If you watched Star Wars beginning with Episode IV: A New Hope as many of us born in the decades before the Prequel Trilogy did, the first planet in a “Galaxy Far, Far Away” you ever saw on screen was Tatooine. But the enormous universe that Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi lived in truly came alive only when they first stepped into the cantina in the Mos Eisley Spaceport — “This place can be a little rough,” Old Ben warned Luke. LEGO’s latest set in its Master Builder Series takes us deep into that “wretched hive of scum and villainy” with 75290 Mos Eisley Cantina. It’s rare that I acknowledge up front in a review how excited I was personally about a forthcoming LEGO set. But I am, because my favorite planet in the Star Wars universe is still Tatooine, and my favorite place on the planet is Chalmun’s Cantina. Does it live up to my nearly life-long expectations? How does it compare to previous incarnations of this iconic watering hole?
75290 Mos Eisley Cantina is built from 3,187 LEGO pieces, and the product description states that it includes 21 minifigures “plus” R2-D2 the droid (a point we’ll return to later in this review). The set retails from the LEGO Shop for US $349.99 | CAN $449.99 | UK £319.99 and is available to LEGO VIP Program members beginning on September 16, with general availability on October 1st.
Let’s strap a blaster to our hip, leave the droids to park the landspeeder, and step inside…
The box & packaging
When LEGO announced its new product strategy for adult LEGO hobbyists a few months ago, it wasn’t clear how this would affect the branding for longstanding sub-themes like Ultimate Collector Series and the relatively new Master Builder Series launched with 75222 Betrayal at Cloud City exactly two years ago. The outcome seems to be that packaging design is aligned to the largely black backgrounds focusing on the model while retaining the Master Builder Series branding for location-based, minifig-focused, playset-style LEGO Star Wars sets.
Inside the main box, an inner box includes the first nine groups of bags for the build, consistent with the logical packaging we noticed for the first time in 71374 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) (excluding earlier LEGO Technic sets).
There are 18 groups of bags for a total of 27 bags. The instruction booklet ships inside a wrapper with the sticker sheet, while the loose dewback body and an unnumbered bag for larger pieces are all included in the inner box.
Unlike the very similar sticker sheet in our copy of 75205 Mos Eisley Cantina back in 2018 (which was folded and wrinkled in the smaller set), the instruction booklet wrapper keeps these stickers nice and smooth. It’s clear that many of the stickers on the sheet are for the spherical Ubrikkian 9000 Z001 landspeeder.
In contrast to the heavily front-loaded instruction booklets for previous UCS and MBS sets, brief information about the LEGO Star Wars design team is followed quickly by the instructions themselves, with full-page layouts introducing vehicles and characters interspersed throughout the booklet instead.
Beyond the minifigures, there’s not much in the way of new parts in the set. Obviously you’ll get a huge amount of tan and dark tan, along with some white for the two speeders, but it’s pretty much all stuff that’s already available. Similarly, other than the minifigures and dewback, there are no new prints, with one notable exception. There’s a cool new Imperial crate, which is the 2x2x1 box brick in light grey printed on all 4 sides with the Imperial insignia and Aurabesh lettering that spells out CARGO.
LEGO Star Wars sets based on locations are not always known for their innovative building techniques, leaving the complex inner Technic frames, inverted sub-assemblies, and strange new connections for starfighters and other vehicles. Instead, playset-oriented LEGO sets like those in the Master Builder Series emphasize background details, functional play features, ancillary vehicles, and a host of minifigs. The latest Mos Eisley Cantina is no exception, following the pattern established by sets like the UCS Death Star (released in 2016 prior to the new MBS branding) and Cloud City.
Nevertheless, the first two bags provide the parts for the V-35 Courier landspeeder, kicking off the set’s build process in high style, full of sideways connections.
One of the most interesting connections in the whole set occurs on the repulserlift tail fan assembly, which attaches to the body with 1×2 rounded plates on “nipple” pieces.
The tail fans are connected to each other with more 1×2 rounded plates and pneumatic T connectors, and all of them are attached to inverted struts.
Shifting to the cantina structure next, the remainder of the build is largely studs up, with interest coming from plenty of detail and the minifigures interspersed throughout the bags. Unlike the UCS Death Star, I never felt bored, even though I can’t recall any particularly exceptional building techniques or unusual parts usages.
In addition to the central cantina space, connected by hinges, there are several “outboard” sections that attach to the cantina with Technic pins and axles.
The overall build is highly modular, with removable roof sections in addition to the external sections.
Even though we’ve breezed through the build section because there’s not much to discuss in a review like this, I’ll emphasize again that it never felt repetitive, punctuated as it was with tons of details, a second vehicle, and all the minifigs.
The finished vehicles & creature
Like Betrayal at Cloud City, Mos Eisley Cantina includes two vehicles relevant to the location being depicted in the set. Rather than including yet another copy of Luke’s X-34 landspeeder (which appeared in the 2014 Cantina set and is available as 75271 Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder right now anyway), this set includes two other landspeeders — the angular V-35 Courier and pod-shaped Ubrikkian 9000 Z001.
The SoroSuub V-35 Courier appears twice in A New Hope — first in a black color scheme in the background as C-3PO bemoans R2-D2’s escape from the Lars homestead, and then in Mos Eisley sporting a white and yellow color scheme. Neither version has ever been produced as part of an official LEGO set. We already took a pretty close look at the great building techniques in the V-35, which features a stand-up driver’s position with an enclosed passenger compartment. The use of curved slopes, sideways building techniques, and inverted connections were all well worth the wait after more than 20 years of LEGO Star Wars.
The Ubrikkian 9000 Z001 appears parked right outside the entrance to the Mos Eisley Cantina, and is often associated with Greedo in Star Wars “Legends” lore (the original Expanded Universe). In our review of the small 2018 cantina, as much as we loved the addition of the pod-shaped speeder to the official LEGO Star Wars lineup, we criticized the stud-shooter on top and the clear radar dishes for the windows on the side. Although the basic structure and stickered decoration are identical between the 2018 and 2020 versions, it’s like the LEGO Star Wars design team read our review, since both of these issues have been corrected in this latest incarnation.
Gravity-defying hovercraft are not the only modes of transport on Tatooine, as Sandtroopers astride local dewbacks prove. This set includes a dewback nearly identical to the dewback included in the 2014 cantina set, though LEGO’s description notes it as “all-new.”
As far as we can tell, the dewback mold is 100% identical, and the printing is so nearly identical as to be effectively indistinguishable — yes, there is different printing around the eyes and nostrils, and the mottled pattern is subtly different. But even the saddle is identical. Hardly “all-new,” but given the rarity of this popular creature in LEGO Star Wars sets, a re-released dewback in basically the same style as the excellent 2014 version is just as welcome as an “all-new” dewback — in fact, I would personally prefer essentially identical dewbacks to vastly different ones. The set includes extra parts to replace the saddle on the dewback’s back with its, well, back.
The finished buildings & overall impressions
This is the fourth LEGO Star Wars version of the iconic cantina from Star Wars: A New Hope, released between 2004 to as recently as 2018 and ranging in part count from less than 200 pieces (2004) to over 600 pieces with 10 minifigs (2014). Obviously, it goes without saying that this 3,000-piece MBS set is far and away the largest and most detailed LEGO incarnation of the bar.
Let’s begin our tour of the cantina from the exterior, through the front door. The instruction booklet acknowledges that doors on the real movie set open side to side, but to save space the designers have made the doors slide up and down. They justify this perfectly logical decision further by arguing that this enables you to reenact “quick escapes.” It’s an odd addition to the text, and not the last time we’ll read rationalizations from the design team.
To the left of the front door, a dewback drinks water, although it’s easy to miss in the movie because of the CGI dewback added in the foreground to the 1997 Special Edition. This is one of the “outboard” sections that attach to the main cantina with Technic connections. The dewback fits comfortably in the space, with trans-blue water for the dewback to enjoy in the double-sun heat.
The whole cantina opens on hinges to reveal the central bar area and seating areas on either side. The closed cantina is incredibly secure, and easy to move around without worrying about it falling apart.
The bar is particularly detailed, with pearl silver and gold pieces representing the copper still apparatus that hangs over the bar. Observant Star Wars fans have noticed that the distillery incorporates the same prop used for IG-88’s head in The Empire Strikes Back. StarWars.com shares that the prop in the still was originally the combustion assembly from a Rolls-Royce Derwent jet engine. That same part was later recycled into IG-88’s head. Given IG-88’s inclusion as an Easter egg in the Cloud City set (he does indeed appear hunched over in the background of the Ugnaught scene), it’s a bit disappointing that IG-88’s LEGO head couldn’t be incorporated into the still.
The entryway is raised, leading down to the floor of the cantina. The visual symbolism of stepping down into the bar was recreated in subsequent Star Wars movies like The Force Awakens, with Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana. This is a major difference from smaller LEGO versions of the Mos Eisley Cantina, and a subtle but important detail.
A low dais serves as the stage for Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, the five-member Bith band who provides live music for the cantina. Both the 2014 version and this edition of the cantina include only three Bith musicians. If you have the 2014 version, you now own six Bith musicians, and can finally get the full band back together for a jam session (with a Bith roadie working behind the scenes).
Next to the Modal Nodes, Han sits down for a friendly chat with his pal Greedo. Here again the LEGO Star Wars design team editorializes, with a bit of fan-service commentary about who shot first.
The debate does continue to rage 23 years after George Lucas fundamentally altered Han Solo’s character growth arc, but you can decide for yourself with the levers on the outside of the building that allow you to flip either of the characters. Of course, this doesn’t actually make any sense, because Greedo misses regardless as Han Solo sits placidly in his seat.
Thus concludes our tour of the Mos Eisley Cantina as it appears in the movie. But there’s still a lot more LEGO past this point.
The instruction booklet notes that the rear area of the cantina is never depicted in any movie, concept art, or reference material. As a result, the team designed a back storage room with a rear exit based on the style of the rest of the building. That’s perfectly reasonable, but sounds vaguely apologetic — as though they’re proactively deflecting “Thaaaaat’s not accurate!” nerd rage.
The rear exterior of the cantina also never appears in the movie, of course. Like the front entrance, the back door also opens vertically.
And like the dewback pen on the front of the cantina, another “outboard” section attaches to the rear, full of realistic-looking piles of junk.
A fantastic, highly detailed moisture vaporator adds some height by attaching to the rear of the building, mirroring the smaller vaporator that appears in front. But what are those buildings extending off to the left in this photo?
In addition to speculative interior and rear areas of the cantina itself — arguably necessary even from a purely structural standpoint — the set also includes two additional buildings that can be attached loosely to the main cantina, but that are entirely speculative.
This first building appears to be some sort of residence, with domestic tools and cooking utensils. The front (above) includes a fun little brick-built engine sitting in a crate, and the roof features a rather excellent cooling unit (we presume).
A second building appears to be a Jawa junk shop — perhaps the storefront for the resident of the other building.
This building opens up on hinges rather than having an exposed rear. However, much of the back side of this smaller building is occupied by another sliding door, adding a rather substantial part count for a door to a very small building indeed.
Both of these buildings fit perfectly into the Middle Eastern aesthetic of the mud-walled, dome-roofed buildings seen across Tatooine. All of the interior details also make complete sense. However, the text in the instruction booklet sounds like the design team is making more excuses for these speculative additions by encouraging builders to incorporate them into their own scenes of the Mos Eisley cityscape. And given that you finish building the cantina itself and then spend another chunk of pages, time, and pieces building two buildings that never appear on screen, the latter quarter or so of the build process feels like a bit of a let-down and time-waster. Again, they’re aesthetically and thematically perfect. But were they entirely necessary? We’ll return to this question in the conclusion to our review.
Despite all this extra stuff, the cantina itself is truly excellent, enabling you to recreate your favorite moments from the movie scene.
Over 40 unique characters appear in the cantina scene in A New Hope, spawning a global industry of action figures and other toys; official comic books, trading cards, and novels (like Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina back in 1995); and plenty of speculation and fan fiction. Each of the smaller previous versions of LEGO cantina sets have focused on the “core” group of heroes and villains — Luke, Old Ben, Han, Chewie, Greedo, and sometimes supporting characters like Wuher the bartender, Bith musicians, or Sandtroopers. This means all the other fascinating background characters we encounter in the cantina have never been produced in minifig form. LEGO’s product description states that 7 of the 21 characters depicted in the set are brand new to LEGO — Ponda Baba, Dr. Evazan, Garindan, Kardue’Sai’Malloc (aka Labria), one of the two Suarin aliens, Momaw Nadon, and Kabe.
The ruthless Dr. Evazan (who has the death sentence on twelve systems) and Aqualish companion Ponda Baba have been Star Wars fan favorites since day 1, and have even made cameos in recent movies like Rogue One. They’re long overdue as LEGO minifigs, and are arguably the stars of the assortment. Ponda Baba’s head is a uniquely molded piece with printed detail, while Dr. Evazan’s face features scars from medical procedures gone awry.
Dr. Evazan has a reversible head, so that he can be surprised when Obi-wan chops off Ponda Baba’s arm with his lightsaber, in a moment that presages the many decapitations and dismemberments that permeate the Star Wars canon. Removing hands is generally a safe endeavor, but we don’t recommend pulling arms out, so you’ll have to imagine a higher cut for our Aqualish friend.
The Ithorian head piece has existed for several years, released just once for the unnamed Jedi Master in the 2014 Yoda Chronicles tie-in set 75051 Jedi Scout Fighter. This has allowed LEGO fans to make our own Momaw Nadon minifigures, but it’s still exciting to get an official version of the character. Another new minifig is the diminutive, bat-like Chadra-Fan named Kabe. The demon-like Devaronian Kardue’sai’Malloc (alias Labria) sports horns on a new head piece in rubbery material. I could have sworn that the devil horn head piece was not new, but I scoured minifig sections on reference websites and couldn’t find it under Nexo Knights (which is where I thought I’d seen it previously) or via any search query.
In the mostly de-canonized Expanded Universe, Kabe has many adventures with a Talz named Muftak. LEGO released a crested Talz head piece in 8085 Freeco Speeder 10 years ago, so it’s a bit disappointing not to get a modified version of that (without the crest) in this set alongside Kabe. Kabe’s headgear piece definitely isn’t new, having appeared previously on Monster Fighters minifigs and DC Super Heroes figs like Man-Bat.
I always have a minor quibble when facial details appear on the back of minifig’s heads beneath head pieces, and Labria’s mouth from his alternate expression does appear below his head piece.
Labria has a devilish grin in the movie, but he also has a more serious expression on his reversible minifig head.
No cantina scene would be complete without a cast of scoundrels. Han, Chewie, and Greedo are all identical to minifigs released previously. One could wish for “premium” version of these minifigs, with side stripes printed on Han’s legs (or dual-molding for black boots like the Han in Cloud City) or the ridges on Greedo’s arms, but that is not the case. As one of the remaining new characters, LEGO has repurposed the Trandoshan head (Bossk the bounty hunter is Trandoshan) for one of the two, similar-looking Saurin characters who appear in the cantina.
Each of these characters has detailed printing on the rear, with the Saurin featuring an understated vest design.
Wuher the bartender and his Bith musicians are not new either, having appeared in previous LEGO versions of the cantina.
The main group of “hero” characters consists of Luke Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, C-3PO, and R2-D2. None of these are new minifigures. Although Obi-wan does wear the new-style hood, this is the same minifigure released last year in 75246 Death Star Cannon (which is still available).
Finally, the set includes two Sandtrooper variants (always welcome but neither new) and the brand new Garindan minifig.
Garindan is an Imperial informant, and speaks into a communicator to call nearby Stormtroopers as our heroes attempt to make their way to Docking Bay 94. Garindan’s elephantine nose piece is brand new, incorporating goggles. It fits on his neck under a blank head, with a new-style hood over that.
LEGO typically does not count “brick-built” droids as minifigs, but there is some variation in the number of minifigs stated in their product descriptions (20 or 21), which along with LEGO’s press release stating there were 8 new characters, has led some LEGO fans to speculate about some sort of “mystery minifigure”. So let’s count up the minifigs in this set:
- Luke Skywalker (2016 version)
- Obi-wan Kenobi (2019)
- C-3PO (2016)
- Han Solo (2016)
- Chewbacca (2014)
- Greedo (2018)
- Wuher (2018)
- Bith musicians x3 (2014)
- Jawa (2018)
- Sandtrooper with orange pauldron (2018)
- Sandtrooper with black pauldron (2018)
- Momaw Nadon (new to this set for 2020)
- Kardue’sai’Malloc, aka Labria (new)
- Kabe (new)
- Dr. Evazan (new)
- Ponda Baba (new)
- Garindan (new)
- Saurin (new)
That adds up to 20 minifigs, plus R2-D2 for a total of 21 characters depicted in the set — there is no “mystery” twenty-first minifigure. And that makes 7 characters new to the LEGO Star Wars universe.
Conclusions & recommendation
There’s a lot to love in 75290 Mos Eisley Cantina, from the new V-35 landspeeder and seven new alien characters to the accurate, highly detailed interior of the cantina itself.
However, by precisely matching the $350 price point of Betrayal at Cloud City, many of the minifigs, the Ubrikkian landspeeder, and all of the non-canon out-buildings feel like padding to increase the part and minifig count up to a number that collectors might accept at $350. Personally, I would have been just as excited for a $200 set with 10 minifigs (let’s say four of them new), one new vehicle, and without any of the out-buildings.
Is this a “bad” LEGO Star Wars set? Certainly not in the vein of some of the half-formed, flimsy, or outright strange sets we’ve reviewed over the years here on The Brothers Brick. Is this a good set, though? Okay, sure — it’s a solid entry in the fairly new Master Builder Series. Both the cantina and the new minifigures are very well-designed. Similarly, the non-canon buildings are well-imagined and the selection across the remaining minifigs is entirely logical. But there is so much in the set that feels … unnecessary, forcing us to speculate that the extra … stuff is just padding to match a pre-designated price point.
This isn’t a set that has a binary “buy it or don’t” recommendation from us. Nor is it a set that will likely go on deep discount anywhere, anytime soon. And based on past patterns, we’d guess that buying all 7 of the rare new minifigs individually on the secondary market will likely add up to the value of the full set. If you’re a huge fan of Tatooine and the Mos Eisley Cantina like I am, you might bite the bullet and shell out $350 to pick up one of your favorite locations in the whole Star Wars universe — there’s no guarantee that LEGO will ever release a Ponda Baba or Labria minifig again. But if $350 for a pile of tan bricks and only 7 new minifigs seems a little steep, you wouldn’t be wrong.
75290 Mos Eisley Cantina includes 3,187 pieces with 21 minifigs (including R2-D2) and is available now to LEGO VIP members from the LEGO Shop US $349.99 | CAN $449.99 | UK £319.99. The set will be available more broadly on October 1st.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.