Saturday, June 2, 2012

9472 Attack on Weathertop

As mentioned a couple days ago, I acquired my first Lord of the Rings LEGO set last weekend, set 9472 Attack on Weathertop. I have to say that I'm impressed. Like Bruce, I never really wanted an official Lord of the Rings set line, not least because it would be based off the movies--and I am a diehard favourer of the books. That said, I've been liking what I've been seeing so far, and Attack on Weathertop really blew me away as a well-done set. What's more, in hindsight, I've come to the conclusion that one of the things Peter Jackson's movie did best was the visuals, and this is where the LEGO sets are mostly drawing from--so we'll see how it goes, set by set.
Now, to be perfectly faithful to the Books, it should be pointed out that the attack by the Black Riders does not actually take place in the ruins of Amon Sûl (the Sindarin name of Weathertop, and also the name of the Dúnedain-built tower on top of it), but in a dell or hollow near the base of the hill. That said, the scale of things to minifigs in sets has never been anything approaching accurate, and I like what the set designers have done with the set. In a way, you get it both ways: you have the ruins of the ancient tower as the predominant feature of the set, but the alcove that Pippin is standing in works fairly well as a "dell" for the purposes of a LEGO set, and I have to admit that it makes more sense to go Jackson and build the ruins rather than try to capture the more landscape-only scene of the books.
The way the set is designed from this side ("the back"), it's hard to tell how much of the set is hill or how much is tower--probably more tower than hill, I suppose. The rounded design of the tower's base is well-done, using LEGO's standard 1x4 hinge plates technique to bend the wall. LEGO also makes liberal use of the new brick-relief 2x1 bricks in this set, all of which are in dark tan. I'm not entirely convinced LEGO needed to develop these new bricks, but I have to admit they look sharp, and I can only imagine there are builders out there who intend to amass them by the hundreds.
The interior of the tower/cave is nothing much to look at. I'm not convinced the weapons-rack makes sense in a guard tower that was razed by fire a millennium ago, but perhaps its a nod in the direction of the fact that movie-Aragorn gives the Hobbits their "barrow-blades" here ("barrow-blades" because, in the Books, the swords the Hobbits carry were taken from the also-Dúnedain built barrows on the edge of the Old Forest, just prior to arriving in Bree). More impressive, to my mind, is the black stand-thing on the other side of the room. It has been suggested, and I agree, that this is a nod to fans of the books, who will remember that the chief palantír of the North-kingdom was kept at Amon Sûl until the destruction of that tower.
In addition to the parts of the set already shown, Attack on Weathertop includes a lone outcropping of rock and two Black Riders, who have the distinction of riding the first new-model horses in my collection. The horses work fairly well with the older models, in my opinion, and can be mistaken for them at enough of a distance. I'm glad that LEGO included two in the same set, as it helps the minifig-count match the set's high number of pieces for good value (relative to the size of the set--not the price: prices are always going up and licensed themes are always worse). I'm not really sure the separate outcropping of rock was needed at all, but I'll take the extra pieces.
Speaking of extra pieces, this set came with a plethora! Like a few other sets of 2012 (or so I'm told--I haven't got any), Attack on Weathertop comes with one of the new model Brick Separators--the large orange piece in the above picture. Besides all the usual duplicates (1x1 round plates, 1x1 tiles, etc.), the set also comes with an extra dark pearl spear (the new model with the flat butt), an extra Sting, and TWO extra Rings--or, at least, my copy did. I have no idea what the fate of those extra Rings will be, but I can assure you they're welcome.
And that brings us to the minifigs. I think LEGO did an excellent job, on the whole, with these minifigs--even though I continue to chafe at their skin-tone Licensed Theme policy. The Hobbit and Strider torsos are particularly good in my opinion and the faces match their on-screen counterparts fairly well. The Nazgûl are also very well done, but they don't greatly differ from the Black Riders people have been making since Darth Maul came out in 1999: black hood, black head, black robes. That said, although I plan to keep my copy of Attack on Weathertop together for a long time, the minifigs are going to change. As my preference is for yellow-figs, I've replaced the heads and hands on Strider and the Hobbits (and touched up the necks of their torsos with yellow Sharpie). I've also taken slight umbrage to the swords our heroes carry in this set. In particular, Frodo should not be carrying Sting, since even in the movies he receives it from Bilbo in Rivendell, later in the story. This is easily rectified by giving him the extra sword from inside the tower chamber. Aragorn should also, as a Books fan, not be carrying a sword. He does in the Movies, and I like the use of the new broadsword in pearl silver, so I'm not complaining strenuously, but if to be pedantic, Aragorn on Weathertop should only be carrying the Shards of Narsil. Since I have no shards of any blade, my Strider will have to make do with his torch alone.
As you can see, I've used the head from Anakin in the 2002 Episode II sets to replace Frodo's peach head, and the current yellow-fig smirking face from this guy for Pippin*. Pippin is a particularly good match, I think, Frodo a bit less. The chief problem with Frodo is that his eyebrow colour is a bit lighter than his hair, whereas Pippin's is roughly a perfect match. Frodo shares this problem with the face I picked for Aragorn, but it doesn't bother me too much. In both Frodo and Aragorn's case, I'm also somewhat pleased that they look a bit less like the movies and bit more like my imagination's book versions. Aragorn could be even better if his face came in scruffy and not-scruffy versions, so that I could use this for "King Elessar" and the scruffy version for "Strider," but I'll survive. All told, Attack on Weathertop has already become one of my favourite LEGO sets and I think that LEGO really outdid themselves in general. The few quibbles I have are more with the movies than with LEGO, and as far as Weathertop is concerned, they are minor indeed. *EDIT: So, after reading the review of this set on FBTB, I realise that the minifig I have dubbed Pippin is actually Merry (which comes, I suppose, of not keeping the box handy for doing this review). Well... maybe he's supposed to be, but I just can't see it. Bearing in mind, of course, that I'm a fan far more of the original books than the movies, and that I don't have a visual memory welding the movie versions irrevocably to my mental images of the Hobbits, this little fellow will continue being Pippin for me. It's all about the face--that smirk (which I have managed to replicate in yellow) just doesn't say "good planner/more subdued humour/older cousin" Merry so much as Pippin to me.

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