Constructive Criticism: Oh..that Juan.

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.

10 thoughts on “Constructive Criticism: Oh..that Juan.

  1. That’s a tough plane to critique. It’s hard not to let the gooney bird pedigree of the inspiration befoul the build. Credit is deserved for trying to build out that canopy, but the mix of angles and curves tangoing in such close quarters is jarring. Almost feels like canopy would have been better served by that egg-shaped Jedi Starfighter one, and scale up the rest of the plane to match. It would push it about 20% outside of fig scale, but you could likely get a lot better flow. That’s really the issue with interpreting a real world design into the brick. As we all know, ‘fig scale’ is little better than a vagrant phantom of truth, which leads me often to take liberties with the design to shift it from pure representation to ‘inspired by’.
    It does seem like the grandfather of Cruise’s DickBallsian craft. The rant about our favorite wingman was a delight.


    1. Yeah, this plane actually took me longer to write about than models three times it size. It was kind of crappy because I dig the moc but not when compared to the original, which was definitely a new experience for the feature. I thought about that Jedi canopy too, although it’s not exactly the right shape either and might have ended up looking too sci-fi and not enough “gooney bird”. Cheers Gil!


      1. Yes…I can see how it would likely throw the design too far into the future (Blessed Be Aku). A harsh mistress indeed.

        Once you are done flaying Marco, feel free to hook one of my builds up to the rack. I would suggest either:

        the Buzzard

        or if you feel like changing things up and putting a base build in your sights, Ice Base Gamma

        Treat me gentle…it’s my first time.


      2. I specialize in first-timer’s Gil, we’ll take it slow. Such a decision…it will be difficult to pass up Ice Base Gamma, but I have a couple of weeks to think about it. Thanks for signing up mon frere.


  2. I feel you on liking this as a stand-alone thing; I didn’t see its flaws until I looked at the inspiration. Aside from the model being inaccurate, the real thing just looks so much cooler.

    I would have just used two of these, top and bottom, for the engine ( to start and let that set the scale. Then probably done a brick-built cockpit with some combination of these ( and the 4×4 dishes.


    1. The rule of cool is a harsh mistress, you either hit that mark or you don’t, there isn’t much in-between.

      I would like to see a version with those parts you reference, it seems like they might require a slightly different scale overall, but I’m not sure. Sometimes I have problems visualizing solutions like that, thus my problems with the Matango.


  3. Looking at the inspiration I would never ever have tried to replicate it. It does look super cool but very hard to bring to the brick. Maybe in a larger scale where there are more options for detailing.
    But if you just take the model and forget about the inspiration it is really cool. The transitions and angles are neat and the overall appearance is pleasing.

    As you asked for volunteers – count me in with my contribution to the first Mecha Telephone Game the MTG S3 Wanderer.


    1. Yeah, I wouldn’t have tried either, so kudos to the builder for going there. I larger scale might have worked better, but that just means there is more of the cockpit to make.

      I’ll gladly take you up on your offer to volunteer, Marco, see you next week!


  4. My reasons for building this were a little selfish. I wanted to make a special snowflake, this was a cool aircraft, and it fit the bill. I worked from back to front and as you can tell, spent the most time on the canopy and the transition before rage quitting and moving on. It was supposed to be an interim project in between my larger military ones, but the temporary can take a life of its own.

    Thank you everyone for your constructive criticism and suggestions. I wasn’t 100% satisfied with it when I released the build, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I know! I already went back and implemented the ridges (“for her pleasure”) and I definitely overcomplicated the build for the central engine. One day I’ll figure out the cockpit; it’s a bitch! I may settle for something “inspired” by the real version, rather than a copy. I’ve got a drone in the works that followed this approach and the build was quick, liberating, and fun.

    As for our favorite Scientologist, my only contribution is that I am a child of the 90s and so I saw Top Gun for the first and only time about four years ago. I was left dumbstruck, much like after I saw Grease for the first time, and wondering how such a movie could be considered “good”. For a better aviating experience, I suggest the Korean version, “Return to Base”. Just as implausible, but more fun, and minus power ballads draped over awkward sex scenes and oily men playing volleyball.


    1. I dig the subject matter, going for a special snowflake is always a challenge. I feel that way about the Matango, that I deliberately went with a subject matter that would make me feel like I was building with one hand tied behind my back. You should go this route more often, the results were really compelling even if they were not totally accurate.

      That cockpit, as so aptly put it, is indeed a bitch. Good luck with that. I’m looking forward to seeing your take on the drone.

      I’ve actually never seen Top Gun. I have an allergic reaction to overhyped movies like Top Gun, ET, Avatar and the new Star Wars. Once I see or hear too many people shouting “best movie ever” I start to hate it. It also didn’t help that every yuppy dickhead in San Deigo (where I grew up) started dressing like Tommy’s character and bought expensive Japanese motorbikes. Ah…San Diego…lovely place but full of posers.


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