To go alongside my 1984 grey LEGO Castle building project, I have experienced and discussed some newer castley LEGO themes and sets on this blog, including Lord of the Rings sets, 2013 LEGO Castle sets and the The Hobbit theme. On this note, I recently built my first The Hobbit set, 79001 Escape from Mirkwood Spiders, a “preview set” of the next The Hobbit movie installment, depicting the attack of the Mirkwood spiders.

The set includes two large spiders, two brick-built Mirkwood trees, assorted accessories and four minifigures – one of which is curiously Legolas, who doesn’t actually appear in The Hobbit book, but I guess could theoretically have been staying with the elves of Mirkwood at the time of The Hobbit. There are also three small spider pieces and a spider’s web, like on the 70403 Dragon Mountain I recently reviewed. What is interesting is that not only one of the spiders, but also the 1×1 round teeth pieces of the bigger spiders are colored glow in dark white – latter pieces, I guess, a LEGO first in this set. Indeed, they do as the name says, glow in the dark.

79001 Escape from Mirkwood Spiders

All the minifigures sport very nice hair, although the kind that makes turning their heads almost impossible. Otherwise the hair fits very nicely and clutches strongly, unlike those hideous cheek protection helmets in 2013 LEGO Castle (and some themes before it). There is the usual worry about the soft plastic used in Tauriel’s daggers, though, my pet peeve with all new castle LEGO themes. Soft plastic handles are hard to fit on the minifigures and I do wonder about longevity. What was wrong with using regular ABS for swords…

Also, I just can’t get over the skin-colored minifigure heads. The Orc Forge was fine, because the orcs were fantasy characters and colored as such, but in Escape from Mirkwood Spiders the color change from my yellow-faced LEGO youth is once again glaring. It just somehow feels wrong to see such realistic depiction on otherwise normally blocky LEGO figures. Oh well, the current target market doesn’t mind, I’m sure… I’ll just have to get on with the program.

This is a two bagged set, first bag containing elves and spiders, the second bag dwarwes and the brick-built trees. The spiders are very well done, with eight bendy legs pointing horizontally and diagonally, plus an adjustable, angled rear part. Unfortunately both spiders are the same, which means starting the set with a 100% repetitive build of two identical spiders, which makes for a boring first impression. First impressions can be deceiving, though, because the set picks up further along the build. To me the real highlight of Escape from Mirkwood Spiders is, well, the Mirkwood.

Represented here by two brick-built trees, the LEGO Mirkwood makes great use of rarely seen dark red (including beautiful dark red leaves) and dark brown colors, as well as black. This sets a very distinct mood of a dark, sinister – should I say mirky – place. The liberal use of bones, skulls, small spiders and brick-built fungi are great details. There is also some nice SNOT on the larger tree, which also includes a falling-tree trick and a “flick-fire” of sorts for throwing small spiders at passersby (somewhat common themes in castle LEGO forest sets…). The finishing touches are the spider’s web and two spider net bags to hold captives, which hang neatly from the dark red leaves.

I like this set, especially these trees. Expanding on the tree designs, TLG – or more likely some MOC maker – could certainly do great things with Mirkwood.