< Today's Fun Thing
Newspapers Of The Future: First In A Series >

From Lego Dawn To Lego Decadence: When I was a kid there were four types of Lego sets: Castle, Space, Town, and Bucket O' Bricks. Nowadays there are ten or twenty types of Lego sets, and all of them are lame.

Let me give you an example: the old Space sets were great. They had enough gadgetry that you could build any kind of futuristic-looking instrument, but not so much of so many different kinds that it was difficult to mantain a consistent design aesthetic. The humans were differentiable by their different colored spacesuits, which allowed you to assign them to jobs like in Star Trek, or make them representatives of rival space organizations, which for some reason all used the same logo: the symbol of the Galactic Empire from Foundation.

Now the Space sets have been discontinued (?) and replaced by Star Wars sets. Now, I like Star Wars as much as the next fellow, but if I want Star Wars I'll see a movie. If I want to re-enact scenes from Star Wars I'll buy Star Wars action figures and move them around jerkily while speaking in deep or high-pitched voices. To my mind, there's no need to pollute the Lego piecespace with Star Wars stuff. Yet there it is. I can't get a spaceman anymore and give him or her a motivation; I can only get predefined characters from Star Wars.

In retrospect, Lego started going downhill when they started making different types of Lego person heads. This was with the introduction of the Pirate line of Lego sets. I admit that that huge pirate ship was really cool, but it was also the gateway drug into a never-ending spiral of bizarre custom Lego pieces and pre-imagined scenarios. It was a slippery slope from custom heads to a product line whose bread and butter is specific custom heads that tie in to movies.

So, the Space sets have been replaced by Star Wars sets. I never really figured out how to do interesting things with the Castle sets (though it would be cool to render the castle from Degeneracy in Lego), but at any rate those have been replaced by Harry Potter sets. The workaday Town sets have been replaced, I suppose, by various 'adventure' sets which are more extreme; I say that because they have the same design aesthetic as the old Town sets. Those aren't as bad as the others. The Bucket O' Bricks 'sets' are still around in about the same proportion as they used to be (which is to say, not much). (There are also sets with gears and things, but I never paid as much attention to those as I should have.)

This brings me to the actual thing I wanted to talk about here. There is a series of sets called "Lego Studios", which consists of a Lego set plus a Lego man with a Lego camera who's there to film the goings-on. What the hell, man! How is acting out the filming of a movie about a vampire more interesting than acting out an actual vampire scenario? Let me put this in tabular form so that you can understand my confusion.

"Vampire" scenario "Filming of vampire movie" scenario
Vampire?Yes Not really

There's a Spider-Man tie-in. Now, Spider-Man is all CGI, but the "Lego Studios" set for Spider-Man isn't a room with a Beowulf cluster and some workstations; it's some fake buildings and a Spider-Man guy and a guy with a camera and a guy with a megaphone. It makes it look like the actor playing Spider-Man actually has spider-powers--that he is, effectively, Spider-Man. Why not just make it a damn Spider-Man set? Kids who get this set for Christmas will probably not actually use the cameraman or director, which is heartening, but why are they in there at all? You're supposed to be the one telling Spidey what to do!

My prediction: the Lego Studios line will grow to swallow the Harry Potter and Star Wars lines. After all, those are movies as well, and all you have to do is add a few pieces for a film crew and you've completely ruined the dramatic tension!

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