Lego's 2017 Ultimate Collector's Series Millennium Falcon is amazing. With 7,541 pieces, it's the largest set the company has released to date. And with a price tag of $799.99 it's also the company's most expensive. But we bought it and built it anyway. I got the chance to build Lego's previous version of the Corellian freighter years ago, so I was thrilled when the box arrived at our New York office this September. Before we even unboxed it, I could tell it was clearly a cut above the Lego's previous version from 2007.
The new set's 2,346 additional pieces add a wealth of extra details to the ship. It has more colors, more accurate features, and more small details than its predecessor. Some of this comes from new colors and rounded pieces introduced in the intervening 10 years. The set also boasts a sleek five-piece cockpit exterior, a marked improvement from the previous version's clunky, brick-built one. What's more, the 2017 model features interior areas, like the engine room and passenger lounge, where you can re-create your favorite scenes from the series. You won't find that in the old version. My only complaint is that the new gun turrets don't have the same range of motion as those of the 2007 model. [25 Must-Have Lego Sets Your Collection Needs]
Lego took its first crack at Han Solo and Chewbacca's famous pile of junk in 2000, and it looked like what you'd expect from a first attempt: bland, blocky, and not quite properly proportioned. Since then, the company has released 11 more versions of the ship, including two promotional sets. These range from affordable miniatures, to minifig-scale playsets, and the two UCS editions. Oh, and the midi-scale version in 2009, but let's not talk about that.
Completing the construction was actually pretty similar for the two sets. You dump out an enormous box to reveal scores of numbered bags. Your only hope for making sense of the sheer magnitude of bricks lies in the novel-length instruction manuals, and good luck finding the part you're looking for if you opened all the bags at once. These sets definitely call for cups or bowls to keep the pieces organized.
People who have built large sets before will acknowledge that getting help from others can be a mixed blessing. It's great having someone prepare bricks for the next step, but adding more people than that doesn't help much.
In fact, having three or more people working at once can be dangerous. An idle friend may decide to jump ahead a few pages to speed up the build. This is a generally a bad idea. Unlike Lego's giant lambda-class Imperial shuttle, whose three wings lend themselves nicely to building in parallel, the Millennium Falcon is best built in sequence.
The build itself was a marathon effort in which I realized what component I was building only after it was time to attach it to the emerging spaceship. Mistakes will happen, even for skilled builders. While it's easy to diagnose when something is out of place, it requires true mastery of this modular medium to identify where things went wrong. Although this may occur only a handful of times, tracking down mistakes will take up a significant part of your overall build time. [Lego's Biggest Set Ever! The UCS Millennium Falcon in Photos]
Construction is modular, meaning each chapter of the instructions focuses on one component of the set. It's immensely satisfying when you complete a section and get to add it to the ship. These occasions serve as mile-markers by which you can track your progress. Once you add a new section to the ship it's time to open the next set of bags and get to work on the instruction manual's next chapter.
There are also elements you will immediately recognize while you build them: the seven landing-gear, the ships' bright blue engine, the cockpit, and so forth. Completing each one is cause for celebration. What's more, in a clever change from the 2007 model, Lego scattered the minifigures throughout the build, where they serve as small rewards as you make your way through the monumental project. And you get more of them, too. The 2017 set includes seven minifigures, including Rey, Fin, and old and young Han Solo as well as four brick-built ones, like BB-8 and two porgs, penguin-like characters that will appear in "The Last Jedi."
The incredible detail of the 2017 Falcon comes at a price that's not just monetary. The model seemingly requires as much upkeep as the starship does in the series. The panels covering the ship's body are fragile and tricky to replace in the appropriate positions. Small greebles are prone to coming loose, and you'll notice little errors you committed during construction weeks after you thought you were finished — a particular risk if the Falcon was built by committee.
And moving the 37-lb. (17 kilograms) ship is a challenge as well. Fortunately, one page of the instruction manual is dedicated to the proper way to lift the nearly 3-foot-long (0.9 meters) set.
Despite its fragility, the 2017 Millennium Falcon is really cool. It feels like a bona-fide version of the iconic space freighter, rather than merely Lego's best attempt at re-creating the vessel. The UCS Millennium Falcon has the features and details you'd expect from a quality scale model, and the creative ways in which Lego achieved these features will continue to delight you every time you look at the ship.