Ultimate Lego Star Wars, Andrew Becraft and Chris Malloy

Dorling Kindersley (DK), 2017, 320 pages, C$52.00 hc, ISBN 978-1-465-45558-1

If you’re a fan of all things Lego, you already know that The Lego Group and Dorling Kindersley (DK) has enjoyed since 2008 a mutually beneficial relationship—all “official” Lego books of the coffee-table variety (oversized hardcover format, abundantly illustrated) have been published by DK for the past decade. If you’re putting together a solid Lego book collection, you know where to start: The Lego Book (2012) for starters, followed by LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History (2013) and Great LEGO Sets: A Visual History (2015) are all great picks. There are also less essential choices for specific audiences: The Character Encyclopedia for Lego’s various worlds (Friends, CMF, Ninjago) are great for aficionados. The Build-your-own adventures and Ideas books are fine for avid builders.

DK published two new Lego books in late 2017: LEGO Absolutely Everything You Need to Know and Ultimate Lego Star Wars. They are not in the same category. Absolutely Everything You Need to Know ranks as a good optional choice for Lego fans of all ages: It’s a 300-page accumulation of trivial Lego facts, loosely arranged in themes and sub-topics to cover two pages at a time. It’s not terribly deep (it’s in the nature of short trivia to lead to more questions) and the celebrated DK design aesthetics often work against itself in such a format (short factoids are not always illustrated, leading to frustration when there’s a non-illustrated reference) but it’s pleasant to read and it looks really good on a coffee table. It’s also precisely dated current as of July-August 2017, no more no less (the June 2017 release of the Ideas Apollo set is shown, but not the September 2017 Ideas Fishing Shack set or second iteration of the UCS Millennium Falcon set.)

Ultimate Lego Star Wars is something else. Aiming to be nothing less than a complete encyclopedia of all Lego Star Wars, it’s a lavishly produced presentation of every single Star Wars Lego sets and character since the line’s introduction in 1999. Over the years, this amounts to more than 500 sets and roughly 900 minifigurines. The book is broadly organized in three big sections (Characters, Settings, Spaceships), that are then subdivided in more specialized subsections. Need to know about the dozen different versions of the Millennium Falcon, the multiple variants of the Darth Vader minifigurine or the various sets representing Tattoine? Ultimate Lego Star Wars has you covered.

Great photography ensures that we get a good look at every set or minifigurine, something that becomes interesting in its own right when it showcases the various sets all presenting the same subject. Lego design has progressed significantly since 1999 (new pieces, new methods, new colours), and it’s instructive to see how the sets become more detailed as the years go by. Striking examples include the Millennium Falcon, the Y-wing fighter and the various versions of the X-Wing. Since advent calendar microbuilds are part of the inventory, the book also becomes a guide for Lego builders to replicate their favourite Star Wars creations using pieces they may already have. A few pages on Lego set and character design are included, adding even more interest to the entire package.

With such a gorgeous visual component, it comes as a relief to say that the text surrounding the photos are often just as interesting: Written by lifelong Lego Star Wars fans Andrew Becraft and Chris Malloy (contributors to the leading Lego site The Brothers Brick), Ultimate Lego Star Wars is a treasure trove of trivia and information about new pieces, first usage, oddities and occasional mistakes distinguishing various sets from others.

At a time when online databases such as contain exhaustive lists or every single set in Lego history, it’s fair to ask if there’s a place for books such as Ultimate Lego Star Wars. After all, it’s not as convenient as whipping out a cell phone and querying a database. The book is outdated before being published. (The Summer 2017 wave of sets is included, as is the September UCS re-release of the Millennium Falcon, but not the January 2018 sets already on shelves as I write this) But as it turns out, Ultimate Lego Star Wars is the kind of book that serious Lego fans will be happy to hold in their hands. It’s, for lack of a better word, a dense book: every single page is crammed with interesting text or great pictures, and this is the kind of coffee-table book that may take you a while to read given how much time you can spend on each page.

I write the above review despite not being much of a Lego Star Wars fan—I’ve purchased a few sets, usually at a high discount, but ended up dismantling most of them for spare parts. My interest in Star Wars itself isn’t all-encompassing (I can argue about the series’ problems at length, though), so it’s with some surprise that I like the book so much. I suspect it’s largely because I can recognize a definitive work of scholarship when I see one. Lego Star Wars may be a trivial topic of expertise, but The Lego Group, Dorling Kindersley and the authors have managed to produce a book that lives up to its name. This is the ultimate book about Lego Star Wars. I suspect that even casual readers may get a kick out of it.

Le monde secret de la petite brique Lego [The secret world of the little Lego brick] (2017)

Le monde secret de la petite brique Lego [The secret world of the little Lego brick] (2017)

(On TV, April 2017) This may be the first (and so far only) English-language review of the French TV documentary Le monde secret de la petite brique Lego. Being in the middle of a Lego rediscovery, I’m tracking down the most unlikely exposés about the topic, and this 90-minute special found its way through a French TV channel broadcast to the Saint Pierre and Miquelon Island and made available by my cable provider here in the Ottawa area. Who would have thought? In any case, much of this documentary is not particularly revelatory if you’re already an Adult Fan of Lego—it covers familiar bases (the design of sets, the marketing strategy, the educational applications, the adult fandom, the brickfilms, and so on) but it has the particularity of doing it from a very French perspective, avoiding many of the familiar touchstones of English-language Lego fandom. So it is that we get to look inside Nexo Knights set design through French designer Frédéric André (with a fun kids-testing segment and a solid-gold look at the Lego master set vault), discuss online Lego fandom with’s Will and talk about the realities (ie; bargain-hunting) of Lego collecting with adult fan/father Gilles, among many other purely French examples. The overall tone is sympathetic to Lego and its fans (but who doesn’t like Lego?), and while one or two inaccurate details had me raising my eyebrows, much of the documentary is solid from a factual point of view. From a French-Canadian perspective, the lack of captioning was not an advantage—French on both sides of the Atlantic diverges more than English does, and European French tends to be far more verbose than American French. Still, as a uniquely French look at a global phenomenon, Le monde secret de la petite brique Lego is decent enough as a TV documentary, and offers a few things that even gold-standard Lego: A Brickumentary didn’t.

A Lego Brickumentary (2014)

A Lego Brickumentary (2014)

(On Cable TV, February 2017) As an Adult Fan of Lego, I watched A Lego Brickumentary more for affirmation than discovery: I don’t need to be convinced of why Lego bricks can be fun for all ages, nor being told once again about Lego’s history or various cool facts about how people are using Lego bricks to do art, filmmaking, therapy or architecture. This being said, give me interviews with Jamie Berard and Nathan Sawaya, take me to a Lego convention, or show me what’s necessary to build a life-size Lego X-Wing and I’ll be happy. (Plus, hey, there’s Ed Sheehan talking about his Lego obsession.) The CGI/stop-motion sequences, narrated by Jason Bateman as a minifig, do have the gentle humour that’s becoming the Lego house style. It’s not a dull documentary, and it treats Lego hobbyists with respect. The mixture of talking heads, documentary footage, humorous interludes and live interviews makes the film more animated than anyone would expect, and the production credentials are excellent. A Lego Brickumentary seldom stops being anything but a Lego cheerleader, and that’s a mixed blessing: For all of the film’s radiant positivism, there’s seldom any mention of the gender issues in Lego fandom, monetary costs of a Lego obsession or any of the less-pleasant aspects to the hobby. On the other hand, Lego (as a corporation) has always been so careful to portray itself as wholesome and act accordingly that it’s hard to find unpleasant aspects to the topic. It certainly helps that, a decade and a half after Lego’s 2003/near-death experience, the company has reformed itself to a better relationship with its fans, and continues to strive for progressive values. (No, seriously; read their Social Impact report for the details.) A Lego Brickumentary does works best as affirmation that Lego bricks are awesome, and that’s more than good enough.