It’s been kind of a tiring week, between late closing shifts, short turnarounds, and two days with double shifts. I haven’t really been able to do much except work or prepare for work since around Saturday. Now, as I sit here watching the Giants fighting a losing streak against the Brewers, I don’t really want the think about work, and I also don’t want to think about the game that’s going badly. So I’m going to think about something fun and trivial: like Legos.
I always liked Legos as a kid, though I was never quite creative enough to roll with the Big ol’ Bucket o’ Bricks to just build whatever. I’d usually build the set following the instruction booklet, and keep that model together as best I could, it being made of Legos and me being a fairly energetic child. Actually, I was pretty good at that, and there were only a few mishaps.
I bring this up because as I was wandering through a department store last week, I happened to pass through the toy aisle and saw what has become of those charming little bricks. I’m probably going to sound like an old curmudgeon for the rest of this, but back in my day, Legos came in several varieties: city stuff, pirate stuff, castle stuff, and generic sci-fi stuff. Now they only seem to come in one: licensed. You’ve got sets for Star Wars, DC comics, Marvel comics, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (because those are apparently still relevant). It’s a smorgasbord of pop culture.
Among the Marvel sets, the centerpiece were sets for the upcoming Iron Man 3. I’m a huge Tony Stark fan, and hit by childhood nostalgia, a fat fresh paycheck in my bank account, and no Katrina to talk me out of it, I figured “why not?” and picked up one of the midrange sets. Those have always been my favorite. You get through the cheap sets way too fast, and the expensive sets are, well, expensive and hard to store. A depiction of the helicopter-based destruction of Tony’s house in Malibu (not much of a spoiler, as it has featured prominently in the trailers), this particular one had a draw because it was the only set that had a Tony Stark figure in his “civvies” rather than just the Iron Man armor.
So, I went about putting together my first Lego kit in nearly a decade, and I realized the game has changed since I’ve last played. I’ve always thought the age range on most sets (6-12) is a little ridiculous. It would take the most patient 6-year-old in the world to properly build a Lego set, and if they think a 6-year-old could attach those damn decorative stickers, they are out of their minds. Likewise, if you’ve stopped playing with Legos at 12, you may be dying inside. But, perhaps in an attempt to bring it back toward the “building toy for children” category, they have idiot-proofed the process. Prepare for more “back in my days”.
Back in my day, what you got was a cardboard box, usually with one or two plastic bags for the pieces, and an instruction booklet that showed you step-by-step how to put it together. That was it, figure it out. Now, those plastic bags are numbered, and there are multiple booklets, each corresponding to one of the bags. Keep in mind, this is not an enormous set. It is, according to the box, 364 pieces. I’ve put together thousand-piece sets, which, yes, came in sections, but you still had to dump everything out, sort it, and find the pieces you needed. Now, each step shows you exactly how many of each piece you need (with the occasional pictographic warning not to put an eye out… somehow). Back in my day, you just had a increasingly complicated diagram of the set, and had to figure out for yourself which pieces had been added in that step. (and presumably be smart enough not to stick the pieces in your eye or swallow them or something.)
But the fun of building is still there, which is good, because almost as soon as I had it together, set up on the dresser (to bring to mind the sea cliff Stark’s house is perched on), I turned, caught the “roof” with my sleeve, and knocked it to the floor, inadvertently recreating the scene from the trailer. My surprised cry of anguish echoed through the house, and I could almost hear Katrina roll her eyes.
It’s a great thing to have, a Lego recreation of my favorite Marvel character in my favorite location. And I only spend a little time flying the Mandarin’s attack helicopter through the house, making propeller noises.