall.
The center of this section is a pedestal for the One Ring, which is in there in the movie, but there should also be a pattern in the center. Instead, this is all about the stand and three chairs (one for each minifigure).
Really, the only playset feature of note, other than some spinning chairs with stickers on them, is a little launcher that I recently dubbed the worst launcher I'd ever seen. That's saying something in a line that's given us flick-fires in Weathertop and catapults that can go inches in just about every other set. Really, this thing is just an overly complicated mechanism for launching Gimli after he tries to smack the ring with an axe.
Under the flip-out is a little tease of the Eye of Sauron, which you can only just barely see when activating the launcher. While not as bad as the greebling that you built and then hid in the Black Zero Escape set, it's still the kind of detail that would be cool if it wasn't so obscure. I understand that LEGO has to limit the "effectiveness" of the flick-fire features to protect what I can only imagine is some sort of exceptionaly stupid imaginary kid.
Look, when I was a kid, I was never in danger of putting out a eye by using something like a flick-fire... we threw whole sets at each other; the missiles never had a chance to go off when you're checking one of those old motor bricks across a room. I also understand the need to incorporate some sort of playset feature into some sets... but are the kids that buy Lord of the Rings sets really looking for things to launch Gimli? Is that the most notable part of this scene?
The little pavilion or arch section looks kinda cool, and fits the part, I suppose, in the movie still above. Like the rest of it, the thing is way too small... it works better when you have the whole encounter between Elrond and his daughter about ghost children. You do get an extra glaive, which is cool (there are two in the set), and an extra copy of Sting (which Bilbo had with him in his bedroom, which makes me wonder why it would be on a rack here).
It's a simple little feature that is most notable for the parts that make it up... specifically, those beautiful little half arches that were introduced in this set (and a couple of other LotR summer sets). White comes in this set and a city Cargo Truck set, while black comes in The Black Gate and the Tower of Expensiveness. I can tell you that I was thrilled to see these, as a castle and modular MOC'er (or at least I pretend to be one), these things can have tons of use.
This was an exceptionally tough set for me to review. It was a set I liked until I put it together. As a pile of parts or minifigures, I found it to be quite nice. But the finished product is one of those sets that just doesn't work for me. Part of it is certainly the scale... this thing is way too small for what its supposed to represent. I understand that it was compromises for a price point, but it feels like it was just too much of a compromise for what you end up with.
I'm usually not one for saying that a set should be more expensive (well, not too often), but this set could have been greatly improved just by doubling the size of the platform and adding, at the very least, Boromir to the set (who had as much to do with this scene as Gimli did). The same thing goes for Legolas, to be fair... this could have been a great set to include parts of the Fellowship and make it easier for us all to pretend to kill Ned Stark.
Even what initially made this set really attractive, all of the plant parts, for example, is overshadowed by the fact that there are some really tree-heavy sets out right now, like Ewok Village and An Unexpected Gathering. Sure, none of us here are going to part out our copy of that, but I bet a whole bunch of sellers on the aftermarket are (and then they'll sell us the minifigs for more than the cost of the set).
What I liked:
- Finally, a female character in a Lord of the Rings Set! Arwyn and Elrond are both great figures to add to the ever-growing elf army
- Great parts selection, including some new, wonderful arches
- Extra weapons are always welcome, are are plant parts and cheese slopes
What I didn't like:
- Set is far too small for the scene it's trying to convey
- That launcher is just ridiculous
- Gimli and Frodo are either identical or only slightly changed
Verdict: Pick it up, for parts at the least. Should this set dip down to about the $25 (or better) range, it becomes exceptional value for the parts. You can grab Council of Elrond and the rest of the Lord of the Rings line on Amazon.com right now.