Republic Gunship Raises the Bar for LEGO Star Wars

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76767676Recently I had the chance to play with the LEGO Star Wars Republic Gunship, one of the cornerstones of LEGO’s excellent Star Wars line. Packing over a thousand  pieces as well as five minifigs, the model skillfully evokes the magic of the movies.

This puppy is big, and even better, quite challenging to build. Point of fact, this model was the most difficult model I’ve encountered short of the 3,800-piece Death Star. With its bricks packed in unnumbered bags, requiring sorting by color, you can’t easily divide up construction across a number of evenings or by more than one builder. (Contrast with the LEGO AGENTS Mobile Command Center, which was elegantly divided for ease of construction by builders with different skill levels.) LEGO suggests an age range of 9-14 and this sounds about right, though younger kids would have to be very sophisticated builders or have help, in my opinion.

One of the first things LEGO fanatics ask about a set is what minifigs come with it. You get a Commander Cody, a nameless clone trooper, an Obi Wan, and a Plo Koon. The fifth and coolest fig is that of Asajj Ventress, villainess of Clone Wars, who packs a fabric robe and twin light sabers. Cody also has some unusual minifig add-ons like a Mandalorian-esque  heads-up display and twin pistols. Plo Koon’s figure also stands out, with a rubber head and plastic fangs.

Speaking of figures, the Republic Gunship shows you the difficulty in building to minifig scale, often described as 1:45. If you’ve ever thought of building a multi-story tower or rocket ship you’ll find yourself confronted with a pocketbook-emptying, spouse-annoying challenge: how can you possibly accumulate enough bricks to build anything big? The Republic Gunship isn’t a big model, but its modest size represents a thousand-piece outlay. Imagine building an aircraft carrier! Nevertheless, being to scale lends much to the Gunship’s authenticity.

Like many in this line, this set is true to the spirit of Star Wars. While it must obey the limitations of its imperfect construction material — no studs on the original! — the feel is spot on. Such creations as this one, the AT-AP Walker and the AT-TE Walker illustrate the enthusiasm and faithfulness LEGO’s builders brought to the project.

On the down side, I was unimpressed by the "extras" — the mini vehicles, drones and so forth that so frequently accompany the "big sets." Take the aforementioned Mobile Command Center: I had a chance to play with it last fall, and was blown away by the complexity of the model as well as LEGO’s generosity with the add-ons. In that model were seven, count ’em, seven mini vehicles, a light-up projector, and lots of minifig gear. The Gunship? Just a speeder bike, a couple of tiny drones, and a stasis capsule. However, the main Gunship is so magnificent — and let’s face it, the set is pricy — I really can’t fault LEGO for not adding on more parts.

One last note for LEGO Star Wars fans… you have a lot to look forward to in 2009! In addition to the awesome older sets, you have some great new models to look forward to: the Armored Assault Tank and Hyena Droid Bomber stand out from the throng of awesome models.

Photo: Joe Meno

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