REVIEW: Aragog’s lair

Since it was announced that new Harry Potter sets would be released in 2018, there has been a lot of excitement amongst fans. From the photos, they all look like great sets with good selection of figures, being well designed and covering key scenes (including play features) from the first two movies. Now that the sets are finally available in my part of the world, I’ve decided to make my very first review, to see if the sets are as good as the photos suggest.

As the first subject, I chose the smallest of the sets “Aragog’s lair” (Set 75950). It is a nice entry level set with a fairly low price point.

Aragog is one the most iconic creatures from the Harry Potter universe and has been included in several Harry Potter LEGO sets now. First time was in 2002 in “Aragog in the Dark Forest” (Set 4727) from the series of Harry Potter sets that covered the Chamber of Secrets movie. In 2010, the final series of Harry Potter sets saw Aragog in a new, improved version in “Hagrid’s Hut” (Set 4738). I’ll get back to the earlier incarnations later, and hurry on with the review.

An outside view…

The box art is – as pretty much any LEGO set these days – fantastic.

The front is clearly marked with the theme (Harry Potter) on a dark blue background and with the three main characters Hermione, Harry and Ron shown in the upper right corner. Harry is casting a spell and the lightning from his wand is used to separate the title in the top from the rest of the box art. This shows Aragog’s encounter with Harry and Ron in the Forbidden Forest as recreated by the set.

On some of the larger sets, the lower right corner is used to show the included minifigures along with their names (which is rather irrelevant for this small set, but handy for some of the larger sets, where one or two figures may not be easy to recognise by some muggles).

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The back of the box, as usual, highlights the play features of the set. In general, that is  parts that can be moved – or things to shoot.

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Unboxing

Eager to proceed, I opened the box and found three plastic bags with parts and a small instruction booklet. And to the delight of many – there were no stickers!

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I had expected two numbered bags as would be the usual in a box this size. However, the set is small enough that unnumbered bags should not cause any problems building, even for younger fans.

Looking through the parts, there were quite a few that caught my interest being new (or fairly new). This include the new lamp (carried by Ron on the cover art) and the candlelight (carried by Harry). An extra flame was included as spare. There were also five smaller spiders included in two different colours using the new design. I should also mention the new wands, which is a huge improvement over the old bars, that previously represented wands.

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Knock, knock – who’s there?

Two minifigures were included in the set, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Both are in casual attire rather than Hogwarts robes. The torso printing is crisp and detailed. The use of short legs and facial expressions does a good job representing them as younger (this encounter with Aragog was only in their second year at Hogwarts). Both are equipped with the new wands.

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Ron: “Follow the spiders. Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be follow the butterflies?”

Ron in particular is not happy following the smaller spiders into the Forbidden Forest, where they meet Aragog. Both minifigures come with alternative facial expressions to show them scared – as when the spiders close in.

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Building the forest

Next comes building the scenery where it all happens. This is probably the weakest part of the set. The base as such looks good, including a number of newer plant elements. It would have been great to have a printed disc for the toadstool as in some previous sets, but that part may not be in production at the moment.

But it is really the top of the tree that looks tiny (out of proportion) and I wish LEGO had been a bit more generous with foliage, so it would be more clear this happens in a dark, big forest (but then again, LEGO recently did a CITY Jungle theme with hardly any trees). As it stands, the tree top looks out of proportion with the rest.

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The spider web and spider descending from the tree works well. At the base of the trunk is the main play feature, a small spider web that can be shot at Harry and Ron using the traditional “flick fire missile” piece.

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Aragog

The final, and most important piece to complete is Aragog himself. The building techniques used are quite interesting and the result is a pretty good looking, mean looking spider with well articulated legs, and snapping fangs.

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As for earlier versions of Aragog, I don’t have the 2010 incarnation of him, but below is a comparison with the 2002 version, which looks absolutely horrible in comparison.

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A major limitation of the 2002 version was the lack of articulation of the legs as better shown below. It was almost impossible to pose it realistically. Also, the head was extremely simplistic.

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The completed model

Overall it is a pretty quick build and soon you will have a little setup as shown below. With the included figures, the numerous smaller spiders, Aragog himself and the little tree, you have all what you need to recreate one of the interesting scenes from “Chamber of Secrets”. Should you buy the “Whomping Willow” set too (Set 75953), which includes the Ford Anglia, you will have the “getaway” car that brings Harry and Ron to safety.

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Conclusion

I really liked this set. The two minifigures look amazing, you get some cool new parts, five smaller spiders and an Aragog that looks better than ever. The relative small tree is a reflection of a low price point, but the proportions are off. This is the only negative to say about this set.

As always, it is nice to get when on sale, but I actually bought it at full price and haven’t regretted it.

Build the magic!

 

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