These last couple reviews for 2012 have been sitting on my to-do list for far too long, so I’m going to keep this one brief (Ha!) which should be no problem for what is the second smallest set in the first (and hopefully not last) wave of the LOTR theme. Admittedly, I’m no expert on the Rings trilogy and still haven’t been able to bring myself to crack the books even though I quite enjoyed the films in both theatrical and extended editions. Everytime those books find themselves at the top my reading queue, I find something else of interest and reshuffle until they’re back on the bottom. I’ve nothing against Tolkien, It’s just that I already have a good handle on what happens, have heard a great deal about what was not in the films (my wife is a huge fan) and to be honest fantasy in general is not really my thing. Oh, one more thing I’m not a big fan of… spiders.
Actually that’s not true anymore. I didn’t like spiders when I was younger, but after trying to face my arachnophobia head on with a little help from a frisky tarantula and a sadistic pet shop employee I eventually overcame that instinctive fear. Since then my interest in arachnids and spiders in particular has increased to a near obsessive level. New species discovered? I’m all over it. Need a spider squished in the kitchen, I’m strictly catch and releash. I even watched Eight Legged Freaks…twice! What a terrible, terrible movie, but you can’t argue with giant spiders. I still find the little buggers creppy and all, but my curiosity just totally overrides that. But before we get to the main focus of this set let’s cover everybody’s favourite little people, the Hobbits’s.
Frodo is basically the same figure as the one in the Weathertop set except here he comes with the dark bley cape given to him as a gift from Galadriel and the Lothlórien elves. He has the horrified zombie eye look as his alternate expression and I quite like the distinct difference. The other two figures are exclusive to this set, as is the case with many of the basic fellowship in this line. First up is Frodo’s gardener/bodyguard Samwise Gamgee. He’s a simple, but very useful figure that perfectly represents those qualities from the character and I imagine we’ll see that torso many times over the years in many an MOC theme. His alternate face is a little bit frightened and a little bit disturbed. It actually looks like a guy who just watched someone dive face first into an empty pool, but it’s still a nice print. Sam comes with one of the newer swords and Frodo has Sting and the ring of course, but I’ll admit to being pleaseantly surprised to get not only three rings, but three Stings as well. Yay!
Lastly, we have the ugliest of the bunch, the ever creepy Gollum. I really like this guy and thing they did a great job capturing his look in LEGO form. Face it, he never would have worked as a minfigure because beside the fact that he is about the same size as the hobbits, he’s too twisted and malformed to be pulled off in any other form imo. In the spirit of LEGO though, his fig is almost cute in the same way Pugs and those weird hairless cats are cute. When I first saw him, I suspected that his design would make him unstable, but he’s sturdy enough to free stand with his arms in any position and even hold his tasty, sweet fish. The printing on his head is good and the loin cloth printing hides his plastic shame perfectly. It looks as though Gollum will feature in the cheapest set in the Hobbit series, but with a different face, so this will remain an exclusive fig for now.
Moving away from the figs we have the stationary component of this build, the cave mouth. A place for them to enter Shelob’s lair or a place for Gollum to watch the feast-ivities or attack the hobbits’s should they escape beasty’s grasp. What can I say about this little build, it’s a rock. Seems these days if it’s not a rock in a small set, it’s a tree. Don’t get me wrong, it serves it’s purpose and even acts as a pretty good catapult for launching Gollum, a hobbit or even the fish should you be so inclined (which I was). Simple build, simple function, but a welcome addition that adds a little extra play feature to an otherwise straight forward set. I’ve found from watching my son, nephew and some of my friends children, that these little additions can end up being the highlight of a set and see more play than even the most swooshable of vehicles or the fiercest of creatures.
Speaking of fierce creatures, we’re now left with the big beasty herself. Shelob is an interesting build and probably the best LEGO spider I’ve ever built. When the theme was announced, I hoped Shelob would see production and of my three wishlist sets she was the one that made it. I still have my fingers crossed for a Treebeard with Orc stomping action and an official LEGO Balrog, but I know better than to hold my breath by now.
The build is quick, but sturdy with the obvious repetitive design of the legs. She’s scaled well for the hobbits and is extremely possible in the way a spider is. Her abdomen can be shifted up or down to portray aggression or a more passive stance. Her fangs move and that compliments her printed face very well as does the differing patterns on the legs and thorax. The most impressive part for me is that the flexible claw barbs work so well as the tarsus, suspending the weight of the build without any noticable bending. If you don’t trust these rubber parts over time you can rest her on the set of tiny wheels on her belly and pose her legs so they don’t actually carry much if any weight.
I said Shelob was the best of the spider builds I’ve done thus far and I meant it, but that doesn’t mean she’s without her share of faults and flaws. For starters, the great printed face should have been complimented with some printing on curved part of the thorax. It would serve to break up what is basically the only solid coloured chunk of her body and really give her an extra dose of personality in her looks and movements. Another improvement to her rear section would have been to round off the area closest to the socket hinge and cover up the three holes in doing so. It’s not a big deal, but it would have given the model a nice finish and details like that help to really bring a set together.
Lastly are the legs, the click hinges at the top of the legs are just attached to the hinge plates that allow the legs to move back and forth with no added security. You just click them on and that’s it, which puts a lot of pressure on them and with certain amount of play these start to pop off more and more easily. It’s not a major issue because, as I said, you can rest her on her wheels and move her around without any leg pressure. I just found it annoying because if you give me a LEGO spider, you can be sure I’ll want it to be skittering around on it’s spindly legs. Period.
Bringing it back to the positive for a minute is the actual play feature included in the Shelob build, her spinneret set up. It’s a tow truck hook (not sure what else they could have used, really) on the end of a very long string that can be used to either wrap up and ensnare her prey, or have much more fun by hanging her from whatever will support her and hopefully scare the crap out of some unsuspecting victim of yours. The gear to pull the string back in is sticky, takes a while to crank all the way back and is very hard to use while hanging for ominous raising or lowering, but it is still a great feature to include.
What I Liked:
- Nice selection of exclusive figs in a smaller set is always a plus.
- Shelob looks quite nice and is fun to pose and play with.
- Three rings and three Stings! Now they can all be happy and get along… at least until the she eats them.
What I didn’t Like:
- Shelob could have used some printing on the rear section, like LEGO has done with other spiders, to really make her pop.
- Legs are flimsy, but to be honest, that would be difficult to fix and keep them spindly.
Vedict: There are a number of reasons to buy it if you haven’t already. You need Sam to finish your fellowship, Gollum is also exclusive to this set and this gives you everyhing you need to act out the final scene from Return of the King. Except the lava and the cliff… well it gives you the figs you need. Also, Shelob is a nice build and would look great on display, standing over the hobbits or hanging eerily from a hook on your ceiling. Plus, it’s cheap! Definitely worth the twenty bucks, I’d say. In fact, I bought two.