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Cad Bane's Speeder

by Artemis

Everyone but the most blinkered fanboy has a bone to pick with George Lucas, and rightly so - but while he's more or less completely forgotten how to recognize his own weaknesses, you can't argue that he's lost his strengths as well: he remains an outstanding idea man. For instance, it was Lucas who wandered down to the Clone Wars offices one day when Cad Bane was the topic of the moment, and told them to make him Lee Van Cleef from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Designing a purpose-built "cool badass" is fraught with danger at the best of times, but there aren't many better examples of nailing it in one go.

Attack the Senate building with notorious bounty hunter Cad Bane, mercenary Shahan Alama and an elite Assassin Droid! Will the Senate guards see Cad Bane's speeder and stop this crew from taking over?

Of course, if Lee Van Blaster were left in Lucas's hands things would no doubt have been different, but Dave Filoni's Clone Wars people know a thing or two about storytelling, so Bane quickly earned his place among the bounty hunters of Star Wars, a prestigious group despite their unpromising debut with Greedo, who (and let's be clear on this) did not get a shot off before being killed. It's just as well for their collective reputations that the next one to show up was Boba Fett. Cad Bane is firmly in Fett's badass faction - even his name sounds cool, despite having been devised by the Lucas-standard method of looking up "evil" in a thesaurus - a stone-cold bastard whose debut episode "Hostage Crisis" was one of the series' most violent, with Bane and his crew efficiently murdering their way through all opposition.

He's cuter in Lego form, of course - mostly because that's just the nature of Lego, but also because his impassive face, which normally extends only to snarling or the occasional sardonic grin, is here displaying an amusing little smirk, reminiscent of Lego Indiana Jones. His longcoat is absent by necessity, although the torso portion of it remains in full printed detail, and his breathing tubes - a collar piece - don't really match up to the painted sockets on his face, but they're both acceptable breaks from reality given the limitations of the Lego minifigure. His wide-brimmed hat, though, is spot on, and just as in the cartoon it marks him unmistakeably.

His retinue in this set consists of a black IG-type assassin droid, as seen in other sets (most notably the all-assassin-droid Separatist army builder box currently in the range), and Shahan Alama, a Weequay pirate-turned-hired-gun - a familiar species to Lego, from the earlier Pirate Tank set, although Alama's head and upper body feature character-specific paint designs, including a gold arm standing in for Alama's golden gauntlet. Missing from those who were also in the same speeder on screen are a pair of Separatist "commando droids", the upgraded battle droids with new heads and new competence - Lego hasn't yet come up with one of those. Also absent is Aurra Sing - though part of Cad's team, she wasn't actually in the speeder with him, but it's a pity we don't have a Lego version of her anyway.

Opposing them are the two "guards" the bio text refers to - Senate commandos, rendered in CG by using recoloured Clone Trooper bodies with new heads. Fittingly the Lego commandos sport identical details on their torsos to Clones, and the same head beneath their custom helmets - they've shown up before, a pair of them playing bodyguard to Chancellor Palpatine in the Jedi Cruiser set, but the Officer, with extra white detailing on his armour, is unique to this set.

And then, of course, there's the speeder itself - not a fancy vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, merely the excuse to make Lego Cad Bane (he's also in the new Turbo Tank set, but that's considerably more expensive). Aside from ferrying people from one place to another it doesn't do anything notable in the episode, evidently being just another of the teeming millions of civilian vehicles flitting about Coruscant's crowded skies - it's not even unique, since Aurra, when she's done sniping commandos, shows up at the Senate in an identical model. Based on the air taxis seen in the live-action movies, the speeder features the same basic design, an open-topped crew platform supported by a semicircular repulsorlift engine beneath, but this model is longer and somewhat sleeker, with seating for four passengers, plus two pilot seats at the front. Contrary to popular belief, the IG droid can "sit" fairly securely in the passenger seats - though it's best to have him in the front-port or back-starboard positions, so his non-turned claw hand can brace him against the central console, otherwise he'll tend to slide down his seat like a drunk.

Excepting the big Collector's Edition sets, which are just concerned with being as exact as possible, Lego likes its Star Wars vehicles to do something, even if they have to invent that something - it's one of the areas where Lucasarts defers to Lego's designers, since they realise these things need to have playability as well as looks. That said, Lego's prime directive remains to have the vehicles look as spot-on as possible, so while the interiors - unavoidably, given scale - are invented, the exterior play features are generally concealed as seamlessly as possible within the canon designs.

In the speeder's case, the two lower "headlights" are actually flick-fire missiles, operated by a push-button arrangement built into the engine behind them. Additionally - and entirely invisibly - the rear of the speeder swings open to reveal a secret compartment, ideal for storing the bounty hunters' weapons: a long rifle for the IG droid, a short blaster for Alama, and two blasters for Bane, standing in for his twin long-barrel pistols. That last is a bit of an odd choice - the pistols included with the Turbo Tank set seem more appropriate, but perhaps Lego just felt like giving him some variety.

The speeder isn't going to set anyone's world on fire - being Star Wars it does have a certain coolness to its design, but it's essentially just the equivalent of a generic car. Still, they can't all be X-Wings, and this set showcases the strengths of Lego on its own, regardless of the source - inventive design, enjoyable to build, and good looking when finished. While it'll be the minifigures that draw attention, I think buyers will be surprised at how much fun the "generic car" turns out to be.

-- 11/07/10

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