The partnership of Lego with Lucas Films in bringing the magic of Star Wars to life in highly accurate models represents something of a dream for old and new fans alike. Having inch-tall replicas of Darth Vader and QuiGon Jinn provides a strangely satisfying feeling and presents, for the disconcertingly sad, the chance to re-enact memorable scenes and battles, as well as creating entirely new ones.
The Lego Star Wars range was released during the first half of 1999 and new pieces have been released, approximately, every six months since. The initial pieces were all based on the original Star Wars trilogy, with additional Episode I conversions appearing around the time of the release of the film.
Lego has an unusual distribution and pricing strategy worldwide. For example, while Star Wars Lego is readily available in the United Kingdom and America, this is not the case in Japan. On the other hand, Japan has a much wider range of general Lego available - Lego market 'vending machine' style mini-sets - whereas this isn't the sort of thing you'll see on the shelf in America or the United Kingdom. Prices also vary wildly, based on recommended retail values from Lego, shipping costs and the mark-up of stores. This means that any references to prices or availability in this guide are subject to regional variation and should not be taken as gospel.
A New Hope - Episode IV
The original films were the first to get the Lego treatment, boasting several sets from each film. For the average Star Wars fan or Lego appreciator the original sets were an impressive effort that bode well for the future - and undoubtedly led to a deluge of requests for the subjects of future models.
Characters included: C3-PO; R2-D2.
A small set that is a thoroughly enchanting recreation of the escape pod that delivers the two droids, and their secret message, on to the surface of Tatooine. Simple but effective, the pod has lots of detail, thrusters and a little compartment for the droids. C3-PO, alas, is one of the less convincing figures with a strange translucent tan head that fails to convey any of its detail.
Characters included: Luke Skywalker in Tatooine gear; Old Ben Kenobi.
This very simple, but hugely effective, model perfectly mirrors the original vehicle specifications from the film. There is, however, no room to accommodate C3-PO or R2-D2 should you want to re-enact the arrival of the Land Speeder in Mos Eisley.
Characters Included: Han Solo; Chewbacca; Luke Skywalker (gear as Land Speeder); Princess Leia Organa in white dress with bun hairstyle; C3-PO; R2-D2.
This is a massive model, about 12 inches square and 6 inches tall, which does its level best to be as accurate as possible. It includes the pilot's pod, game table, maintenance pit, exit ramp and escape capsule, along with hidden compartments for hiding contraband. There are tools for both Han and Chewbacca to work with in the endless war to keep the Falcon in one piece.
Realism is hampered by scale, which really is not practical in a marketable and affordable product. The Lego Falcon has four landing struts, whereas the film version has only three - a matter of providing a well balanced model rather than slavishly replicating the original.
Characters included: Black-suited TIE Pilot; Imperial Stormtrooper.
Significant as the first set to include a standard Imperial Stormtrooper without the extended hood helmet of the Scout Trooper. This is the flat panel wing version of the TIE Fighter and means, combined with the other TIE Fighter set in the series, you can now re-enact the Imperial defence of the Death Star. The central pod opens to accept the black-suited pilot. Light enough to consider using as part of a mobile, though thin wire is suggested as a support rather than, say, a length of cotton attached to a clothes hanger.
The set also includes a loading gantry.
TIE Fighter and Y-Wing Fighter
Characters included: Darth Vader with lightsabre; Pilot in orange jump-suit; Red R2 droid.
Satisfying reproductions of two of the pivotal vehicles in the final attack against the Death Star. Darth Vader looks painfully cute with his miniature lightsabre in hand. This is the bent wing prototype version of the TIE Fighter specific to Vader - the TIE Advanced X1. The pod of the TIE Fighter opens to accept Vader and his lightsabre. The bent wings are hinged, so it is possible to use this version of the TIE as a standard flat panel.
Characters included: Pilot in orange jump-suit; R2 droid.
An impressive facsimile of the standard Rebellion starfighter. The fighter's wings can be moved into 'combat' formation and the cockpit is hinged to allow placement of the pilot. A small socket behind the cockpit allows the R2 droid to be seated ready to attend to battle repairs. The set includes a little train of diagnostic and fuelling modules on rounded blocks, adequately simulating the anti-grav effect of the movie.
The biggest weakness in the model is all the bits that stick out with minimal support. The wings are tipped with spindly lasers and the engines are composed of three circular blocks, which poke out in a cluster of four. All of these components are very easily knocked off in active use which might tempt anyone collecting the models to consider the use of a plastic friendly glue.
The Empire Strikes Back - Episode V
For those who remember Star Wars from before the release of the Special Edition, Empire Strikes Back represents the introduction of a massively popular and enigmatic character - Boba Fett. With the introduction of Slave I into the Lego Star Wars collection Fett attained a new quality - cuteness.
Characters included: Pilot in green jump-suit; Ground Crew Engineer.
A perfectly decent representation of the A-Wing Fighter with hinged cockpit. The set includes an engineer with a hydro-spanner and what appears to be a blue post box - actually some sort of diagnosis unit for the engine.
Realism is lost in the shape - this is a little too chunky and not quite as sleek, considering this is the fastest starfighter in the Rebel fleet. Also, as the A-Wing and the Snowspeeder are meant to be the basic craft - the latter being a modified version of the former - there is no correlation between the models in the Lego set (see also in the Snowspeeder entry, below).
Characters included: Boba Fett with jump pack and blaster; Han Solo in carbonite slab.
While the size of Slave I is probably slightly off compared to the starfighters in the series, it includes all the details that rapidly draw attention away from such grumbles. It has a variable cockpit that means that Fett can sit inside while the ship is in horizontal or vertical (flight) position and still sit right. The wings on the side of the ship are jointed so that they follow the attitude of the craft as well. It has swivel guns and a rear cargo bay/ramp.
Han in carbonite is a black slab of Lego with a silvery-grey picture of the trapped hero on the front - an absolutely wonderful touch - and it fits perfectly in the cargo bay.
Characters included: Pilot in green jump-suit; Ground Support.
A satisfying model with twin-cockpit for pilot and gunner - harpoons and rope not included! The ground support consists of a Rebel trooper with laser rifle and a swivel-mounted laser cannon. The model is solid and well built, except for the forward cannons which can occasionally be knocked off in active use as they are only fixed underneath and not secured above.
The Snowspeeder was a converted A-Wing variant used to defend the ice planet Hoth and the vital Rebel base buried there. However, Lego have strayed from continuity, as the model is definitely not the same as the A-Wing, as the Snowspeeder uses tipped single-piece wings and the A-Wing uses blocks to form the wing shape. Though there are no AT-ATs you can still simulate the attack on Hoth with AT-STs and plenty of Snowspeeders.
Return of the Jedi - Episode VI
The final film provided plenty of action combined with a lot of impressive starships, which are unlikely to ever see commercial sales as a reasonable sized or priced Lego set. However, the Imperials showed a grand display of technology which has slowly appeared in Star Wars Lego releases - like the AT-ST and the nippy Imperial Scout Speeder Bikes.
B-Wing Fighter at Rebel Command Centre
Characters included: Pilot in orange jump-suit; Ground Crew Engineer; Red R2 Droid.
A fair recreation of the Rebel fighter, including a fully functional rotating cockpit section. The ground crew engineer has a tool cart and an R2 unit to assist with repairs. The command centre looks like something that could have been found with a Lego Railway kit, but it is fine for building the scene. The B-Wing is pretty much all wings, flat boards, which makes it a little flimsy.
Characters included: Luke Skywalker with lightsabre in black Jedi Knight gear; Han Solo with lance.
A small set to allow the chance to hang a blind Han Solo over the Pit of Carkoon. Unfortunately, there is no Lando Calrissian or Palace Guard model to fill out the scene. Such is the disadvantage of this being such a small set.
Continuity-wise, the set is also remiss in including a Luke model with two standard hands, rather than a black, gloved right hand that he sported in the third film.
Characters included: Chewbacca.
The familiar shape of the 'Chicken Walker’ that posed a half-hearted threat to the Rebels and their Ewok allies on the surface of Endor. The model includes a cockpit for a single pilot and sports an impressive array of two small guns and two twin-mounted side cannons.
A functional compromise with the continuity of the film is that the AT-ST legs move on a swivel beneath the pod that places one foot forward and the other foot back when moving.
Characters included: Emperor Palpatine; two Imperial Royal Guards; Shuttle Pilot.
The Lambda-class Shuttlecraft used by the Emperor to carry him into the heart of the half-completed second Death Star. The Emperor has his staff, while the guards have their eye-catching crimson outfits with long helmets, cloaks and Force lances. The model is impressive in that it avoids the recent Lego temptation to use large, pre-formed pieces for things like the wings. The three wings are all composed of individual boards and bricks, and the flanking wings fold upwards for storage while docked.
Characters included: Luke Skywalker with lightsabre in black Jedi Knight gear; two Scout Stormtroopers with blasters.
A character-driven set which is the only one to contain Scout Troopers. Two Speeder bikes and some scenery to balance Luke on, there is enough here to provide some entertainment with rebuilding - the bikes merging into several pleasing hover vehicles and battle platforms.
The Phantom Menace - Episode I
With the release of Episode I to ravenous fans and newcomers alike, Lego was provided with the opportunity to create a line of Star Wars-related models that could appeal to everyone and that did not simply call to fans of the existing films.
Characters included: Anakin Skywalker in racing goggles; Padme Naberrie; Pit Droid.
A thoroughly impressive rendering of Anakin's Pod, with Padme and a cute little Droid thrown in for good measure (along with a couple of flags). Offered as a small kit, this set means that parents can get away with presenting this to their demanding children without going to the expense of buying the larger - and at least six times more expensive at standard retail price - Mos Espa Pod Race set. For anyone owning the Race set, however, this doesn't offer anything new and isn't heavy with parts worth salvaging.
Lego included a red, transparent rod to simulate the energy stream between the Pod engines, a necessary addition for stability but not vital. Removing it makes it easier for the Pod to explode should owners wish to simulate a Pod crash!
Battle Droid Carrier
Characters included: seven Battle Droids.
Seen carrying rows of Battle Droids, folded up on their racks, into Theeb on Naboo. This is a simple open transporter with a Droid driver and the remaining figures slung on racks, three on either side at the back. Considering the average number of Battle Droids per set that includes them, it really shouldn't be too much of an effort to simulate the hoards from the film.
Characters included: None.
On first appearances, this model looks boring because it doesn't include any models, but this is underselling the model. The Droid Fighter is a character in its own right, transforming from a winged starfighter to a walking droid armory by a twitch of the wings.
For a Lego builder it's a good source of dark brown pieces. With several Droid Fighters and a handful of Battle Droids they represent a formidable enemy for all the good guys and the Jedi.
Characters included: Naboo Royal Guard.
A faithful representation, in green, of the speeders used by the Naboo Royal Guard to ineffectually defend their home! The set includes a flat-capped guard and a single-barrelled laser cannon mounted on the back of the vehicle to pummel the unsuspecting Battle Droids.
For anyone who thought that Lego didn't do green bricks, here they are.
Characters included: two Gungans; two Gungan Kaadu (riding mounts).
The beginnings of a Gungan army to rival the all too easily amassed Battle Droid forces, the Gungans have spears and shields, while one Kaadu pulls a cart containing Gungan energy bombs. The Kaadu look somewhat like enormous plucked ducks, but as this is pretty much what they looked like in the movie, Lego have done themselves proud. The set includes several tubes and clip pieces, providing possibly useful external piping for other models.
Characters included: QuiGon Jinn with lightsabre; Obi Wan Kenobi with lightsabre; Jar-Jar Binks; Naboo Manta Ray-type fish.
Blue, grey and shaped like a big fish, the Sub is actually composed of two vessels that plug together, with a third plugging section that contained the Sub's engine. The forward section is a smaller Sub, while the rear section is more of a tandem effort with two cockpits on either side of the engine. The set is filled with lots of sloped pieces and wing parts that build up to create the sleek form. The main engine is a very unusual combination of a transparent orange half-ball and four streaming blue cables, simulating the strangely organic propeller of the craft in the film.
The set is special in that it is the only one that contains the young Obi Wan and a brown hood, allowing the creation of Jedi models with full cloaks. However, the model looks absolutely nothing like the original Gungan 'Bongo' Sub, which might explain the addition of entertaining features like the breakaway parts and young Obi Wan.
Characters included: QuiGon Jinn with lightsabre; Darth Maul with single-bladed lightsabre.
Two figures, a Sith Speeder and a Vaporator, the primary selling point of this set was to get hold of Darth Maul. Alas, this is the only version of the Sith Apprentice that lacks the two translucent red sticks necessary to provide a dual-bladed lightsabre.
Mos Espa Pod Race
Characters included: Anakin Skywalker in racing goggles; Padme Naberrie; QuiGon Jinn; Jar-Jar Binks; R2-D2; Sebulba; Gasgano; 3 Pit Droids.
Including three complete Pods and a few pieces for spectators and repairs there are a lot of pieces here in unusual colours – like orange and green - and the most impressive range of characters – certainly for anyone attempting to collect them all with the fewest number of purchases. The down side of the set is that its original recommended selling price was US$90 (at the time of writing) which is high for the content considering Anakin's Pod alone was recommended at just US $15.
Characters included: Anakin Skywalker in flight helmet/goggles; R2-D2; two Battle Droids.
Sleek and, yellow. The elegant starfighter of the Naboo defence forces is well rendered with Anakin complete in flying helmet. There are two Battle Droids to add to the mounting Droid army available across the Episode I series and a slightly bizarre wheeled contraption, which might be a mobile 'chock' for keeping the starfighter locked down while docked. R2 neatly plugs in to a socket just behind the hinged cockpit cover.
Characters included: QuiGon Jinn with lightsabre; Jar-Jar Binks; two Battle Droids.
Another character driven set that includes STAPs for the Battle Droids to attack the Jedi and his troublesome Gungan friend. The STAPs mount on transparent stands and the set includes a few plants to allow you to simulate the swamplands. Worth grabbing for the Battle Droids and the impressive pony-tailed hair piece of QuiGon.
Characters included: Anakin Skywalker in racing goggles; Jar-Jar Binks; Sebulba.
A marvelous black bucket (shaped like a very big Lego piece with a handle) of basic Lego pieces that provide all the pieces necessary for building several different Podracers and a miniaturised version of the sandstone arches of the race arena at Mos Espa. The set is an excellent source of additional pieces for conversions within, and outside, the Star Wars range. Ideally suited to children as the models are all simplified considerably compared to the Pods found in the Mos Espa Race set.
Characters included: Darth Maul with dual-bladed lightsabre; 3 Sith Probe Droids.
Slightly disappointing due to its lack of bulk and rather misguided colours - grey and blue. Somehow the finished item lacks the required menace of such a vessel and its pilot. Darth Maul does, however, have the benefit of his dual-bladed lightsabre, his Sith Speeder (which stows around the back) and three Probe Droids (which stow in the centre).
The model takes the Infiltrator beyond the confines of its function within the film by including a means to separate the rear section from the forward spearhead section.
Trade Federation AAT
Characters included: two Battle Droids.
A very good likeness of the Battle Droid tanks, the kit suffers from some big, unworkable pieces, like the forward semi-circular base, that are unlikely to be used to build anything else. The control pod of the tank hangs back from the main body of the tank making it potentially unstable, especially when taking the gunner or pilot out, unless weighted somehow. A worthwhile consideration, that provides a valid film reconstruction, is to hang a Jar-Jar Binks model off one of the forward cannons.
Trade Federation MTT
Characters included: seven Battle Droids.
Close, but not quite movie perfect, the MTT is constructed from a useful array of brown, sand and grey coloured bricks, which should provide for a small castle if you feel inclined. There is a hinged cover at the front, which hides the racks used for transporting the Battle Droids. The Droid models fold on to the racks and fit snug inside. There is an empty storage area at the back, useful for storing further droids, and shutters along the flanks that hide rotating guns.
A chunky design with just enough menace for your Droid army.
Characters included: Watto; Pit Droid.
An opportunity to get more Podracers out with a thoroughly unsatisfying translation of Watto to Lego form. The model is simply too big compared to the film original and might have benefited from being made as a smaller single-piece model like most Lego animals.
Mixed Film Character Sets
Four 'Character Packs' contain three character pieces each with a flat grey stand and an information card. The card has details of the character on one side and a scenery picture on the other. A slot in the back of the stand allows the character to stand in front of the appropriate scenery (eg, the Emperor's Throne Room on the Death Star; the forest on Endor).
The character packs are:
Endor Moon - contains two Scout Stormtroopers with hand blasters and Chewbacca with Bowcaster.
Battle Droids - contains two standard Battle Droids and a Battle Droid commander, all with blasters.
Dune Sea Battle - contains Luke with lightsabre in black Jedi Knight gear1, Han Solo and Boba Fett with jump pack and blaster.
The Dark Side - contains the aged Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader with lightsabre and Darth Maul with dual-bladed lightsabre.
Each set has two additional joining squares of grey Lego which means you can connect the three figures together.
The adaptability of Lego means that a huge number of variant models can be built from the existing packages, but for the completist a lot of the fun will come from accurately simulating scenes from the films.
Luke Skywalker's Hand
For those with an eye for perfection it's possible to turn any Luke into the version seen in Return of the Jedi - bearer of a replacement robotic right hand. Lego character figure hands simply pop out if pulled and can therefore be changed over with hands from other models. Simply find a black-coloured hand from another model and replace Luke's right hand with that.
The Millennium Falcon Pre-Death Star
The released version of the Falcon includes Princess Leia, a crew composition that only occurred after Ben Kenobi's death. To get the original feel swap the figure out for Old Ben Kenobi from the Land Speeder set to provide the version of the Falcon familiar from 'A New Hope'.
It is possible to further add to the character of the ship by adding the combat practice scene when Luke started training with his father's lightsabre. This requires the addition of a few extra pieces:
A white helmet and black visor (probably from an astronaut or Police set)
A Sith Probe Droid
Something made from transparent plastic, like a couple of cylinders or a strut (variable sources)
Replace Luke's hair with the black-visored helmet (a pilot's helmet with blast shield down) and put the Probe Droid on to the clear plastic Lego within reach of Luke's lightsabre bearing hands. The best place to set the scene up is on the left side of the ship (not the right side, where the escape pod is stored).
Special Effects not Included
The original films were plagued by the restrictions imposed by cinematography technology of the time. George Lucas was forced to make the most of what could be achieved in special effects, ground-breaking though the results might have appeared to the casual viewer.
One such compromise forced by lack of suitable technology was the scene where Luke, Old Ben and the Droids head into Mos Eisley on Luke's landspeeder. Originally the camera crew used something like Vaseline on the lens to obscure the mechanism that sat beneath the hovering landspeeder, however in the end - after much effort - the best that could be achieved was to place a lot of bushes in the way. You can relive this moment by combining:
The Landspeeder set with Luke and Old Ben - add R2-D2 and C3-PO, if available.
An electric motor, from the Lego railway sets
Some straight rail track, from similar railway sets
Bricks made from transparent plastic, which were once very commons before window frames were introduced (optional)
As many low trees, flowers and bushes as you can get your hands on - try city sets or ordering scenery items direct from Lego
Set out the railway track, attach the power and settle the motor on the track. Firmly set the Landspeeder on top of the motor body. Now, place the vegetation and clear bricks to obscure the motor - so about a double level of bricks in height. Now, get down to ground level with your eyes as close to the surface you are building on as possible and switch on the power.
For added realism you can include a trolley with a camera man on a boom and George Lucas himself (see below).
Picking through the average box of Lego can provide the pieces necessary to adequately reproduce the man himself. Some of the pieces are a little specialised, but all the pieces should be available and the ongoing release and withdrawal of products shouldn't pose a problem in getting hold of them.
The ideal pieces are:
A black television camera, available in TV, media or even exploration/adventure sets. See if you can find the 'Cameraman', a media-coverage set or 'Temple of Gloom'.
A pair of black legs
A brown or grey hairpiece - the latter can be salvaged from an Old Ben Kenobi model
Any top - a blue jacket version looks nice - which might be found in sets with pit crews, engineers or pilots. See if you can find 'Outback Airstrip'.
A head with glasses and a beard - there are some that come close, but this is most likely to come from an exploration/adventure set. See if you can locate the 'Mini Rocket Launcher' set from the Space Port series, the main Shuttle set or one of the general city sets. It's possible that you may have to make do with glasses and sideburns.
Now put the movie-master together and drop him into the thick of things. Lights, camera, action!
Other Star Wars Lego
Ultimate Collector Series
There are massive replicas of Star Wars craft that attempt to simulate the detail of the original craft as faithfully as possible. The sets use narrow flat pieces far more than standard bricks to be able to attain the required level of detail. The models include massive guides that take the builder through multiple stages of construction. Completion is going to take around five or six hours of solid building effort. Once completed they're huge - the X-Wing Fighter is more than 12 inches in both length and width - and the set includes a stand with a plate on which the name of the vessel and information on its construction/function is presented.
The Ultimate Collector Series sets are: the X-Wing Fighter; the TIE Interceptor.
The retail value varies, with prices at around £100 or $150, at the time of writing.
Painstaking replicas of various memorable characters created from the far more complex Technic version of Lego. This is all pistons, joints, tubes and elastic bands, and putting the sets together takes several hours and is probably best completed in staggered steps to prevent blindness. The movement and spectacle of the models in action is incredible - from the pop-up Pit Droid to the Destroyer Droids' ability to snap from a rolling ball of Lego into a quivering stance of menacing readiness.
The Star Wars Technic sets include: Pit Droid; Battle Droid; Destroyer Droid 2; Stormtrooper; and C3-PO.
Retail price varies considerably due to the size and complexity - from $20 to $50.
Easily the most impressive sets in terms of diverse potential, Mindstorm Star Wars offers the chance to not only recreate notable droids, people and vehicles, but also make them move once they're finished. The Mindstorm series incorporates software that allows programming of completed models to perform certain actions or cycles of movement. You can have anything from R2-D2 to a plodding AT-AT making its way through your home menacing pets, visitors and family alike.
The Mindstorm sets are: the Droid Development Kit; the Darkside Developer Kit.
Approximate retail price is around £60 or $100.
Extending the entertainment value even further - or at least the profit margins - Lego released a range of character figures as keychain ornamentation. The keyword here is 'cute'. The difference between these figures and the ones from the standard boxed sets is that all the removable elements are fixed - the head, the torso, the legs, and the helmets are all bonded in place. The hands are still removable if you see fit. In addition, the helmets include a ring to which the keychain itself is attached and the Lego logo is printed on the back of the torso - invisible on the two Sith because of their black cloaks.
The Keychain series includes: Darth Vader; Luke in orange pilot jump-suit; and Darth Maul.