My favorite Star Wars movie is Episode I: The Phantom Menace. There, I said it. Now you know my terrible secret. I love Qui-Gon Jinn, I love Battle Droids, I love Jar Jar, I love the Podracing sequence, and I especially love kid Anakin Skywalker’s acting (“Are you an angel?”). That said, it’s been a barren couple of years for Episode I collectors, with virtually no new product in the better part of a decade. But with the impending arrival of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D in February 2012, the drought is over and the floodgates have opened! The first new merchandise to arrive is in the form of 3 LEGO sets this summer (Naboo Fighter, Podracers, and Sith Infiltrator). I’ll be reviewing the largest set, Anakin and Sebulba’s Podracers tonight. Is this set so wizard, or merely mediocre?
The mini-figure selection for this set is simply outstanding. We get a first-evertoy rendition of the young Rodian Wald here, who has the “kid” short person legs and looks fantastic. It doesn’t happen often, but I love it when LEGO manages to beat Hasbro to the punch with a never-before-done character! In addition, we get he first kid Anakin figure in close to a decade (with a reversible goggled head and removable helmet), Sebulba (on a totally new mini-figure mold!), young Obi-Wan Kenobi (with hood, cape, and lightsaber), and a phenomenal Watto (whose torso, head, and wings are a plastic piece that fit over a standard LEGO body). These figures blow away all past releases of the same characters, and the all-new Wald and Watto are just phenomenal.
For the price this set costs, I feel like it’s a pretty good value. At 810 pieces for $90, this set works out to about 11 cents per LEGO block. The sweet spot for me is 10 cents per LEGO, but that virtually never happens with LEGO Star Wars sets. My jaw almost fell off when I saw the ridiculous $50 Target is charging for their exclusive 310-piece Naboo Fighter (16 cents per block!), so this is a much better and more feasible value.
Each Podracer has a base that can be built and used to simulate the vehicles “floating”. It’s a great detail that is highly appreciated . You can even touch the Podracers while on their bases to make them wobble around as if they’re flying! It’s a fun action feature, and an essential detail for properly displaying them.
The Podracers are absolutely HUGE. Ordinarily I’m all about getting more bang for your buck, but the Podracers are so out-of-scale with virtually any other Star Wars LEGO set that it’s crazy. I understand that by necessity scale has to be a very loose thing in the LEGO Star Wars universe, but these Podracers seem so out-of-place and ridiculous near any of the other sets that I just can’t get past it.
Kid Anakin doesn’t come with any hair. Ordinarily that would just be a minor nitpick, but it’s a notable problem here because a) Anakin looks dopey with his helmet off and no hair and b) with his helmet off and no hair, you can see his alternate face on the back of his head. Considering that Anakin is the only figure with a reversible head in this set, it’s more than a little bizarre and cheap that LEGO couldn’t be bothered to include some hair for him to cover his reversible head. Also, the “kid” legs Anakin has make him the proper height, but they don’t bend so Anakin cannot sit and pilot his Podracer, which is just awkward.
I love bright orange–in fact, it’s my favorite color. But the bright neon orange color chosen primarily for Sebulba’s Podracer is too bright. It’s not film-accurate and it ends up making this look like a cheap toy instead of the highly-expensive toy that it is.
By nature, the Podracers are a tricky vehicle to make a LEGO representation of. The clear pieces are essential for stability purposes, but they’re also extremely obvious. I don’t have an easy solution to this problem, but they shatter the illusion of the podracer’s appearance and I can’t get myself to see past it. I don’t want to see them, but I just do. This may be the best that LEGO could have done for creating (somewhat) affordable representations of these vehicles, but the final product has a feeling of “not quite right” that I haven’t gotten with any other LEGO Star Wars vehicle.
Overall: I was looking forward to this set more than any LEGO set I can remember in recent history. Given the great cents-per-block value and excellent mini-figure selection, you’d expect that I would be absolutely blown away by the final product. That said, I like this set, but I just do not love it. The Podracers look too out-of-place on display near any other LEGO Star Wars vehicles due to their enormous size, and the clear pieces and bright neon orange used for Sebulba’s Podracer are jarring and make the set look too “cheap” for my tastes. I would give this set an unquestionable “A+” for the mini-figure selection, but only a “C” for the actual vehicles. I recommend this set for having one of the best mini-figure selections in recent history and for being the first new Podracer toys in close to a decade, but I have reservations about the quality of the actual Podracers themselves.
“Where Can I Buy It?!”
This set should be available at both the online LEGO Shop and your local store, but you’ll rarely see it on sale. The only retailer I know consistently always has their LEGO sets for below retail price and with FREE Shipping is Amazon.com. You can check this LEGO set out on Amazon for their current discount price by clicking right here.