I caught the final film in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy – The Battle of the Five Armies when it premiered in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day. It was a bit of a bittersweet experience, since this would most likely be the final time we’ll get to experience the cinematic world of Middle Earth on the big screen.
I didn’t really like the movie – I felt that Peter Jackson did not do the book justice at all, and I was quite dumbfounded by the ‘creative’ liberties that the movie took. I’ve been a fan of Tolkien’s works since I was 10 years old, so I particularly disliked the way he chose to conclude The Hobbit trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible movie – in fact you should go watch it. Just be prepared if you’re a fan of the book – there are some points in the movie that will make your blood boil.
Anyway, let’s get back to LEGO! One of the themes that I religiously collect is the Lord of the Rings and I was obviously very excited by the newest Hobbit sets. The very first set that I picked up was the smallest – Witch-king Battle!
Name: Witch-King Battle
Set Number: 79015
Price: AU$22.99 (AUS LEGO.com link)
Exclusive to: N/A
Theme: The Hobbit
Year of Release: 2014
One of the biggest mysteries in Australia this year has been the very limited availability of The Battle of the Five Armies sets. If you regularly frequent toy shops, you may have noticed a glaring lack of Hobbit sets on the shelves, which is really peculiar since you’d expect sets based on a major motion picture to be abundantly available to coincide with the movie’s premiere.
Personally, I’ve only seen a small handful at Myer Emporium, Toyworlds, briefly at David Jones and 3 of them are currently available on Big W’s online store. It makes me feel quite unsettled – either LEGO Australia didn’t bring enough into the country or the final wave of Hobbit sets are only meant to be released in a limited capacity. I really hope it’s the former.
Because they were so hard to track down, I got the smaller two sets from LEGO.com as I couldn’t risk waiting for the sets to appear widely in stores here in Australia.
The Witch-king Battle is the smallest set in the Battle of the Five Armies wave, but don’t let the set’s diminutive size fool you – it’s a pretty awesome set based purely on the strength of its minifigure lineup, which is the main draw of this set.
Here’s the stellar lineup of minifigures, all of which are major characters in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Featuring the Witch-king (you will remember him as leader of the Nazgul/Ringwraiths) in a slightly spookier and more spectral form, Galadriel, one of the oldest and most powerful Elves in Middle-earth and Lord of Rivendell himself, Elrond who is clad in awesome battle armour.
If you’re buying this set, you’re buying them purely for the minifigures – the additional bricks included are really just filler! This is quite possibly the best collection of Lord of the Rings minifigures ever put into a set!
Fun fact: Galadriel is Elrond’s mother-in-law!
Before we take closer look at each minifigure, I have to talk about the great selection of cloaks and capes within this set – the two most notable being the Witch-king’s tattered cape, which is a white version of the ones included with the Ringwraiths in the Attack on Weathertop set, and Galadriel’s sparkly cloak.
Meet the Witch-king of Angmar, the leader of the Nazgul and one of Sauron’s chief commanders in the War of the Ring. The Witch-king was originally a human king who was corrupted by Sauron when he was offered one of the Nine Rings that were made for mortal men doomed to die.
He is a spectacular character to have in minifigure form as he’s one of the most terrifying beings under Sauron’s command. This minifigure is based on his appearance in The Hobbit, where he takes on a more ghostly spectral form, rather than his black form as a Ringwraith in The Lord of the Rings.
The Witch-king looks absolutely stunning, with tattered robes that are tinged with a spooky shade of green that Peter Jackson uses in the movies whenever they are meant to be ghosts or specters. His defining accessory is his tall iron crown, with four spikes that extend menacingly upwards. He wields a black longsword and also has a little scary surprise that only becomes apparent when you turn off the lights…
His head glows in the dark – an extremely fitting feature that adds to his ghastliness. His facial printing is great with just enough detail to make him look like a withered corpse, although I did find his expression quite odd – he looks like he’s holding back some vomit! That or he misplaced his dentures!
The Witch-king doesn’t have an alternate face, but has strands of wispy hair printed on the back of his head. Similarly, he also has back printing which is a nice little touch, especially since you wouldn’t normally be able to see his back because it gets obscured by his cape.
I really love the Witch-king’s minifigure – it’s fitting that this set is named after him and that his minifigure really lives up to its titular expectations.
The Witch-king may be great, but he is simply no match for Galadriel – one of my favourite characters in The Lord of the Rings. I quite like Peter Jackson’s interpretation of her in the movies, although I’ve heard that most people are a little freaked out by her as she is depicted very much like an Elven witch. Despite that, he managed to nailed her immense power and presence.
In case you didn’t know, Galadriel is one of the oldest Elves in Middle-earth, one of the descendant’s of the greatest Elf that ever lived, Feanor and is widely regarded to be the most powerful Elf in Middle-earth. She’s been to Valinor (think of it as Middle-earth’s version of Heaven) and had seen the light of the legendary Two Trees of Valinor – making her one of the Calaquendi aka High Elves.
Galadriel’s minifigure is absolutely celestial to behold – her white robes are beautifully detailed and she also sports an awesome looking hairpiece, which has her silver circlet fused into it. I don’t recall her movie depiction having braided hair, but LEGO did a great job with the shade of her hair.
Here’s how her hairpiece looks from behind as well as a look at her sparkly cloak. It’s a great effect that makes it look as if her cloak was shimmery – giving her minifigure an air of nobility and radiance.
She also comes equipped with a familiar accessory, a Phial containing the Light of Earendil which Sam used to repel Shelob in The Return of the King. It was a slightly odd decision to include it since it wasn’t in The Hobbit at all, but after thinking about it – it seems fitting seeing as how most people would associate it with Galadriel.
Galadriel has back printing and an alternate face – which could either represent shock or her expression as she manifests her powers. I won’t spoil too much of the movie, but there is a point in Dol Guldur that you witness Galadriel unveiling her full power. I’ll leave it to you to tell me whether you liked that part or not.
Last but not least, a minifigure I’ve always wanted to own – Elrond in battle armour wielding a bad ass Elven sword. I missed out on the previous polybag so it’s great that I finally have him in battle-mode. Elrond is suited up in a very sleek golden Elven battle armour, which has a very leafy style which goes extremely well with his olive green cloak and pants.
He has the same hairpiece as Galadriel, except that his hair is a dark shade of brown and his circlet is golden. In this case, the hairpiece is a lot more accurate since Elrond has been known to braid his hair. His facial expression is decent but doesn’t really look much like Hugo Weaving. I don’t like his face’s eyebags – it makes him look like he didn’t get a good night’s sleep!
Here’s a look at the back of his hairpiece – the brown paint makes the grooves and textures pop a lot more. It’s a fantastic hairpiece and probably the best “Elf” one that LEGO has ever created.
Like Galadriel, Elrond also has an alternate face – this time with a frowny expression. This looks even less like Hugo Weaving’s onscreen character, mostly because of the wrinkles on his forehead which are a little too pronounced. Again, the eyebags are pretty out of place but that’s a pretty minor flaw.
He also has back printing, which propels the design of this minifigure to incredible heights. Another huge plus is that his entire torso’s base seems to be made out of pearl gold plastic, which looks terrific since it has a nice shimmery sheen to it. I have to say that the minifigure exceeded my expectations the moment that I got him in my hands.
Here’s the rest of the set. Naturally, it’s a bit of a letdown if you compare it with the star-studded lineup of minifigures but for a small set, it’s really not too bad. The set is a very skeletal recreation of a portion of Dul Guldur, which is the Necromancer’s base of operations in The Battle of the Five Armies.
Dol Guldur is mostly ruins, so this little brick built vignette is meant to be a small part of the abandoned fortress. In the third Hobbit movie, as you can probably can guess from the minifigures included, Dol Guldur is host to a pretty epic battle between the White Council (Saruman, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and
rabbit-wizard brown-wizard Radagast) and Ringwraiths, led by the nefarious Witch-king.
Although it’s a small build, there are several elements which I like, namely the skull and skeleton which give it a sufficiently spooky vibe, and a pleasant mix of grey, light grey and brown bricks. It’s a pleasant departure from previous small sets like Riddles of the Ring where all you have to work with are grey bricks.
A withered tree is the centrepiece of the set, constructed out of a very basic selection of arches and slopes. The usage of dark red foliage is very fitting, adding to Dol Guldur’s ominous atmosphere. The use of grey masonry bricks as well as a barred window round up the vignette’s look, which gives the vignette a varied shape and look.
I’m not sure what the orangey blades are – I would’ve thought that they were actual weapons but their contrasting colours suggest otherwise. Are they plants? I’m really not sure and shall probably remained stumped. What do you think they are?
There are two play features built into the Witch-king battle, a decent and a pretty aimless one. The first play feature is a very clever skeleton catapult. Some creative liberties were added here – there were no skeletal catapults in the movie but since this is a toy, it makes a lot of sense to have some playability.
The skeleton catapult works by pressing down hard on the skeleton torso, which then launches transparent orange 1 x 1 round bricks into the air. This is quite possibly a defence mechanism to safeguard Dol Guldur from any do-gooders. It’s fairly simple and probably won’t keep you occupied for days, but it works and that’s the most important thing.
The second play feature is so pointless, so unnecessary and so ridiculously silly that I’m still scratching my head over why it’s even there. See that disc in the top right corner of the structure – you attach the Witch-king minifigure’s leg onto it and… wait for it – swivel him around. Like a lazy susan. And that’s supposed to make the Witch-king even more menacing. Here’s the full description on LEGO.com “Attach a minifigure to the spinning platform for extra battle power”
What I liked:
- Epic (I don’t use this word lightly) lineup of minifigures
- Finally, a Galadriel minifigure!
- The Dol Guldur vignette was an interesting albeit small build
What I didn’t like:
- Printing on the minifigure faces could’ve been improved slightly
- What is with that spinning disc play-feature??
- Set availability issues in Australia
Final thoughts: Despite its size, Witch-king Battle might just be one of the best sets from the final wave of Hobbit tie-in LEGO sets, purely on the strength of the minifigures included in the set. Having not one, not even two but three highly coveted characters is nothing to sneeze at and will ensure that this set remains popular all the way till it’s retired.
Apart from availability issues and very minor personal dislikes, I can’t really find any glaring weaknesses with this set. It’s a little expensive, at AU$23 per pop, but it’s still a very economical means of getting three important Lord of the Rings characters. Kudos to LEGO for stuffing this set with so much star power.
The build was kept interesting with the many different facets of the small Dol Guldur vignette that you put together. Despite feeling like a glorified minifigure-pack, the structure and decent variety of parts included help boost the intrinsic value of the set.
While it looks pretty alright on display, I will most likely harvest it for parts as soon as I need to clear up some space on my display shelf. I might just keep the minifigures around and assimilate them into my display population.
The Witch-king Battle is a must-buy if you consider yourself a fan of The Lord of the Rings, if only to add Galadriel to your collection.