Review: 10237 Tower of Orthanc, part 2

Posted by ,

10237 Tower of Orthanc

In the second part of my review of 10237 Tower of Orthanc, I am going to take a look at the construction of the set and the tower itself. For the first part, where I reviewed the box, Minifigures and creatures, follow this link.

As I mentioned in the first part of the review, this set is really about the Tower of Orthanc itself rather than the Minifigures and I guarantee that with this set, you will not be disappointed. Of the sets I own, this is the tallest, the only other model which really comes close is 10212 Imperial Shuttle. When placed on its stand, that model stands about an inch shorter than the Tower of Orthanc. As one might guess, I think there are only a very few sets better for display than this one and there are plenty of fun features too.

Being almost entirely black and rather shiny, as well as the obvious size issue, made this set quite tricky to photograph. Therefore I can only apologise for one or two of the shots which I simply could not get right, hopefully they get the idea across though.

The Build

This is perhaps one of the most entertaining builds I have ever experienced. There are innumerable fascinating techniques and moments of real inspiration during the construction of this set. I love the use of a Zamor sphere as the famous Palantír and the mixture of Technic and System construction is very enjoyable.

Furthermore, the construction of this set includes some of those brilliant moments where you are not entirely sure quite what you are building until it all comes together at the last step. The ingenious creation of the ribbed appearance of the base of the tower and the four spires at the top is impressive, as are numerous details both inside the tower and, perhaps even more impressively in my opinion, outside.

The Completed Model

As soon as I completed the Tower of Orthanc, what immediately struck me was the sheer height of the model. It is the tallest of the sets I own and I cannot imagine that many other models even come close to this tower. The best set to compare this to in height is 10212 Imperial Shuttle as I said at the start. When that model is placed on the stand and placed beside this one, it still is slightly shorter than the Tower of Orthanc. The tower is 73cm in height (which is pointed out in a graphic on the box) but looks even larger in person I think, particularly beside the Ent or a Minifigure, both of which are dwarfed by this model.

Anyway, on to the actual set, I shall begin at the base where we find steps for entering the tower and the lower half of the black ribbing on the outside of the model, as well as a dungeon inside. There are several nice details in here including bones and skulls scattered on the floor, a pack of Wargs which look rather dangerous towards the rear of this section (created by a sticker) and the obligatory light bluish grey rat. A couple more stickers are used down here for a door and a grating, behind which eyes can be seen peering out of the darkness.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

On the next floor is the entrance hall, and the ribbing is continued externally. A couple of banners showing the white hand of Saruman are included in this area, unfortunately using stickers, as well as double doors which open out to the steps. These doors close to a right angle which is a bit of a shame, I personally would have preferred them to close flush and parallel with the stairs. A small statue is placed on a plinth and some decorative axes also feature in the entrance hall. On the floor is a dark blue rug, which is decorated with a sticker to represent the floor tile design which is visible in the film. This rug disguises a trapdoor feature which can be used to drop unwelcome guests into the dungeon below. Last of all for this floor is a chandelier which hangs from the ceiling. This reason for this inclusion (beyond looking rather nice) will become clear with the next level.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

Saruman's throne room is the area in which most of the action takes place within the Tower of Orthanc during the Lord of the Rings films. In here we see many of the features which are visible in the film including Saruman's magnificent seat, two elaborate lamps and of course the Palantír. At the sides of the room are some bookshelves which are naturally stacked with books (actually 1 x 2 tiles of varying colours). There is an envelope and a potion bottle on the right-hand bookcase, while on the left are some more potions and a scroll with a sketch of a cauldron and some tiny writing. Outside is a balcony from which Saruman can inspect his Uruk-Hai horde, as well as some arched windows and spikes. Probably the most significant and impressive feature of the set is found here as well. By pushing the chandelier upwards from the floor below, the Palantír can be lit up very effectively. Roughly one half of the Palantír is solid black, while the other is a misty sand green, through which the light brick can glow, producing an orange and black mixture which looks brilliant.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

At this point, the tower can be split in two much like a Modular building which is a nice touch in case the set needs to go into storage. The next level contains Saruman's alchemy area, in which he can create explosive concoctions using various pots and pans, as well as a cauldron which can be tipped up using a gear to its right. A couple more potion bottles, a barrel and a bomb, which is also found in 9474 The Battle of Helm's Deep, are strewn around here too. On this floor are some larger barred windows, which are doubtless good for ventilation, and a pair of unlit torches, which I think is wonderful inclusion. Obviously having lit torches beside explosives is never wise.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

The next floor is probably my favourite. In here are five portraits of the five wizards of Middle Earth, Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Rómestámo and Mohrinehtar. There are some rather odd inconsistencies here, most notably the fact that there seem to be two grey wizards and two brown. I believe it is the three wizards who are placed on the back wall in this area are Radagast, Saruman and Gandalf, while the other two ought to be blue really. This is not too much of an issue though, just getting the paintings is a brilliant and very welcome inclusion! In here are also more bookcases, a small table, some torches, skulls, and a few scrolls and books. One of these books is placed on a stand in the centre of the room, and it appears to have the Eye of Sauron on the front cover which is a little disconcerting. A small light fitting is on the ceiling, and much like the chandelier on the second floor, this is important for a function of the set.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

The final floor has yet more spikes on the outside and by this point the tower has tapered from a width of 26 studs at the base, to 12 studs up here. Despite the smaller size however, this room is no less interesting. This area betrays Saruman's loyalties utterly and is complete with a set of Uruk-Hai armour (further to the one which is included for the Uruk-Hai Minifigure), a painting of the tower of Barad-dûr which looks much like a shrine, as well as a couple of fantastic touches which reference the films. These wonderful details are a pair of keys and three wizard staffs, inspired by Saruman's line "what do you want Gandalf greyhame, let me guess, the key of Orthanc, or perhaps the keys of Barad-dûr itself? Along with the crowns of the seven kings and the rods of the five wizards!" This is quite possibly the greatest Easter egg I have ever known in a LEGO set, and if there is one thing I like, it is an Easter egg.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

Also on this floor is a folding ladder which can be released by twisting the light fitting on the floor below. An identically designed ladder is found in 10228 Haunted House and this one works just as well as that, comfortably reaching down to the floor below.

The final level is the summit of the Tower of Orthanc, where Gandalf is held captive before he escapes with help from Gwaihir and whence Saruman makes his defiant speech prior to his death (at the hands of Gríma Wormtongue). The four spires are also featured up here, and they look absolutely fantastic. The accuracy of this area is amazing and the detail is brilliant. Simply put, this is lovely way to top things off.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

Overall

I own quite a few of the more iconic sets of this kind of size from recent years, 10188 Death Star, 10228 Haunted House and 10212 Imperial Shuttle spring to mind in particular. This set certainly joins those as among the best sets in my collection. Simply put, the detail, playability and displayability for this set are all outstanding and this is by far the best set of the Lord of the Rings theme.

10237 Tower of Orthanc

Parts: 5 - If you are looking for black or dark bluish grey pieces, then this is the set to buy. There are plenty of brand new pieces too which are wonderful to see.

Playability: 5 - There is a huge amount of fun to be had with this set, every room has some brilliant details and features.

Building Experience: 5 - One of the most entertaining construction experiences I have had with a set.

Value for Money: 5 - I think £169.99 or $199.99 seems quite reasonable for this set, particularly with the inclusion of an Ent and the Eagle.

Overall: 5 - An almost perfect set, there are no significant flaws and I give this set my utmost recommendation.

Note: Many thanks to Telcontar who has kindly informed me of some further Easter eggs which I had missed on the model.

Firstly, in the second room from the top, one can find a 2x2 tile with a sticker on it. On here is some Elvish writing (which is meaningless as far as I can tell having tried to translate it via an online Elvish dictionary) and a drawing of the Ring of Barahir. At one point in the Two Towers film, Saruman can be seen reading from a scroll similar to this one briefly, so this is a nice little inclusion.

The final room is even more interesting however. As well as the keys and staffs which are located in here, there is also another possible Easter egg, accidentally included or otherwise. As I mentioned in the main section of the review, a picture of Barad-dûr dominates this area. However, by removing this panel (a 2x4 tile) one can reveal a small area which could be a reference to a moment from the 'Unfinished Tales' when Aragorn and Gimli discover a secret compartment, possibly for the purpose of storing the One Ring of Power. Make up your own mind about this one, but it is a real treat for Lord of the Rings fans!

69 comments on this article

Gravatar
By in United States,

Thaaaaaank youuuuuuu Capn!!!!!!!! I looooooove it!

Gravatar
By in New Zealand,

Damn, now I have to get it!

Thanks Cap!

Gravatar
By in United States,

I look forward to buying this set. But I have to ask, shouldn't the very top of the tower as seen in the picture be black and not a light gray plate?

Gravatar
By in United States,

@Jonathan- You should probably edit that word out.

Gravatar
By in United States,

This is really an excellent set, I'm glad to own it. Makes a great home for all the "evil" characters you may have acquired over the years.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Damn.
I wasn't planning to buy it, but now I'm sure going to get it.
Damn damn damn. You make me spend money.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Damn, that is a damn good set. I think I would have a damn good time building it. Damn. I'm off to the dam now.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Damn great review! I built this huge damn set recently and it was truly damn greeeeat.

Gravatar
By in Australia,

Sorry wallet, it looks like this has sealed the deal...

Gravatar
By in United States,

I'll have to get a copy, as soon as I darn these socks. Great-looking set with lots of details, thanks for the review!

Gravatar
By in United States,

Great review. I previously decided to not buy this set mostly because of all the black pieces. I recently assembled the batmobile 7784 set. Although the batmobile set is great, all those black pieces made me swear off predominantly black sets for a bit. But after reading your review, I just added the Tower of Orthanc to my wanted list. I'm now looking forward to those "brilliant moments" and the "ingenious creation".

Gravatar
By in Canada,

The choice to eat or get this set is getting harder by the day... damn.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Currently on USA shop.lego.com this set is rated 5 out of 5 for play experience! Probably a set you want to own before you die!

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

I know exactly what you mean about the colouring of the wizards; when I got mine, I thought I had two Radagasts!

Gravatar
By in United States,

Very detailed and excellent review. As I own the tower, I can say that I agree with you 100%, Capn. The Tower is a truly great set and easily the best of the LotR line. Let's hope Lego makes a few more UCS-type sets. Barad-dur, maybe? Rivendell? Lorien? Minas Tirith? Minas Morgul? There are certainly a lot of possibilities.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Damn.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Even if you're not into the Lord of the Rings theme, this is a fantastic set for parts! There's lots of black, sure, but I was also surprised by the sheer variety of parts here.

If you are a Lord of the Rings fan......what are you waiting for?!?! :-D

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Is "damn" really a cuss/rude word??? certainly not in Europe or anywhere else I know?

Gravatar
By in United States,

@ jonbo2000, it is still a rude word for younger kids, which there are probably plenty of on this site.

Anyway great second part of the review CapnRex!

Gravatar
By in United States,

I think if you are old enough to get on the internet and read LEGO forums, you are probably old enough to be aware of that word. But I think we should leave it up to a MOD to decide.

As far as the set, it is truly great. Although once I built mine and put it on the floor for lack of display, I haven't touched it since. The downside, black shows off the dust quite well. But it needs to be black for accuracy purposes.

I also would have liked the paintings to be more accurate, but LEGO can't win them all.

I think this was a great review and very informative for the reader. The one thing I liked about the Eurobricks review was they showed screen caps of the movie along with the build to show how accurate it actually is. Very smart.

Either way, thanks and keep them coming.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Is this not predominantly a AFOL site? Damn, some people need to get off their high horses!

Gravatar
By in United States,

Stop shielding your kids form everything! The world is much more challenging than a minor swear word. Teach them what is right and good. They will thank you for it when they are adults.

Gravatar
By in United States,

^Exactly. But if 'damn' is 'evil', why let them view it at their pleasure? No, you can't ban something like that. You can't hide it completely. But if you don't try to shield them a little bit, then what's the point to being a parent?

Gravatar
By in United States,

My sister has this set. It's a sight to behold.

Also damn is okay to say here, I've seen it scattered about the comments forum for as long as I've been here. It's child's play when it comes to swearing and really has no harsh effects in admiration of this set.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@ jonbuddy, yes it is okay to say minor swears every once in a while, but when a majority of the people posting comments here say it, it gets a bit ridiculous.

Gravatar
By in United States,

^^Totally agree. You need to pick and choose. We live in a fairly large metro area and take our kids all over on public transportation. Recently on a light rail train a verbal fight broke out and it nearly turn into physical fight. Pretty much everything was said including some racial slurs. We watched on and I knew nothing would happen to us. Later at home my wife and I had had a long talk with our kids (11 & 9) about what had happened. At the end my kids came to the conclusion the incident was “sad to see”. Education does not all come from school and books.
P.S. We were on our way home from a visit to a Lego Store!!!

Gravatar
By in United States,

There are even more easter eggs in those top two rooms. You'd have to be a really big Middle-earth fan to catch them though. I wrote about all of them in my review of the set. Also, the Blue Wizards' names were Allatar and Pallando for much of Tolkien's life. Later, near the end of his life he changed them and also the end result of their mission (but in doing so he contradicted everything else written previously concerning them). But that's something else I mentioned in my review.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Great review, Capn! I like how you made the connection with the keys and staffs to Saruman's line, since I probably wouldn't have made that connection on my own. That's the kind of detail/research I like to see in reviews!

Gravatar
By in United States,

@coson, it only happened because lego613master complained. Yes it's excessive, but it was proving a point.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Hot diggity gosh! That's one hell of a set.

Gravatar
By in Curaçao,

We've had the 'damn' discussion here many times before.

Basically, in the UK it's in everyday use. In the USA it's considered a bad word, for some reason. Its use here is acceptable.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

I put it down to our rejection of the Puritans when the monarchy was restored in 1660.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@ Huw, thank you for clearing this up, and I completely respect your opinion.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@Huw- Thanks, this was never meant to be any sort of a deal at all. I was just sayin'.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Thanks everybody for your comments.

@Telecontar - Wow, there are loads of secrets hidden in those top two rooms then! I am a fairly casual Tolkien fan, if it is not in the films or the books, I am unaware of it usually. I might add a few footnotes to this review if you do not mind with some of the additional information which you mentioned in your review.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

easily the best set of the LOTR theme and its not as if these sets have been poor. the big sets, Helms deep, pirate ship are so amazing by themselves but this takes the biscuit. cannot wait to own it (Christmas) and I agree the details from the film like the keys and staffs, brilliant easter eggs.

I see this as the LOTR death star with all the action scenes. there that death star was complimented by death star II that was basically a modular build. I can see the same thing happening with Sauron's tower. No rooms, no easter eggs, no characters, just one mega tower with an eye.

Gravatar
By in Norway,

I think the inclusion of the staffs was based on a misconception, I saw the design video and it seemed to me the designer just took Saruman's line literally and thought Saruman actually had the rods and the keys...

Gravatar
By in United States,

^^^CapnRex101, That'd be great! I don't mind at all.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@Huw- Damn is considered a bad word to some people for its use as a verb, as in to damn someone to hell.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Yes, may you face eternal hellfire, brimstone and damnation. Damned be you dear man. Dammit.

Gravatar
By in United States,

The tallest set you own? I presume you don't own the Eiffel Tower?

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

^ I do not own the Eiffel Tower. Only that set and 3450 Statue of Liberty are taller than this one I believe, but I own neither of them.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@GuardianofAtlantis, thanks for that little English lesson for @Huw! Yes, he must not know the meaning and uses of the word damn! Wow!!!!!!

Gravatar
By in United States,

Damn that's an awesome set!

Gravatar
By in United States,

I love this set and drove my family 4 hours to Atlanta to get it. Its almost too tall for the lego shelf its on. This one may stay put together the longest (the Death Star and Haunted House have been scrapped for pieces). Great review.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

This thing is pretty damn cool

Gravatar
By in United States,

"Basically, in the UK it's in everyday use. In the USA it's considered a bad word, for some reason. Its use here is acceptable."

Interesting.

Damn is often used in anger in the US as in "God damn it!!!!" I'm assuming that's not the case in the UK?

Gravatar
By in United States,

@max&joey, poor sarcasm makes none of this better.

Now can we just get back to admiring the set, not arguing a silly word?

Gravatar
By in United States,

@Jonbuddy, Exactly, this is becoming just silly.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Dis set. I wants it.Now i need the money.

Gravatar
By in United States,

My logic about "the word" is that you would NEVER be allowed to mention it on the Lego Message Boards. If a kid/adult is not allowed to say it on there, why here? There are several kids on there (The LMBs) I know that read Brickset.

And please don;t let this turn into another argument!! It was never meant to be like that!

Gravatar
By in United States,

@lego613master, Because Brickset.com has zero affiliation with the LEGO Group, and on a more literal level LEGO.com. Why should they have to cater to users from that site? Yes, I used to be quite active on there and remember how strict everything was, but Brickset doesn't need that kind of moderation and guidelines.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

praise the overlord. yeeeehaaaa

Gravatar
By in United States,

@jonbuddy, Lego.com has some affiliation with Brickset here. After all, they run ads here.

And why shouldn't Brickset impose some more guidelines like that? I mean, nobody needs to hear/see/read/say things like that.

Gravatar
By in Canada,

I knew I was going to buy this for myself as a reward for finding a new job. This review makes that decision all the stronger.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@jonbubby sorry the "poor sarcasm!" I commented on the set before. Most postings are now on the word "damn!" Again "Wow"!!

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

The "F" word is in everyday use in the U.K. Let's not make a big thing out of damn.

Damnation - is the concept of everlasting divine punishment and/or disgrace, especially the punishment for sin as threatened by God (e.g. Mark 3:29). A damned being "in damnation" is said to be either in Hell, or living in a state wherein they are divorced from Heaven and/or in a state of disgrace from God's favor. Those Christians in purgatory, the "Church Suffering", are not considered damned, because their stay there is not eternal, while people who are damned to Hell will stay there eternally.

So, it is in the bible and therefore not necessarily a swear word.

To quote Bart Simpson:
Marge: So, what did you children learn about today?
Bart: Hell.
Homer: Bart!
Bart: Well, that's what we learned about. I sure as hell can't tell you we learned about hell unless I say "hell," can I?
Homer: Eh, The lad has a point.
Bart: Hell, yes!
Marge: Bart!
Bart: (Singing) Hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell.
Marge: Bart, you're no longer in Sunday school. Don't swear

So to hell with it, this is the best God Damned set I have ever built in my God forsaken hell-bound life.

Praise be to Jebus!

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

duh duh duh duh - NED FLANDERS!!!!!

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Wow! The moralising, overreactions to moralising and even the Simpsons themselves have overflowed from their thread to here! Funny how the use of one word and someone making an entirely reasonable suggestion in response can snowball into something ridiculous on the internet.

I don't want to wade into this and offer an overall verdict as if my word should be definitive, but @lukehankenobi, I can be definitive about what you have just said about it. Your argument is far too simplistic; a word being in the Bible doesn't stop it being a swear word as, for example, God is a word used pretty widely in the Bible but if it's misused it becomes a swear word. Paul's words 'me genoito' (translated "by no means," "may it never be,"etc) might actually be him swearing, depending on how define what swearing is too.
It's the meaning assigned to a word in context that makes it a swear word, not the word itself, which may have more than one assigned meaning (though a lot of swear words only have the one meaning, so I can understand why you wouldn't necessarily have noticed that).
(Your understanding of the suffering Church constituting purgatory is pretty curious to me too; Catholics wouldn't define it that way and protestants would reject the very concept itself. That's properly off topic, but if you are confused on that it makes me reluctant to trust your understanding of other Christian issues.)

Back to what these comment should be for - Nice review Cap'n, you piqued my curiosity enough to build it in LDD and it's pretty impressive just on there! I doubt I'll ever actually buy it but I enjoyed getting a closer look through your description and pictures. Great job, thanks!

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

^Um, reasonable suggestion by who's standards? More like taking the moral high ground and being a busy body - that's why there are mods and if you took the time to scroll through the comments above, HUW stated that this discussion has been had, and he is ok with the use of the word. P.S. There's lots of stuff in the bible that if followed verbatim will have you in knots morally.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

In what way is someone saying "you should probably edit that word out" taking the moral high ground?
It was just someone who thought that damn could be classed as an offensive word offering what they thought was a helpful suggestion.
There was no accusation, no high-ground hogging, and no busybody moralising.
It was the responses that overreacted and threw the word round with ironic abandon that hijacked the comments and made the whole thing ridiculous.
(Incidentally, my point about the meaning of words not being inherent in the particular collection of letters would probably support that the word is not a problem. I was telling @lukehankenobi how his particular point was flawed, not taking sides in the debate. As you point out, Huw settled it a while ago, which is partly why I was exasperated at how silly it is that we're still talking about it!)

And I'd say there isn't anything at all in the Bible that if followed properly would tie you in knots morally, though there is a lot of stuff that if interpreted lazily or wrongly would do so. This is hardly the place but I'd be interested to know what you mean by 'verbatim,' if you want to email me any examples I'd be happy to try and explain them. I know it's assuming a lot that I could, but having confidence in the Bible, and having myself learnt koine Greek and biblical Hebrew, and gained a first class BD in theology I'm quite confident I can back that up.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

@zipsforbananas - My comments were said flippantly and if you notice I said "therefore not necessarily a swear word" I am perfectly aware as to what constitutes a swear word,or not. The definition of Damnation was cut a pasted from Wiki, for amusement. So lighten up! As for understanding Christianity? As I was brought up a churchgoer, I have enough of an understanding of the scientific world to stay well clear these days thank you. You are just being pedantic, and taking my comments way too seriously. I was just having a laugh, and you strengthen my point rather than weaken it.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

I refuse to get involved in debates, so I simply say: good review Capn, are you reviewing the Battle at the Black Gate shortly?

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

It seems to me that this debate is not really going anywhere, so there is no need to prolong it.

@arl100 - Reviews of Battle at the Black Gate and Pirate Ship Ambush are coming up next, then back to Star Wars sets hopefully.

Gravatar
By in United States,

@Capnrex101, yes I agree two paragraph comments just to discuss a word is silly.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

@lukehankenobi - sorry, I'm as tongue in cheek as anyone at times and I did completely miss that. And the bit I was taking issue with on Christianity was in the wikipedia paste too so hey, forget everything I said!
I think I've just illustrated why internet discussions go crazy like this - comments can be read seriously when they're meant sarcastically and visa versa. And ironically I was only commenting because this thread had got silly, and in pointing that out I went and made it worse!

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

I should just add, I write such massive posts on topics like this precisely because it's so easy to be misunderstood - I use more words to try and make it clearer.
And I'd try to say that I try to be accurate rather than purely pedantic, but how do I make that distinction without coming across as pedantic? Hey ho! ;)

Gravatar
By in United States,

On Brickset, I would be more worried about words like M--a Bl--ks or K-e-o or K'--x being said openly... that is where the TRUE terror lies!

The review was, by the way, excellent.
Also, what sort of piece is the Palantir exactly? is it a recolored zamor sphere, a crystal ball, or some other component?

Commenting has ended on this article.

Related articles

Return to home page »