Given the LEGO Group’s recent propensity for large scale models of Star Wars characters in 75187 BB-8, 75255 Yoda, 75278 D-O and 75318 The Child, it was basically just a matter of time before we saw 10225 R2-D2 get a do-over.
The arrival of 75308 R2-D2 leaves us with two questions to answer: first, is there enough here to warrant upgrading if you own the original? And second, if this is your first venture into a brick-built Artoo, is it good enough to command your attention (and your budget) in an increasingly packed playing field of £150+ sets?
— Set details —
Theme: Star Wars Set name: 75308 R2-D2 Release: May 1, 2021
Price: £179.99 / $199.99 / €199.99 Pieces: 2,314 Minifigures: 1
LEGO: Available now
— Build —
While 75308 R2-D2 isn’t the first Ultimate Collector Series (or in this case, UCS-style) set to be revamped, it does represent the shortest window between original and redesigned sets arriving on shelves: it’s only (only!) been nine years since 10225 first joined the LEGO Star Wars line-up.
By contrast, a whopping 13 years passed between 7191 X-wing Fighter and 10240 Red Five X-wing Starfighter; we waited 14 years for another UCS Y-wing after 2004’s original; and even 75192 Millennium Falcon debuted an entire decade after 10179 Millennium Falcon.
That goes some way to explaining why – at least at first glance – 75308 R2-D2 doesn’t look like the same huge upgrade on its predecessor that those sets represented. But dig deeper into this astromech, and you’ll find that even nine years is plenty of time for new parts, colours and techniques to make a galaxy of difference.
You won’t find much insight on any of that directly from the LEGO Group in the instruction manual, the opening pages of which concentrate on the history of R2-D2 as a character. A couple of paragraphs touch on the real-life prop (piloted by Kenny Baker), but some preamble on the design of the LEGO model – as we’ve seen in plenty of other sets at this price bracket – would have been appreciated.
If you’ve put together any of the company’s recent buildable characters or droids, you’ll know what to expect from 75308 R2-D2’s build. The astromech adopts exactly the same approach we’ve seen in 75187 BB-8, 75318 The Child and so on, with a complex Technic core (facilitating multiple functions) surrounded by System panels.
That means the first three sets of numbered bags – nearly a quarter of the build – are spent working almost entirely within the Technic element library. The vast majority of Ultimate Collector Series sets, including the recent 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer and 75275 A-wing Starfighter, employ a Technic core. But it’s still worth acknowledging here, because – just as it did in those sets – this early stage of the build represents some of the most challenging construction the Star Wars theme has to offer.
Yes, you’re still just following an instruction manual, but there’s ample opportunity to go wrong – exemplified by the multiple call-outs that reinforce the exact alignment of specific steps – so you’ll need to pay particularly close attention until that colourful core is complete.
While the internal colours of most sets are jumbled simply to provide contrast during the building process (especially with the dreary grey exteriors Star Wars is generally known for), the mix of red and lime green inside 75308 R2-D2 serves a very specific purpose. Those two clashing colours represent the front and back of the droid, serving as a visual guide when you begin attaching the first of those external panels.
It’s a very smart – and wholly appreciated – design choice, preventing any potential frustration around incorrect orientation. Not everyone who picks up Artoo will be an expert LEGO builder, and a seemingly small (but super significant) consideration like those internal colours goes a long way to ensuring putting the droid together is a smooth experience regardless of your experience with the brick.
Things speed up considerably when the part palette swaps to System, with the exterior panels and legs proving surprisingly straightforward. That doesn’t mean they’re short on detail, and you’ll frequently find yourself building with studs facing in multiple directions – eventually allowing for an almost stud-free finished model – but compared to the first few bags, the middle stages of the build feel like a breeze.
You’ll understand the value of that simplicity when you reach the droid’s dome, however, because things slow down again with the final few bags. Just like in 10225 R2-D2, the designers have employed a careful and precise stacking of plates and bricks to render an entirely spherical object in angular bricks. That means you need to pay close attention to the configuration of – in particular – the dozens of 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2 corner dark blue plates that pour out of those last bags.
But while both of the LEGO Group’s interpretations of Artoo at this scale share similar construction processes around the dome, the results are entirely different. Instead of the Lowell sphere aesthetic of the 2012 set, 75308 R2-D2 uses curved slopes to give a smoother, almost stud-free impression of the astromech. It’s basically the best you can hope for from a LEGO rendition of a half-sphere, and feels like a suitable reflection of the nine years between both sets.
How better could the LEGO Group have used its 2021 part palette to realise R2-D2? Well, it could have swapped out light grey for drum-lacquered silver. Expensive, sure – but it would also have made this set a real showstopper in the same way the Hubble Space Telescope arguably steals the show in 10283 NASA Space Shuttle Discovery. If this truly is the LEGO Group’s ultimate (but not UCS!) rendition of R2-D2, a drum-lacquered silver dome would have been the icing on the cake.
The colours are otherwise pretty streamlined, especially compared to 10225 R2-D2 – dropping regular blue feels like a smart decision, while the pearl gold cables are more accurate than the original set’s brown tube elements. It’s another reflection of how refined this model feels next to its predecessor, and inches it ever-closer to being a worthy upgrade.
Where 75308 R2-D2 feels perhaps more limited is in its functions: deploying the third leg doesn’t feel as smooth as it could (or indeed should), requiring careful positioning to prevent the model from toppling over. It does look solid when in place, though, and pushing it back in is satisfyingly simple.
And while there really isn’t much room to work with in the dome (particularly without incorporating any egregious external triggers), the features built into it feel a little lacklustre as a result: manually pulling out Luke’s lightsaber and the periscope isn’t that impressive, to the extent that you probably just won’t bother.
It’s the same story with the arms concealed behind the front panel. Pushing a pair of conspicuously-protruding cones on the droid’s rear will open two hinged compartments, but you’ll still need to pull the arms out manually. Like the dome’s features, it’s great that they’re there at all, but they do come across as a bit of an afterthought.
That really just speaks to how 75308 R2-D2 is first and foremost a display model, however – and how those functions are simply there to facilitate those display options rather than acting as a hook in their own right. If you’re looking for an interactive replica of Artoo, this isn’t it – but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it fulfils its purpose as a display set almost perfectly.
— Characters —
True to previous buildable characters, 75308 R2-D2 includes just a single minifigure of its eponymous astromech. And as we’ve already rued in a separate feature, the same old Artoo here represents a major missed opportunity for the LEGO Group to give the character a much-needed update.
That sentiment is only exacerbated in building the set, because putting together those four elements to create the tiny accompanying Artoo is literally the last part of the process. And as a closer to what’s otherwise been an enjoyably satisfying build, it feels even more disappointing.
— Price —
LEGO Star Wars’ May the Fourth sets have remained at a consistent sub-£200 level for years, and reimagining Artoo at the scale this particular price point allows for – rather than taking him all the way up to the other extreme of £300 (or even £650) – was always going to be the sensible choice, even if it is the main reason why 75308 R2-D2 so immediately resembles its predecessor.
But keeping to that scale also means both droids can be directly compared in price, and the newer model definitely looks good in that arena. 10225 R2-D2 came in at £149.99 in 2012, which is roughly £182 in today’s money. 75308 R2-D2 retails for £179.99, so you’re basically only paying for inflation.
But we still would have paid another £20 for a drum-lacquered silver dome.
— Pictures —
— Summary —
A LEGO set is an approximation of its subject matter more than a replica scale model – a consequence of working within an existing part palette – and to that end it’s impressive how much detail the design team has captured in 75308 R2-D2. And it also makes it easier to forgive that lack of true functionality, because despite its Technic core, this is a set that succeeds predominantly as a display model – without losing that intangible (but crucial) LEGO DNA.
So, to answer our original two questions: yes, there’s enough here to warrant upgrading your original Artoo – at least if you want the modern, definitive take on the astromech droid; and yes, it very much deserves your attention, even while dozens of other also-excellent sets vie for your LEGO budget.
From the varied, involved build to the detail and accuracy exhibited throughout, 75308 R2-D2 is a totally justified and very worthwhile addition to the (not-UCS) LEGO Star Wars collection.
This set was not supplied for review by the LEGO Group – we headed down to the LEGO Store for May the Fourth and picked it up ourselves.
You can bag it from the comfort of your own sofa by ordering it from LEGO.com, and support the work that Brick Fanatics does in the process (including bringing you this review) by using our affiliate links. Thank you!
— FAQs —
How long does it take to build LEGO Star Wars 75308 R2-D2?
Expect to spend around three and a half hours putting together 75308 R2-D2, although your mileage may vary based on your own build speed.
How many pieces are in LEGO Star Wars 75308 R2-D2?
75308 R2-D2 contains 2,314 pieces, including a special printed brick to commemorate 50 years of Lucasfilm.
How big is LEGO Star Wars 75308 R2-D2?
75308 R2-D2 stands 31cm tall, 20cm wide and 15cm deep. That’s roughly as tall as 10225 R2-D2, but two centimetres wider.
How much does LEGO Star Wars 75308 R2-D2 cost?
75308 R2-D2 costs £179.99 in the UK, $199.99 in the US, and €199.99 in Europe. That’s almost equivalent to the original retail price for 10225 R2-D2 when accounting for inflation.
- I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.
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