Hot on the heels of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (which was a ripper of a follow-up to GOTG 1) is Thor: Ragnarok, the final Marvel movie of the year which will hit cinemas in October. Marvel blockbusters are typically accompanied by LEGO sets and Thor: Ragnarok is no exception.
We’re getting two large-ish sets for Thor: Ragnarok which is indicative of Marvel’s optimism for how well the movie will perform at the box office. Either that or they’re making up for the lack of Thor:2 set. My hunch is that Marvel’s faith in Taika Waititi will pay massive dividends and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ragnarok ascends to become one of the best Marvel movies of all time.
To kick off the spate of Marvel 2017 reviews, let’s dive into 76088 Thor vs Hulk: Arena Clash, which includes one of the most hyped up Marvel in characters, the Gladiator Hulk bigfig! We got the set early here in Australia (before the US!) so I’m pretty psyched to be able to show this set off.
My early impressions of the set was rather underwhelming, but let’s see if the actual set manages to prove me wrong.
Name: Thor vs Hulk Arena Clash
Set Number: 76088
Price: AU$89.99 | US$59.99 | £54.99 (Buy from LEGO.com [AUS] [USA] [UK])
Exclusive to: N/A
Minifigs: 4 + 1 Gladiator Hulk Bigfig
Theme: Thor Ragnarok
Release Date: 1 June 2017 (UK/AU) / Unknown for US. Possibly July.
At this point, we don’t know much about the plot of Thor: Ragnarok. We know that it loosely borrows from the World War Hulk arc which sees Hulk battling out on the planet Sakaar as a gladiator, and that Thor is somehow caught in the middle of it all. The trailers suggest that Mjolnir gets destroyed by Hela played by the ethereal Cate Blanchett.
Presumably, he gets his ass whooped and he ends up having to fight for his freedom (like Russel Crowe in Gladiator) in the cosmic arena that’s run by the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum) for entertainment purposes. I’m also guessing this entire sequence of events is undoubtedly orchaestrated by Loki to further whatever nefarious agenda he is plotting.
Marvel have been lowkey killing it with their recent LEGO sets, packing heaps of value into relatively affordable sets, but 76088 Thor vs Hulk Arena Clash threatens to derail their good run of releases.
The sticker sheet was a pleasant surprise – I was totally expecting a lot more of them, but we only have to deal with 5 stickers which are all quite easy to apply. They’re also the kind I like – transparent decals which function so much better and are a lot higher quality than the paper-based ones.
There’s no hiding the fact that this set was designed primarily around the minifigures. 76088 Thor vs Hulk Arena Clash comes with 4 minifigures – the Grandmaster, Loki, Thor and a Sakaarian Guard. Rounding up the quarter of colourful characters is the supersized star of the set, the Gladiator Hulk bigfig.
All the minifigures are exclusive to this set, making this lineup of characters especially appealing to fans of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – the main demographic that this set is targeting.
First up, we take a look at the Thor and Loki minifigures. Thor is attired for battle and looks spectacular. Eschewing his traditional red-caped costume, Thor has an updated grey costume which downplays the usual silver circles for cleaner armour-plating.
The level of details on his body are fantastic – I like the red imprint that I’m guessing is the mark they give all gladiators in the arena, as well as the blue kneepad.
Thor’s most fascinating feature is his new dark grey winged helm which has design influences that callback to the character’s iconic helmet design. Rounding up his look is a new blue double sword holder.
Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother is sporting new threads. Moving away from his traditional grey and green costume, Loki has a new dark blue suit and yellow cape. His outfit looks regal, with lines running diagonally across his chest, as well as some gold accents on his belt and breast.
The colour combination is especially pleasing to the eye and goes extremely well with Loki’s iconic horned helmet.
Here’s a look at Thor and Loki’s back printing, and more importantly their alternate faces. The back printing is to be expected with any licensed minifigure. The bold lines on Thor’s back are particularly good looking. The graphic designer did a really great job on his torso.
In a departure from the norm, Thor and Loki both come with very interesting and unique alternate faces. With licensed Super Hero minifigures, we’re usually accustomed to get a stoic/happy face and an angry, usually teeth-baring expression.
This time, Thor has a frenzied look with lightning bolts emerging from his all-white eyes. It’s almost Super Saiyan-like.
Loki has an even better alternate face, with a worried and panicky expression with beads of sweat running down his face. I love how expressive both faces are and can see Loki’s alternate face being used for comedic purposes.
Here’s a better look at Thor’s sword holder. The blue is a little out of place and looks a bit too cartoony against the grounded and realistic grey costume.
Oh and Thor also has printing on his left arm which looks really bad-ass. This photo also gives you a better look at Thor’s fantastic new helmet.
Next up is the Grandmaster, who is played by Jeff Goldblum. The Grandmaster is the Collector’s brother and is a bit of an enigma as to what his role is in Thor: Ragnarok. Like his brother, the Grandmaster is a bit of a colourful and flamboyant character and his minifigure accurately reflects the character shown off in the trailers.
The Grandmaster wears an ornate two-tone jacket with gold left sleeves, and powder blue sleeves on his right. It’s punctuated by red accents. He also has a sly expression with matching blue makeup under his eyes and on his chin.
The Sakaarian Guard is a nameless and faceless character. He has a look that’s half alien, and half robot. I quite like its black and purple colour scheme.
Here’s a look at the Grandmaster’s and the Sakaarian’s back printing and alternate face.
As great as the minifigures might be, they pale in significance to the astounding LEGO Gladiator Hulk bigfig. Seeing Gladiator Hulk on-screen and in LEGO form has been a dream of mine ever since I first became enamoured with World War Hulk in 2007.
The LEGO Gladiator Hulk is a bold re-imagination of the traditional Hulk bigfig that first made its debut in 2012 with 6868 Hulk Helicarrier Breakout, my first LEGO Marvel set of which I have very fond memories of.
Unlike other Hulk variants which have been recolours and reskins, the Gladiator Hulk takes it to the next level with a Roman Galea (Roman Soldier Helmet adorned with the red fan) that’s moulded as part of Hulk’s head.
Ready to Hulk smash his way to victory, he is equipped with a massive warhammer, and an axe.
The Gladiator Hulk is also the first Hulk bigfig to feature printing across his chest and chiseled ab muscles. In this photo you also get a better look at just how detailed the Hulk’s helmet is – in addition to delicate details on the helmet, it’s also got a shiny, silvery coat of paint.
In case that wasn’t enough detail, the Hulk also has a unique left arm which has brown spaulders (the leather sleeve), and a blue pauldron.
Here’s a look at the Hulk’s left arm in more detail, as well as that majestic red fan on his Roman helmet.
And here’s a look at the Hulk from the back.
The Gladiator Hulk is nothing short of an exceptional piece of ABS plastic – LEGO have absolutely nailed the design and I believe, truly went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to adapting the Gladiator Hulk to the LEGO form factor.
It’s essentially flawless and with World War Hulk being a particularly monumental chapter in Marvel’s history, the bigfig alone makes for a very persuasive reason to pick this set up.
Here’s a look at every single LEGO Hulk bigfig and minifigure released so far! It makes for a pretty great family photo, dontcha think?
Clearly, the entire family has anger issues to deal with.
On to the build itself. This is where the set’s appeal takes a nosedive. As you may have gathered from the official photos of the set, the structural portion of the arena, which merely comprises of a few wall sections and a large black gate.
As I had feared, the gladiator arena is a bare bones structure with little to no appeal. It’s a little too simple for what is quite a pricey set. While it is a structural model, which is quite rare with LEGO Super Heroes sets which are typically dominated by vehicular sets.
If you find joy in the LEGO building process, this set is not for you. The building experience was pretty boring – it almost felt like putting a LEGO Juniors set together.
There aren’t any interesting build techniques, the walls are quite repetitive to build and it mostly felt like a chore that wasn’t very rewarding.
That said, the set’s simplicity does work in favour of younger builders – the instructions are relatively easy to follow, and there aren’t a lot of smaller intricate bits or complicated techniques that could potentially trip up younger fans.
Here’s a look at both walled sections. At first, I wasn’t a fan of the red and blue colour scheme, but after building the set, the wild clashing colours did eventually grow on me. It really matches the colourful tones of the movie and what we’ve seen from the trailers.
The sticker decals are also quite nice and seamlessly blend into the walls without looking out of place.
The Grandmaster has the best seat in the house with a great vantage point of the gladiator arena. This is probably my favourite part of the build.
The Grandmaster’s viewing platform utilises some uncommon colours. I think the yellow curved pieces are bright light orange? I’m pretty bad with colours.
Anyway, the elements used add a very nice splash of colour to the entire model. The Grandmaster has a comfortable chair that’s adorned with pearl gold elements because he’s all about the blind. The chair can flip backwards on a hinge. Flanking the Grandmaster are two floodlights.
Funny how they’re in space and seem fairly technologically advanced but they still have to resort to primitive Earth floodlight designs.
One of the major play features of the set is the large doorway, which you can slide open by pulling them to each side. It makes for a close enough re-enactment of the scene in the trailers where Gladiator Hulk is revealed as he makes his entrance into the arena.
Here’s a look at the floodlights, which you can also interact with.
You just jab a button and it falls. Yup. That’s it.
It’s honestly quite fiddly and as I was moving this set around and adjusting its position, it kept falling down because the mechanism is so sensitive. Really irritating.
Oh and there’s some smaller play features like the obligatory exploding wall function and you can also slide a part of the wall down to reveal a weapons rack.
From behind, the arena isn’t particularly attractive, but there are a few features in the back.
The aforementioned weapons rack can also be accessed from the back. Strange that they didn’t opt for clips as the weapons which include a halberd, spear and longsword kind of just dangle awkwardly in the oversized technic holes.
There’s also a jail cell which you put Thor into on the other end. But apart from that, that’s all the arena has to offer.
What I liked:
- Gladiator Hulk is magnificent
- Great selection of exclusive minifigs
- Bright colour scheme of the model
What I didn’t like:
- Boring build process
- Lacklustre design
- The arena model feels incomplete and too small
Final thoughts: I had pretty low expectations of this set and I was still mostly let down. The obvious flaw is of course the Arena model, which for all intents and purposes feels quite small and incomplete.
As you’re only getting a few partial wall sections, it doesn’t feel substantial at all. There are also a few things to nitpick such as the clips at the ends of the walls, which suggest that you’re encouraged to buy another set to get more wall sections or build them out of your own parts.
The arena is filled with play features, which do cater towards younger fans who are more interested in roleplaying and destroying portions of the wall, but as an adult fan, these usually don’t do it for me.
The build experience was also a drag and there wasn’t much innovation or clever build techniques incorporated into the process, and as I was building it, I couldn’t wait till it was all over.
I think if the arena was slightly bigger and if it had a bit more of a sophisticated design, it would’ve been a lot more appealing to me.
That said, this is a Marvel set and LEGO Super Heroes sets have and will always be about the minifigures. 76088 Thor vs Hulk Arena Clash does not disappoint in the minifigure department as you get 4 exclusive minifigures AND the awesome Gladiator Hulk.
Thor and Loki are cool additions to your Marvel collection and I really appreciate how their minifig designs have deviated from their usual iconic designs.
It helps ensure that your collection of Thors and Lokis doesn’t all look totally generic. This is also the first time that we get a different Loki minifigure design which is always a good thing
The supporting minifigures, the Grandmaster and Sakaarian Guard are also decent supporting characters and they both pack really nice designs. I’m also delighted that I finally have a minifigure of a Jeff Goldblum character. Here’s hoping we get a Dr Ian Malcolm minifigure for Jurassic World 2 next year.
That said, Gladiator Hulk steals the show and is an absolutely stunning character. The design is extremely accurate to the on-screen version and the bigfig is jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
The tiny little details like moulding on the helmet and printing across the torso truly seal the deal, making this one of the best Hulk bigfigs ever.
Is it worth the price of the set to get the LEGO Gladiator Hulk and 4 minifigures? It’s a narrow yes for me and this set barely, just barely edges over the line that separates a trash set from a decent one.
The strength of the character line-up saves this set from being a total waste, and I am not afraid to admit that I was mostly swayed by the Gladiator Hulk.
It’s not a LEGO model that I am happy to own, but I am glad to add these LEGO characters into my Marvel collection. As a LEGO Super Heroes fan, this is the price I pay to be a completionist.
It’s not all bad though – for younger kids, this set is bound to be a winner. With plenty of play features, a bright colour scheme and plenty of big name characters like Thor, Loki and the Hulk, this set will definitely appeal to young LEGO Marvel fans.
There’s a lot of potential to be had with role-playing the characters in this set and interacting with the arena model, so if you’re buying this for a LEGO-crazed kid, I can bet that he or she will definitely appreciate this set for what it is.
As an adult, it’s a soft recommendation from me – only if you’re a LEGO Marvel fan and try not to pay full price for this set as it’s definitely not worth that much.
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I’ll leave you with this adorable photo of a Hulk father and son combo!