Lord of the Rings is rich with iconic characters and locations, few more so than the imposing Tower of Orthanc. Therefore, with the revelation of LEGO Lord of the Rings, it seemed inevitable that this setting would eventually make it into a set in some form or another. Few could have imagined that this set is what LEGO would produce.
10237 Tower of Orthanc is quite simply the best Lord of the Rings set around in my opinion. The detail and playability of the model could hardly be bettered and for display, I can think of only a few sets which improve upon this one. This marvellous model will cost you £169.99 or $199.99 for 2359-pieces, so whether or not you endorse the reliability of the infamous 'price per piece' ratio, I think this represents good value for money.
This review will be divided into two parts, in the first of which I will take a look at the box, the Minifigures, and the creatures included.
Box and Contents
It goes without saying that the box for this set is fairly large, with some rather attractive artwork on the front. A couple of scenes from the films are mixed with Gandalf escaping from Isengard on Gwaihir as in the first film, while an Ent battles with Orcs on the ground as in The Two Towers. Despite these inconsistencies, this is a great shot of the scene and it certainly does a good job of relating the height of the set, which is difficult to do on camera.
The back of the box is filled with images of the features and a view of the tower from the rear. A few cinematic shots are also dotted around as well as a gallery of the weapons included.
Inside the box are eighteen bags numbered from one to fifteen and three instruction booklets. These instructions are packaged in a plastic bag with cardboard backing along with the stickers, which is always welcome as it ensures that they will not be creased or damaged in transit in the box. The sticker sheet is fairly large, with nineteen stickers of various sizes, so should this be an issue for you, it is worth bearing in mind.
This is a set which is really about the Tower of Orthanc itself rather than the Minifigures included, however these figures are superb nevertheless.
The first of these, and for me the least interesting of the five, is Gandalf the Grey. This Minifigure has appeared many times previously (albeit never quite like this one) but is excellent despite being so common in sets. This version of Gandalf is different to most in that he comes with a hairpiece rather than his hat, which is quite a good representation of Gandalf's hair in the film. His head is printed with the same design as it is in 79005 The Wizard Battle and 79007 Battle at the Black Gate, with one smiling expression and the other angry as well as grey eyebrows and a couple of wrinkles. His beard is unique to this character and was created just for him, so naturally it looks perfect in light bluish grey.
Gandalf here wears a dark bluish grey cape. The torso is printed with a belt and various straps on the front and back while his legs are plain dark grey with no printing. Gandalf comes with one accessory, his staff, which is a simple 6L reddish brown bar.
Quite possibly the most interesting Minifigure in this set is Saruman the White, who only appears in one other set, 79005 The Wizard Battle, although in a slightly different guise. His combined hair and beard piece is fantastic, cast in rubbery white plastic with light and dark grey printing on his beard, this is a very detailed piece, and is impressively accurate to Saruman in the films. His head is also lovely with bushy black eyebrows and a small white beard printed on it. He has different expressions on either side of the head piece, one with a rather sinister smile, and the other with a more serious grimace. It is perhaps interesting to note that this same head piece was used in 75017 Duel on Geonosis on the Count Dooku Minifigure, another character portrayed (exceptionally well I might add) by Christopher Lee.
Saruman comes complete with a white cape and long white robes printed on his torso and the 2 x 2 slope piece which forms his legs. The torso is the same as the piece which appears in 79005 The Wizard Battle and is printed with some silver scrollwork and multiple layers of fabric. The design is continued on the back of the torso and on the slope which is included for his legs. It is only this slope which differs from the Minifigure included in 79005 The Wizard Battle. Saruman is armed with his staff and some plain white legs are included as an alternative to the slope piece should you wish to seat him on his throne.
The only Minifigure which is totally exclusive to this set is Gríma Wormtongue, a character who appears in several scenes throughout the film trilogy. The hairpiece used is that which was introduced with Dastan from the Prince of Persia theme, which is shoulder-length and untidy, just like how his hair appears in the film. The head piece is cast in tan and is printed with sunken eyes and wrinkled skin to reflect the sickly appearance of Gríma in the films. Two expressions are printed on the component, one angry, and the other rather miserable.
A black cape is worn and his torso is printed with various details including a belt, a fur lined jacket and a medallion hanging from a chain. The back of the piece is also printed with a belt and some more fur lining the neckline, although this is of course obscured entirely by the cape. His legs are black, with no printing and he comes with a single accessory, a dagger, with which you can recreate him stabbing Saruman as he does in a scene from the extended edition of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
An Uruk-Hai is also included, which is a bonus as he could well have been omitted without being detrimental to the rest of the set. This Minifigure is particularly pleasing as it is printed with the white hand of Saruman, which has only appeared in 9476 The Orc Forge prior to this set. His helmet, printed with the aforementioned white handprint) is very accurate to the film and is cast in pearl dark grey. The head piece is printed with two different faces which is useful when displaying multiple Uruk-Hai together as it provides some variations to their appearance as it should. On one side, the white hand of Saruman is printed on the face, and on the other is some scarring. Both sides are printed with bright yellow eyes and bared teeth which look suitably menacing.
This Uruk-Hai wears a chest armour component over his torso, which is highly detailed with padding and armour plating on the front and back. The design is continued onto his hips and legs which are similarly armoured. He carries a standard Uruk-Hai sword, which is a nice piece, and the usual shield, albeit with the white hand of Saruman printed on it this time.
Finally, an Orc Pitmaster is included, who is identical to one of the Orcs in 9476 The Orc Forge and has nothing but accessories which actually distinguish him as a 'Pitmaster.' His head is printed with bared teeth and all kinds of wrinkles, as well as a few strands of hair on the back of the head. Much like the Uruk-Hai, the Orc Pitmaster's torso is printed with armour plating and spikes. The same design is continued onto the back. His legs are plain dark brown, and he carries two accessories, one large axe and a grapnel hook for taking down the attacking Ents.
Two more characters are included in this set which I can only describe as 'creatures', the first of which is an Eagle, most probably Gwaihir, the Eagle which rescues Gandalf from the Tower of Orthanc in the first film and also appears in 79007 Battle at the Black Gate. This animal consists of three parts, two wings, and the combined body and head piece in the centre. He has printed eyes and a dark tan beak, while the rest of him is largely reddish brown. The wings are cast with some feathered detail and the edges of the wings and tail feathers are dark brown, which looks excellent if you ask me.
The Eagle is nice enough, although there are a couple of flaws in my opinion, most notably the rather serious scaling issue. This Eagle is far smaller than he ought to be beside the Minifigures, a brick built model would have been far more suitable, perhaps similar to 31004 Fierce Flyer as many people have suggested. Also, I think that the character's claws look a bit odd, being fused together and with the ability to attach to studs. From certain angles the Eagle looks great, but either a creature of a similar size to the dragon in 70403 Dragon Mountain or even better a brick-built model would have been preferable.
A huge draw to this set for me is the Ent, who looks fantastic and stands almost 23cm high. I do not believe this is a model of any particular Ent from the books or films, it certainly does not look much like Treebeard to me at least. His feet are huge and look as though they could quite easily crush an Orc if need be. There are a few leaves and a mushroom attached which look great and on the top are some leafy branches. I love the detail of his printed eyes being askew and the dark green vines which form his beard.
On the back of the Ent is a gear which can be turned to activate what I like to call the 'Orc hurling action' (it is rather reminiscent of Buzz Lightyear's 'karate chop action' if you ask me). This is a nice feature and it does not take too much away from the displayability of the model. He is poseable at the ankles, hips, shoulders (although the left shoulder is on a ball joint while the right just swivels) and the elbows. His fingers are also moveable and can grip Minifigures with ease. I really do love this figure, a lot of character is related through the crooked eyes and he certainly is fun to pose. Even the 'Orc hurling action' is fun!
The Minifigures and Creatures Overall
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, although this set is not about the Minifigures, Saruman and Gríma Wormtongue in particular are excellent. Gandalf the Grey is a welcome and necessary addition to the set, as are the Uruk-Hai and Orc Pitmaster, which will both be a useful inclusion for bolstering the armies of Mordor. The Eagle too is a nice character, but it is difficult to overlook the scale, which is quite a bit too small to interact properly with the Minifigures.
The real highlight for me has got to be the Ent. He has a lot of character and he is good fun to play with, as well as looking great on display.
Stay tuned for part 2 in which I will take a look at the Tower of Orthanc itself...
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