Lord of the Rings: Tower of Orthanc
Mini Figures: 5
16 numbered bags of Lego bricks divided to 15 numbered sections
3 Instruction booklets
Orthanc is the tower of Saruman appearing in all three Lord of the Rings movies and standing in the centre of the ring of Isengard. The most memorable scenes involving Orthanc in the films were the fight between Gandalf and Saruman leading to Gandalf’s imprisonment and later escape with the help of Gwaihir the Great Eagle in Fellowship of the Ring. The destruction of the forests, the creation of Uruk-Hai and the subsequent Ent attack appear in the Two Towers. Finally, in The Return of the King we see the aftermath and the death of Saruman on the roof of Orthanc where Grima stabs him and is then killed by Legolas in a scene only appearing in the extended edition.
Cleverly Lego has included the means to recreate all of these scenes with this top of the range Lord of the Rings set. Although some may feel that the inclusion of only five minifigures in a set of this price and size is not very generous, Lego has also included a brick built Ent (one of the tree creatures) and Gwaihir the eagle.
The Saruman and Gandalf minifigures are the same as in the 2013 entry level Lord of the Rings set 79005-The Wizard Battle, except for Saruman who also gets a excellent looking choice of printed robes as well as legs.
The Uruk Hai and the Orc pitmaster are same as in the 2012 set 9476-Orc Forge set and the Eagle the same as in the 2013 set 79007-Battle at the Black Gate, leaving Grima Wormtongue as the only truly unique minifigure in this set. Grima comes with a unique printed body and a double sided face with a suitably pale skin colour and a cape.
For once though, even though the robed Saruman and Grima are nice figures, the draw of this set is not the minifigures but the main tower!
The first part of the build is for the Ent. The Ent is not named as Treebeard, but is presumably just one of the un-named Ents who attack Isengard and fight against the Orcs outside. The building of the Ent is technic heavy with ball joints and a arm which you can swing through a wheel at the back. The fingers are also movable which allows the Ent to grab Orcs or the tower. Unfortunately, adding all the poseability and movement has made the figure quite robotic like as opposed to tree like. A better likeness could have been achieved by removing some of the moving features particularly the legs which shouldn’t have taken too much of its playability away.
The tower itself is very impressive at 28.5 inches or 71cm high. The tower is built with three nicely decorated sides with the back side open to leave six open floors for the interior. The building is fairly modular again but not quite as independent as some of the other most recent sets, with several bags usually needed for the construction of each floor.
The exterior decoration really does a brilliant job of recreating the look of the tower in the films. The exterior uses a lot of what is known as SNOT (studs not on top) technique to give it the distinctive smooth upright piers on its sides. In one of the corners there is a staircase leading to the door and above it the balcony from where Saruman speaks to his Uruk Hai army in the movies before the battle of Helm’s Deep. Higher up the tower has some windows and nicely used claw/tooth pieces ending up in the distinctive four bladed top with the platform where Gandalf is imprisoned and where Saruman and Grima die in the movie. The exterior is almost completely black with only a few dark grey pieces used, mainly on the floors of each of the rooms. However, in this occasion it really doesn’t make it monotonous but achieves the look that the tower should have.
The interior rooms are fully decorated. At the bottom there is a dungeon with the usual bones and a rat and above it the entrance hall containing large banners with the white hand of Saruman. The floor here has an opening hatch to drop any unwanted guests to the dungeon.
The next room is the throne room with the Palantir seeing stone that Saruman uses to communicate with Sauron. The throne and the lights around it look identical to the Wizard Battle set but the Palantir this time is a nicely designed swirling orb which really comes alive through a light brick inside its stand making the orb glow red. The mechanism for the light brick is nicely designed as well, working by pressing on a chandelier in the entrance hall room.
The following room seems to be the chemistry lab with Saruman’s potions and you can see the bomb used at Helms Deep being built. The next room is a library with bookcases, maps and some large tomes as well as nice paintings of the five wizards in Middle Earth. The final room at the top is a small armoury with spare staffs, weapons and armour for the orcs and a hidden ladder system similar to the one in the Haunted House set from last year.
None of the floors or techniques are in themselves difficult to build and there are no frustrating parts to the build aside from the application of some of the stickers in the interior of the tower. However, the sheer size of the tower and the number of pieces in just a few colours will make this one suitable only for the older and more experienced Lego builders. The build is not particularly long for a set of this size, but should not be rushed through either. Getting all the pieces to sit in perfect alignment really adds to the smooth outside look that the tower calls for.
The finished tower is one of the best looking sets that Lego has made. It would have been nice to get the fourth side to really complete the outside look, but this would have added a lot to the already high piece count and moved the cost of this set from the £170 to £200+ and it is nice that the flagship set of the Lord of the Rings line is more achievable than say the top of the range Star Wars sets. Again, the set could have done with more exclusive minifigures to really flesh it out, perhaps at the cost of the Ent which looks a little out of place.
However, in the end none of that matters. The tower is gorgeous in every way and really does much more with its scale than could have reasonably been hoped for. Yes, it is an expensive set and probably not really suitable for little children’s play, but Lego thought of that and made the interior battle with Saruman and Gandalf available with almost exactly the same figures for £11.99 in the Wizard Battle. Due to its height it could be prone to falling over in the heat of battle and therefore is recommended only to the older children and adults. For that audience though, this is a display piece that would look excellent in the home of any fan of the Lord of the Rings whether you like Lego or not.