- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Force and brick assembling is strong thanks to the continued alliance between a Danish toy company and Lucas Film Limited. Lego’s Star Wars brand continues to capture the imagination of young builders with the latest line-up of construction sets.

Look for the recent releases of the AT-RT (All Terrain Reconnaissance Transport), A-Wing Starfighter and the best of the bunch, the Star Wars Rancor Pit. Of course, tied to “Star Wars Episode 6, The Return of the Jedi,” the set features a key moment in the film between young Skywalker and a large beast taken from the planet Dathomir.

Figure profile: On Tatooine, Jedi Luke Skywalker’s negotiations for Han Solo’s life with Jabba the Hutt take a turn for the worse when the crime kingpin drops him into dungeon hiding a slobbering, monstrous behemoth called a Rancor.

Building process: Consisting of 380 pieces, anticipate an excited 12-year-old (age range is 8 to 14 years old) to complete the project in roughly 90 minutes. Any parental guidance (rather meddling) will increase the time by at least an hour.

Junior Jedi’s should watch out when inserting the eight Rancor claws into the figures hands. The fits are inconsistent and often very difficult to push into the holes. They could also get loose and lost during extended play sessions (an extra claw is included).

Accessories: Builders end up with a square room (roughly 8 inches wide and 6 inches tall) with pillars and floor made of grey-and-tan bricks. A sliding large gate can be held up and dropped using a handle to free the Rancor to find a victim or meet his demise. The gated side can also swing open (gently pull one side) to offer more play area.

Highlights to the room include a small gated door for the Rancor’s keeper Malakili to walk through to pick up a bucket, pitchfork and key; a box containing a secret hiding spot in one of the pillars; and a floor compartment, using a skull for a handle, that houses bones and another key.

Despite the potent highlights of the beast’s confines, the most intriguing part of the set is always the mini-figures.

Here’s my thoughts on the quintet of slightly articulated figures (averaging 2 inches tall):

Luke Skywalker: Our, blond-haired hero wears his black-and-grey Jedi outfit and wields a large bone that eventually ends up triggering a switch to take the Rancor down.

Gamorrean guard: My favorite figure of the set, this burly bonehead accidentally falls into the pit and becomes an appetizer for the Rancor. I loved the extended torso detail, head sculpt (with horns and piggy snout) and shoulder armor. He comes with a turkey leg.

Malakili: The hooded handler of the Rancor gets a large spiked staff and painted torso giving the appearance of a large belly. He has an odd, sad look on his face as though he knows this is not going to turn out well for his unusual pet.

Skeleton: This boney fellow is either one of the Rancor’s victims missing flesh or simply an ill-fated dungeon prisoner.

Rancor: A first for a Lego set (what took so long?), the 4-inch-tall brown beast has a chain attached to one wrist and articulated arms, hands and jaw. Trying to balance him to stand up, especially with Luke in his grip, is difficult and the only miscue.

Note: Another design function of the set allows it to connect to the bottom of the Jabba’s Palace Lego set ($119.99). Specifically, the chamber room stacks above the Pit so unlucky visitors to the criminal’s headquarters can fall through a trap door and into the Rancor’s lair.

Price: $59.99

Read all about it: Dig back into Dark Horse Comics’ archive to 1995 for a sequential-art adaptation (originally published by Marvel Comics) of “Star Wars Episode 6, The Return of the Jedi,” available in trade paperback ($9.95).

What’s it worth: Lego’s Star Wars Rancor Pit is a worthy addition to a young builder’s collection. Its exquisite detail, logical assembly process (each numbered bag contains the exact pieces to build tied to the sections of the instruction manual) and welcomed mini-figures will not disappoint.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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