I’m probably in the minority of nerds who prefers the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit to the current overblown Peter Jackson spectacular, but I won’t let that stop me from posting great models based off the 7-part film series. This particular scene comes to us from Paul (Disco86), who uses some familiar but effective techniques to paint an immersive scene from the trailer of the latest installment of “The Hobbit“. The diorama is entitled “It is our fight” and it appeals to me in large part because there is nothing but Lego in the scene, no glaring white background, kitchen table or Photoshop weirdness, just 100% mainline ABS goodness. There is also a nice technique I haven’t seen before involving flower-petals and green string. I’m guessing that’s Legolas on the right, probably saying something incredibly clever like ““There is a fell voice on the air” or “A shadow and a threat has been growing in my mind”. Oh Legolas, won’t you ever lighten up?
The summer wave of Lord of the Rings sets are skewed towards the high end of the price-range, with 79007 The Battle at the Black Gate in the middle at $60 USD. It does have a nice price-to-parts ratio, with 656 pieces. Beyond the fact that it’s a Lord of the Rings set, which I admittedly love, I wasn’t too thrilled about this set. After all, LEGO’s Battle at the Black Gate consists of, well, a black gate. And not much of a battle.
The gate has been scaled down nicely enough, though compared to the monstrously large gate seen on the screen in The Return of the King, LEGO’s seems laughably small. Still, that’s forgivable, since I doubt many people would be interested in purchasing a true-to-scale version of what amounts to a big wall (or be able to afford it). The gate is paired with a small tower, and two stone outcroppings which take the place of the mountain shoulders the gate is nestled between.
Inside the box are 4 numbered bags, a bag containing the eagle, and a loose dark bluish grey 6×24 plate. The 2 instruction manuals were pretty crumpled, as usual. For a very brief period LEGO a year or two ago packaged instruction manuals in a bag with a stiff piece of cardboard, and it helped immensely. I don’t know why they decided not to roll that out permanently, as it can be very frustrating trying to follow instructions when the pages keep curling up. For the first time in a long while in a set of this size, though, I discovered that there is no sticker sheet. Since I’m not a fan of stickers, I was happy to see that. In fact, the only decorated pieces in this set are the minifigures and animals, which is also a bit of a rarity these days. All 3 of the named minifigs wear capes, and all 3 capes were packaged together. This decision is of no consequence to me, but it is the first time I recall seeing it. As with most recent, large sets, there’s also a brick separator included, which is a nice trend.
The 4 bags break down into two each for the tower and the gate. The tower has a small postern door in the base which raises vertically with a lever, like an old-fashioned garage door. Both the tower and the gate have a lot of texturing on their surfaces which is accomplished by using mostly small pieces. It reminded me a lot of the building style of many of the adult-fan oriented sets like the modular city buildings, except that here everything is black. The abundance of various 1×1 elements explains the high part count. It’s always nice to get more Studs-Not-On-Top pieces, and this set has plenty. In fact, the tower uses 1×1 Technic bricks in many places where a regular 1×1 brick would have sufficed. The tower is topped with a small single-piece catapult, the medieval equivalent of a flick-fire missile.
The gate is built on a large, almost completely tiled base. It’s two large gate pieces which swing outward; more of a moving castle wall than anything else. They are secured in the back with large latch on a knob. Beyond being covered in the castle-y version of greebles, there’s not a lot to this. The tower, gate, and rock pieces each clip to each other via Technic pins, so you can change the layout, but only slightly. The rock pieces have to go on the ends, so basically the tower can just be on the left or the right.
The Battle at the Black Gate includes 5 minifigs, 1 horse, and 1 eagle. There are two orcs, which are slightly different from one another. The creepy-as-can-be Mouth of Sauron is a natural choice for this set. His helmet is rubbery and packaged in a small bag. No doubt the head with no eyes and a freakishly large mouth will do service in many fans’ horror dioramas.
Representing the forces of good are Aragorn in regal garb and Gandalf the White. Both of these versions are exclusive to this set, and I’d guess that fact will contribute heavily to the sales of this set. The Mouth of Sauron’s mount is a black horse. There is armor printed on the horse’s head, which between that and the beady red eyes will reduce its usefulness. Finally, there’s the giant eagle. The eagle comes in both this set and the $200 Tower of Orthanc, so many people simply wanting an eagle will do best to opt for this set at less than 1/3 the price. The eagle is 3 pieces: two wings and a body. Each of the individual elements are completely rigid and non-posable, though the wings connect to the body via LEGO’s standard clip system allowing them to be positioned. The single-piece body doesn’t do much for me, but I can’t wait to try out the giant wings in various MOCs.
In the end, this is a rather boring set. Despite the high piece count, the final model feels small for the price. The problem here is not one of LEGO’s making; they did an admirable job considering the source material. But when your source is a giant gate, there’s only so much you can do. The build-quality is great; it’s just a boring subject. And it’s hard to have a finale-worthy battle with only 5 minifigs, but I doubt LEGO could have feasibly pushed the price point any higher to accommodate more figs, and making the gate any smaller would have been disastrous. I doubt many people will be interested in buying this set because of the gate itself, so the minifigs are the real selling point here, and they are indeed very nice. If you’re interested in getting your hands on any of the rare or exclusive minifigs in this set, then it’s a must-have. Beyond that, I’d give this set a pass, unless you’re running low on your stock of small black pieces.
BrickCon 2013 is less than a month away and registration will be closing in two weeks! If you are planning on attending the longest-running LEGO fan convention in North America, you had better get registered. There will be prizes, games, seminars, round-table talks, food, new friends and, of course, tons and tons of cool LEGO creations to drool over. This will be my eighth BrickCon and every one has been fun and unique. You definitely don’t want to miss the party! Iain Heath posted this video gem to remind all of us how precious registration really is…
If you plan to attend the whole convention, register through the BrickCon Builder’s site.
If you plan to only view the displays during the public hours, buy tickets in advance at the Public BrickCon sit.
Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another bare-knuckle edition of Friday Night Fights! Tonight’s bout is a rematch of the most recent Iron Builder battle; a chance for redemption or utter humiliation with YOU the public as the ultimate judge instead of a panel of highly acclaimed turbo-nerds. Let’s go to the tale of the tape:
As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor by way of comment. On the last record breaking edition of Friday Night Fights, the battle of Hipster vs. Manga-Nerd, Mike Dung emerged the battered victor by a narrow margin of 10-8. Tune in next week for another action packed edition of Friday Night Fights!
Another day, another killer LOTR diorama, this time the perpetrator is -infomaniac- and the subject matter is the Golden Hall of Meduseld from Rohan’s capital city Edoras. This diorama would make a great companion piece to The Council of Elrond featured by Sister Caylin earlier this week. Enjoy tonight’s single-serving of Tolkienian boilerplate with details so accurate you can almost smell the horse manure….wait, that didn’t come out right. Any hint of manure should be attributed to this foul write-up and not the delightful model. My love of the halfling leave has clearly slowed my mind…
I could talk about the literary impact of the scene depicted from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I could write about the technical pieces about the sculpting, the curvature and natural look of the build, and excellent manner Paul (Disco86) has captured just a small portion of Rivendell.
But really, just look at it:
I highly recommend looking around his photostream; for more Lord of the Rings themed builds, you can check out this gallery.
Resident mad genius and meme chaser Iain Heath has just put out a crazy video explaining how to dye your bricks. All you purists out there can put your pitchforks down and simply skip over this one, but for everyone else, it’s some pretty cool stuff whether you’re into LEGO mutilation or not. In this video Iain explains how he achieved the flesh tones used in his large-scale Gollum character. And for those of you who haven’t seen it, Iain’s previous video describing his design process for the accompanying Bilbo is also well worth a watch.
Russell Crowe was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon promoting Man of Steel a couple nights ago, and Jimmy brought out some of the recent Jor-El toys depicting Russell Crowe in the movie role. Russell Crowe said that his son’s favorite toy in the whole world is the LEGO minifig, and he’s very happy to have a minifig version of his dad now.
Of course, the Jor-El minifig doesn’t actually come in any sets, but you can get it for free. The LEGO Shop’s June promotion is a free Jor-El minifig for orders over $75 or £50. LEGO is also introducing free shipping “every day” on all orders over $75/£50.
But first, all of the summer 2013 LEGO Lord of the Rings sets are out on both the LEGO Shop website and Amazon.com (links below go to Amazon, where buying anything goes to support TBB; scroll to the bottom of the post if you want to get them from the LEGO Shop, with the Jor-El minifig).
79006 The Council of Elrond includes Elrond, Arwen, Frodo, and Gimli, with 243 pieces for $30.
79007 Battle at the Black Gate includes Aragorn, Gandalf the White (previously only available as Gandalf the Grey), the Mouth of Sauron, two orcs, an eagle, and 656 pieces for $60.
The big set from this batch of new LEGO Lord of the Rings sets is LEGO LOTR 79008 Pirate Ship Ambush with Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, the King of the Dead, two Dead Men of Dunharrow, a Corsair pirate, and two orcs. For $100, you get 756 pieces.
Finally, LEGO LOTR 79005 The Wizard Battle includes Gandalf the Grey and Saruman for $13 — a nice little set for two such major characters.
UPDATE: Presumably to make room for all the new Lord of the Rings sets (in their enormous warehouses, ha!), Amazon.com has discounted a number of sets from The Hobbit as well:
- 20% off 79003 An Unexpected Gathering (My review: Best. LEGO set. OF ALL TIIIMMMEEE!!!)
- 24% off 79010 The Goblin King Battle (Josh’s review)
- 22% off 9473 The Mines of Moria
- 13% off 9474 The Battle of Helm’s Deep
(Watch to make sure you’re not getting ripped off when the prices change, or when the sales start going to third party sellers on the same page, for a much higher price.)
With apologies for the visual repetition and a reminder that clicking through from TBB goes to support the site, here are the Jor-El links:
This sculpture of the Fell Beast by captainsmog captured the ferocity of this menacing creature from The Lord of the Rings. Having the creature pose on the sharp rock formation gave the model a much more dynamic appearance.
Here’s Jonas’ (Legopard) take on Weathertop. I always enjoy seeing a fan’s version of a movie/book location that LEGO has already made into a set. For obvious reasons, it’s unfair to expect LEGO to produce a decently priced set that can match the complexity of what fans build, but nevertheless, it would have been fantastic if the official set had been anywhere near as cool as this one.
EDIT (AB): Yes, yes, we blogged this last week, too — but I like Chris’ contrast with the official set, so enjoy this one twice, at no extra cost to you!