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Saturday, 22 June 2013

CLASSIC REVIEW: 'LEGO STAR WARS - THE VISUAL DICTIONARY'



LEGO STAR WARS: THE VISUAL DICTIONARY


By Simon Beecroft


Published by DORLING KINDERSLEY BOOKS UK


Reviewed by Scott Weller


If the idea of time travel ever becomes an incredible reality, I’d love to go back to Sweden in the early 1930’s and find the creator of LEGO, ex-carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, take him out of his workshop and then bring him forward to 2009 so that he could see how his inspired toy piece creations have multiplied and spawned into other areas beyond his original vision.

I think that would be absolutely thrilled to see STAR WARS and LEGO becoming an almost inseparable combination within the toy industry- one that is being discovered by new converts, or re-discovered by oldsters, every day.

Now we have this new book covering the range-a terrific and fact bustingly comprehensive timeline to every LEGO STAR WARS related product/figure/kit ever released, a truly indispensable new guide book from DORLING KINDERSLEY-LEGO STAR WARS- THE VISUAL DICTIONARY shows the range’s assured popularity from its promising start in 1999- its fascinating to watch how quickly its line would increase into all six films within such a relatively small space of time as ten years- and seeing all the depth and the way that the LEGO pieces have been shaped and adapted to the STAR WARS universe (no easy task), and vice versa, in such an incredible way. Prior to 1999, it amazes me that no one had ever thought about putting the two brands, as well as the equally successful INDIANA JONES, together during the original sagas release. No matter, though, as the birth of the Prequels and the more complex demands of the child demographic would see in the right time for the equally rightly desired birth of the STAR WARS LEGO toy sets, whose unparalleled success right from the get go seems set to continue for a long time to come.

The care, attention and, above all else, love for the products listed and detailed, as well as the overall STAR WARS universe itself in which they apply to, by regular DORLING KINDERSLEY author/book overseer Simon Beecroft, is clearly evident, and Jon Halls design is a lovely visual accomplishment-easy on the eye and bringing the craft to wonderful life on the page.

The still life photographs accompanying the expansive text are terrific and mouth watering to any buyer who wants to complete their collection, and it’s incredible seeing how some of the items have been converted to the LEGO format- you can see how all the hard work appeals to fans young and old.

My only real complaint of the book is that it could’ve had more pages and that some of the smaller photos could have been reproduced bigger-perhaps in later volumes, and, with the success of this book more than guaranteed, there are bound to be future volumes.

Detailed into numerous sections (with profiles on characters, weapons, ships and environments), the largest of them in the book is on the actual movies themselves, and so that is the obvious highpoint for this author (of the standouts, the DEATH STAR has to be one of the finest STAR WARS toys, LEGO or not, ever produced-a wonderful set to marvel at and enjoy with its multi level planetoid shape, and the Bespin Cloud City all in one environment which is also pretty neat-once more, I wish there had been similar playsets as good as this when it I was growing up (I think that’s one of the reasons why the older LEGO collecting fan base is so much on the increase these days). Other sets of note include the Home Onebase interior, the Sail Barge, and the Endor shield generator bunker), as well as THE CLONE WARS, and then there’s the areas dedicated to the specialist sets like the 2002 mini sets (that are more accurate and detailed), LEGO TECHNIC-LEGO characters that have moving parts and are more complex in construction (Vader being a real natural standout) and the ULTIMATE COLLECTOR sets (like the marvelous Star Destroyer, Snowspeeder and Tantive IV).

As well as the clarity he brings with the STAR WARS film information, Beecroft expertly tells the story of the saga linked to the bricks, unveiling detailed little trivia/fact boxes on the entire range of items, including listing the amounts of pieces involved with each (one of the largest LEGO sets ever commercially produced being the mini fig-scaled edition of the Millennium Falcon. Designed by Jens Kronvold Fredericksen, it was released in 2007 and has 5,195 pieces, only recently surpassed by a LEGO model of the Taj Mahal which would ultimately consist of 5,922 pieces) and other fascinating behind the scenes info, like what’s rarer to get hold of, why. Annoyingly, though, even for an official book, lightsaber isstill being incorrectly spelt as “lightsabre” throughout its pages!! C’mon guys, only the fans should be making that mistake!!

And its not just the astonishing play sets on display, so, too, are the actual line-up of little figures accompanying them-a varied assortment more than capable of giving HASBRO  a run for their money. Some figures obviously look better than others-I don’t recall Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin ever looking as he does in his LEGO incarnation, and the Natalie Portman conversion brings a wry smile to my face every time I see it. There are some incredible ones, though-I love the Wookiee warrior figures, Vader (who looks good in any format!!), the Stormtroopers, and even Qui-Gon Jinn!! I’d love to know what the STAR WARS film and animated TV series actors think of their LEGO counter-parts! And hey, how about developing some LEGO STAR WARS FAMILY GUY figures in a suitable range for the older buyers!!!

There’s also the equally special and varied world of the super-fan LEGO building, which goes beyond the official products, and their fan community gets to showcase some of their incredible works within their own their tribute area of the book. From the incredible Echo Base hangar to the exterior streets of Mos Eisley, these are fan recreations that certainly show the real LEGO designers- the true believers of “the Brick”-a thing or two on the inventive-ness scale.

LEGO STAR WARS has even bred into other forms of entertainment and merchandising linked to it-there’s the ever popular and fascinating video games and mini movies, the key rings, etc, and that’s also explored in another fun little section.

Towards the end of the book is an excellent interview with the skilled talents of the Danish LEGO Design Manager Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, and how he and his skilled team bring LEGO STAR WARS to practical reality-from the early stages, where they pick what’s to be developed and released, to hammering out the basic designs, to the complex building schematics, construction and final release, in a feature again accompanied by some great photography behind the scenes.

Certainly, like the toy company’s credo, the LEGO STAR WARS VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA lives up to its founders core values of fun and enjoyment in play. And as a lovely free gift celebrating 10 tremendous years for the brand, the book comes with an exclusive specially made one-off Luke figure from EPISODE IV’s final medal ceremony. You don’t get a better bonus than that.

Until that day when time travel is possible, Ole Kirk Christiansen lives on in his product and there’s no finer one in this particular area of toy entertainment than LEGO STAR WARS. This lovingly put together tribute from DORLING KINDERSLEY captures that perfect embodiment of spirited fun, dedicated craft and enthusiasm. This hardcover table book is the ultimate guide for any collector who wants to make sure that they truly, truly, exhaustively have everything related to STAR WARS LEGO.


AFICIONADO RATING: Things have come along way since I was building houses from red and blue LEGO bricks as a child!! We keep saying it, but DORLING KINDERSLEY continues delivering the goods on the STAR WARS book front. A wonderful nostalgic trip through ten years of this winning merchandising formula. 9 out of 10

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