Thursday, 18 July 2013

Lego Review - The Wizard Battle

Set: 70095 - The Wizard Battle

RRP: $17-22, depending on retailer

Pieces: 113

Build Time: 30-60 min.

The Background

Love it or hate it, Lord of the Rings has exercised a profound influence on modern fantasy. I enjoyed the movies, but (as is generally the case with adaptations) I preferred the book. Tolkien can be as tedious as he was creative, but there is no doubting the richness of his literary creation. Few have managed to equal it, though countless writers have followed in his footsteps. Its influence is evident in just about every mainstream piece of fantasy produced since the 1950s. 

So when I saw Lord of the Rings Lego sets turning up in stores last year, I was intrigued. I don’t like much of Lego’s licensed stuff (outside of the video games), but I was hoping that they’d do this one, knowing that it would lend itself to some exceptionally cool minifigures.

However, on closer inspection, I wasn’t that impressed with most of them. The first one that piqued my interest was set 9469 (Gandalf Arrives), which currently sits unassembled in my cupboard. It was purchased more as an investment piece, but I may open it (or possibly pass it on) in the near future. Time will tell.

I didn’t mind some of the other sets available at the time, but there was nothing that particularly jumped out at me, insisting that I must take it home and buy it. But recently I found myself in a Big W, checking out the new batch of sets had just been released. These were a whole different proposition. The Wizard Battle caught my eye instantly, as it featured my favourite character (Gandalf) alongside Saruman, who’s played by one of my favourite actors (Christopher Lee) in the film. The duel between the two is one of my favourite scenes as well, so all the pieces (pardon the pun) fell into place on this particular set.

My birthday was not far off, so when my one of my sisters asked me what gift I’d like, this was one of the more obvious choices. As requested, it arrived shortly after the day itself – well done, sis.

The Minifigures

For me, minifigures are the keystone that most sets live and die on. It’s been more or less the same since I was a kid, really. For some, Lego is an opportunity to build a model which is never ever to be touched again. For others, they’re like any other toy. You build them, but you darn well play with them afterwards. At the age of 28, I now sit somewhere between these two spectrums.
This is a fairly minifigure-centric set, so I’m pleased to report that I was very happy with the way they turned out. The heads have two expressions printed on them, one on each side. However, the main difference that you’ll notice once the beards are attached is that their eyebrows are slightly more furrowed in one than the other. Still, when the beards are off you’ll be impressed at how impressive the resemblance is to their real-life counterparts…almost eerily so. It’s something for those learning about the uncanny valley to keep in mind, I suppose.  

I’m slightly disappointed that Gandalf doesn’t have a cape, but they’d already given him his cape and signature hat in at least one previous set, so I can’t really complain. His staff also seems a little plain, but granted it’s fairly plain in the movie itself….

Saruman is particularly impressive. His beard and hair are all one rubbery piece, and his face comes in two expressions – “good” and corrupted. His staff as well, though simple, is quite effective.

Overall, I’m very happy with these guys – I built them about a week before I put the rest of the set together, and set them up with my copy of The Hobbit on Blu-ray...which unfortunately, I still haven’t watched.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

The Build

The build is relatively simple, taking me around 30 min. There’s not a lot to it – it’s essentially Saruman’s throne, and an extended platform with a palantir on it. Still, simple as it is, it has a couple of cool features.

First and foremost is the Eye of Sauron itself, which gazes out through the palantir. It doesn’t do anything as such, but it does look very cool. The palantir’s stand also rotates via an axel system, the controls of which sit on the back of Saruman’s throne. Judging by the pictures on the back on the box, this is intended to aid in simulating the two wizards flinging themselves around the room at each other, just as they do in the movie.
Saruman’s throne also has a nifty feature – there’s a flick-trigger at the back of it, which violently ejects the evil wizard from his chair to lunge towards Gandalf. I can’t see myself using it, but it’s a cool little extra add-on. I can see kids getting a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Aside from that, there’s not a lot to say – it’s a bit too simple for the hardened builder, but I think it still manages to convey the look of the scene surprisingly well.


This is a cool, simple set, but it suffers from what I like to call the “licensing tax” – essentially, you pay extra because the name “Lord of the Rings” appears on the box. This is something that’s all too common with licensed Lego sets – if this were a generic wizard battle, I daresay it would only be around the $14-$17 mark. It’s only a few dollars of difference in this case, but on a small set like this it can be a real dealbreaker. It’s a problem that’s particularly prevalent in ranges like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars and Super Heroes.

There’s not a lot in it for those who are fans of building structures, rather than the using the minifigures as part of a small playset. Still, for those who are keen on minifigures, I think you’ll be particularly happy with Gandalf and Saruman. 7/10 from me, on the whole.