When we announced details of LEGO’s enormous new 76052 Classic Batcave set last month it almost melted our Facebook page. There hasn’t been this kind of buzz about a new set since the release of the equally enormous 76042 SHIELD Helicarrier last year. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I donned my cape, hopped in the Bro-mobile, rappelled up the outside of a mall, and KAPOW-ed my way through the local LEGO store to secure a copy of this decidedly spendy $270 set.
At 2526 pieces this is a big set, so it comes in a big box that makes liberal use of orange and purple graphics to offset the set’s rather drab color scheme. The front of the box you’ve all seen by now, but interestingly the back of the box features the back of the set! This is significant as one of the set’s play features (a scalable exterior of Wayne Manor) is hidden on that side.
As is typical for larger sets, the pieces are separated into twenty or so numbered bags, a glue-bound 300 page instruction manual, and the mother of all sticker sheets:
It took me 5½ hours to build this set (watch the time lapse video). That’s a lot less than the 8 hours I spent building the Helicarrier. Although by comparison, building the Batcave was a relatively more tedious and frustrating experience. This is not the easiest of builds: The 14+ age recommendation definitely applies, and there are plenty of traps for the inexperienced builder – which I suspect will represent a large proportion of this set’s target audience. On several occasions the exact position to connect a part was hard to determine as it was shown facing away and obscured by the rest of the model. And with the wide variety of colors employed in this set, LEGO’s ongoing difficulty in representing them unambiguously on paper frequently made locating the correct parts a chore.
Wayne Manor was particularly tricky as it’s tall and hollow, and unless you know when you support the structure from behind, pressing on some of the final parts could easily result in minor cave-ins. The supporting pylons are held together with L-brackets rather than Technic beams so the whole thing feels a little wobbly. The numbering of the bags ensures you only have to dig through the parts for the section that you’re actually working on. But for some reason the larger pieces (such as 16×16 and 2×16 plates) are thrown into a separate collection of un-numbered bags, which seems to defeat the point of the numbering system. The vehicles by comparison made for an easier and more enjoyable build.
There are not many completely new parts in this set, but several existing parts make an appearance in new colors. I was particularly excited to see 1×1 tiles in dark orange. The new 1×4 bricks with wallpaper pattern and sand green guard rails seem to be generating a lot of excitement amongst die-hard builders. And the set comes with a decent handful of spare parts, which for some reason includes an entire spare Batpole. I guess they’re expecting a lot of wear-n-tear with that part!
As far as decorations go, this set contains a mix of both printed bricks and stickering, although I’ve given up trying to understand how LEGO decides when to go one way or the other. Hard-core LEGO fans hate stickers with a vengeance, so the large sheet of them included here is bound to raise some eyebrows. Not surprisingly, the two big 8×16 stickers that make up the helipad were an absolute pain to attach. Despite my best efforts, I still failed to get them perfectly lined up or avoid trapping some air bubbles in there. In contrast, the SHIELD Helicarrier did employ printing for some of it’s 8×16 decorations. Of the few newer printed parts in this set, my favorite were the silver jar lids.
The bulk of the set comprises three buildings, which clip together at a slight angle and can be arranged in a variety of ways. The central atomic pile is pretty authentic and the only one that actually reminds me of anything from the Batcave in the original TV show! The one flaw in this section is that the various consoles and machines along the sides butt right up against the central feature, making it impossible to stand mini-figs in front of them.
A second section combines the Batcopter helipad (was that part of the Batcave, I don’t think so) and some kind of ramp way that is either meant to be the Batcave entrance or a place to house the Batmobile. Unfortunately the Batmobile refuses to sit in there and just keeps rolling off the ramps. I was rather confused by this section. I’d have much preferred to see a recreation of the Batcave’s concealed entrance and collapsing road barrier.
The third section, which towers awkwardly over the other two, represents Wayne Manor and focuses on recreating the iconic Batpole scene. Bruce Wayne’s study is delightfully furnished, complete with activation switch hidden inside Shakespeare’s bust and a bookcase that pulls back to reveal the aforementioned (and helpfully labelled) Batpoles. But as you can see from the shot below, the scaling of the study is a little off compared to the heights of the mini-figs. Bruce can barely reach the button!
The costume transformation gimmick works pretty much as advertised in LEGO’s own demo video, and is not too tricky to set up or operate (unless you have large hands) and seems to work every time. Simply flip down the two platforms and the caped crusaders will spiral down into the Batcave ready for action! Sadly the tops of the poles (behind the bookshelf) are just a façade, so there’s nowhere to actually hide your Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson figs while all this is happening, ah well.
The rear of this section represents an exterior wall that Batman and Robin can scale using their climbing ropes and grappling hooks. The exterior is as nicely rendered as Bruce’s study, although again this feature feels like a gimmick and sort of misses the point: In the original show, the wall-scaling scene occurred pretty frequently, was obviously a side-ways shot with the actors pretending to be climbing, and each week a different guest star would appear from a window to interrupt our heroes’ ascent with a some witty banter. Unfortunately it’s not possible to recreate any of that here.
The one common feature to all three building sections is extensive use of dark tan slopes and BURPS (“big ugly rock pieces”) to recreate the cheesy cave formations of the TV show’s Batcave. The overall effect is, well, a bit of a mess, especially with all the studs presented by the tallest of the three.
This set offers a really good selection of figs that perfectly capture the essence of the characters from the 60’s TV show. All of them except the Penguin feature reversible heads with alternative facial expressions, and Batman and Robin sport textured capes. All the colors and printed details on these figs are spot-on, right down to the Joker’s painted-over moustache (the original actor refused to shave it off for the part). Catwoman’s hair piece appears to be new, but is a little on the snug side; raise her arms or turn her head, and it won’t stay on.
As great as the mini-figs in this set are, I do have a new nit-picks… Firstly, the Penguin’s umbrella makes him front-heavy unless you position it behind his head, and you can’t use his legs to counteract this as they are the shorter non-anglable variety. Secondly, Batman’s eyes do not show through the eyeholes in his mask. They’re there, you just can’t see them. Instead, the face seems to sport a blue sweat band that lines up with the eyeholes. I can see how the construction of the mask forces the face to be designed this way, but it just seems odd that we can’t see Batman’s eyes.
But my biggest complaint is this: WHERE IS BATGIRL??!! For those of us that grew up watching this show, Yvonne Craig’s portrayal of Barbara Gordon / Batgirl was one of the most memorable features of the show (rrrrrrrrrrawr!). Eight-year-old me would be devastated to learn of this omission!
Without a doubt, the star of this set is the Batmobile. LEGO totally nailed the Lincoln Futura aesthetic with its oversized fins and canopies, the red accent stripes, and a plethora of small details such as the exhaust pipes, Batphone, and emergency Bat-Turn Lever. It also features a trunk and uses 1×1 tiles printed with the Bat logo as hub caps. My only complaint is the hood: The orange head lamps are there, but the hood sports a pair of fire-able missiles and a red grill that were not present on the original Batmobile. I feel the designers just added these to balance out the level of visual detail between the front and back of the vehicle. Otherwise, this is an excellent tribute to the television Batmobile, and while this vehicle alone does not justify the price of this set, I think if LEGO had decided to offer it as a standalone set, they could have sold truck loads.
The Batcopter also emulates the television version pretty well, even though it was only featured in the movie (being too expensive for a TV show’s budget). The canopy features a printed rather than stickered Bat logo – so good luck using that part in your own models once you’ve dismantled this set. The Batcycle is rather unremarkable, apparently based on the simpler Harley version that only appeared in one episode, rather than the more ornate Yamaha version with the crazy farings and signage that appeared more regularly in the show.
In the TV show, the floor of the Batcave was crowded with all manner of scientific and computer equipment, and this set recreates a pleasing number of these in great detail:
Given the number of movie and other adaptations of Batman that have been given the LEGO treatment over the years, it’s great to finally see the classic TV series available in brick form. It’s interesting that LEGO chose to put all their eggs in one Bat Basket by issuing one large set rather than a collection of individual sets. As to whether there are more sets in the offing, we can only speculate. But with this set I wonder if LEGO decided that their best money play would be to appeal to the nostalgia of the 40-something dad with disposal cash who wanders into the LEGO store behind his kids. The set contains a variety of play features, but I seriously doubt many kids will be playing with this set, or putting it on their birthday lists. This is squarely aimed at the adult market.
In terms of raw brick count, mini-fig selection, and that stellar Batmobile, this set represents reasonable value for money. But let’s face it, it’s gonna be a display model. And sadly I feel like it makes for a pretty ugly display model. It’s a mish-mash of memorable elements from the show crammed together with a bunch of chaotic rockwork. But as a nostalgic conversation piece I’m sure it will find it’s audience amongst the generation that has fond memories of this show.
BUT WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO BATGIRL??!!