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... There stood a tower of marvelous shape. It was fashioned by the builders of old, who smoothed the Ring of Isengard, and yet it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one, but near the summit they opened into gaping horns, their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain.

- JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers

Orthanc is the tower home of traitor wizard Saruman. It sits in the centre of Isengard, a once-lush valley at the southern end of the Misty Mountains, the range which runs like a spine down the centre of Middle-Earth. It is one of the eponymous Two Towers of the middle episode of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, together with Barad-Dûr (in the movies) or Minas Morgul (in the novels).

This set represents the flagship of the LEGO Lord of the Rings range. It was first spotted in the background of a photograph of The LEGO Group's design workshop some time ago, but finally revealed in an official press release in April of this year. Although it is not scheduled for release until July, I was lucky to snag an early copy from the shop at LEGOLAND Deutschland during the Eurobricks Event.

The sheer scale of the towers of the Lord of the Rings saga - Barad-Dûr, Minas Tirith, Minas Morgul, and Orthanc - makes them difficult to render in LEGO bricks at an affordable price, which I suspect is why TLG have shied away from producing sets of these behemoths ... until now. Of the four, Orthanc is probably the most achievable; let's see how the result shapes up.

Review: 10237 The Tower of Orthanc

Set Information

The Tower of Orthanc


Lord of the Rings (Shop@Home Exclusive)

July 2013


5 minifigures, Eagle, and Ent

GB £169.99
US $199.99
EUR 199.99
AU $279.99
CA $249.99
DKK 1699.00

Build the The Lord of the Rings™ trilogy must-have model!

Finally, collect one of the most instantly recognizable and iconic buildings of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Tower of Orthanc! Build all 6 highly detailed floors filled with fascinating movie-related details including the attic, library, alchemy room, Saruman’s throne room, entrance hall and dungeon. This exclusive model stars in some of the most iconic scenes from The Lord of the Rings movies. Swoop down with the Great Eagle and rescue stranded Gandalf the Grey from his tower-top prison after his defeat at the hands of the white wizard, Saruman. Build the powerful, tree-like Ent, with poseable limbs and cool swinging arm function, then attack the Uruk-hai and Orc Pitmaster while Saruman and his servant Grima Wormtongue take refuge high in the tower. The Tower of Orthanc is a must-have model for any The Lord of the Rings collection! Includes a Great Eagle, buildable Ent figure and 5 minifigures with weapons: Saruman with kirtle outfit, Grima Wormtongue, Gandalf the Grey, an Uruk-hai and the Orc Pitmaster.

• Includes a Great Eagle, buildable Ent figure and 5 minifigures with weapons: Saruman with kirtle outfit, Grima Wormtongue, Gandalf™ the Grey, an Uruk-hai™ and the Orc Pitmaster

• Features 6 highly detailed floors with lots of functions, including a folding staircase, LEGO® light brick palantir, opening entrance doors and a trap door

• Weapons include 5 staffs, knife, sword, shield and a long axe

• The attic features a folding staircase, the 3 staffs of the missing wizards, the 2 keys of the Two Towers, 2 maps and an Uruk-hai helmet, shield and sword

• The library features 2 books, 2 torches, 2 maps and 2 skulls

• The alchemy room features 2 torches, a bomb (being produced for the Battle of Helm’s Deep™), 2 potions, bottle, skull, gunpowder keg, pot, cauldron and a long axe

• Saruman’s throne room features lamps, 2 bookcases with 3 potions, map, letter and the powerful palantir with a LEGO light brick

• The entrance hall features opening doors, trap door, 2 large banners, chandelier, statue and 2 axes

• The creepy dungeon features a chain, 2 bones, 2 skulls and a rat

• Buildable Ent features poseable limbs for holding a minifigure and a cool swinging arm function

• Attack the tower with the cool buildable and poseable Ent!

• Swoop to the rescue with the Great Eagle!

• Activate the LEGO light brick and make the palantir glow!

• Set the trap door and banish unwanted guests to the dungeon!

• Prepare the bomb for the Battle of Helm’s DeepTM!

• Swing the Ent’s arms to smash or grab things with the poseable fingers!

• Measures over 28" (73cm) high, 8" (21cm) wide and 6" (16cm) deep

• Ent stands over 9" (23cm) tall

Links ... Shop@Home ... Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron

The Box


Click for a larger full-frontal image

This is a big box. It has the same frontal dimensions as last year's UCS-scale 10227 B-Wing Starfighter - a similarly priced set, though with fewer pieces - but it isn't as deep. Orthanc is shown amidst the Ent-derived desolation of the valley of Isengard; an unnamed Ent shakes an Uruk while another Orc attempts to bring him down with a grappling hook; Gandalf simultaneously escapes on an eagle in a strange time-warp of the storyline. A darkening sky sets the mood of the scene perfectly; quite why Barad-dûr is visible in the background is anyone's guess. The height of Orthanc isn't readily apparent from the picture; a small inset therefore demonstrates the tower's dimensions.

Round the back, the tower's entire detailed interior is displayed for your perusal, accompanied by insets of various scenes: some canon, some less so.


Click for a larger image

Behind the parchment-like insets lies a map of Middle-Earth set on a beautiful gradient from earth blue on the right to fiery orange on the left; this is visible to a lesser extent on the front ...

... and continues on the sides:



Here are left and right sides respectively. The latter's top edge is on the right, so the map - which continues at the top end of this side - is the right way up. Isengard is just visible in the centre, about a third of the way from the right, at the end of the Misty Mountains range. Kudos to the box artist if its placement here was deliberate.

The five minifigures are represented in 1:1 scale on the box top ...



... while the bottom has a wall of text with the usual language lesson. My box is a little battered here, but it has just travelled six hundred miles in the back of an over-packed car. It appears that the set's components were made in DENMARK, CHINA, SWEDEN, HUNGARY, MEXICO, HONG KONG, the CZECH REPUBLIC, NARNIA, the MOON, and EVERYWHERE. :snicker:

What's in the Box?

The box flaps are sealed with tape, so it can be flat-packed easily. :thumbup: Out falls the separately-wrapped and cardboard-backed Instructions and sticker pack, and eighteen polybags forming fifteen modules: see one to eight, which includes the separately packed Eagle, and nine to fifteen.

The Instructions


Three booklets are included, all of a similar size and thickness; all featuring the same image as the box front, and all covered with nice glossy paper. On their backs are an advertisement for the LEGO Club, the detestable WinGangeGewinne kid, and a trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; I'm not sure whether the last is a console game, a web game, a video, or a set; but whatever it is, it's coming in December 2013. Maybe it just refers to the forthcoming cinematic release. :def_shrug:

The modular construction is demonstrated over three pages at the start of manual one:


It's actually a little daunting. Although the build process is modular, most sections start building directly onto the previous; there are only two places where the tower is designed to separate - between modules 9 and 10, and 12 and 13 - but even then, it doesn't separate easily.

Part call-outs accompany the instruction steps, which are generally easy to follow. The Middle-Earth map is faintly visible in the parchment-coloured background.


Despite the preponderance of blacks and dark bluish-greys, there are no major colour-differentiation issues; I only made one mistake in the entire build - mistaking black for DBG on a 1x1 round plate - and I noticed the error very quickly.

The substantial inventory is located over three pages at the back of book three; click the links for pages 1, 2, and 3. Also at the rear of this booklet is a subversive 'Collect them all!' enticement, in the form of a minifigure display:


Quite why this is included in an adult-oriented set is anyone's guess, but I guess adults can be pretty obsessive collectors too (though less likely deface their instructions by ticking the boxes). :grin:

Other sets from the impressive Summer LOTR range are advertised:


We are encouraged to buy two copies of the Black Gate in order to complete the scene; quite what we'll do with two Gandalfs the White is questionable, but it will help towards amassing an army of Eagles. I'm particularly looking forward to the Corsair ship with its Dead crew.

Sticker haters beware ...


... there's a lot of them. :look: Thankfully, they are all applied to flat surfaces, but that doesn't stop them being a pain in the backside. I've actually applied them this time, so we'll see where they go later.

The Parts

To save space and sanity, I've paired the bags up to show the parts. Modules One and Two build the Ent:


There's a lot of useful reddish and dark brown here, along with some less useful parts. I can live without the reddish brown wing-end modified brick, and the Symmetrical wedge with fractured top may be relatively uncommon, but I can't see it becoming sought-after. New in dark brown are the Technic ball-joint bricks; a rather unexciting brick to find in a new colour, but it might be useful for tree-building (obviously).

I am pleased by the selection of reddish-brown and dark brown bricks, plates and slopes; there's also a useful array of SNOT bricks and brackets, along with a smattering of dark and olive green. It's worth pointing out the two reddish-brown half-arches; these are the continuous-curved type, like the older 2339, but have a reinforced underside like the discontinuous style 76768 (and a new mold number: 14395). See here for a comparison.

The three printed 1x1 tiles at the bottom-right of the picture are Ent eyes; one is spare.

From this point onwards, we'll be seeing a sea of black and grey, so be prepared.


Bags Three and Four build the base of the tower, and the Uruk. There are a whole load of useful basic black bricks, plates, and tiles, and a load of dark bluish-grey SNOT bricks, with more to come later. The 7x3 flags are new in earth blue; the new 'Elven' arches start to feature here.

Bags Five and Six ... whoa.


These form the SNOT sides to the tower base. Whoa. Need black plates/jumpers/headlights/bows/tiles? Look no further. Shame the 1x1 bricks with handle were on the Pick-A-Brick recently.

Saruman appears with Bags Seven and Eight, and he brings with him more black jumpers and headlights:


The 4x4 round plate with central cut-out is new in black. Just in front of the red Light Brick is a green and black round ball, the purpose of which we'll see in due course, if you haven't guessed already. There's also ten 1x3 black arches in this selection.

Bag Nine should have been included with 7 and 8 - it forms part of the same section: the Throne Room.


Here we start to see lots of black 1x2 bricks with grooves, which will feature prominently throughout the set. The two trans-yellow crystal ball globes also appear in the contemporary 79005 Wizard Battle, and serve exactly the same purpose here.

Moving on to Bags Ten and Eleven, the black theme continues ...


... here accompanied by Gríma, and many more useful headlights, SNOT bricks, cheeses and tiles. The trans-clear flask with purple liquid makes its first appearance in a non-Collectable Minifigure set.

Gandalf finally appears with Bags Twelve and Thirteen:


1x2 grooved bricks, 1x1 bricks, and 1x2 plates with ridge dominate the selection here; in the top right corner are several 2x2x3 slopes and their corner equivalents. Just visible at the front is a single trans-clear minifigure head - I love this part. :wub:

And finally, Bags Fourteen and Fifteen build the tower's summit with its spines.


There are lots of clippy- and clicky-hinges; the latter make for an interesting build technique, as we shall see. The four black 'Persian' arches contrast to the much larger quantity of 'Elven' arches we have seen earlier.

Parts Summary

There might not be a great spread of new or rare parts in this set, but I hope I have demonstrated the massive quantity of useful elements included. Here are the front-runners:

113 Black 1x1 Brick

86 Black 1x2 Brick with grooves

73 Black 1x2 Plate

58 Black 1x1 Brick with vertical handle

58 Black 1x2 Jumper Plate

54 Black 1x1 Headlight Brick

45 Black 1x1 Plate

41 Black 1x2 Brick

37 Black 1x1 Cheese Wedge

37 Black 1x1 Tile

37 Black 1x2 Plate with ridge

36 Black 1x10 Bow

32 Black 1x3 Brick

32 DkBGr 1x4 SNOT Brick

26 Black 1x3x3 Elven Arch

All in all, this makes a great parts pack - if you need black.

The Figures


From left to right: Saruman the White, Gríma Wormtongue, Gandalf the Grey, Uruk-Hai, and Orc Pitmaster. Just five figures for a flagship set? It seems a bit stingy, especially considering the range which accompanies other sets of the line: this year's 79008 Pirate Ship Ambush, for example, comes with nine. However, we do also get the Eagle, and the large brick-built Ent which is an important character in itself. Moreover, Gríma is (I believe) unique to this set, and Saruman is new to this summer wave.

Gandalf the Grey

This version of Gandalf - prior to his level in badass after the Balrog encounter - is surprisingly rare in LEGO Lord of the Rings. He previously appeared only in the entry-level 9469 Gandalf Arrives, and there had a different face and pointy hat instead of this 'Dumbledore' hairpiece.


His torso is the same here. This face is new, and reversible: amiable on one side, and ... angry? distressed? I'm not sure. :look: This version is the same as included in the 79005 Wizard Battle - which is basically a way for people who just want Saruman to avoid having to buy this set - except he has a cape in 10237. The cape is another issue: it gets awfully crumpled under the beard and headpiece, and the latter doesn't sit comfortably above the cape.

Gríma Wormtongue

For a bad guy, I find Gríma's LEGO version to be rather sympathetic. He has a countenance which is somewhere between glum and scared; even his 'angry' face is tinged with fear.


I like the use of tan to mimic his sallow complexion. His torso is, I believe, unique, though it looks like he's stolen the Ring for himself. His hair isn't nearly greasy enough. :laugh:

Saruman the White

I'm slightly annoyed that this figure will soon be available in a £10 set. :hmpf_bad: To be fair, this version comes with a dress and cape, and people would undoubtedly complain about having to buy a $200 set for an essential LOTR character.


As head of the wizards' order, his dress robe has the necessary finery, and looks great! He also has a rubbery-feel, decorated hair-and-beard piece, which judging by its feel, decoration, and separate wrapping is presumably a Chinese production. Under the hair/beard, his face is new; though it puts me in mind more of Sean Connery than Chritopher Lee (think Marco Ramius in The Hunt for Red October, and you'll see what I mean). The set includes legs, for when the unposeable dress is too much, and the front-and-back-printed torso is simply gorgeous. :wub:

Here are Gríma and Saruman for comparison - on the Orthanc balcony:


TLG have captured both well. :thumbup: Look also to either side - it's like that tooth piece was made for Orthanc (or Orthanc designed with LEGO in mind! :laugh: ).

Uruk-Hai Solder

This guy is nice (if a ferocious cross-bred maggot soldier can be nice :wacko: ), though sadly he isn't unique. He can be found in quantity in 9471 Uruk-Hai Army, and, with the beautiful White Hand printed armour, in 9476 Orc Forge.


Still, at least he's compatible with the rest of the army. His head is reversible, allowing for some variety in Uruk heads within the army; I'd like to have seen some with the White Hand in different orientations, but that might be a tall order.

Orc Pitmaster

This dude is ugly. But, he's meant to be.


He can be found also in 9476 Orc Forge. Sadly, he doesn't have the ears/hair that one of his doubles from that set has, and I think he looks a little 'unfinished' without it.

Great Eagle

Although not listed as a minifigure, I've included the Eagle here. He comes in a separate polybag, suggesting Chinese production; and has the detailed printing to match.


The LEGO Group haven't given him a name, and he isn't directly named in the movie, to my knowledge; however, I've read the book, and I know that he must therefore be Gwaihir the Windlord. (Apparently, in the movie version of Fellowship, Gandalf whispers 'Gwaihir' to the moth, but I confess I didn't pick that up.)

Gwaihir consists of three pieces: the body/head, and the two wings. Unfortunately the head doesn't move.


He's pretty big, with a magnificent wingspan, as Gandalf here demonstrates.

Four studs on the top allow Gandalf to 'ride' him. I'd have preferred somewhere for him to grip, so that he looks like he's clinging on, but hey.


The printing of the wings and tail-feathers is beautiful ... :wub:

... and it continues on the underside:


His 'talons' aren't so hot: just a 2x2 anti-stud matrix. If you want a bigger, more versaitile eagle, use the new CREATOR one. :wink: I'm pretty pleased with this, and I'm almost glad LEGO is encouraging us to buy two copies of the Black Gate set - we'll have three eagles! :wub:

The Ent


Here's the unspecified Ent. I'm not sure which Ent he's meant to be - I think only Treebeard is named in the movies - but in LEGO form, he's basically a big Steampunk macha with foliage and a mushroom. There's a nicely irregular, lopsided look as befitting these strange woody creatures.

Take your pick as to which of the many Ents he represents. Judging by the earth green 'beard', he might be meant to represent Treebeard himself, though the resemblance isn't perfect:


The LEGO version doesn't really have a 'head'; his eyes are level with his shoulders. I couldn't find an Ent exactly like this in the movies.

He does have space at the top where Merry and Pippin might perch:


You can also see here the he has a Bionic Arm. Turning the grooved cylinder at the back rotates the arm around the shoulder joint. I'm not exactly clear what purpose this serves; the Ent could hurl rocks at the tower, or perhaps high-five other Ents.

The gearing is stiff (achieved by using a stud-end axle in a Technic brick), so the arm will stay in whatever position you leave it:


Here he's giving some kind of salute. :look: Note the opposable thumbs, meaning he can pick up stuff. :thumbup:

The big downside of the Bionic Arm is that the arm can't be abducted (swung outwards) at the shoulder; therefore, when the arm is lowered, the elbow has to twist uncomfortably:


He looks like he's about to start dancing here. :look:

The stiff ball-joints, strong clicky-hinges at the hips, and huge feet means that he balances rather well:


I'm not sure whether he's skating, or pushing something, but it's a dynamic pose.

For a tree, he's quite bendy: 90 degrees movement at the hips ...


... forwards or backwards. :oh: This is handy for sticking his head in the water if it catches fire, like one Ent in the film. I haven't directly demonstrated this, but he can also swivel at the waist, where a Technic axle allows a full 360 degrees of movement.

If he gets tired, he can have a rest:


Note the reddish-brown 'wing-end modified bricks' that cover the arms. I hate these parts anyway, but here they are super-annoying: if you try to grip the arm, it's all to easy to apply pressure to the wing end, the result of which will be the piece pinging off across the room. :hmpf_bad: Still, they do help produce a nice contour to the arms.

Enty's prehensile arms enable him to pick up figures:


Here he's grabbed the Orc and the Uruk. The Bionic Arm doesn't help here, but you can bash the two figures together ...

... like this:


Nice. :thumbup:

The Tower


It's really hard to demonstrate in these photos, but this is a tall building. At 73cm from base to tip, it's the tallest LEGO structure I've ever built (not counting contributions to multi-coloured monoliths at LEGO roadshows when I was little, or an ugly thing I made as part of a team-building exercise at work :laugh: ). There's some beautiful detailing on the structure, which we'll look at in due course.

The basic construction of the tower - four pillars of black rock moulded together and tapering towards the peak with its four spines - is rendered faithfully, though obviously scaled down ...


Click each frame for a larger view

... and of course the fourth pillar is missing, to allow the detailed interior to be visible.

Now we'll take a look at the exterior, layer by layer, starting at the base:


The black is highly reflective. Apparently Saruman lives in Heartlake next to the school. :laugh: It's also a dust-magnet.

I love the way the spines of rock at the base have been recreated with the long black bows, and the tall staircase leading up to the arched entranceway is simply magnificent. :wub: To see how the stairs are attached at 45 degrees, click here.

Obviously, the number of spines, and the width of the staircase have been reduced to match the scale. Here's what the base should look like:


The many 1x1 bricks with vertcal handle, and the 1x2 cheese wedges above, add further realism; compare here.

Moving up, the next layer includes lots of little windows, made with 1x3 arches mounted on jumper plates at a half-stud offset. These are rather fiddly to build, but the result is great.


Here also is Saruman's balcony, from which he surveys the building of his army and the wanton destruction of his own garden.

Again, the detail is reproduced as faithfully as possible given the scale:


Click for an alternative shot of this level

Those rubbery tooth-pieces are perfect facsimiles of the spines higher up; 1x2 bricks with grooves are used to mimic the vertical spines above the windows.

Higher still, we encounter some tall windows made with 6L bars set vertically under Elven arches.


Sorry about the dust. :blush: You'll notice that the tower tapers in stages, produced by slope bricks at various intervals; the effect is rather more sudden than I'd like, but I think it is forgiveable. Bear in mind that - at minifigure scale - the tower would have to be about three and a half metres tall for the top to be the equivalent of 'five hundred feet about the plain'. I don't know about you, but we don't have room for that in our house. :laugh:

Approaching the summit, some three-brick tall slopes help to taper the tower more gently, and we find more of the tooth-pieces - again accurate to the real tower.


I was a little perturbed by the dark bluish-grey stripes which indicate the floors at various levels; however, if you compare to this distant shot, there do appear to be lighter stripes at various levels. This may be a trick of the light, but it excuses the DBG to some extent.

There's a notable anomaly in the open-backed construction of the tower: the side pillars are wider than they should be.


This is to allow more depth to the interior. I'd like to see someone build a 'complete' tower, which you could probably do with two of these sets (and probably make it a little taller, too. :wink: ) Edit: Someone has! See Missing Brick's back wall here.

Finally, Gandalf gets imprisoned at the summit platform:


I absolutely adore the four SNOT-mounted spines here, with their 'serrated' lower edges. You can just about see these details in this shot. They are attached with an interesting technique: two 1-wide 'male' clicky-hinges on the spines marry to two 2-wide 'female' ones on the central column. This produces both a sturdy connection and a half-stud offset, centering the spines nicely. :thumbup:

The Interior


Now we get to see inside the great tower, starting with Gandalf's arrival to visit his master Saruman, before his betrayal was revealed.

Inside the entrance hall, we find some stickered flags representing drapes emblazoned with the White Hand of Saruman; there's a little statue formed of a plain LEGO Games figure, and some Classic Castle axes in pearl dark grey.


The dark blue tile on the floor has a sticker with a diminutive version of this pattern - fantastic attention to detail, even if the result is a little smaller than the real thing, and should really be in the throne room rather than here.

This is the best place for Gandalf and Saruman to fight with sticks. Remember the chandelier; it's important. Note also the grooved round brick facing the camera ...

... this controls a trap door ...


... which opens as Gandalf faceplants onto the floor ...

... and drops him into the dungeon. Exactly how it happened in the movie. :blush: Ahem.


Inside the dungeon hide some stickered Wargs, some creepy eyes, a ball and chain and some bones. Gandalf looks annoyed, probably because he's fallen into a Plot Hole. :blush: The box art has Saruman throwing an Orc into the dungeon instead.

Moving up, the next room is the Throne Room, containing an ornate throne and the Palantír - one of the Seeing Stones of Númenor, and the source of Saruman's betrayal as he gazed too far and was ensared by the Eye of Mordor.


Here Gríma has joined Saruman, to witness the Palantír in use. Pushing up on the chandelier below ...

... activates the Light Brick ...


... and the Palantír glows! But only if you orientate it with the green side down. It's a pity you can't lock the light on - it requires constant finger pressure to keep it lit - but I guess it saves on battery life.

An alternative view of this room shows off the bookcases, formed from SNOT-mounted plates and tiles, with a loose stickered 'parchment' tile; there are also colured phials of arcane liquids.


The two tall 'lamps' with yellow globes represent these (seen unlit also in the previuous linked picture). Identical lamps are found in the related set 79005 Wizard Battle, which as I've already said is a significantly cheaper alternative for people who want a Saruman figure.

I guess the room above is the 'Alchemy Room' - it's where Saruman Builds the Bomb. Gríma is actually meant to be in this scene, :blush: though he's looking a little self-conscious.


The bomb is mounted on a platform which rotates forward via a little gear (hidden behind Saruman here). Saruman is standing on a 2x2 jumper tile which normally holds the bomb 'lid'. Here we can see the wonderful, tall, arched and barred windows from the inside. More jars and bottles line the shelves; the torches are - wisely - unlit.

Floor five is a little chamber with more bookcases, and a couple of large stickered books which may be grimoires, and skulls for arcane value.


Pictures of five wizards line the walls, and might indicate that this room is a wizardly council chamber - though you'd be hard pressed to squeeze more than two wizards in here. Saruman, as head of the order, takes pride of place in the centre ...

... while on his left is Radagast the Brown. Radagast plays a significant role in the LOTR novels, but is all but ignored in the films; he is mentioned but once in The Hobbit book, but is cast in the movie: see his image here. The stickered image is a good representation.


Two other wizards form part of the Order, but are not named in either the LOTR or Hobbit books; they should both be Blue, but this one is - apparently - also Grey. Note the stickered map on the wall.

[Edit - I just watched the first Hobbit movie. There's a lovely in-joke, where Gandalf cannot remember the names of the other two Blue wizards. :laugh: ]

On the right is Gandalf the Grey, and another wizard, this one also Brown. :wacko: At least the numbers are correct! :thumbup:


Another bookcase is found here. On the ceiling is a little trans-clear inverted dome, mounted on a turntable - we'll see what it is for shortly.

The sixth and final floor is Saruman's Secret Chamber. In it, his true allegiance to the Eye of Morder is revealed, and he keeps some Uruk armour as mementoes, it seems, along with spare staves.


The helmet rests on a trans-clear minifigure head with a round 1x1 tile, also trans-clear. The Keys of Orthanc hang on the wall: the one on the left has some ugly plastic flashing attached, which I'm sure wouldn't have passed quality control in Billund, so probably originates elsewhere. :hmpf_bad:

The Secret Room is accessed via a trap door with a folding ladder.


Rotating the turntable on the ceiling of the room below allows the trap door to open, and the ladder unfolds. It's a little tight on space, but can be done without removing walls. This is the only means of climbing from one floor to another in the whole tower - save for the entrance staircase. Perhaps the main tower staircase is in the missing fourth wall? :look:



I've saved this move still till now, as it best sums up the entire set: Orcs try to topple and Ent with a rope and grappling hook, with the best exterior shot of the tower in the background. This is also the only decent shot I could find of the tall barred windows of the Bomb Room. Compare the tower again to here.



Click for a larger image

Orthanc features prominently in two parts of the movie trilogy: the encounter between Saruman and Gandalf, in which Gandalf is imprisoned on the summit until rescued by Gwaihir the Eagle; and the destruction of Isengard by the Ents. This set attempts to recreate both scenes, while also allowing for Bomb-building scene with Gríma, and for Saruman to survey his 'army' of Uruk-Hai - if you've managed to collect a significant proportion of the ten thousand figures you'd need! :laugh: In addition, there are some added extras not in the movies, in the form of the dungeon, the Council Chamber, and the Secret Room, all produced with remarkable detail for such small spaces.

The Tower itself is a brave production. There is no way the five-hundred foot tower could be recreated accurately in LEGO bricks at a scale compatible with the rest of the range, and at an affordable price. The result is a necessary compromise - it looks a little squat from certain angles, and tapers perhaps too suddenly, but I hope you'll agree that the outcome is still remarkable - for its detail, its beauty, and its size.

And that's just the outside. Inside are six floors of detailed interior, recreating several important scenes from the movies, and packed with little features making the model both a great play-set and a wonderful display and talking-point. TLG have been a little stingy with the figures - I'd have thought that Merry and Pippin could have been included to sit on the Ent; or, failing that, at least another Orc and Uruk, but we do get the one and only Ent figure yet released, in addition to the lovely Eagle mold.

All in all, I'm delighted with the set. It's far more impressive in the flesh than even the box art or press-release pictures suggest; of my pictures, only the final 'Conclusion' photo really does justice to its size. It's also a great source of black parts, at a reasonable price-to-part ratio; however, I think I'll keep this built. If I can find a shelf to put it on!

Design & Build
There's some fantastic attention to detail in the architectural features of the Tower, and a remarkable number of features crammed into the interior. Building the tower is interesting, with plenty of SNOT techniques and offsets used to reproduce the tower's design as faithfully as possible; there is by necessity a little repetition but far less than you might expect. And the result is well worth the effort.

If you're after rare or new parts, you might be disappointed, but the set is probably the best source of useful black pieces that I have ever seen. I will never complain about basic bricks in useful colours, and the quantity of headlights and jumper plates is awesome. There's also surprisingly little multi-coloured filler.

Gríma is the only unique figure. Saruman could have been a big selling-point had TLG not decided to release him in an entry-level set; he does come with a unique skirt in this set. Coupled with the Black Gate set, Gwaihir will allow the building of a little Eagle Army; the Ent figure is brick-built (and could perhaps be cobbled together from spare parts), but this is the only Ent yet available in the whole LEGO LOTR range.

Play and Display
Bearing the 14+ age guide, this is an adult-orientated set, but nevertheless includes quite a range of play features, whether it be recreating movie scenes or bashing orcs with the Ent. Mostly, though, Orthanc makes a superb centre-piece for your LOTR display - though it will tend to dwarf the other sets.

$200 or £170 might be a little outside many people's budget, but for just under 2400 pieces - and useful ones - this actually represents good value. Add to that the enjoyable building experience, and the
result, and I think that the set is well-worth the money.

Overall 86% My Score 9/10 This monster is a joy to build and to own. A must for any die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, and a great set for any LEGO Collector.

Orthanc you for reading. :grin: Please leave a comment!



All movie scenes © New Line Cinema

EB Staff for assistance - especially Rick, Pandora, and ISC. And Hinckley for encouraging 'schnell'. :grin:


Orthanc at Tolkien Gateway

Orthanc at LOTR Wiki


LOTR on Shop@Home

My flickr set



Treebeard forgets which movie he is supposed to be in


If you like my reviews, and would like to learn how it's done, please consider joining the Reviewers Academy

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Yes! Amazing review of a amazing set! Thanks for taking the time to actually do this! Defiantly one of the best

set of all time, certainly one of the most detailed. Now if could only justify this to my parents......:laugh:

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Brilliant review, Rufus. I love the intro! Great pictures and fulfilling descriptions, though I had to skip some for fear of spoilers :D Congratulations on getting the tower early!

Edit: Went straight from work and picked it up at the Lego Store. It is an absolutely breathtaking set - seeing it take shape during the build is a great experience. Lots of cool techniques and parts! Voted outstanding. :P

Edited by Nefarious

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I my gosh, so many pieces! How much time did it take to line them up for the pictures? :wacko:

All rooms are brilliant, my favorite is the one with the wizard's portraits.

I wonder if the faces of Saruman here are the same as Count Dooku's in the new Duell on Geonosis set.

Edited by Yooha

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What a fantastic review and set as well.

For the moment this set has been announced I wanted it so bad, but then I've decided to pass and buy the Kingdoms joust instead.

I love the design of Grima Wormtongue and Saruman, maybe I have to max my budget for LEGO to get this wonderful set. :hmpf_bad:

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AWESOME review 'Rufus'........I'll buy it if becomes available in Oz and at the right price........great display piece and playable too ! :grin:

Brick On Review On 'Rufus' ! :grin:

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Thanks for a great and extremely detailed review!

Impressive piece of work for sure. Not very handy to display though, and really expensive.

My favorite part is the ent. Simply lovely.

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Thanks for the magnificent review, this set is definitely a buy, I can't wait till Monday, now the question is how long did it take to build, because it will probably take me a lot longer because of my OCD with stud alignation (I prefer to do the OCD alignation because it takes me a lot longer to build, which is a good thing IMO) :classic:

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Awesome review and equally awesome set, in the literal meaning of the word "awesome" :sweet: This is most definitely one of the most breathtaking sets TLG has ever released and I can't wait to get my hands on it next week :wub:

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Thanks for the great review! The set is also beautiful, but the amount of dust is frightening me - I still don't have a place to keep my Imperial Flagship set clear of it! So I won't buy it even not because of the price, but because of the size. Though now I'm going to get Saruman with proper outfit since he's one of my favourite characters in the book and in movie series.

Edited by -GZ-

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This is a fantastic review, but I think it's an unexceptional set, mainly because of the subject matter. Despite a familiarity with Tolkien, the set just doesn't conjure memories with me. For the same price, a modular set does more.

Regardless, the design and construction seem up to TLG's high standards.

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What a great set! Thanks for doing this review. The tower is really well designed as it is, but I think I will MOD mine to make it a few feet taller. The ent is nice, but he will get lonley by himself, so I will consider making another to help wrangle that mean old Saruman.

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Dear Rufus, do not get me wrong. This is a great review with a lot of love and edfort in it. But to compare them with you other latest reviews this is not your best. To keep your own stardard man of th images needed better (cooler) whitebalance. There are often images where greys and black apeer brownish.

I would not mention that for another reviewer except you. It is only because your other reviews have been so great without any flaws or weeknesses. I hope i wa not too harsh, if yes, pease acept my excuse.

Regarding to the set itself: As Star Wars fan i would love to see the Saruman face with Count Dookus latest hairpice. I my immagination this is the best combination.


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Great review, Rufus!! This is easily my most anticipated set of the year, so Monday can't come soon enough. Now where to display it... :laugh:

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FANTASTIC REVIEW RUFUS, I have been waiting for a EB review to pop up and i'm super glad you are the guy covering it. It's fantastic to see the set in all its glory and I love that you have taken a shot from every possible angle possible. The tower truly is outstanding and the dancing,saluting, bendy ent is the cherry on the cake. Not to mention the great figures. I was already going to get this set but your review makes me want it even more.

If you get time would you mind taking a picture of it next to another tall set? Just for comparison :classic: . Thank you

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Great review! That's a beautiful set, shame it's so much money. Though I disagree with you on Wormtongue's minifigure. He was a sniveling, slimy, no-backbone creature, and I feel like his face reflects that. Just my 2 cents.

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Why must LEGO keep releasing so many awesome wallet-draining products :(

Wasn't really tempted by this but now that I have seen the review, I want one (or at the very least the new map sticker that comes in the set which will likely be nearly impossible to find on Bricklink)

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Great review! This is a really great flagship set for the LotR fans around, and I think it absolutely delivers, as it looks great amazing from the outside, has some cool play features in the inside and comes at a really good price for the amount of bricks you get. The similar priced Jabbas Palace + Rancor Pit for the SW fans (210€ even for only half the bricks) cannot compare to this beauty!

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