Let’s face it, this year’s LEGO Master Builders Mos Eisley Cantina is pretty much the most exciting Star Wars set in the galaxy. I’m generally considered a LEGO dabbler, and even I had to have it. Thanks to the LEGO Group and my colleagues on the Toy Photographers team, I was lucky enough to receive one gratis for this review. I could not have been more thrilled by the experience, from the hours of building, to the hours of imaginative play and, of course, all the photography!
Most Star Wars fans over a certain age will name Luke and Old Ben Kenobi’s visit to Mos Eisley spaceport, and its infamous cantina—that “wretched hive of scum and villainy”—among the scenes that first captured our young imaginations and ignited a lifelong passion for George Lucas’s galaxy of adventure and possibility. The gloomy bar and its booths were loaded with a rogues gallery of sinister aliens and personalities who would become the topic of endless conversation and debate throughout our youth and into adulthood. This massive, 3,187-piece behemoth and its incredible 21 minifigures bring it all flooding back, albeit in a decidedly more adorable format.
All the buildings, vehicles and characters, including a handful who appear for the first time in minifigure form, set the stage for many hours of fun recreating scenes from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope or, even better, bringing years of imagined scenarios to life. We’ve long asked the question, “Who shot first?” between Han Solo and Greedo—and while this was basically answered in Solo: A Star Wars Story, LEGO has provided a special booth with interactive, triggered seats so fans can replay the moment and see for ourselves. It was, of course, one of the first setups I shot when I finally put this set in front of my lens.
The cast of characters is extensive. Along with Han and Greedo, who are not new, the Mos Eisley cantina comes with a bunch of debut minifigs, including the ill-fated and soon-to-be-one-armed Aqualish Ponda Baba (aka Walrus Man); his disfigured human pal and disgraced cosmetic surgeon Dr. Evazan; Garindan the Kubaz spy (aka Long Snoot); the horned Devaronian Kardue’Sai’Malloc (also known as Labria); Kabe, the bat-like female Chadra-Fan; Hrchek Kal Fas, a Saurin (this is a subspecies of Trandoshan, like the bounty hunter Bossk); and Ithorian Momaw Nadon (aka Hammerhead).
This set also comes with fine representations of Luke Skywalker; a hooded Old Ben (Obi Wan) Kenobi (who really needs a non-hooded option to be movie accurate inside the cantina); Luke’s astromech droid R2-D2 and his protocol droid life partner C-3PO (human cyborg relations); two sandtroopers (one with orange pauldron, and one with black); Wuher, the human bartender; Bith musician Figrin D’an and two other Bith members of his band, the Modal Nodes; and finally, a Jawa—because, well, it’s Tatooine and they’re all over the spaceport.
As if all these guys weren’t enough, I added a few other characters from the Star Wars universe and beyond when I started shooting. Boba Fett, for example, had to join the fun, so I had him ask Wuher where to find the swashbuckling smuggler Han Solo. I doubt the bartender kept his mouth shut, but would anyone dare lie to the galaxy’s deadliest bounty hunter? See who else you can spot in my photos—they’re sure to bring a smile.
Construction and shooting
This build has a total of 27 bags of parts divided between 18 sections in the hefty, 408-page instruction manual that also offers a bit of insight into the design process and onscreen inspiration for the set. As revealed in the book, César Carvalhosa Soares designed the cantina, which he said marks the beginning of the great, Star Wars adventure. Overall, the instructions are easy to follow and the build only has 26 stickers, which isn’t too bad considering its size.
The cantina’s design feels made for toy photography. One of the best parts of this set is how everything opens and spreads out on hinges, allowing easy camera access to all the buildings’ many nooks and crannies. The main cantina and both accessory structures—a Jawa workshop and some sort of vending stall—have removable or hinged roofs, so you can shoot down into the spaces or use the openings to flood them with light from above. This is super convenient and offers some great photographic opportunities.
Additionally, I like that the cantina’s exterior walls can be butted up against each other without removing them from the hinge, providing an excellent backdrop for street scenes outside. You can create a lot of depth using the main building slightly elevated behind the workshop and vending stall, and then adding the included pair of moisture vaporators in front of or behind them. The set’s two speeders (more about them below) are also useful as foreground objects.
I’m crazy about the iconic vaporators, or vapor spires. They are a ubiquitous part of the Tatooine landscape, and will prove extremely useful for future photos, even those well beyond the streets of Mos Eisley. Take a look at my shots of the sandtrooper astride his dewback to see what I mean.
Along with this dewback mount, the Mos Eisley cantina set comes with two vehicles: the briefly seen V-35 landspeeder and the oddly shaped Ubrikkian 9000 Z001 landspeeder. Both are fun additions to the set and the LEGO Star Wars collection as a whole, but I still would have liked this to come with Luke’s classic landspeeder, which we all so closely identify with these scenes. Who could forget the famous, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” moment?
LEGO gave us the troopers from that scene, but no X-34 speeder. That was kind of a bummer, though I understand most LEGO Star Wars fans probably have some version of the speeder already, as there have been quite a few released. There are even some unique MOCs of it available at this point, so I guess I’ll have to pick up the latest model (75173) to complete the spaceport.
If you can find the Mos Eisley Cantina set 75290 (currently unavailable on lego.com), and you can swing the substantial $350 price (it’s going for much more now on eBay), I’d absolutely recommend this to any fan of LEGO, Star Wars and toy photography. I’ve only just scratched the surface of what can be done here, and I’ve already had a ton of fun.
Once a LEGO dabbler, I fear this cantina may suck me deep into a brick-and-minifig-purchasing Pit of Carkoon. And I plan to enjoy every minute of it.
Do you have the new LEGO Star Wars Mos Eisley Cantina? How did you find shooting it? Tell us all about your experiences and observations in the comments below!
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