Lego releases a lot of sets every year, of varying sizes and price points, but a few of them come out and have to make you think. You can't just impulse-buy a £280 set the same way you might a pick up something smaller and cheaper. Even if it is shaped like the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes. I'll tell you right now that the latest one is worth at least a second thought. Whether you're into Lego for building, playing, or displaying, The Lego Movie 2's 'Welcome to Apocalypseburg' (70840) has something for you.
The first thing to note about Apocalypseburg is that it's rather large. It's not Millennium Falcon large, or Wind Turbine large, but it's still big enough for Lego to set aside half a page of the instruction manual to show people how to pick it up correctly. In quantifiable terms, it's 52cm high, 49cm wide, and 33cm deep, so make sure you have space before you pick this up. The dimensions aren't that neat, thanks to the uneven base and general shape of the statue, and I had to move plenty of existing stuff (including the Downtown Diner) to make room on my shelf.
Big sets have to have big piece counts, and Apocalypseburg leaves you wrangling 3,178 of them split into 18 sections and even more plastic bags that I didn't bother to count. Some are big, plenty are small, but they all come together to form a set that's weirdly dystopian for a company that prides itself on being kid-friendly. I mean, it's equal parts Mad Max and ape overlords, which isn't really what you'd expect from what is officially a kid's film. The set is a 16+, but that's probably because it's quite fiddly at times, and not because of the mature content. Just look at the size of this sticker sheet.
Inside are 12 minifigures in the form of Scribble Cop (Good/Bad Cop), Larry the Barista, Fuse (a welder), the 'Where are My Pants?' Guy, Roxu, Chainsaw Dave (who has a chainsaw), Mo-Hawk (has a mohawk), Harley Quinn (from Suicide Squad), Emmet, and post apocalyptic versions of Green Lantern, Batman, and Lucy.
Inside the set there's a variety of different locations from the city, including a secret police station and prison, an armoury, Batman's 'Bat-Merch' shop, a rooftop diner above a gym, a really weird barber, a bath built from a burnt out car, Lucy's not-so-secret hideout, an observation deck hiding inside the Statue of Liberty's crown, and a sewer hatch that doesn't really go anywhere. Some of these locations are easier to get to than others, but the idea seems to be letting people play out scenes from The Lego Movie 2 as best they can with a scaled down Lego model of the city.
As the age rating suggests, Apocalypseburg is not for the faint of heart. It certainly isn't for small kids to attempt by themselves, and nowhere is that more true that the sticker sheet. There are 64 individual stickers that need to be attached to bricks, and even an adult with surgeon-steady hands struggles with those. So any parents should probably keep their kids away from some of the tricky stuff, and if they want to join in, let them do the easy bits like the minifigures.
The worst parts, by far, are the core parts of the statue itself: the base, the torch, the head, and the interior framework. The exterior buildings and attachments have their moments, but none are quite so fiddly and time consuming as these. I've certainly built worse, but the set is hampered by the fact there are so many pieces being placed on any given page. It's easy to miss one or two along the way, and then you're left with the problem of figuring out why you have a bunch of stuff left over and where it was supposed to go.
Like many big sets that have been released recently, Apocalypseburg does highlight the new pieces on each page. That is a big help, but everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you have stuff left over. The instructions themselves can enhance those problems, mainly because they're a flat image on a piece of paper and the model itself is a 3D structure that can be seen from lots of different angles. The fact the printed colours don't match the bricks themselves doesn't help either.
These issues aren't unique to Apocalypseburg, though, and anyone with experience building sets of this size will have experienced similar issues for themselves. It might be worth Lego trialling a version of its digital instructions that had an interactive 3D model, letting you see the set from different angles at different stages of the build. Hell, get AR involved if need be.
That said, it's amazing how everything comes together in the end. Apocalypsberg only really comes together towards the end of the build, and before you start section 15 (of 18) you do wonder how the remaining few bags will manage to get everything done. The use of some of the pieces to recreate the finer details of the statue is quite genius; in particular the green sausages that turned out to be its eyebrows. Of course, there are some bad parts, and the section that has you build the statue's 'book' is quite boring. It's just a green block with a border, and I can't help but think more could have been done to make it more interesting.
Similarly, there's some exposed framework at various points at the back of the statue's arm. I know this is a post-apocalyptic world and damage is to be expected, but it seems a bit crazy to leave so much exposed like that.
As mentioned before, this has been designed as a playset to be played with, rather than something that's only really suited for display like the Ultron Edition Hulkbuster. For that reason all the various rooms attached to the statue come apart quite easily. They're like the modular Creator Expert sets, albeit much smaller and without the same capacity to link up with other sets. But, as you can see below, you can easily remove and replace both the roofs and rooms to get at what's underneath. All without having to tear anything apart and risk losing precious pieces under the sofa.
You still have to be careful, but thankfully everything removable has been put together in a way that you're not going to risk it falling apart should you breathe on it at the wrong angle. But of course this is Lego, and nothing is permanently attached. So there are going to be other pieces that fall of if you're a bit rough, like the railing attached to the side of some of the buildings. It's up to you to figure out what's what, and make sure Batman's merchandise boxes doesn't get lost forever.
The downside to the play aspect is that Apocalypseburg costs a whopping £280. It's far from the most expensive Lego set out there right now, but it's still not that cheap. It's pricey enough that you may think twice about picking this up and trusting your kids to play with it. Kids don't look after Lego, as my own mother will confirm. But with a set of this size and calibre it does offer a lot for someone with the imagine to play. Different platforms, characters, and accessories to play with means any kid with half a dose of imagination could get many hours out of this. Far more than any of the smaller, cheaper sets have to offer on their own.
Then again, combining other Lego sets, and their minifigures, with Apocalypseburg can only enhance what they can do. Yes it's pricey, and sure, you may not want to drop so much money on a kid, but the scale of the set means you can keep any Lego-loving kid occupied for ages. And without having to plonk them in front of the TV, a tablet, or whatever 21st century equivalent parents use to babysit their kids these days.
This is just one of many easter eggs I won't spoil. Buy the set and go on a hunt.
On a side note, the set is full of plenty of little Easter eggs that are going to go completely unnoticed if you stick the set on a shelf and leave it there. Yes, you see the stuff when you build it, but naturally the best ones are hidden away and you're only going to fully appreciate them if you tear the appropriate sections open and play.
Of course, if you're a childless adult like me, there's still plenty to enjoy from Apocalypseburg. As the headline suggests this has something for everyone, and functions perfectly well as a display piece that sits on your shelf looking pretty. It doesn't take the nerdiest person to appreciate the things that influenced both the set designers and filmmakers as they put this together. Even if you have the most oblivious friends in the world, they can still marvel at the design and how nice it looks.
Plus for the nerdily-inclined, the price isn't as much a factor. When a Hot Toys figure costs something like £300, the fact you can put Apocalypseburg together yourself (and not have to worry about damaging it beyond repair) means it's much more of a justifiable purchase. Assuming, of course, you like Lego... but if you don't, then I do wonder why you bothered reading this far in the first place.
It's a common complaint from me that the biggest Lego sets cost a lot of money, but that doesn't actually stop me (or countless others) from buying them anyway. The main thing about Welcome to Apocalypseburg is that it really does have something for everyone. It's an intricate set that brick-builders will love putting together. It's a playset that can amuse plenty of kids (or childish adults) with all the different places and objects on offer. It's also a perfect set piece if you're looking to decorate a flat space in your home. Whatever the reason, make sure you have the space, otherwise something else is going to end up being bagged up and stored in a large box. In my case it was the Downtown Diner which, while nice, isn't nearly as interesting to look at as this one.
Welcome to Apocalypseburg is available now, as a Lego Store exclusive, for the price of £280.