[REVIEW] LEGO Star Wars UCS Tie Fighter

Lego-Tie-Fighter-UCS-2The Ultimate Collector Series TIE Fighter set has been out for a number of months now, but I finally got around to putting it together over the last few nights. So, like before with the Red 5 X-Wing, and Slave I, here’s a quick rundown and review of the build, and the final results.

While the Empire’s TIE Fighter may not be the most sleek looking of the ships in the Star Wars universe, it’s still iconic. I’m sure most of you reading this already know that TIE actually stands for Twin Ion Engine – so it’s name has nothing to do with neckwear or how they attack people. I honestly don’t know what the Empire was thinking when they designed these things because the giant solar panels on each side of the cockpit keep the pilot from seeing anywhere but in front of him. Serious tactical disadvantage there. But, they’re bad guys anyway so who cares, right?

Alright, on to business.

The instruction booklet is beautiful just like all the previous UCS ones – giving lots of details about not only the ship itself in the Star Wars universe (as if it were real) but also information from the designer of the model at LEGO. Some kids may not care, but to adults it’s a quick interesting read and I’m glad LEGO goes to the lengths they do to make the entire process engrossing right from the start. The directions are easy to follow, as usual. However I think one of the reasons these last few UCS booklets have been so big is because each step only adds between 1-5 pieces at a time. Most instructions add a lot more per step depending on the model. This isn’t a drawback because it helps me make sure I didn’t miss anything – which I often do.

OK, onto the build pictures…
Read the captions beneath each photo for more information about each!

As usual there were lots of bags to start off...

As usual there were lots of bags to start off…

The cockpit was really neat because I love how they made the pilot's chair. There were no special computer consoles or anything just a stripped down bare necessities cockpit.

The cockpit was really neat because I love how they made the pilot’s chair. There were no special computer consoles or anything just a stripped down bare necessities cockpit.

The frame of the ship begins to take shape around the cockpit area.

The frame of the ship begins to take shape around the cockpit area.

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Now the cockpit window has been attached and the entry cap as well. It does lift up easily (pictured) should you want to put the pilot minifig inside.

Now the cockpit window has been attached and the entry cap as well. It does lift up easily (pictured) should you want to put the pilot minifig inside.

Here is the reverse side showing the engine compartment.

Here is the reverse side showing the engine compartment.

This part was probably the most fun of the entire build. Putting the final details on the wing panels and attaching them to the main body was a close second. There are a lot of little pieces and details here, but it’s fabulous once the shape starts to come together. When you built out the support struts for the large panels you start to wonder about how they are going to attach to each other securely.

The large side panels were quite tedious, actually. The directions had to be repeated numerous times since you were creating multiple copies of a number of the components. The payoff is good in the end, but it takes some of the fun of watching things come together when you do the same thing over and over again. Here’s a closer look:

As you can see the top/bottom of the panels are assembles 4 times. The middle piece that connects them is created twice.

As you can see the top/bottom of the panels are assembles 4 times. The middle piece that connects them is created twice.

Here is one of the panels connected, before all the outer coverings have been added.

Here is one of the panels connected, before all the outer coverings have been added.

With one of the panels outside covering complete, here it is compared to the still in process second one.

With one of the panels outside covering complete, here it is compared to the still in process second one.

This is the back side of the completely covered panels. The details of the 6 struts are being attached. At first after attaching them I thought they were very flimsy and just flopping about and was curious how they were going to stay in place.

This is the back side of the completely covered panels. The details of the 6 struts are being attached. At first after attaching them I thought they were very flimsy and just flopping about and was curious how they were going to stay in place.

Then after attaching the details on the front side of the panel, this little piece clasps at the bottom of each of the 4 main corners connecting the front and back struts, securing them. Genius!

Then after attaching the details on the front side of the panel, this little piece clasps at the bottom of each of the 4 main corners connecting the front and back struts, securing them. Genius!

Sorry that last one was a little out of order - here are the two panels, front side up, with all their outer coverings on.

Sorry that last one was a little out of order – here are the two panels, front side up, with all their outer coverings on.

After the outer panels were constructed I was curious how they were going to securely connect. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed. The arms from the main cockpit body slid nicely into the opening on the inside of the panel, and locked into some bricks. To further secure, there were two flaps that swung up and also locked in place to the body’s frame. Overall, the connection feels very solid.

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Here is the connection point. You can see the flaps that lock securely on the right and behind left.

Here's an up close look at the outside center of the panels on the Fighter. Looks great!

Here’s an up close look at the outside center of the panels on the Fighter. Looks great!

All done! Head on view. Note the minfig for scale.

All done! Head on view. Note the minfig for scale.

As you can see, like previous UCS ships, it's pretty good sized!

As you can see, like previous UCS ships, it’s pretty good sized!

Here is the connection point. You can see the flaps that lock securely on the right and behind left.

And here are some more detailed views of the finish product. Sorry for the shitty lighting. But you get the general idea.

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So there you have it, the LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series TIE Fighter. It’s a simplistic build in the end, but has some interesting LEGO mechanics to get it to work. Frankly, I love that they have minds that can come up with ways to connect simple blocks to produce these things. Either way, it’s a must have for your Star Wars collection!

Oh, and one last word of advice – make sure you try to put the stickers on before you put the pieces onto the model because some of them are hard to get at, and then you end up with crooked stickers. I HATE STICKERS.

Build Experience: C+
Build Time: A
Price:  C ($200 – a lot for limited complexity)
LEGO Star Wars UCS Tie Fighter Overall: B-

Who ya gonna call?! …The bank…for a loan…

The other week I excitedly posted information about LEGO’s upcoming Ghostbuster’s Headquarters set – to be released in January of 2016.

More info was released today including more pictures, especially of the inside, and……..the price.

$350.

Look, I love LEGO, but c’mon. I’ve pretty much made it a rule that my maximum limit for buying a set is $200. And even that is pretty unreasonably high.

I think the set looks absolutely fantastic with tons of details from both movies. I love it. But I might have to wait and see how much money I get back from my tax return – or maybe call in all my favors for a single combined birthday present. All I know is I won’t be running out and buying it no matter how much 8 year old me wants to.

Check out some official pics from LEGO below…

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(for the record, i would have dropped the $500 for the UCS Millennium Falcon in a heartbeat if I had a good job when that sucker came out)

For first time, LEGO Ideas picks no projects to make a reality – and that’s OK

On October 30th, LEGO posted to the Ideas Blog that they had the final results of the latest round of fan-made-projects-made-reality. And the winner is….

No one.

All 13 of the projects were rejected. But I’m OK with that. You should be too – so go ahead an unbunch your panties.

Before we get into any of the specific details as to why all projects were rejected, let’s take a look at everything that was up for contention this time around:

Image courtesy of LEGO Ideas

Image courtesy of LEGO Ideas

Let’s be brutally honest – none of these are very good. Some aren’t even built as prototypes yet. And here lies the inherent problem with the whole idea behind LEGO Ideas and fan-made submissions. When you open up and create a platform for anyone to submit a project you’re going to get a lot of undeniably fantastic ideas, with an even larger amount of garbage.

LEGO attempted to put a system in place to stem the flood of shitty ideas making it to the final round by requiring a project to have 10,000 votes. And that only even got them into the review round. But in its infancy, LEGO Cuusoo (what Ideas was originally called) only had a small number of participants, and a smaller number of folks voting on projects. We were treated to amazing short-run sets like the Mars Curiosity Rover, and the ExoSuit, and Ecto-1.

Now with LEGO’s popularity explosion in the last few years, the Ideas site has turned into a platform for thousands of would-be LEGO builders to launch thousands of shitty designs. And with more people participating, there are inevitably more less-than-stellar projects making it to the review stage as they are upvoted over and over again.

I mean, seriously, I love Daft Punk’s mysterious and awesome persona music, but really – the “project” was two minifgs with a few small accessories and helmets. It’s not going to get made folks. They can be made using existing minifigs.

In fact, let’s look at the next batch of projects currently up for review for the next time:

Image courtesy of LEGO Ideas

Image courtesy of LEGO Ideas

Aside from the potential for another big modular building for LEGO City, the rest of these are either too small, far too complex & large, or just overall bad designs. Oh, also, another dinosaur that looks exactly like the one in the previous round. OK OK, the race cars are kinda neat.

I’ll let LEGO handle the official reasons why none of the projects were picked this time around (acquiring 3rd party rights, play-ability, similarities to existing or future sets already in production, etc). Watch the video of the official announcement below:

While it may be disappointing to the creators of these projects to have not been picked – I think this is a good move for LEGO. It was time to remind everyone that LEGO will decide what is best for their product line.

My only hope is this begins to make folks think more carefully about what projects they’d really like to see become an official set. Does it appeal to a wide audience? How expensive will it be? Is it playable, or displayable? Is this something that is actually really fuckin’ cool to be in LEGO, or is it something you saw in passing and thought oh hey that’s kinda neat.

And finally, how about some originality. Aside from the ExoSuit and the Birds, all the LEGO Idea sets have been LEGO-ized versions of nostalgic cultural symbols or various famous objects. I’m not disparaging them, don’t worry – I own most of them, I’m just saying – what better place to use your imagination and build something original? That’s the whole idea behind LEGO.

So don’t despair. LEGO made the right decision.

Play well.

LEGO Ghostbusters Headquarters coming in January 2016!!

My inner child is squealing with glee!

LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series: SLAVE I

So with a whole weekend’s worth of hurricane rain keeping me inside and away from yardwork I decided what better time to finally sit down and put together this monster. It took me two afternoons and about a season of M*A*S*H on Netflix. But, let’s be honest, I wasn’t totally concentrating on putting the bricks together. A dedicated builder could easily assemble this over the course of a full afternoon and evening. So here’s a quick look at the building process and the final result
IMG_2317 IMG_2320 IMG_2321 IMG_2322 IMG_2323Despite the complexity of the build, the directions were pretty easy to follow. The interior workings of the ship are simply something to marvel at. I don’t know how these guys come up with the different ways to connect pieces to make it look like the real damn thing – but they are damn good at their jobs!

There are many, many tiny pieces in the build, so be careful when you’re pouring them out.
IMG_2325I neglected to take a photo of it, but the ‘minifig’ of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite is tucked away up inside of the ship at the top of the loading ramp. It’s a small detail that you really never see but you love it because you know it’s there.IMG_2326 IMG_2327The way the stabilizers are connected to the main body is tenuous at best, which is probably why this is more for show than for play. A nice detail is they change position on their own depending on the orientation of the ship. When you lift it to its vertical traveling position, they flop down, but tuck up horizontally when the ship is in landing mode (as you can see).IMG_2328 IMG_2329The cockpit starts to take shape and the overall shape of the ship begins to become apparent.
IMG_2330 IMG_2331The nose of the ship comes together in multiple pieces that are attached via the sticks through the holes. It works well enough and provides enough solidity.IMG_2332 IMG_2333 IMG_2334Another fabulous detail is the cockpit seat itself. It turns 90 degrees to match the flight mode of the ship (as seen in the movies).It doesn’t flop around freely, which is for the best. But once again the computer panels and overall display of the cockpit experience is top notch for being made of tiny little plastic pieces.
IMG_2335The side panels can be touchy since they are so skinny, but once they are on they’re OK.IMG_2340 Pulling the missile doors out is hard because there isn’t a handle, and when you do it pulls on the whole side panel which is only attached at the front of the ship – there is no connection to the big red drive section of the ship. So use caution.IMG_2341 And finally – finished! You can see both Boba Fett in the cockpit, and another one of the included minifigs for scale. This thing is large and in charge, and it’s fabulous. Nothing but the best for the galaxy’s most badass bounty hunter!IMG_2347 IMG_2349

The stand for this ship is better than the stand for the UCS Red 5 X-Wing – at least in my opinion. I didn’t like how that one leaned back but still gave you the option of keep it straight up and down…….if you fought with it long enough. So here’s a pic of it on the stand – again with the minifigs for scale.IMG_2351 The back side of the ship is equally as impressive. The bottom section is covered up by the stand in this photo – sorry!IMG_2352Overall, this was a great build. Sometimes the larger builds can get sort of tedious but I had a good time doing this – especially spread over two afternoons. One thing that was a little annoying was having to repeat build something reversed because of the symmetry of the ship. So instead of building a new piece – its the same thing you just built – only backwards. But, it is what it is. It looks badass though. The colors are pretty accurate, and the overall look is pretty true to the movies.

My only negative comments would be a) the gun turret nose of the ship hangs low and covers the name/info plate, and b) stickers. Goddamn stickers. LEGO, get your shit together and start printing the images specially on the bricks. There is nothing more frustrating than having this gorgeous build that is completely ruined because you didn’t quite get a sticker on straight. It drives people mad for the rest of their existence! Also, the info plate is one giant sticker that is so nerve wracking trying to put on straight I had to get up and take a walk after. Seriously; stickers are terrible.

LEGO Star Wars UCS Slave I: A+
Build time: B
Build difficulty: B
Price: C+ ($199.99)

[REVIEW] – ‘BRICKSY’ ; LEGO meets Banksy street art

51J1G8qbqZLThe folks at Skyhorse Publishing have sent along another pretty great LEGO book – especially if you’re a fan of the anonymous street artist Banksy. ‘Bricksy: Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art‘ ($14.99 direct) brings you LEGOized versions of some of Banksy’s most famous works of vandalism – err, art.

The book itself is done up quite nicely with a vividly colored dust jacket wrapping around a good solid hardcover mirroring the art on the jacket (missing only the information on the inside jacket sleeves). The pages are laid out very nicely with some of photos spreading across facing pages. What I really liked about the book was the inclusion of the original Banksy artwork with each photo.

For the most part, author and photographer Jeff Friesen did a fabulous job recreating Banksy’s poignant whimsy. But, LEGO can only go so far when imitating life – and sometimes even less when imitating certain works of art. There are several photos where Friesen takes liberties in recreating the original version but usually the changes reflect his canvas – the world of LEGO.

See the original Banksy in the lower left corner.

See the original Banksy in the lower left corner. (Image courtesy of Amazon)

I’d suggest reading the short introduction from Friesen as he briefly dives into the pairing the worlds of street art and LEGO, and how they compliment each other.

Accompanying the pictures, aside from any prophetic words from Banksy himself, are some short quips reminiscent of my own type of LEGO photography – of which I owe my comic hero Gary Larson.

Page 11 Page 20 Page 23

As you can see, Friesen has done a fantastic job building complete worlds for each of Banksy’s ideas to live. Not to mention he’s made us of many of the new LEGO Collector’s Series minifigs which is just fun to see. Each shot is fully expanded to include the original art and built upon it – to possibly show might have been had Banksy used a more traditional canvas, and not the sides of buildings. But some are future imaginings or replies to Banksy’s original piece.

The book is rounded out with a short but insightful FAQ answering most of the questions you’re probably thinking of right now – and an index of all the original Banksy art photos (who took them, where they came from, etc). A nice, more colorful, way to dish out photo credits.

Overall Bricksy is a great little book that will appeal to fans who enjoy both subjects. However I’m not sure someone without an appreciation for Banksy art would get as much out of this – but that seems obvious.

Bricksy: Unauthorized, Underground Brick Street Art: [A]
Skyhorse Publishing
Available now. 

OMG LEGO WALL*E IS COMING SO SOON!!!

Many of you know WALL*E is my favorite Pixar movie – and perhaps one of my favorite movies ever. He was a staple of my 5th grade classroom – there were stickers, figures, plush, toys…I even own the Little Golden Book for WALL*E. So obviously I was ecstatic when it was selected by the LEGO Ideas board to become a real set. And now, the first looks at the model are here!

It will be available September 1st. Check him out omg he’s adorable.

From the LEGO Ideas Blog:

At long last, we’re delighted to introduce you to WALL•E.
LEGO Ideas member MacLane is an animator and director at Pixar Animation Studios, and built his original WALL•E model around the same time the character was being built digitally at Pixar in late 2005. Since then, Angus has refined his model, most recently by collaborating with LEGO Designer Steen Sig Andersen and WALL•E director Andrew Stanton to bring the official LEGO Ideas version to life.

You’ll be able to purchase your own WALL•E starting September 1, for a recommended retail price of $49.99 / EUR 49,99.

[Review] LEGO Star Wars Republic Gunship (75021)

This is the third Republic Gunship LEGO has released, but I think it’s also probably their best. There are two features missing that would have made it perfect, but I’ll get to those later. Overall, the build is very impressive. I’m glad I’m at a point where I can build the larger sets that make incredible decorative pieces. This one turned out to be a little larger than I was expecting – but I’m OK with that. Being able to have a good sized model of something you love, and have that model made of LEGO, is just really frickin’ cool.

I had a lot more fun putting this set together than the Parisian Restaurant – obviously because it was much less tedious. It was also much less of an undertaking which has its merits. All of the bags are numbered in an increasing order, with each bag building a different section of them ship. I was most fascinated with how the separate sections built on to each other and snapped together to form a mostly solid and coherent shape. I know it’s not new, but I love the numbered bags because it allows you to only have the pieces on the table you need at that moment, instead of dumping out 1,000 pieces and wading through them to find what you need.
IMG_0562There are a total of 9 individual bags, mostly about the same medium size, and the instruction booklets are easy to follow and let you know what bags you need to be working with.

IMG_0563The set comes with 5 minifigs (which I didn’t take photos of), and a few are pretty unique. I didn’t do any real research (because honestly I really don’t care) but from what I’ve read the Padme included is rare. It’s the terrible cropped shirt with claw slashes from the pit on Geonosis in Episode II (which let’s just put out there is one of the stupidest parts of any movie ever – oh hell that whole movie is just painful). The Obi-Wan figure is sporting some crazy hair, and Anakin is probably whining somewhere. Plus there are two clone troopers. Oh, and there are also two droids I threw in the trash because they are without a doubt LEGO’s weakest “minifig” to date, and I already have some.
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IMG_0566Overall, I think the set is pretty sturdy, save for the wings. Don’t get me wrong they are on there pretty good but they’re definitely the weak point. The rest of the skeleton of the ship is pretty solid. As you go through the bags, more and more gets added onto the top building out the structure making it more stable. The cockpit doesn’t have many secure points, but the way it lays makes it alright I think. The sliding doors are pretty awesome, and easy to work back and forth. However this is one the negatives I mentioned earlier – the doors do not close all the way like they do in the movie/Clone Wars TV series – they only close about half way (as you’ll see the pics to follow).

My other gripe is the ball turrets in the wings should be a full sphere, while these are only half. I’m sure it has something to do with how to fasten the smooth sided pieces into the wing, but hey, those LEGO folks are geniuses or something, aren’t they? Figure it out!

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So that’s about it. There isn’t much else to say about the set. It took about 3 hours to assemble – again, while I was watching TV, so a less distracted person could easily do it in 2 I bet. It looks fantastic and is a pretty spitting image of the gunships in the movie and the show. It’s definitely playable, but as I said it also makes a great decorative piece of memorabilia on the shelf. Currently, mine is sitting on top of the bookshelf in my office. Looks great.

The set is kind of old and I think it’s probably nearing the end of its life cycle so I’d hop on it soon if you can. Here’s the rest of the pics of the completed product.

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Republic Gunship:
Overall Look: 5/5
Detail: 3/5
Clarity of instructions: 5/5
Fun to build: 5/5
Price: 3/5
Time required: 5/5