Disclaimer: I have not much of a clue of the marvel universe in general and the character of Dr. Strange in particular. All I know is that there is a film coming up featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton – and that this is a pretty weird little set!
And the weirdness was clearly its selling point for me. When I saw it, with a four-eyed beast with red, rotating tentacles protruding from something that looks like a asian-inspired mage’s study, I was instantly attracted. It just has this lovecraftian vibe to it, which makes it really hard to resist to me. It also helped that I have a weak spot for magicians, occult symbols and nicely printed Lego pieces.
And indeed, the Minifigures, (Dr. Strange, The Ancient One and Karl Mordo), look really good, with nice and crisp printing on their torsos (back and front) and legs and nice sideburns for the titular Doc. Their faces are quite subtly designed btw, in contrast to the more cartoonish style of the new Ghostbusters set. Seems to be a more serious-toned movie. The accessories are also quite remarkable. Dr. Strange wields two protective Wards against evil magic and tentacle monsters trying to invade our dimension, while the ancient one has two transparent fans with arcane writing on them, probably also providing magical protection. Karl Mordo though can’t really compete with this lovely-printed arsenal of protection. He just gets an off-the-shelf magic staff. That might contribute to him having not really a relaxed facial expression. He either fashions a rather grim determined face or, alternatively a plainly angry one. Though at least he got a nice hair-piece, contrary to Tilda/The Ancient one, who fashions consequential zen-buddhist-simplicity in her style: no hair at all! Consequently her character has only one, rather friendly (again pretty zen) face print. The Doctor Himself though has the typical two-face thing going, with one friendly and one angry one. Oh, and he also wears a pretty neat collared wizard’s cape made of one piece of cloth. Though its quite a pain to fold it right the first time.
The set itself comes in 3 bags, plus sticker sheet and a loose main baseplate for the center-section of the sanctum. The instruction booklet is split in two, which is pretty handy but not really necessary. Assembling is nice and straight-forward without much repetition (only the very bottom level of the wall is a little bit dull to make, since it consists of twelve 2×1 pieces lined up in a row!
Anyway, thats really nitpicking and the tentacle-beast mechanism is just charmingly simple and effective with a lot rotating parts which give a really nice looking effect. And you can trap a minifigure with it – just cool! The furniture is quite nice too. As are the items scattered around the place: goblets and bottles, a mage’s tophat, a skull, gem, crystal and a couple of keys – that’s definitely a good starting point for setting up some arcane ritual (which might result in some tentacles suddenly appear out of thin… concrete walls!).
The set also has some built-in play-features, consisting of some levers to make the doc and one of his companions “levitate”. There is even one for his cape! These things look a bit surplus to me, but from a kids point of view they might just be the right thing to have.
A slight disappointment is the sticker-sheet though. Just like the new Ecto-1 set mentioned above you get quite a number of stickers for pieces, which could just as well been printed on. Basically every tile-piece you see in the set with writing or symbols on it, has a sticker, except two maps. They look gorgeous though. As a consequence, the assembly can be quite tedious. Especially if you don’t have a good eye-sight up close. I was fortunate (and patient enough!) to apply them all pretty decently, but I will never enjoy that part of Lego-building.
The finished set is a pretty cool looking diorama-style of model, like the Death Star Final Duel-set. Which means you can only really make use of the front of it, but that side is really nice though and not a too uncommon layout for Lego sets today.
All in all it is a very decent set, at a reasonable price-point. The Minifigures look very good, as does the set itself. And the tentacle-beast is just insanely cool. The only point of criticism really are the many tiny stickers, which just appear unnecessary to me.