Sunday, 10 February 2013

Lego Star Wars: Building the Falcon

As you will come to appreciate from either this blog, The Commentary... or Some Kind of Star Trek, I'm a bit of a big kid when it comes to anything sci-fi/geek related.

I'm almost thinking that this review could do with an Alcoholics Anonymous introduction but in reality it's not something I'm going to be weened off anytime soon and that's why I've chosen to talk about the latest - and long overdue - addition to my Lego Star Wars collection which has been steadily growing since the late 1990's. To help you get a better feel for the model I've included some larger than usual photos to save you squinting!

First of all, let's have a short interlude:

This is purely to give you an idea of the scale of this Lego monster. How well did I open and close the roof segments? Oscar performance, no doubt yet it does give a good impression of how easy it is to get into and close up the outer hull. Just watch the central back and central front panels go down in the right order!

Ok, serious now; I've waited a long time to get my hands on the Millennium Falcon and this is the third version that Lego have released since 2000. The first was based on A New Hope (7190) and had a single plastic removable lid (urgh). The second version, this time updated to The Empire Strikes Back (4504) placed the legendary ship on Hoth with a special Han Solo snow figure and Snowtroopers to boot. The lid was in segments and the interior nicely detailed - even the entry ramp could be lowered through a quirky little pull and push mechanism in one of the side ports. A good friend of mine had this one and it was a smart chunk of kit especially due to the link in with Episode V. Oh yes - there's the massive 3000+ piece Collector's Edition ship as well but as that's not in what I would class as the "affordable" range I'm omitting it from this discussion.

Box art for set 7965
What we're looking at here is Version 3.0; a new A New Hope edition (apologies - bit of a mouthful there) featuring the Clone Wars packaging from the 2011/2012 range. At best guess it took about four to five hours to complete with 100 steps over two booklets of around 160 pages taking you from brick to end result. The only thing I would say here is that the instructions could do with noting how many "Step 1" or "Step 2" bags there are rather than just pointing out that you have reached the next point in the process. To be fair I'm not sure if telling you which bags are needed is a good thing as half the fun with Lego is trying to find the accursed brick at the bottom of the box/tray/bowl you're using to store everything in during construction. I'm still not comfortable with the additional feature of each stage telling you what you require (very much like 1980's Technic) but it does avoid the embarrassing moment at stage 84 when it dawns on you that the black flat six you're now holding was an essential part of the structural supports back in stage 12.

Note the landing legs, missiles and ramp - and Vader!

That said, the instructions are clear, logical and should be straight-forward for any builder to follow - even chunky-fingered 33 year old ones. The only bits that get a bit repetitive (understandably) are building the sections for the folding roof panels and the edging at the back of the Falcon. Don't be concerned though as it's all worth it in the end. I'd also note that in comparison to the Imperial Star Destroyer kit (6211) from a few years back, this is much sturdier in construction and won't crumble to pieces when you touch the underside. Additionally the base is supported by four small landing legs which allow you to deploy the boarding ramp so our heroes can escape from Mos Eisley...or the Death Star. As you can possibly just see on the picture to the left, there are also four small "missiles" (red spots) prepped under the hull. They clip in so no worries about them slipping out when the ship is airborne!

While I've compared, possibly harshly, the construction of the Star Destroyer to the Falcon, it's interesting to note that a good portion of the early steps is taken with firming up the underside of the model before you go on to build the interior. Good move, Lego; hope this is a sign of what you will carry through if you ever decide to update the Imperial battleship. 

Note the positions of the internal features
It has to be said that the method in the instructions is irrefutable and at no point was I left wondering where the odd brick was supposed to be placed. There are a few extra bits rolling about in the box at the end but they're additional single brick lights and control sticks mainly in case any decide to do a fateful disappearing act when you're attempting to navigate the odd asteroid field to evade Imperial spacecraft.

Figure-wise we're presented with new editions of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. While the Han and Leia figures simply have costume redresses, the Skywalker mini-fig has a reversible head, switching him from farmboy Luke to light-saber training Luke complete with visor and helmet. Alongside them we also have a robed Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca  and Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. Only shame - could have done with a C3-PO and an R2-D2 to complete the crew which then beggars the question as to why we really needed Vader in here. 
Just room for two at the controls
"Farmboy" Luke at the gunner controls - turret at the side

Let's take a closer look inside the kit itself. This new edition has a wealth of features and I really loved some of the final finishing touches more than anything on the outer hull. Besides providing budding ship-builders with some extra stickers to mark up their craft, Lego dusted the ship with grills, vents, a radar dish and electric blue rear engine - which all add to a great building experience. I would add here that the engine "hose" piece can be a pain to fit as it only just reaches around the exterior to the two fixing points where it is required to attach to the hull. Don't get frustrated at this time, it will go!

Looking in comparison to the older 4504 model, there are some slight changes and updates. While you don't get the drop ramp feature you gain the removable gun turret (pictured right) with seating for two mini-figs - useful to fend off TIE Fighters from above or below and a nice addition piece that I didn't expect - but that's just one little bit of the whole Millennium Falcon experience. Also this model is slightly longer with a couple of extra brick rows added to the two forward "prongs" and some detail changes on the upper hull sections. Nothing massive and unless you stuck them side by side you probably wouldn't be aware. Technically as this is modelled on Episode IV, it's the "older" version of course! 

Computers, smuggling hold and games area
The protruding cockpit will take both Han and Chewbacca although it is a staggered seating arrangement. The canopy is easily removed from two clips to place or remove your mini-figs. It's one of the last sections to build and is an easy clip on piece to the main hull. Moving a little further back the hull sections swing outward (as per the introductory video) and here we have some great interior features. At the front and facing toward the central section is a bank of computers which can be manned by two characters. Beside that are seats for four mini-figs to battle over the holographic chess-style game featured in A New Hope (see picture right) when the ship is escaping from Tattooine. Straight in front of that is the concealed smuggling bay. Directly opposite the boarding hatch this will stow away a single figure however getting them back out is exceptionally fiddly considering there is a section of fixed roof right above it. Turning this ship over to try and free Leia from her hiding place is not an option for anyone of a young age due to the weight of the Falcon - but then smaller fingers might not need to go to that extreme!

Luke in the training bay - note ramp to the right
Moving to the rear of the ship there are beds for two of the crew to rest between shifts right next to the hyperdrive unit. In comparison to the engine in The Empire Strikes Back version of the ship this is a less detailed model and not removable. Not a deal breaker but it would have been nice to have left this feature onboard - as opposed to the removal of the automated ramp in respect of the gun turret it didn't affect another feature. However what we do get directly behind the cockpit is a small area for "Ben" Kenobi to begin training young Skywalker. Complete with droid and blaster-shield helmet he'll make a Jedi of Luke yet! Great to have another A New Hope specific feature within the model. I was very impressed that Lego have gone to the lengths of making it as canon as possible to the original movie.

Rear view - engine "hose" fitted to the two blue blocks

As you can see from the image here there is also a handy toolbox just in case that hyperdrive needs a talking to and there are several other clip points around the ship to hang a blaster when all hands are needed at the controls to repel an Imperial attack. Nicely Chewbacca even gets to have his bowcaster in this set and there are enough tools and lightsabers to go around. There is a bit of "wasted" space just behind the cockpit although what could have been done with it is anyone's guess (check the instruction diagram earlier) as it's not needed for access to the flight controls.

Up above - hull details are just enough
This is one of the three largest kits that I now own alongside the Imperial Star Destroyer and the Republic Cruiser (7665) from The Phantom Menace. It's definitely the most impressive kit I've built and nowhere near as fiddly as the other two were at stages of their construction. It's not an essential addendum but if you want to drop it back in the box it will easily fit for storage with the legs and upper and lower gun turrets removed. Lego have done a great job here with the model, providing excellent detail, some quirky tweaks to the included mini-figs and an excellent finish to what is undoubtedly one of their trademark Star Wars kits. It is large and can be heavy for children to move so just be aware of that when you purchase however it is exceptional and a worthy addition to any collection. The only thing that might put you off is the price. 

Due to the licencing (I suspect) the whole of the Star Wars range has always seemed a bit higher in cost than any other Lego products so I would expect you to pay over £100 for the Millennium Falcon from Amazon and that's a good price. Overall a sound recommendation to buy but it could damage your wallet a little more than you might have planned!

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