Every once and a while, there comes a LEGO set I can’t put down. There is something about it that feels right, whether in the way it looks or its substance. I get this feeling that reminds me of that day in May way back in 1999 when I opened my first LEGO Star Wars set, the X-wing. As I built it, I knew it was something special, and once it was complete, I thought I’d never take it apart. It deserved to stay together because those pieces came together into something that worked. 6869 Quinjet Aerial Battle is a set that awakens those feelings of nostalgia and memories of a simpler, less cynical time. It’s a set that captures something that’s been missing from so many sets in recent years.
For starters, 6869 Quinjet Aerial Battle feels like a much better value right out of the box compared to similarly priced sets of $69.99 (£69.99; CA $89.99; 79,99€). A few examples include 3368 Space Center (494 pieces), 6860 The Batcave (690 pieces), and 7961 Darth Maul’s Sith Infiltrator (479 pieces). Frankly, each of those three sets feel like rip-offs at $70. It’s gotten to the point I expected to see a half-empty box when I opened it and peered inside. I expected to see air. Instead, what I saw was reasonable. The size of the box made sense. A good first impression.
The good impressions didn’t stop there. Dumping out the contents revealed the plastic and cardboard wrapped instructions and stickers. Thank you, LEGO. I know protected instructions/stickers have appeared in several sets for a while now, but I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I’ve opened a set to find bent or curled stickers. With an increased reliance on stickers, this type of packaging needs to be used much more than it is.
On a side note, not once did I ever hear the sounds “shlkk” or “faazooom” while testing out the Quinjet’s advertised features. They’re more of a “ftick” and “ptunk.”
Poor Loki. The Avenger’s get a sweet, state-of-the-art ride and he’s stuck with a dinky chariot. It’s a little one-sided. What’s worse is this vehicle does nothing for me. It’s boring and forgettable, but I’m giving LEGO a pass. It basically looks like its on-screen counterpart. I guess. I never had an opportunity to get a solid look at it to make the determination.
It’s also awkward to hold and fly around. The click-hinge connection is weak enough that it tends to flop around and in play scenarios, that’s not good. I still give points to LEGO for including it in the set, though. The bad guys in the film were seriously lacking in vehicular matches for the heroes (in terms of translatable to toys, I don’t think those big flying worm dudes would make good a LEGO set), so at the very least, it’s something. And dark tan!
The Quinjet, the real star of the set and arguably the entire LEGO Marvel line, is a mighty craft on its own. The futuristic, pseudo-military craft managed enough screen time and stable shots to actually get a good look at it. It’s sleek, improbable, and most importantly, it translates into toy form with remarkable ease.
The build reminded me of the 9493 X-wing. The Quinjet’s construction is varied, it uses a considerable amount of SNOT-work and it’s insides are colorful. The entire set is sorted into five numbered bags making it an organized and easy to follow process. What makes the build interesting is the wide assortment of parts. Each bag contained a fair share of surprises. I found the experience oddly engaging, looking forward to the next bag, eager to see how it all going to come together. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but after so many rehashes in the Star Wars line (which I primarily collect), it’s refreshing to not have that element of predictability.
If you’ve seen The Avengers, then you may have noticed the Quinjet’s most apparent omission. Rotors. It’s not a big detriment. There just won’t be any vertical take-offs or landings. I’d rather have rotors over the big SHIELD emblems. Well, I’d rather have both.
In all likelihood, rotors would compromise the Quinjet’s sturdiness. As it is, the Quinjet is a rock and has a satisfying weight. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it allows you to swoosh with confidence. It’s bad because it makes this thing a tub, a big flying tub. From one angle, the Quinjet teases you with sleek sophistication. You take it home, put it together with a childlike grin on your face, and then you hold it up before your eyes and realize there’s more to it than the glossy exterior. This thing’s got guts and needs structure to hold those guts.
Some of those guts include the drone launch mechanism. It takes up a lot of space for something that does relatively little. Press the red “button” on top and ptunk, the drone holder drops. It takes a good amount of force to press the button in order to get it to work properly and the result is underwhelming. I had hoped the mechanism would launch the drone like a flick-fire missile, but no, it’s all manual labor from that point on. It is more interesting than throwing the drone in the back, so points for trying.
Was the drone even in the film? I don’t remember it. I’m assuming it was cut during the production process. In the context of the set, I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to do. Fly around and…
Here’s a fun fact about the passenger compartment: Thor can sit in a chair with his cape on. I don’t know why Thor would need to sit in a chair on a plane, but it’s an option. Also, I didn’t try to fit Thor in the seat until long after I took these pictures, so you get to see Iron Man instead. Because that’s thinking ahead.
You’ve probably asked yourself, “Why is there a fire extinguisher? What mysterious purpose does it serve?” Some men want to watch the world burn, the Avengers are here to put that fire out. Wrong. It has no purpose. For one, it’s not a real fire extinguisher. And two, the way the Quinjet is designed, the fire extinguisher is impossible to remove without first removing the closest armrest. You want to pretend there’s a fire aboard the Quinjet? You might as well pretend to abandon ship while you’re at it, which won’t be too difficult with the included Avengers, Iron Man and Thor. Black Widow, on the other hand, is so screwed.
This cockpit is undoubtedly the most complete cockpit I have ever seen in an official LEGO set. It’s not at all accurate to the film, but I don’t care, not when there’s a rather comfortable looking seat (and a sticker representing controls). After so many vehicle-based sets (see: Star Wars) with limited, pathetic, or no seating/control interface whatsoever, this feels like a huge leap forward. All I had to say was, “Finally!” And Black Widow deserves a nifty cockpit, given she has no other purpose in this set other than to sit there.
The remaining interior structure is the cargo hold. It’s spacious enough to carry Loki or additional, sold separately Avengers as long as that Avenger isn’t 6868’s Hulk.
Just be sure whatever you throw back there is secured before heading into battle. The top hatch doesn’t like to stay closed in swooshy conditions. It can get very annoying.
Another thing that doesn’t stay put are the maneuvering foils. The click-hinges hold the angle well enough, but the Technic pin connection needs more friction. The result is wobbly, often uneven wings that the obsessive compulsive (me) will be constantly fixing.
Back to the exterior of the Quinjet, you’ll notice a few details that, while essential to the structure of the model, completely disrupt the flow, mainly in the rear. That’s the price of building semi-realistic (eh) aircraft out of LEGO. It holds together wonderfully, but you pay for it with unappealing aesthetics. At least we didn’t get another Siddeley.
Of course, this is no Siddeley. This set is in a completely different league than the Cars sets, and many other license themes sets, for that matter. From the top down, this set flows, I mean it really flows. I may have complained about certain unappealing aesthetics, but those are easy to overlook when the top of this craft is considered. I can’t remember the last time a set flowed from front to back like this.
The thrusters are the crowning element to this slick achievement. They’re well proportioned, angled, and shaped. I’d go as far to say, they’re my favorite part of the Quinjet.
The heavy use of transparent pieces, blue and red, was initially a concern. Transparent pieces can be extremely tricky to use, especially with liberal abandon. Here, the transparent blue grilles accent and complement both the grays and the dark blue. The pieces add a glossiness that works without calling too much attention.
The transparent red plates, while not entirely inappropriate, lack the subtlety of the blue pieces. They seem more overused despite being fewer in number. This is particularly noticeable on the underside of the craft.
It’s easy to complain about the underside of a LEGO vehicle. They’re typically rough, filled with questionable color choices, and in this case, where the flick-fire missiles are located. Luckily, they can be somewhat concealed. Like the blue grilles on top, the blue pieces down under don’t clash with the overall color scheme of the set, but the red has to go. It’s bad enough it’s so glaring from the bottom, but you can see much of it from the sides as well. This will be unquestionably modified and once it is, this is a set I’ll display for some time. It’s not an iconic vehicle, it’s not even very unique, but it looks good. Better than that, it looks cool.
The minifigures are easily the weak links of 6869. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re bad. It means the main part of the set, the Quinjet, was designed well enough that LEGO didn’t need to add superfluous minifigures to make up for any shortcomings (or add to the pricetag). Let’s start with the weakest of the bunch, the Chitauri foot soldier. It lacks personality and is scrawled with meaningless patterns. Like Loki’s chariot, I don’t blame LEGO. These guys are flick-fire fodder for our heroes and that’s all they’ll ever amount to. Generic and forgettable. Next.
Loki. He’s been on Earth’s bad side ever since he cloned Colonel Jack O’Neill and was caught by SG-1. Oh, wait, wrong universe, sorry (I’m not sorry, I’ve been dying to use this reference for weeks). This Loki, though still pale-skinned, has some impressive attire and of the five minifigures, he’s the most screen-accurate. Except his face. His face doesn’t work at all. He lacks the actor’s sliminess and the delicate subtly of his features not captured by this Lex Luthor repeat. Oh, and I was gravely disappointed to see he lacked a double-sided head. It would’ve been the perfect opportunity to show off Loki’s wicked smile which would have been nothing short of beautiful under the Helm of Overcompensation.
Black Widow. Could’ve fooled me. Out of context, this is a fantastic minifigure. The torso and leg design are top notch and are my favorite of the set, but this isn’t a review for out of context. In context, this minifigure is a mess. If LEGO only had concept art to work with, I’d be more lenient, but we know that’s not the case. The character has already appeared on-screen prior to The Avengers. We know what she looks like. The facial expressions don’t suit the character. They may have worked for Catwoman, but here, they’re slightly too expressive. The hair piece fails more obviously. It looks like it’d be more appropriate on Thor. While it’s nice to have a wide selection of LEGO hair, this minifigure demanded dark red hair. It’s one of the character’s defining features and LEGO inexplicably messed it up. I want Black Widow, not generic lady hero.
Thor. What mortal poured butter on this guy’s head? Yeah, this minifigure would’ve looked much better with dark tan hair rather than Paula Dean’s secret stash, but at least this minifigure gets the overall look right and he has a great looking Mjölnir. Though, I’m not entirely sure what Thor’s doing in this set. He only interacted with a Quinjet for about a second and long before the Chitauri showed up. I can think of a handful of other characters who would’ve made more sense, such as Agent Coulson and Hawkeye.
Iron Man. This is the Mark 7 version, which, while in the film, is only seen for a short time. During that time, I don’t recall if Iron Man ever interacted with a Quinjet while wearing it. But, hey, at least LEGO didn’t go Loki on us and include a duplicate Iron Man from 6867 Loki’s Cosmic Cube Escape.
Most people have already made up their minds about this minifigure. Most of them arrived at their conclusions without ever holding these four centimeters of plastic, myself included. I’m still in the camp that a printed head piece would’ve been the better route to take with this character, but this isn’t so bad. I dig the opening faceplate revealing Tony Stark underneath and that function makes it worth it. Looking at the helmet up close, it’s clear it couldn’t be any smaller without compromising the plastic. So, for what it is, it’s ok. It’s better than Batman’s cowl.
+A great value. At 9 cents per part, this is a $70 set that actually feels like a $70 set.
+It’s a well-balanced set. Unlike recent Star Wars sets that have placed more emphasis on the minifigures, this set delivers a solid primary model complemented by the minifigures, even if the minifigures aren’t all spectacular.
+It looks cool. It’s as great for displaying as it is playing.
+Excellent cockpit, decent interior. I hope LEGO makes this trend.
+A great part selection for MOCers.
+New brick separator. Because it’s there!
-For a set called “Quinjet Aerial Battle,” it’s weak in the “battle” department. Unfortunately, there are limited film-based options to remedy this.
-While the Quinjet is swooshable, there are a few flaps that won’t stay in place without aftermarket modification.
-Flick-fire missiles. It’s a cliché to call them lame by now, but these flick-fire missiles are awkward to launch given their position under the wings. They can be folded up out of the way, so there is a silver lining.
-Black Widow. She just doesn’t look like the character.
-Reused facial patterns. This problem has been prevalent throughout the entire LEGO Super Heroes line. We’re lucky Tony Stark and Thor have facial hair.
This is a remarkable set for being in a licensed theme. It oozes a quality not seen in so many licensed sets, whether they’re from Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, or Harry Potter. It’s a rare set among the mediocrity. It works beyond its license, while maintaining the characteristics that make it part of the Marvel line. It is by no means an iconic vehicle, but LEGO managed to make it one of the most accurate Avenger’s sets in respect to its on-screen counterpart.
What makes this set truly unique, however, is its value. I frequently end reviews saying to wait until a set is on sale or clearance before picking it up and out of habit, I’m going to again. 6869 is currently the highest priced LEGO Marvel set, so it may be out of many fans’ price ranges. If it is, then yes, wait. This is one of those sets kids save up for doing miscellaneous chores all summer and when they open it and put it together, realize it was worth it. It’s not quite the X-wing from the inaugural wave of Star Wars sets, but it’s exists in the same vein. This set has substance, it has the look, it works, and is a set worth owning.
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