LEGO Star Wars – Rey’s Speeder and General Grievous Playtest plus Giveaway

With less than a month to go until the release of The Force Awakens, Star Wars continues to dominate our leisure time. As well as enjoying watching Episodes IV – VI in anticipation, checking out trailers, speculating what may happen in the new movie (my daughter already predicts that Kylo Ren will get both hands chopped off), we’re also working our way trough the six season Clone Wars animated series. So it was great to receive two terrific LEGO sets that encompassed these strands of the saga.

Rey’s Speeder

Appearing early on in the very first trailer for The Force Awakens, this was one of the first new vehicles to be revealed.

Rey's Speeder, Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley

Its blocky, lo-fi, junkyard style design quickly became a fan favourite.

This LEGO version is a lovely little set to construct.

LEGO Star Wars 75099 Rey's Speeder

This was one of my favourite looking ones from The Force Awakens line (admittedly, the iconic , far larger, and more expensive Millennium Falcon just edged it). The suggested age is 7-12, but my 3-year-old daughter put it together with minimal supervision.

Rey is clearly a central character to the new saga, so it is great to have a minifigure of her. My daughter loves the fact that she is another female Star Wars character to play with.

Rey LEGO minifig

The minifigure has the usual two faces, though the expressions are a fairly subtle ‘wry smile’ and ‘displeased frown’. The freckles are a nice detail, that reflects some of the close up pics we have seen of Rey so far. She also has a mask with goggles, as seen in one of the more recent trailers.

Rey wearing mask and goggles, Star Wars, The Force Awakens

The set also comes with a second mini figure, the hooded and mysteriously named Unkar’s Thug.

How much the speeder features remains to be seen, but it already feels like one of the more iconic new vehicles of the new saga and is a great addition to our LEGO Star Wars collection, that that my daughter frequently plays with already.

General Grievous

We are also currently watching the Star Wars cartoon The Clone Wars, which is set between Episodes II and III of the prequel trilogy. Whatever your opinion of that set of movies, their existence is entirely justified by the fact it led to this show being made. We are only on season 4 of 6. It is full of thrilling space fantasy action adventure, with (IMHO) much more rounded characterisations of the main characters, than the movies the show is sandwiched between.

General Grievous originally appeared in Revenge of the Sith (2005), and it was pretty widely accepted that for such a cool looking character, he was a bit wasted.

General Grievous, Revenge of the Sith, lightsabers

However, he is a major recurring character in The Clone Wars, and here he finally gets his due (though he’s still a bit of a tool).

This set is part of the recently released six buildable LEGO Star Wars figures. We have previously reviewed the Darth Vader figure, which was a fine set – but even then I could tell that this General Grievous figure was the one that suited this format best.

General Grievous vs Darth Vader

The skeletal construction pieces suit Grievous’ robotic structure perfectly. The sculpt on his head is great. This is basically an awesome General Grievous figure that you put together yourself!

Unlike Rey’s Speeder, this set (recommended age 9-14) was totally out of my 3-year-old daughter’s ability to put together – but not mine 😉 I had a great time putting it together – albeit with expert supervision from my daughter. She loves playing with it though, and one of the first things she wanted to do was stage a fight between Grievous and Darth Vader.

Who would win in a fight between Darth Vader and General Grievous?

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If you have a young Star Wars fan in your life, then two things they probably should be are a) Fans of The Clone Wars cartoon, and b) Excited about The Force Awakens. Given that, either of these sets would perfect gifts for them.

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  • Rey’s Speeder has a RRP of ÂŁ19.99, and is available here
  • General Grevious has a RRP of ÂŁ29.99, and is available here

Or if you fancy your chances, how about entering our General Grievous giveaway?

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LEGO Star Wars 75112: General Grievous
**This giveaway is for UK residents only**

 

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive these LEGO sets free of charge.

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These sets are based on the Star Wars prequels, cartoons, and the forthcoming sequel. Do you or your little ones have a Star Wars preference – originals, prequels, cartoons, or new series?

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Family Fever
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Star Wars Rebels – A Girl Friendly Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Female characters used to be a rare occurrence in Star Wars. In the original trilogy there was Princess Leia of course, but the likes of Aunt Beru and her blue milk, Mon Mothma mourning her Bothan spies, and… um, oh Toryn Farr who fired the Ion Cannon on Hoth, made fleeting appearances. It wasn’t too much better in the prequels.

Happily, things are different now. While we wait to see just how The Force Awakens treats its female characters (the signs so far are good), it’s worth taking a look at Star Wars Rebels (the first season of which is now out to buy on Blu-ray and DVD)  – the first major Star Wars project since Disney’s Lucasfilm acquisition in 2012.

The series is set around four years prior to Star Wars (A New Hope), and charts the rise of the Rebellion against the Empire – the conflict that drove the narrative of the original trilogy. For fans of the original movies, it’s nice that this show features the Empire and all their familiar trappings, from Stormtroopers to Tie-Fighters.

I first caught this show when it aired on DisneyXD last year. As a parent looking for alternative female cartoon characters for my daughter to engage with – rather than the usual princesses and fairies – this was great one to watch. The fact I was a Star Wars fan looking for new ways to introduce his daughter to the galaxy far, far away… well, that didn’t hurt either.

I was worried that Star Wars was going to be defined by Disney as a boys brand, so I was delighted to see Rebels had such prominent female characters.

Of the featured women, first up we have Captain Hera, the pilot.

Her role in the group is significant as female pilots were scarce in the movies – good luck finding a one in the original trilogy (although there were some minor character ones in the prequels).

So for Star Wars Rebels to have a woman in charge of their ship the Ghost is a decent step forward.

Next up there’s Sabine Wren, an explosives expert and street artist.

Initially described by my daughter as that “pink Boba Fett Lady”, I must admit I was unsure about her at first. However, she has become a firm favourite with both of us – and my daughter couldn’t wait to get a toy version of her.

"Daddy, can I buy this please?!" #SabineWren #StarWarsRebels

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We were lucky to receive a LEGO minifigure too.

Sabines on toast. #sorrynotsorry

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There are also a few other notable female characters in the show. An interesting one for me was that of Maketh Tua, an Imperial Governor. One thing your never saw in the movies were any women in the Empire. I’m glad to see this has changed – both here and the forthcoming The Force Awakens.

The creative force behind the series is Dave Filoni, who was also responsible for the previous Star Wars cartoon, the highly regarded The Clone Wars. That was a show I had previously ignored, and boy was I wrong about that (If you haven’t already seen it I urge to to get the five series Blu-ray boxset now!). It has kickass female characters galore – including Star Wars fangirl icon Ahsoka Tano.

The Disney made Star Wars Rebels skews younger than that cartoon, but has a similar style of animation and thankfully displays the same commitment to portraying strong female characters at the centre of the action.

While Rebels is populated with mostly new characters, a few familiar faces do turn up – such as an episode with Lando Carlissian, voiced by Billy Dee Williams. This is my daughter’s favourite, as she has a bit of a soft spot for Lando.

Some other well known characters make an appearance too, but that would be spoiling things.

Things are not perfect with Star Wars Rebels. The show still centers on two male characters, and the initial wave of merchandise omitted the female characters entirely (which thankfully now appears to have been rectified with most licensees).

But the show is a good entry point for young girls and boys into the world of Star Wars, and a great way for fan parents to share their love of Star Wars with their kids. Series two has just started airing, and has added even more female characters to the cast.

How much of this ties into The Force Awakens remains to be seen. We also have the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to look forward to after that. It’s set in a similar (Pre-Star Wars) era to Rebels, and has a female lead (played by British actor Felicity Jones). Perhaps there might be some crossover there?

In the meantime, enjoy the gender neutral space battles, lightsaber duels, and the unfolding drama of the beginning of the rebellion against the galactic Empire in this pleasingly exciting and inclusive series.

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You can purchase Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Series One from Amazon on Blu-ray and DVD.

Family Fever

The Force Awakens May Look Serious, But Check Out the Creepy First Trailer for Star Wars (1977)

The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released. Building from the previously posted teasers, this fleshes out a little more the new & familiar worlds and characters we can look forward to.

But one thing seems to be missing from this – fun. The previous teasers for this film had their moments of levity. Even the darker instalments of the previous movies had time for humour. But The Force Awakens appears to be a fun-free zone judging by this latest trailer.

But then again, perhaps it’s worth revisiting the initial trailer for the first Star Wars movie.

Does that look like fun? That is a trailer for a far creepier movie than Star Wars turned our to be.

As one online commenter so succinctly put it, “this trailer makes Stars Wars look like shit.”

Fair point. So while the new one may look a little on the serious side so far, we should always be wary of judging a film by its trailer.

And to say I’m totally psyched for this is an understatement 🙂

Because I can't seem to post anything that isn't about this right now…! #StarWars #theforceawakens

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How on earth is Star Wars rated U (“suitable for all”)?

While speculation is growing on whether the new Star Wars film The Force Awakens will be rated as suitable for children aged 12 and over only, I have been thinking about one of the great mysteries of cinema – how on earth is Star Wars (1977) rated ‘U’?

The current UK movie rating system ranges from U (“suitable for all”*) to 18 (age 18 only). All three of the original Star Wars trilogy are U, while the prequels are respectively U, PG, and 12A.

My daughter, who is 3-years-old, has seen all, bar Revenge of the Sith, multiple times. I’m not sure what age will be the right age for her to see Ep III, but I imagine it will be younger than the BBFC suggested 12.

While the U rating for the original Star Wars was made in 1977, the decision has been revisited and left unrevised since then.

Here are just some of the potentially problematic things that happen in Star Wars (SPOILER ALERT):

  • Darth Vader choking a man to unconsciousness/death
  • The smouldering skeletons of Luke’s murdered Aunt and Uncle are clearly visible
  • Obi-Wan severs the arm of a bar alien, with a shot of the bloody dismembered limb
  • Scores of onscreen deaths by firearms and other means, plus an entire planet is destroyed, presumably killing billions

So how could such a film be classed as a U – suitable for all?

The BBFC has copies of a couple of the original 1977 ratings examiner reports on their website.

This first report is a fairly accurate summary of the film and sensible regarding its tone:

Star Wars, BBFC, Rating decision, Star Wars rated U
Click for larger version (opens in new window)

The reference to “futuristic” (set a long time ago), and the craziest spelling of R2-D2 I have seen (“Artuditu”) aside, its description of a “galactic fairytale” is apt. The conclusion that “We could find little in the film to cause more than a thrill of excitement in a TV-reared generation…” despite being rated PG in the US, is one that as a parent I accept too (although the Jawas did freak my daughter out for a while).

But this other examiner report reads like they were doing the 1977 equivalent of browsing on their smartphone while watching the movie:

Star Wars, BBFC, Rating decision, Star Wars rated U
Click for larger version (opens in new window)

So…

“Set thousands of years in the future…” (as previously mentioned, the film literally begins with “A long time ago…”)

“…the Universe…” (in a galaxy far, far away…)

“…is ruled by Grand Moff Tarkin” (The Emperor is named a ruler)

“From a large planet called ‘The Battle Station’…”  (The Death Star, not a planet)

“The climax of the film is when aircraft from the princess’s planet attack the ‘Battle Station’, led by Luke.” (Spaceships, princess’s planet memorably destroyed, Death Star!, Luke didn’t lead the attack).

There are aspects they’ve clearly misunderstood, but the examiner is literally making things up that are never even mentioned. It’s almost as if they’ve read an early draft of the script rather than watched the finished film.

Still, I can’t argue with the conclusion of “Grand fun for all ages…” and “…a vastly entertaining story.”

I found these reports a fascinating insight into the thought processes that informed these original decisions, and while I question how much attention they were paying to the story, I am glad their common senses assessment of Star Wars still stands. My daughter loves them, and the scary Jawa era aside, has repeatedly returned to them.

(* The BBFC state that “A U film should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over.”)

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What do you think? Is Star Wars “Grand fun for all ages…”? Or is it for older kids only? Please comment below, or joint the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Mums' Days

“You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That!” (Unless You Want To)

This month’s picture in my daughter’s calendar depicts a classic scene of a father berating his daughter for wearing a revealing outfit. The intergalactic twist is that the father is Darth Vader, his daughter is Princess Leia, and she’s wearing her ‘Slave’ costume from Return of the Jedi.

It’s one of the many memorable panels from Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown, the second in his series of books set in a parallel Star Wars universe where Vader is an involved father to his twin children. The calendar is one of the many Princess Leia things my daughter has in her room.

From my 3yo daughters room. #WeWantLeia

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Vader’s Little Princess takes a rather stereotypical view of girls – Leia is shown chatting endlessly on the phone, obsessing over boys (a certain scoundrel in particular), being bored by sports, having tantrums, and being preoccupied with clothes. While the author treated Luke as just a child in the preceding book Darth Vader and Son, here Brown – who is the father of two boys – makes some seemingly lazy assumptions about young girls.

Despite being able to see these sexist flaws, I still love the book. It highlights the most high profile female character in Star Wars, is full of delightful & funny vignettes, and at its heart it’s about a loving father/daughter relationship.

This was one of the first Star Wars ‘things’ I showed my daughter, and frankly I credit it with hooking her interest in Star Wars at a young age (she was about 21 months old at the time). She often chose it for us to read to her. Soon, she spotted my old Star Wars toys, instantly recognised familiar characters and vehicles, and they never left her grasp. I always thought I wouldn’t show her the movies until she was at least 5, but at age 2 we were watching them. We continue to do so and her love of Star Wars gets stronger as she gets older.

Every time we watch a Star Wars movie or cartoon, she picks up on something new. Eventually the ‘Slave Leia’ outfit was referenced:

My way of talking to her about it was this: Jabba had taken Leia prisoner, and made her wear what her wanted her to wear, because he had that power and that’s how he wanted her to look. I continued that it was wrong because Princess Leia should choose what she wants to wear herself.

We carried on watching, and whenever Princess Leia appeared subsequently in the movie, my daughter declared “Leia decided to wear that herself!”

It’s still a part of the story that she frequently references, including with her our Star Wars toys.

For instance, here Vader is unhappy that Leia has been treated so badly by Jabba:

"Give my daughter her helmet back too Jabba!"

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Another time, Leia shows she’s none too happy with Jabba either:

‘Slave Leia’ remains one of the few Leia figures we don’t own, and it continues to be divisive amongst Star Wars fans.

What’s so bad about Slave Leia?

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Slave Outfit Star Wars Return of the Jedi Slave Leia
From ‘Return of the Jedi’, Dir: Richard Marquand, TM & Š Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) 1983

Clearly sexualised, the look was a hit with the dominant male fanbase. As the boys grew into men, the Slave Leia look became ever more popular, and became one of the most used depictions of Leia.

There were vocal dissenters, such as in the growing fangirl community, or as many male fans became fathers of daughters, some (ahem) started to complain about this being the prevalent depiction of Leia. She’s a politician, fighter, Rebel leader – yet mostly shown as a sexually exploited woman.

On the other side, people talk about how it’s no worse than you see at the swimming pool or beach, or on overly sexualised dolls aimed at girls. Some defended the outfit as a symbol of Leia’s defiance against her captor. Many members of the female cosplayer community enjoy wearing it.

In one memorable defence, the daughter of comedian Adam Buxton said Leia should keep wearing it because it’s a “pretty good look for her”.

As far as Jeffrey Brown’s picture goes, the cliche of the father telling his daughter not to wear such revealing clothes is also problematic.

While as parents we make decisions and rules we like to think are in the best interests of our children, they need to find their own path too – and that includes the process of understanding their own sexuality. This clearly begins long before they are adults.

When a father is telling his daughter not to wear something revealing, is he helping her develop, or trying to limit her growing sexuality? If my daughter wanted to wear a Slave Leia outfit out of the house, I’m pretty sure I’d insist she doesn’t. But she’s 3, and I think that’s fair enough. But what about 10, 13, 15? What age is Leia in this picture? Is she a child or a young woman?

Tricky questions for my future.

“You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That!”

'Vader's Little Princess' by Jeffrey Brown. Published by Chronicle Books.
From ‘Vader’s Little Princess’ by Jeffrey Brown. Published by Chronicle Books.

For now, I still like this picture. For one, it’s funny. But it’s also part of an alternate Star Wars narrative my daughter has melded from various sources.

So I look at the scene like this. Perhaps Darth, instead of limiting Leia’s sexual expression, is upset that her exploitation by Jabba is having lasting effects. That far from being her choice, her father feels she has been conditioned to think this is what men want.

But if we want to empower our daughters, ultimately the choice of outfit has to be theirs. At the moment my daughter’s only real dress restrictions are about being weather/environment appropriate (although I did suggest she rethink her summertime idea of wearing a short skirt as a dress). In the future, school uniforms and dress codes will feature. But eventually we won’t be the ones responsible for what she wears – she will.

I hope I never have a “You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That!” moment with her. If any woman, be it Leia, my daughter, or someone else, truly wants to dress in a revealing gold bikini, then fair enough. I guess it’s a pretty good look for some.

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What do you think about the Slave Leia look? Or parents telling their teenagers what to wear?

Please comment below, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Playtest and Giveaway: New LEGO Star Wars Buildable Figures

The latest LEGO Star Wars figures are a little bigger than the previously available ones!

This giant (in LEGO terms) Vader is one of a series of six new buildable figures from their Star Wars line – Jango Fett, Clone Commander Cody, Obi Wan Kenobi (Clone Wars) General Grevious, Luke Skywalker (Return of the Jedi), and Darth Vader.

Unlike the previous LEGO Star Wars sets, which have been in the classic LEGO format, these are more like Bionicle and other similar buildable LEGO figures. When constructed you have a fully poseasble and articulated Star Wars figure.

We chose Darth Vader, as he is probably my daughter’s favourite character after Princess Leia.

The set a seemingly manageable 160 pieces. But this was my first constraction set, and many of the pieces were unfamiliar to me – with only a few seeming LEGO-like. The build was a different experience too.

My daughter and I like building LEGO sets together, even if the recommended age is far older than she is. However, it soon became clear that this was probably going to be something I built myself – which was obviously no great hardship!

This is not a criticism, as the recommended age is 9+, but other sets we’ve built had a similar age recommendation and we were able to collaborate on. This set, with it’s different style, was a more complex proposition, plus it required gross & fine motor skills which she simply does not have at 3 years old.

However, the finished result is a great toy for her.

It has some cool custom features, such as the cape, the lightsaber, and the head is a great Darth Vader sculpt.

We only had access to Vader, one of the six sets, and while it’s pretty cool when constructed, I would say that General Grevious appears to be the most successful. As he is a robot, his body of metal struts and joints suits the style of these sets perfectly.

These sets offer a nice point of difference to LEGO’s Star Wars line, as well as the wider range of Star Wars toys available. This is a far more stylish Darth Vader toy than many of the other official figures you see out there.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO set free of charge.

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These LEGO Star Wars buildable figures are available from Amazon

Or, enter our giveaway below for your chance to win a Jango Fett figure (UK residents only).

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buildable LEGO Star Wars Jango Fett #75107

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This set of buildable LEGO figures feature a mix of goodies and baddies. Which characters do you or your little ones like best in Star Wars – the heroes or villains?

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Family Fever

A New Hope? Next is Selling Star Wars Clothes… For Girls

Last week local blogger and author Polly Walker alerted me to the fact that Next was selling some new Star Wars clothes. What made these different was one important detail – they were created specifically for girls.

While overall I remain uneasy about the way boys & girls clothing is defined and divided, this addition is immensely positive and demonstrates for all what I’ve always known – Star Wars is for girls too.

As a geek dad, I’ve bought my daughter all sorts of sci-fi tops since she was born. When they’re babies what they wear is frequently for parental amusement. A baby has no idea why their father might like to dress them as a Star Trek red shirt.

While these geeky baby clothes tend to not be labelled by gender, as she got older I ended up browsing the ‘boys’ section, as there was never any in the ‘girls’ one. While it didn’t bother me at first, I begun to realise that this was how geek culture becomes defined as a boys interest from an early age.

Because of this, I was nervous about letting my daughter choose her own clothes when she turned 3, as I thought that would be the end of it. I needn’t have worried.

But getting hold of different styles is an issue. Making or buying custom made clothing is one solution. My daughter was lucky enough to be the recipient of a Star Wars skirt, made for her by Francesca of Sewing Circus.

I connected with Francesca online, and the internet has helped a great deal by bringing together the large and growing geek culture fangirl community. The fact it exists at all is a testament to members individuality, and determination to not be defined by strict parameters of what it means to be a girl or woman.

While the likes of the innovative Her Universe label is taking full advantage of this gap in the market, the mainstream assumption remains – that geeky stuff involving space and superheroes is for boys only.

This often means female characters being omitted altogether in licensed merchandise, as happens with The Avengers, Big Hero 6, Guardians of the Galaxy, and – yes – Star Wars. This tells boys and girls that there is no place for women in these environments.

There is a close link between a childhood interest in geek culture and science in general. The reasons for lack of women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Manufacturing) are many, but the perception of science and science fiction as ‘boy’ interests is suspected of being a major contributing factor.

Do Girls Really Like Star Wars?

All I want for my daughter – and all girls – is choice. If your daughter loves pink and princesses, then she is well served by the market. But my Star Wars loving little girl and her fellow fangirls usually have to rely on what’s in the boy’s aisle, and many will feel uncomfortable about this as they grow older. I’ve already had older girls and boys ask me with disbelief whether my daughter really does love Star Wars when they see her running around the playground in her Star Wars gear. Well, she absolutely does.

The new Star Wars movie is only a few months away, with a film a year to follow after that. There are additional comic books, novels, and cartoons. The merchandise tsunami has already begun. The new saga is about to be embraced by a brand new generation of fans, including my daughter. When I was a kid, one of the biggest Star Wars fans I knew was a girl who lived around the corner. Somehow, in the ensuing decades, it became redefined as a boys only brand.

A high street retailer like Next selling Star Wars clothes for girls – even ones with pink and sparkles – gives me a new hope that such an attitude will be a thing of the past for Star Wars fangirls in the future.

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What do you think? Is Star Wars for boys only? Do you know any girls who love it too? Please share your opinion below, or on Facebook.