I've built a few advanced LEGO sets, many for IGN. But building the new LEGO R2-D2 was challenging and difficult in a way that those builds were not. This is not a build designed for multitasking, where you can watch a movie or browse social media while constructing it. It demands your undivided attention, which for many LEGO enthusiasts, is as good an excuse as any to buckle down and shut out the ambient noise and distractions. You don't have to ask me twice.The prior Ultimate Collector Series R2-D2 nailed the character's iconic color scheme, but not the rounded, smooth design of the body, an essential component of its lovability. The new R2-D2, released in celebration of Lucasfilm Ltd.'s 50th anniversary, rectifies this with giant, smooth plating, built separately from the model, that hangs on the underlying LEGO Technic skeleton via cross pins. The build is a rectangular prism. But it does an excellent job at communicating the illusion of roundness and hiding its seams.We Build the $200 LEGO R2-D2Like the prior model, the new R2-D2 contains hidden components in its chest cavity. Side flaps fold back to reveal its utility arms/probes, which it uses to fix machines, redirect elevators, and turn off garbage compactors. Additionally, this model has an interactive dome, which can rotate 360 degrees. There's a compartment for Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, which R2-D2 launched to his master at the Great Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi. There's also a hidden, retractable periscope on the back of the droid, which R2-D2 used to find his bearings after falling off Jabba's sail barge.
The model has a retractable third leg, but can easily balance on two legs. To switch from two-leg to three-leg mode requires you to lift the model, manually bend the body backwards, and set it down again in its new configuration. All of the hidden features in this model are manually performed; there are no remote, battery-operated functions, which would have added considerably to its $200 price tag.. It comes with a plaque that recognizes the aforementioned 50th anniversary, plus a factoid sticker detailing R2-D2's specs. Mounted on the plaque is a mini-figure of R2-D2.
Interestingly, the R2-D2 designers anticipated builders' mistakes. They used color coding on the LEGO Technic pieces to serve as warning lights: "Do this wrong, and you'll likely spend hours undoing your error." To wit: all of the rod pieces on the backside of R2-D2 are red. All of the rod pieces on the front side of R2-D2 are green.During my build, the red coloring tipped me off that I had attached the legs and feet on the wrong sides. The realization came at a crucial moment, before I started plating over the Technic with the brick finish. It took a bit of backtracking to correct, but if LEGO had decided to make all the rods grey and indistinctive, it would have been much more.
Time and again, I felt LEGO's attempts to save me from hours of unnecessary rework. A piece wouldn't fit into its insertion point properly, because I hadn't properly aligned the bricks four steps beforehand. Another piece wouldn't be able to support itself, because the underlying bricks from ten steps ago were placed at the wrong orientation. LEGO is consistently excellent at pointing out small mistakes before they become large mistakes, hours after they're too late to diagnose.The end result is worth the fastidiousness. The final R2-D2 is adorable, decently-sized, and uncommonly pliable and poseable. Most LEGO recreations are accurate looking, but stiff to the touch–they're a nostalgic, still snapshot from a moment in our childhoods.
But the R2-D2 model feels more alive. Its legs are held to the body by flexible pins and rods, which allows the model to jiggle about, similar to how Kenny Baker would make R2-D2 waddle on two legs in the original trilogy. If you interact with it in any tactile manner, the model is reactive. In this sense, the model captures the spirit of the character in addition to its appearance. But fair warning; this is not a build for a novice. Even an expert builder will need to give this model their full attention; there's a fine line between being pliable and breaking apart at the seams, and this model walks it.I'm struggling to explain the experience of building this to readers who do not build LEGO on a regular basis. Here is an attempt: building the new LEGO R2-D2 is somewhat akin to playing Red Dead Redemption 2 back in 2018. You'll remember in that game, the developers would punish you for moving too quickly. Gallop through a town, and you'd likely run someone ever. Run through the town square, and you'd bump into an NPC.
And after multiple punitive dealings with the law, you eventually realized that this was a game meant to be walked through. You were supposed to interact, explore, and mosey about in real time, and make progress at a detail-oriented pace. And like that game, the LEGO R2-D2 build is defiant, demanding that you slow down in order to match its speed.
The LEGO R2-D2, Set #75308, was created by a design team led by Creative Director Jens Kronvold Fredericksen. It's composed of 2314 pieces and retails for $199.99.
Kevin Wong is a contributor to IGN. Talk LEGO with him on Twitter at @kevinjameswong.