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  1. Clone OPatra

    REVIEW: 70922 The Joker Manor

    The next amazing mammoth set or just a source of new roller coaster parts? Let's find out in… Set Name: The Joker Manor Set #: 70922 Theme: The LEGO Batman Movie Pieces: 3444 Minifigures: 10 Year of Release: 2017 Price at Release: USD 270, UK 250, EU 270ish, AUD 400, CA 350 INTRODUCTION When we heard there would be a big D2C set to sort of cap off the LEGO Batman Movie line, the sentiment I saw most in AFOL discussions was to hope it'd be a proper Wayne Manor. Instead… it's a Wayne Manor corrupted by Joker, aka another Joker funland type of thing, aka a mishmash. I myself was a bit disappointed. This set looks fun and colourful to be sure, but we've had so many large sets lately that this one didn't capture the wow factor for me. Using Brickset's database statistics, I see that Joker Manor is the 13th largest system set ever. Three of those are repeats/remakes - Death Star, Millennium Falcon, and now Taj Mahal, so in a sense Joker Manor comes in as the 10th largest. A whopping nine of those thirteen largest sets have been released in just 2016 and 2017 alone. Nine new sets over 3000 pieces, USD 250+, in just two years! Going into this set I'm thinking, is it getting to be too much with the gigantic sets? Does this one earn its place in that top bracket? BOX I know we all want to get to what we came here for, the actual LEGO, but the designers have really done a great job with the box. The Joker graffiti motif really pops, and continues onto the sides as well. It's a fun, and of course gigantic, start to the set. PAPERS The instructions are one fat perfect-bound book, with nothing remarkable about them. They do have pictures of four new LEGO Batman Movie sets, which was exciting when I received this review copy, but now those pictures are online. Moving right along, here are the stickers. Even though they came sealed in plastic with the instructions, they curled up immediately. Maybe it's me (aka the air in my apartment), and not them? Anyway, most of these stickers are fine, although there are three atrocious ones which I'll get to. You might be able to guess already. THE BUILD Enough about packaging, let's get into it! There are 24 bags in total in the set, plus a couple large unnumbered bags containing big structural things and the roller coaster parts. I was intrigued going in to see how the build would proceed, and I hope you are too! But if not, you can always scroll right along. Bag 1 gives us the Joker along with a load of technic structural parts and some flooring. A few nice tiles, but nothing terrible exciting. Now that most big sets aren't built on baseplates, they need good foundations. This is certainly what I'd call a nice, sturdy start. Bag 2 immediately hits us with some more colour. Still plenty of larger pieces as we lay the groundwork. Also Batman. The ground level already feels pretty substantial in length, if not exactly in width. Bag 3 swings back to mostly drab colours, but includes the new curvy tall panel part, trans-yellow windows, and some other rare-ish parts/colours. Altogether these the fireplace/hall sort of room. I had no idea where the brown studs with bar would go when I first saw them, as I hadn't seen any in the official set images, but they are cleverly used for an upside assembly that repeats on the front of the building. Sadly, the undersides of the plates in this assembly are left showing on the finished build and look a bit sloppy. Bag 4 continues on the same side of the building that we were working on, and brings in some more lovely lime green and dark red. We also get window panes in more fun colours and the very cute Forever Sorting 2 printed tile. Upon completing bag 4 we've now got a slight sense of the building at hand, and you can really see the inverted plates which do not look cohesive. Bag 5 swings over to the other side of the building and gives us Nightwing. More of the same interesting parts as we've already seen, which are great to get nonetheless. The little kitchen corner is completed, along with the foundation for the gargantuan microwave. For some reason, there's a cup that has fallen on the floor which I don't remember from the movie. But am I forgetting something? Bag 6 isn't much to write home about parts-wise besides for another of the new panel parts. It does however build the all important microwave. Bag 7 finishes off the funhouse mirror section and catches the second side of the building up to the first side. I have actually made a couple of small errors in the build at this point, but not to worry, I amended them later. Bag 8 heads in a different direction colour-wise, building the base for the tower section and the mechanism for the punching boxing-gloves. While grey and black are good utilitarian colours, I'm more of a fun-colours kind of a guy, and Bag 9 delivers. So many wonderful things here I had to separate them out. At this point the Joker elements have started taking over in the form of the massive, eye-catching display welcoming you into the manor. It's not a very complicated build, but sometimes just some simply color blocking can go a long way. Bag 10 focuses on the boxing gloves and finishing off the front display, which now looks even snazzier. Bag 11 heads back to the more dull colours of the Wayne Manor portion, building up some more supports for the roller coaster and a sloping dark red roof section. Bag 12 brings in some lovely trans-blue parts for the bath, and basically completes the Wayne Manor interior besides for one little attic detail to come. At just a little over halfway, it becomes clear just how much of the build is the Joker detailing, although there is still some Wayne Manor to complete. Bag 13 goes all grey everything, but also gives us our first Friends Are Family minifigure of the set - Joker! This further completes the manor and readies it for the tall dark red roofs. Bag 14 oddly builds the piano which goes in the hall that was finished in bag 3, and doesn't seem to add a lot visually, although the offset slope/tile motif around the tower is well done. Bag 15 - you can guess what this is! Bag 16 finally completes the Wayne Manor-ish parts of the set. Bag 17 goes back to colourful, with lots of bright parts. These come together to build the extremely unnerving Joker face. I used to think the Joker face in Jokerland was a bit creepy, but this takes it to another level! Bag 18 continues up the central tower with more bright colours. Bag 19 is exclusively dedicated to the big Joker sign in brick built lettering, which looks fantastic but also contains one of the most frustrating parts of the build with the sticking of Joker's face. More on that later. Bag 20 adds the central eye, not to be confused with the Eye of Sauron, because this is indeed something else in the movie. I was now waiting with baited breath for the roller coaster. Surely that wouldn't be built along with the very last bag? Sure enough, Bag 21 just adds the HA! signs and the little bombs in front, which use sausages and fairly new plant parts as fuses. Quite well done. The HA! signs are pretty simple but add so much. At last, we've reached Bag 22 which gives us the roller coaster carts and finishes the set. But before I could finish the set, I had to dive into… THE ROLLERCOASTER One of the most exciting elements of this set, hands down, is the new roller coaster system. We knew LEGO had to get there eventually, what with their fairground sets and their attempts at roller coasters over the years, like the Temple of Doom set and the recent Friends park set. But now they have finally gone and made a proper roller coaster system. People say LEGO doesn't make new parts for D2C sets, but that definitely seems to be changing as this set has quite a few. We already know the roller coaster system will be returning in a City mining set for 2018, and it's a safe bet that a Creator Expert type roller coaster set isn't far behind. The roller coaster carts are quite flat, allowing them to really be customized, as LEGO should be. Each gets two wheel bars snapped in, which are a more rubbery material. They snap in easily and aren't too hard to get out, though you need to fiddle with them. The carts snap together loosely so that they won't come detached on their own, but are easy enough for you to detach. This set contains five types of new track: four long round corners, two convex slopes, two shallow concave slopes, two steeper concave slopes, and two short straights. A longer straight is coming in the mining set in 2018. All of these parts look and feel wonderful. The parts all fit pretty standard LEGO geometry, so they should be easy to incorporate into creations. They are also of course made to fit together in their own system, with the top of the steep concave slope fitting the bottom of the convex slope, etc. The bars of the track and side rails are thankfully the standard bar size, and I can already imagine seeing them used in all sorts of creative ways in sic-fi mods that need lots of bits and bobs clipped onto things and odd angles. These parts are really well done. But the biggest question is - how well do they work? And the answer is - very, very well. The cart on rails action is extremely smooth, with no risk of coming detached. Playing around with these parts left me very impressed. Check out this video for some of my trials: MINIFIGURES One reaction people had to this set right away was that the minifigure department seemed a bit lacking. A bunch of repeats, new minifigures that don't look terribly exciting, plus where are all the villains from other franchises like in the movie? Let's see if that sentiment holds true. Starting with the old, we've got Batman, Barbara Gordon, Harley Quinn, and Joker. None of these parts are new, but besides for Batman (who of course LEGO was going to throw into this set) all of these figures are fairly rare, appearing in only one other set each. Sure, you can complain that they're not new and it's such a large, premium set, but these figures are truly excellent and it isn't like you'd have twelve copies of each already. Each of these comes with an alternate face, although I don't care much for Harley's. Something seems a bit off with that simple pissy line. Even more to see with great detailing on the back. Onto the new/newish, we get the comical LEGO Batman Movie version of Nightwing, and Alfred wearing the Batman 66 suit. I must have either been asleep during the film or have extreme memory loss because I don't remember either of these designs appearing, but I'll take them. The Nightwing/Robin has a new shoulder armor piece and headpiece, the latter of which is moulded so that it sits wonky. This might limit its use slightly, but I think it will still work to make zany figures in the future. Nightwing has a fun torso with what looks like drawn-on muscle definition, and outer underwear that's pulled to the side. Mine is unfortunately a bit misprinted and the sliver of blue in the middle hurts it. Nightwing also has a very long cape, which Alfred is demonstrating by lying down. Both have back printing of course, and I'll now note that neither head is new. Robin's is rare, only appearing in Arkham Asylum and The Scuttler. His eyebrows almost look like a misprint, although they are supposed to be printed like that from what I have seen online. They still could be a touch lower and look a bit better. Now for the really special minifigures: the Friends Are Family or Disco (as LEGO calls them) Joker, Robin, Batgirl, and Batman. I especially love Joker and Robin, and they feel the most useful for making into other things. Batman feel the most lackluster here, and in the film he actually had a lot more sparkly spots and printing that extended onto his legs. His torso isn't bad, but compared to the others he seems plain. Only Robin does not have a new head, and all have nice back printing. Mr J's in particular makes for a very snazzy outfit for characters that have a name beginning with J. I don't know why colour swaps are so satisfying, but they are. Love me some different coloured Clones, and love me these Disco Batgirl and Robin when paired with their regular non-disco versions. I also think that Disco Batman looks a bit better with the spare white utility belt that comes in the set. COMPLETED SET Somehow it's hard to convey in pictures how large this set is. The official pictures especially do not give you a great sense of it, but in person it really has a lot of impact. While there's a lot for the eye to take in (pun intended?) from the front, what with the excellent Joker sign, loud entranceway, roller coaster, and weird witch's eye, a major issue is that the Wayne Manor parts look a bit plain. In actuality some good techniques go into them and I have a greater appreciation for them after building them, but once completed they wind up looking like they came out of a much simpler set. Perhaps the designers didn't want to have too much visual noise, but personally for such a large, premium set, I expect something with a more highly-detailed look. The roof sections exemplify the simple-looking issue. The offset pattern is actually quite well done, and you can see the upside-down building that I mentioned during the build section, but the end results still looks somewhat flat and less intricate than it truly is. The middle section, on the other hand, feels much more highly detailed. The Joker lettering is quite fun to build because you can't tell what you're making until it's finished, and the designer has achieved a very distinctive looking font with very few pieces. The gag guns are also nice builds, though the choice of having the bottom of plates showing to the front on the lefthand one is odd and could have easily been avoided. Finally the eyeball on top makes for a catchy centerpiece. The eyeball functions quite smoothly and is a lot of fun to play around with. It doesn't "do anything" per se, but it's just enjoyable. The Joker sign itself is also one of the most fun secret play features in the set. However, the Joker face itself has the most frustrating stickers. It seems LEGO doesn't do STAMPs (stickers across multiple pieces) anymore, but in this case I'd be for it. There's just too much room for error trying to line these things up yourself that it's unacceptable. If you get it wrong, the look could be ruined. Another major play feature on the front is the punching gloves. Like the eye, they don't really "do" anything, but they are quite fun to play with, You just have to get into it to get them going properly. One more thing I'd like to mention before we leave the front of the building is the amount of space the extravagant entrance design takes up. It's so well done and layered that it has the side effect of leaving very little room to actually play with or pose figures, so what was a vast expanse of free space at the beginning of the build becomes blocked by the design elements. I wouldn't suggest eliminating the entrance, which is one of my favorite parts of the set, but the lack of space should be mentioned. From the side you can see how skinny front to back the set is, much like some other Batman sets of the past such as the last two Arkham Asylums. It goes for visual impact and width over depth. The back shows an interesting cross between Joker elements and a play feature in the center, and miniaturized scenes you may recall from the film on either side. It doesn't look cohesive but I suppose that is the point. The great build for the Joker face draws the most attention for sure. Time for the grand tour! The righthand ground floor is perhaps the most accessible, open room. There's not much going on, and the fireplace feels a bit shoved in, but there is a good amount of space for posing figures and acting out scenes. Up above sits Batman's cinema room, which like the rest of the rooms is extremely scaled-down from what it was in the movie. It's also quite hard to photograph at any sort of good angle, but it has pleasant details in the closed blinds, RGB projector, and couch. The technic parts jutting in really kill the design of the room a bit, and I wish the designer had used a different solution, but overall it's still a good space. Next to the cinema room is what could perhaps be called a "hallway", although there's so little space that it's barely usable at all. The stickered pictures, which can be replaced with Bruce Wayne ones, are a fun detail. Still I think the design could have been altered to have at least one more stud's width to the hallway and thereby be a bit more playable. Moving along we come to the Joker face, which to either side has room for some crates. Amusingly, the one marked Evil Plans just has a whoopee cushion looking thing in it. I especially like the arrow builds also, and can see myself making more of them. This whole section, apart from being a catchy design, is dedicated to a simple trap door feature that works well enough. The issue to me here again is that there is so much room basically killed for a design, instead of being used for a detailed room which ultimately would be more playable. Down below is the room with funhouse mirrors, which are made from reflective stickers on the new wavy panel pieces. These work quite well as mirrors and would be fun to play with…. if you could reach them. Instead, the roller coaster is pretty much in the way, making accessing this area and really appreciating it about as difficult as it was to find a good angle from which to photograph them, as you can see. Next up is this little roller coaster control build, which is simple but very nice. I especially like the sticker with the three laugh settings. I wouldn't have even minded if there was no "realistic" way for the minifigures to get onto the roller coaster, but this section is very welcome. The microwave makes for a fun build and its being comically oversized adds to the charm. It pairs very well with the bathrobe Batman from the CMF line, if you have him. Sadly the plate in the set doesn't have the printed lettuce, but I guess it's also nice for the CMF piece to remain exclusive? The kitchen area is really tucked away and quite hard to access. It has a little cutting board where Batman has been slicing a lemon for his lobster thermidore, but with the roller coaster track in the way it's very hard to see, much less to get figures in there. Up above is Batman's recording studio/music editing setup. There's a great sticker for the screen and I love the modern chair design, which somehow really looks very Batman-y. All around a cramped but great room. On top of that is the pool room, which to me is a bit of a dud because it's so small anyway and it makes no sense being on a high floor. The design of it is fine, and it pairs well with the bathing suit Batman, but personally I would have liked to see a different room. I suppose on the upside it does stand out with its brighter colours. At the very top there is a small attic space with a couple of callback stickers, and space for - what else - a bat, which is repeated on the other roof section as well. A fine way to cap it off. Here's a little shot of the furniture from around the Manor. Besides for the microwave, which is integrated into the build, and the bust, there are no other very fine details like this. I personally love the small, minifigure-scale builds, so I would have liked to see more. What we get, though, is excellent. Second last but not least on the things to mention - the roller coaster! How is it? Does it function? Is it fun? I honestly don't have too much more to say than what I already said in the roller coaster section. The parts work together extremely well, and the experience of playing with it is so smooth that you want to keep going back for more. You can do a complete loop in the official setup in the set, and it's fun to have the carts come back to you - provided you push it hard enough. I demonstrate it here: Finally, I'm really impressed by the sturdiness of the the whole set. You can pick the entire thing up and move it around without being worried that it's going to break apart into a bajillion bits, which to me is quite a feat for a set this size! Watch me pick it up if you don't believe it: CONVERSION When the set pictures came out, those who were disappointed that it wasn't just a proper Wayne Manor wanted to know: could it easily be converted? As your trusty reviewer, I could not leave this stone unturned, so naturally after building the set and taking heaps of photos, I tore it apart! There's no doubt that the Joker-fied elements are an integral part of the build, and it's not like LEGO intended that you could buy this set and easily remove the Joker parts. Still, it's LEGO, so at the end of the day anything can be achieved. Upon tearing off all of the colourful parts that I could fairly easily, the set looks like this. It's definitely a solid start towards a Wayne Manor. The inside is a bit more difficult to simply do away with, but for sure it could be done. I wouldn't necessarily purchase this set if you only wanted to make Wayne Manor unless you could definitely have a use for all of the other parts, because a good bulk of the set is the Joker-y parts. Still, this will point you in a design direction, so it could be worth it. CONCLUSION If you've managed to read all the way to here, I commend you. Or if you've just scrolled here from the top, I'll try to sum things up nicely enough here so that you needn't bother with all of that stuff in the middle. Parts - A lot to like here, what with the brightly coloured parts, grey if you're into that, new wavy panels that are exclusive so far to this set at the time of release, and of course the BRAND NEW roller coaster system that is just amazing! Value - Obviously the value differs a bit depending on where you are in the world, but comparatively this set has quite a reasonable price for the amount of parts. There are heaps and heaps of tiny parts, so perhaps the parts count is a bit misleading, but it's still plenty of bang for your buck parts-wise. There are even more generously priced large sets, like NINJAGO City, but this one still offers a lot. Minifigures - The minifigure selection is honestly fine but feels lacking. The exclusive minifigures are nice and all, and the non-exclusive ones are mostly rarer versions, but given that the set takes place in a part of the film where all of the villains from other franchises are out and about, it would have been more special to get some completely exclusive characters. People then might have cried foul, but make them simple characters like Agent Smith and I think LEGO would have been good to go. Design - While building the set was a lot of fun, the design has some major flaws. The completed structure looks just a tad simple in the Wayne Manor sections. A whole lot of space is taken up by the Joker elements that are all design and not much interaction, killing potential for more intricately detailed interiors which are what I'd like to see out of a set this size. Finally, what interior space there is is on the whole cramped ("hallways", cinema room, recording studio), not that interesting (pool room, living room to some extent), or barely accessible due to the roller coaster being in the way (hall of mirrors, kitchen). On the flip side, the front of the set looks marvelous, the lettering and signage are amazing, and the set is super-duper sturdy. And at least everything in the set goes into the one building and not side builds. Overall, building, playing with, and reviewing Joker Manor has only strengthened my feeling that the set either didn't need to exist as it does, or feels a bit misguided for being in the top 13 LEGO system sets ever. When I think about the big sets, either they are recreating something iconic (Millennium Falcon, Death Star, Disney Castle, Ghostbusters Firehouse etc.), or are something fresh combined with a very high level of intricacy (NINJAGO City, the Modular Assembly Square). Being iconic and well-made surely appeals to children, and some kids must also gravitate toward the high level of "realistic" intricate detailing in sets like NINJAGO CIty and Assembly Square. And of course all of these sets appeal to adults. 70922 The Joker Manor, on the other hand, falls into a weird grey area. It's not iconic. It doesn't have a lot of minute details to explore and pore over. It's not very fresh - being basically another Jokerland/Funhouse type of set crossed with a "facade with slim interior" sort of set. It feels like a playset that got way out of hand in parts count, even though it doesn't have any more functions or particular playability than its smaller cousins, besides the roller coaster. So, ok, what's wrong with a massive playset? If you don't like it don't buy it, right? I guess, but when so many sets come out, and more large sets than ever before, it feels like LEGO either is showing that it's a toy just for the wealthy, or it's out of touch. I already felt like LEGO is putting out too many big sets, but at least all of them had good justifications for existing and had a market. With Joker Manor, it feels to me like they've gone a brick too far. Unless you think they already crossed that line with a white, snowy-planet based set that is better left unnamed.