LEGO has always had a thing for pirates, and I say this in the nicest possible way. Back in the early days, one of the first minifigures ever made was that of a pirate and it’s no surprise the first largest set that was ever released, was none other than Black Seas Barracuda, set no. 6285. Yes, it was a pirate ship! But to say this was merely just a pirate ship would be wrong. It was an adventure in a box waiting to happen. It was every kid’s dream to own a set like this, and LEGO, for once, delivered. In fact, the whole Pirates theme was based around this ship. It was no surprise when it was released in 1989, it was a smash hit. It was even re-released in 2002 under a different set number, 10040, for those that missed it the first time around. But this tale is not about the LEGO Pirates theme, it’s about how far LEGO has gone with it. I’m speaking of LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.
When I first heard that LEGO was going to make sets based on these movies, my first reaction was what was the ghost ship going to look like, and secondly, would we get all the characters?
It’s a simple question, and when photos of these sets started to show up, the renditions of the models weren’t that bad, a tad small perhaps, but acceptable nonetheless. The main characters of Captain Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa, William Turner and Elizabeth Swann had to be well represented, and to my surprise, they were. It was disappointing to learn, later, that not all the pirates were created with equal enthusiasm. Most of the more interesting characters like the ghost crew and others were left out.
A bit of trivia on this might just explain why. You see, the rights of this franchise belongs to Disney. It also explains why there is a hidden Mickey in the shape of one of the clouds. Look closer in the first movie, it’s in there! It’s also based on a 1967 ride of one of their theme parks. They thought that this first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was going to be a flop, and they didn’t like the way some of the characters were portrayed (Jack Sparrow being one example). A lot of the best moments were improvs. That, and the fact that the movie hadn’t a lot of material to go on didn’t help.
As in turned out Disney was totally wrong, the movie went on to make five sequels! Yes, you read it right. There is going to be a sixth one!
It’s also one of the 10 most profitable movie franchises ever. So much for a flop, eh?
Now LEGO, when the first movie was released, made up sets to match various scenes of the films. Some were more represented than others, for example there is one set that represents the first movie and it is not even the Black Pearl. The set is the Isla De Muerta, set no. 4181. It’s the fight scene between Hector and Jack, and it also includes Elizabeth Swann, a rowing boat and a small island, complete with a chest. There are even chrome plated gold coins and bars. Its added feature was that you got the ghost and Hector with a spinning platform that could turn him into a ghost just like in the movie. It was one of the better sets and worth picking up if you still can.
On the downside, none of the other pirates came with this set. I would have loved to have seen the two pirates dressed as ladies carrying the parasol, but that was not to be. As this could have been made into a much bigger and better set had they given it more thought.
Next set of LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is The Cannibal Escape, set no. 4182. While not one of my favourites, because it belongs in the Dead Man’s Chest movie, it is interesting more so for the printed figures rather than what the set contains. It came with Will Turner, Jack with an exclusive face print and two cannibals. The set itself is more a jungle scene with a cave and a cage made of bones, has a nice little throne and a cooking area for the obvious.
At the time of release, it wasn’t that popular but as the movies progressed it is now a must-have item, for the figures if nothing more.
The next set was that of The Mill, set no. 4183, again from the movie Dead Man’s Chest. While it had some better features and it was a significant build, it was more a choice rather than a must-have. In the end I did get this one. However, it was more for one particular figure than anything else.
That figure just happened to be an exclusive to this set, it was Hadras which, if you remember, comes with a cone shaped shell on his head. The set also came with Jack, Will Turner and new to the collection, Admiral Norrington. One surprise was that of a unique brick, Davy Jones’ heart, which at the time was completely unexpected.
The set however was more expensive than one would expect, perhaps it was the license, who knows? I did dwell over it before I made the decision to get it, and I don’t normally do that. The set itself was a Mill. Nothing special here, just two features: The wheel could spin and release and a weight could lift a minifigure up to the tower. Again, nothing out of the ordinary with this one.
However, this next set, The Black Pearl, set no. 4184, changed all that. I’d been waiting on this for quite a while due to demand. I’d seen the pictures and knew if I missed out on this one then I’d not be a happy camper. I wasn’t disappointed. The set, though smaller than expected, was more than I’d hoped. It came with 6 figures (okay, I wanted more…). Though, not the ones I thought, but I was delighted with the ones I got. Four of the figures were exclusive. One in particular, Davy Jones, was the most detailed one by far. Others included Bootstrap Bill, Maccus the hammerhead, Gibbs, Will, and of course, Jack.
The ship was detailed too, with many features I remembered from the original LEGO Pirates theme. The cannons actually worked, though some cheapskate decided two would be enough… The only problem I could see were the sails. They should have been torn, the ship should have been bigger to accommodate the cannons, and there should have been more of the crew. But as a set, you could not pass on this.
The Captain’s Cabin, set no. 4191, was released in 2011 from the movie On Stranger Tides. It was a small set, mostly covered items in a captain’s cabin: A table with a map, a globe (exclusive) and a rack full of bottles, though these contained ships. It came with three figures, Jack and two zombies. As sets go, it was a good addition if you had a pirate ship, but on its own it had limited play value.
The Fountain of Youth, set no. 4192, however, had a more interesting approach, in that the characters had much improved as well as the scenery it added to the story. It was another On Stranger Tides set. It came with four figures: Blackbeard, Barbossa, Jack and a skeleton (don’t mess with the fountain!)
Speaking of the fountain, it wasn’t a bad build, and the waterfall had a nice print which you could put a figure through. I was just sorry that it looked nothing like the one in the movie, otherwise it could have really been something. The best reason for getting this set was Blackbeard and Barbossa. They had been well designed, and in fact that was the main selling point of the sets, the figures were that good.
Which brings me to the first release of the King George’s Soldiers, these are in the set no. 4193, The London Escape. In this set you got two of them along with Jack, Gibbs and a coachman. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the building, it complemented the other sets well. There was also a coach with a flick roof and a coal cart which could catch on fire, figuratively speaking of course. Other pieces included barrels & bottles which a pub should have, but alas, no bartender.
By the time Whitecap Bay, set no. 4194, was released, things had started to slow down. Interest in the movies was fading and hopes of seeing more ships rather than buildings had all but disappeared. This set, though expensive, had all the ingredients. It came with six figures, two of which were mermaids, one being Syrena. Other more exclusive figures were that of Philip Swift and Scrum. And of course, a zombie gunner and Jack.
The play feature of this set is where it gets interesting. The tower can be demolished at the flick of a switch, and other features are that of a net shooter to catch the mermaid, which I don’t recall being in the movie, and a lever to drop a large barrel on someone. But the more interesting feature is that it actually comes with a light brick which can light up the tower. All-in-all, not a bad looking set. I think it would have been better had it offered more figures.
The final set for the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was that of the 4195, Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Finally, we got a ship, while many had hoped it was The Flying Dutchman. The disappointment was short lived, as this ship was more like the movie version than the Pearl. For a start, it looked like the Queen Anne, had a lot more detail, and best of all it came with nine minifigures! The main ones were Blackbeard and Angelica, and the others were the Quartermaster, two pirates, the cook, Jack and two skeletons.
The ship itself is the main prize. The detail on it shows that LEGO went all out on this one. To see the picture does not do it justice, you have to build it to know of just how much detail went into this. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that it should have been bigger and they should have given the full complement of cannons (you only got three).
An interesting fact note: With each of these sets you got a unique playing card. I’m not sure of the reason behind this, as the LEGO Pirates theme website allowed you to put the number on the back of the card into it. As you can see, I never did, otherwise I’d know the answer to this.
The last set to do with the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean theme was released in 2017, for the movie Dead Man Tell No Tales. Set no. 71042, Salazar’s ghost ship Silent Mary, looks exactly like what you’d expect one would look like. It’s a pity they didn’t show the same enthusiasm for the Black Pearl. It’s the most expensive set in the series, and the most detailed. It really give awe a new meaning. It came with eight figures, the best being the ghost ones, Salazar in particular, and a special mention goes to the designer of the ghost sharks, they really look the part.
But the main prize goes to the designer of the ship. It is well designed and is articulated to open just like in the movie. As for the model, it has been one that I get the most comments on when people see it, that speaks of itself.
The Pirates of the Caribbean has ended for now with this set, and it was a fitting end.
Many followers of the POC movies would have liked to seen a rendition of the Flying Dutchman ship. It was, to many, the most wanted. But as usual, LEGO had other ideas.
The figures too, were a letdown. In that many of the key characters were left out, whether deliberately or not, the opportunities are there to add these at a later stage, perhaps when the new movie is released. I hope LEGO won’t disappoint the fans of these movies next time they release sets.