The annual May the 4th “Star Wars Day” merchandising event is coming up next week, with new products becoming available starting May 1st. The recently announced LEGO Star Wars 75308 R2-D2 joins that list, with 2,314 pieces and a price of US $199.99 | CAN $269.99 | UK £179.99. How does this version compare to the first large-scale Artoo (10225) from 2012? Is it worth picking up next week? Read our hands-on review to learn more.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
The packaging & instructions
The outer box follows the pattern of recent LEGO Star Wars sets intended for adults, with the name of the set taking the top spot and a bottom banner that places priority on the “18+” age and part count. Notably, there is no sub-branding like Ultimate Collector Series or Master Builder Series. The back of the box features movie stills and the LEGO model’s working functions, and highlights the printed Lucasfilm brick.
Most larger LEGO sets have included an inner box for several years, but whether or not you can open that box first and start building with the bags from the inner box has remained hit and miss. A well-sorted inner box is a subtle aspect of the experience, but with the potential to bring in more new adult builders with these sets, it’s disappointing that LEGO has yet to achieve consistency across these sets.
When you open the inner box and sort out the bags, there are 13 groups of numbered bags, plus a couple of loose large Technic pieces. The instruction booklet and info panel sticker sheet come in the inner box in their own wrapper.
All of the details on Artoo are brick-built, but his specifications are captured on a 6×12 information panel, with a printed 1×4 Lucasfilm brick. Like previous droid sets, including the recently revealed 75306 Imperial Probe Droid, the info panel is smaller than the info panels included with true UCS sets. We’ll come back to the printed brick when we look at the assembled info panel stand later in the review.
The first several bags are almost entirely Technic pieces, providing parts for the astromech’s square internal core and interior mechanisms. Artoo’s central leg is also mostly Technic, fitting into the middle of the Technic core.
The foot slides down from the leg on Technic beams, with a hinge mechanism that ensures his foot can remain flat on the ground.
More Technic connects to the central core to provide attachment points for the outer skin and legs.
Parts shift to standard LEGO System pieces as you begin building Artoo’s detailed outer skin. These come together as panels, which have Technic pins/axles to hang them from the core.
Once the side panels are attached, you begin assembling the right and left legs, which have lots of actuators, struts, and other greebly details.
The pearl-gold hoses on Artoo’s feet are new to LEGO in this color, and other than the printed Lucasfilm brick, is the only recolored piece introduced in this set.
The legs connect through the side panels to the internal Technic core.
The front and back panels include numerous functional details. Like the side panels, they hang on the core with Technic connections.
Doors open on the front panel to allow multiple tools to pop out, with two tools above the acoustic signaler and two doors alongside the body for the laser cutting tool and manipulator arm.
With all three legs in place, R2-D2 stands on his own, though he looks rather odd without his iconic dome head.
Artoo’s dome starts with a ring that’s full of studs-out attachments, half-stud offset, and the increasingly popular pin connections for odd angles.
The dome is where major external differences first become obvious compared to the 2012 R2-D2. Rather than a studs-up dome built from bricks (Lowell Sphere-style), the new Artoo uses a diverse array of regular slopes, curved slopes, and bows in a combination of studs-up and studs-out attachments. The interior is occupied by a compartment for Luke’s lightsaber and a pop-up periscope.
The pop-up periscope created an unexpected challenge during the build process. The instructions (which, notably, have switched back from the horrible black background to gray) show the periscope’s vertical section attaching to the top via the tubes rather than anti-studs, for a half-stud offset connection.
I missed this, connecting to the anti-studs, resulting in an unsightly half-stud gap in Artoo’s dome. While I saw the gap, it took a second pair of eyes to see my mistake compared to the instructions.
We popped a few of the sections off the finished dome to show how some of the angles and curves were achieved via clips and studs-out connections.
As always, the final bag is reserved for the info panel, which is accompanied by a 1x4x3 black brick printed with the Lucasfilm 50th anniversary logo.
The finished model
R2-D2 is one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars universe, and one of only two characters who has appeared in all nine movies in the Skywalker Saga (along with his droid companion C-3PO). In LEGO form, Artoo is all too common — I have a full bag of spare minifig-size R2-D2s. But larger-scale Artoos have been few and far between, with only a handful released since the launch of LEGO Star Wars back in 1999. This latest Artoo is also only the second System version, following the 2012 version.
There is so much detail packed into the front of Artoo’s body, from the ventilation ports and power couplings to hidden tools.
Artoo’s hidden tools include a laser cutting saw and grasping arm, which pop out of his body from vertical doors.
Activating the tools requires a simple push on pins that stick out of the back of his body.
Astromech droids like R2-D2 have three legs, allowing the droid to stand upright or move along more quickly with the central leg extended down. Some of the complexity in the central Technic core is due to the mechanism that enables LEGO Artoo to extend his central leg. To do so, you lift the body up, which partially extends the left and right legs as well. After lifting Artoo’s body, you turn his head back, which unlocks the middle leg to drop it down. Getting this movement right takes a couple of tries, and the whole mechanism feels frankly a bit floppy. Still, the inclusion of this major functional detail in the LEGO version is important, and my non-Technic brain can’t fault a bit of wiggle to accomplish such a complicated mechanism.
Artoo’s dome also has several working features, including the aforementioned periscope, which you can pop up and flip around by pulling up from the dome.
Another small panel also pops off, revealing a compartment for Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. There’s no special mechanism to pop the panel off or send the lightsaber flying through the air, but it’s a really fun detail that’s brand new to this latest version of R2-D2.
The lightsaber itself is a fun little build, with all the right details built from just a few pieces.
Comparing the 2021 LEGO Star Wars R2-D2 to earlier versions
It’s easy to feel nostalgic about older LEGO Star Wars sets, and many LEGO Star Wars collectors decry the constant stream of re-releases, some of which are admittedly not always improvements over their previous incarnations. But I’ve argued for several years now that, in general, the larger palette of slopes and curved pieces has allowed LEGO designers to make important improvements in most re-released sets. I think this latest LEGO Artoo is no exception, representing a huge step forward in design, with several new functional elements.
The domes are where the difference is much more obvious. The older version looks almost jagged, with much smoother curves on the new version. But this is a purely aesthetic, stylistic consideration that is likely a matter of personal preference — many LEGO fans may prefer plenty of studs for a very LEGO-like pixelated appearance. Another significant difference is in Artoo’s sensors and indicators, whose size is more accurately proportional to the dome.
The very first large-scale LEGO Star Wars R2-D2 was released as part of the MINDSTORMS Droid Developer Kit during the first year of LEGO Star Wars, all the way back in 1999. It’s not the same size as the later System versions, but used Technic panels available at the time with a gorgeous printed dome. Nevertheless, the aesthetic of many Technic models at the time included large gaps, and this first LEGO Artoo was no different.
As a display piece, the new LEGO Star Wars R2-D2 fits with other recent large-scale Star Wars figures, including 75187 BB-8 (2017) and 75318 The Child (2020), although their scales aren’t necessarily all the same (Grogu would certainly be smaller).
Conclusions & recommendation
After 22 years and numerous iterations across various sizes and even multiple building systems, I think that each LEGO R2-D2 makes incremental improvements over the previous version. This latest version doesn’t necessarily represent the pinnacle of perfection — there are always more functional details that could be included, better curves to be achieved with new LEGO parts in the future, and improvements to be made on existing features like the leg. Nevertheless, this is a great LEGO Artoo, full of personality and lively detail.
LEGO has recently released a number of great parts packs for builders who need lots of white pieces, like 10295 Porsche 911 Turbo & 911 Targa and 10283 NASA Space Shuttle Discovery. While this one doesn’t include any new slopes or curves like the other two, at over 2,300 pieces for $200, 75308 R2-D2 isn’t a bad parts pack itself.
If you’re a long-time LEGO Star Wars fan, you probably already have the 2012 version, and may even prefer the studs-up look of the earlier dome. Busy with work, then being a bit more budget-conscious between jobs when it was originally released, I didn’t buy the 2012 version until several years ago, when I snagged it for a small markup from a friend who had an extra copy. I like both versions for different reasons, and I can heartily recommend this new version as much as I enjoyed the last.
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.