Review: LEGO Star Wars 20th Anniversary Anakin’s Podracer

Nowadays, it’s commonplace for big-budgeted sci-fi and fantasy films to get LEGO tie-ins. Even the occasional sitcom — hi, Big Bang Theory! — has gotten in on the action. But 20 years ago, LEGO was entirely its own thing, and did not cross brands. Then came Star Wars. In the year of The Phantom Menace, new movies from the merchandise juggernaut were becoming a thing and LEGO sales were down. So LEGO partnered with Star Wars, and the two have been getting along famously ever since.

Changes got made along the way. At a certain point, LEGO realized that the generic yellow skin color for its minfigs didn’t work so well when representing real people. Now, all the licensed live-action minifigs use approximate skin tones. And builds have gotten more elaborate and problem-solving, as they do. In recognition of this fact, LEGO is now revisiting some of those first Star Wars sets it put out, with updated details and bonus classic collectible figures.

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Podracers have always been tricky feats of engineering for toys, since they rely onscreen on special effects that make each part appear to levitate. Hasbro solved this with stiff metal rods substituting for the tether ropes, and used the energy beams as a connector. LEGO originally had a stand made of white bricks, but the upgrade uses clear bricks. It’s a marked improvement; of course you can still see them, but they allow some suspension of disbelief. (It could be representing a dust cloud, you know.)

The build is pretty quick, as I managed it in a couple of hours while multitasking. It is one that is inherently repetitive — you build one engine, then copy the whole process again to build the other. It’s heavy on stickers, too, but at least they all fit one per piece. Take heed, Todd McFarlane. The vanes on each engine can open up like flower petals for racing, or close for parking, while the side flaps in the cockpit hinge up and down.

Because nobody likes the more appropriate Jar Jar, the racer comes with Padme as well as Li’l Ani. The bonus anniversary figure is 1999-style X-Wing pilot Luke Skywalker, with an anniversary logo stamped on his back and a special stand that can connect to others.

At around $20, this makes a good basic LEGO set for the prequel fan in your life. Or at least the vehicles in them. Kylo Ren’s beloved grandfather had to start somewhere.