Welcome back to the Manifesto’s regular feature where I provide a builder with some feedback that is hopefully both entertaining and helpful. The format is simple: a reader submits a model for evaluation, I come up with at least one good thing about it, at least one bad thing and one random observation that falls outside the first two categories.
Today’s volunteer victim on the rotisserie spit is constant reader and friend of the blog [thatjuan], you may remember him from such interesting and popular builds as:Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey, my personal favorite the CH-53E Super Stallion and the Fairchild Republic A-10C “Warthog”. Normally I select the builder’s latest model for critique but since [thatjuan] requested a specific aircraft from April of this year, we will instead be focusing on the Edgley EA-7 Optica. You can find some great images of the plane in this gallery, to inform your opinion on both the model and my opinion of the model. I’m going try to make the case that the Lego version looks good, but ultimately falls short of it’s intended goal. So let’s talk about the “Edgley EA-7 Optica “, what went right, what went wrong and my enduring compulsion to put a wooden stake through the heart of Tommy Cruise. It’s the only way to be sure.
I give the builder kudos for choosing an offbeat subject to replicate, this isn’t a P-51 Mustang or an F-16 . As [thatjuan] mentions in his description, the Optica was a relatively obscure surveillance plane (just 22 Opticas manufactured), which isn’t exactly a conventional choice for a model. This model seems to be the only one attempted in Lego, and that’s saying something in an age where it increasingly seems like everything has been built at least twice. The basic proportions and profile of the aircraft seem to be spot on, and the most critical goal has been achieved: it looks like the Optica.
The highlight of the build is the tail section, this is where the builder really excels in replicating the Optica design, with a nice mix of techniques. From the cylindrical tail booms to the twin fins, the tail is both eye-catching and accurate. My only suggestion for improvement would be to use profile bricks on the rudders. In the photos the rudders have small horizontal ridges that seem easy to achieve by swapping out the 1×3 bricks for some profile bricks and 1×1 bricks. Obviously the elevator is constructed with plates so the same trick wouldn’t work there. nitpick aside, the tail is iconic and really well done.
The landing landing-gear are simple but effective, I dig the economy of parts. Sometimes builders try to overcomplicate landing gear, so it’s nice to see them done in a way that blends in to the rest of the aircraft. The size is on target and they are placed right where they should be. It’s a small detail, but the wrong landing gear can really jack up an otherwise fine model.
Unrelated to the bricks, I have to give the builder props for choosing a great background color. I’m so sick of the retina-burning, digital white-outs that the soft yellow was a welcome reprieve. The photo quality is also pretty good and all the angles are covered without overkill.
From the point of conception, this model was destined to succeed or fail based on the canopy. While I’m not calling it a failure by any means, the crew cabin doesn’t really work for me. I know the builder is capable of great brick-built canopies, so it was a little disappointing to see this one. When you zoom in on the profile, there are gaps between the transparent elements that are distracting and the radar dish on top especially bad, like it hangs suspended over the cockpit rather than integrated. The assembly works very well from the front, where everything looks seamless and the white round plates on the side work best to give the illusion of a frame round the glass. My biggest objection to the canopy is the rear portion with the 1×1 trans-black tiles. I know they are supposed to represent windows but that section looks like it’s behind the cockpit and into the beginning of the engine. I think it’s the octagonal-bar piece that throws me off, it seems like it’s the transition between engine and canopy, not a place where someone would potentially sit and look out the window.
On the issue of scale, the real aircraft can accommodate 3 people and the Lego version only one. To make this work, [that juan] would have to increase the size of the entire aircraft and that presents another set of challenges due to the odd proportion of the minifig, but when you’re trying to replicate a real-world design I think you’ve got to give it a try. I also kind of wished there was a camera and/or a light on the nose to drive home the notion of surveillance.
The wings are simple but have a nice shape to them, although I wonder if they should be a bit wider. The real-world Optima has wings that are roughly the same width as the engine, but that is not the case with the Lego model. The builder widens the wing right before it transitions to the engine, where it should be a consistent width. The transition is a little rough too, all of a sudden the wing gets thicker and wider. This isn’t a deal-breaker but it is noticeable enough to mention.
Unlike the real aircraft, the engine assembly is basically an extension of the cockpit and I didn’t like the lack of separation. The actual housing for the 5 blade ducted fan is so smooth and round that anything less than a smooth interpretation seems inadequate. While I appreciate the builder going for a brick-built solution, rather than a one-piece-wonder, I don’t think this radial treatment is the right technique. [thatjuan] might have come closer to the original design by just using curved slopes in a more traditional manner to mimic the shape. The engine also seems to be a bit too small, it should be at least as big as the cockpit and perhaps a tiny big bigger.
The weird thing is, if the builder had simply slapped a different name on the model and I didn’t have photos of the real-deal to compare it to, I probably would have liked it better. I’m not sure what that says about me, but some of my complaints about the design would vanish pretty quickly, or rather never form to begin with. The subject matter was an admirably challenging one, I doubt I could do any better trying to brick-build that cockpit, it’s a bear of a design. So the bottom line is that I dig the Optica, but it’s a near miss.
The Optica also reminded me of the Bubbleship from Oblivion….which is awesome and so are the rest of the futuristic designs in the film….but it also reminds me of Tommy Cruise, who is not awesome. I don’t think there is a more overrated actor in my generation and that’s saying a lot. Tom Cruise always plays Tom Cruise, the smarmy frat-boy who looks like he’s got beer-bongs and date rape on his mind, even when he plays a secret agent or a white samurai. Tommy owns one of the most punchable faces in Hollywood, a face that hasn’t changed a bit in over 10 years. He also managed to start the trend of foppish vampires and also screw up the near perfect record of Stanley Kubrik. Have you ever met a person who liked the movie Cocktail, who wasn’t an idiot? I started an active boycott of Tommy’s work after sitting through the War of the Worlds remake, that film was like sandpaper for the soul and I kept waiting for Cruise to stop mid-dialogue and try to sell me something I didn’t need.
We will close with this boilerplate reminder…if you’d like to have one of your models get the (good/bad/whatever) treatment, just sign up in the comments below.