Christmas shopping is in full swing across the western world at least – and so it is in my native Finland as well. After witnessing the long delay in getting Lord of the Rings LEGO here, I was pleasantly surprised to see a selection of LEGO sets under the The Hobbit license at a local department store this past week. Interspersed amongst some non-LEGO board games and action figures, they had four of the LEGO sets (in order of size):
- The smallest set there was 79001 Escape from Mirkwood Spiders. It reminded me a little of 9470 Shelob Attacks, although of course the role of Shelob in the J.R.R. Tolkien lore is far more significant than that of the Mirkwood spiders. Just like Shelob Attacks, this looks to be one action packed set that works well as is.
- 79002 Attack of the Wargs seems a little redundant next to the Escape from Mirkwood Spiders, but it was also a significantly larger set, so it targets a different price bracket. If nothing else, I guess they could complement each other in forest building. These trees remind me of the forestmen.
- 79003 An Unexpected Gathering, portraying the home of the main protagonist Bilbo, is a valiant effort in recreating some of that Shire flare in LEGO. It looked definitely the most welcoming one within this otherwise quite dark selection of sets. There was a lot of detail, items and a generous compliment of minifigures included, although the home itself looked a little boxy to me.
- 79010 The Goblin King Battle is the largest set in the theme so far and seems to play to role of the antagonist’s lair, so important in the good-vs-evil world of “medieval” LEGO. I know some hate these plastic trolls and goblins, but I liked it. The set looks quite a bit like The Orc Forge, which (I remind myself) I am still yet to build and review.
One overarching problem with these sets, like with the initial Lord of the Rings sets, is how hard it is to translate vast natural surroundings into reasonable LEGO sets. Middle Earth, where The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are (fictionally) situated, is a dynamic world where many of the visited dwellings and locations are literally carved into dirt and stone. The Shire, where the race of hobbits live, is mostly comprised of housings dug into the ground. Many other races live inside vast dungeons or in mountain fortresses.
It is one thing to replicate a traditional house in LEGO, quite another to recreate mountains. The solution at TLG seems to be ignoring the forests, mountains and hills (or diminishing their scale, such as in 9472 Attack on Weathertop) and concentrating on separate partitions and details. I’m not yet quite convinced this is the best approach, but I am watching the space with interest. It’s not like I have any better ideas.