To celebrate Star Wars Day 2021, LEGO has a special surprise for Star Wars fans – a substantial upgrade (not re-release!) to a fan-favourite UCS set – 75308 R2-D2!
The lovable astromech droid that has been omnipresent in the Prequels, Original Trilogy and Sequels, is the star of May the 4th 2021, and has received a fair few upgrades since the last version 10225 UCS R2-D2 which was originally released almost 10 years ago in 2012.
10 years is a long-enough timespan for LEGO to remake old UCS sets, but thankfully, instead of a 1:1 re-release like 2016’s Death Star, LEGO has taken a fresh approach to the 2021 UCS R2-D2, making it a compelling purchase even if you already own the original.
I was very lucky to have received the opportunity to write up an early review of the new 2021 LEGO UCS R2-D2, so please enjoy reading through this feature!
Special thanks to the LEGO Group for providing this set for review.
75308 R2-D2 Set Details
Set Number: 75308
Price: AU$329.99 | US$199.99 | £179.99 – Buy from LEGO.com [AUS] [USA] [UK]
Dimensions: 12.5 in. (31 cm) high, 7.5 in. (20 cm) wide and 6 in. (15 cm) deep.
Exclusive to: LEGO.com / LEGO Brand Retail Stores
Theme: Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series
Release Date: 1 May 2021
Quick note – I’m going to call this a UCS set, even though it’s technically not an Ultimate Collector’s Series set, as the logo doesn’t show up anywhere. It has a plaque, and is a remake of an older UCS R2-D2, so I consider this a UCS Star Wars set.
The R2-D2 build was an enjoyable affair as it’s been almost 10 years since I last built mind, and I built mine over the span of 3 nights.
It’s not particularly challenging, but the first few bags are mostly Technic, so if you’re not used to building with Technic, you may struggle here slightly as a high level of precision and attention to detail is required here, as you build R2-D2’s skeleton, interior, and also mechanical third leg.
After you’re done with the Technic bits, it’s all smooth sailing as you build R2’s legs, outer shell and finish off with the head.
The finish product is every bit as impressive as the original, but LEGO have taken this opportunity to make a number of fantastic upgrades to the heroic Astromech droid.
We’ll go into comparison and side by side pics with the 2012 UCS R2-D2 at the end of the review, but let’s take a closer look at R2-D2.
LEGO have completely re-imagined R2’s head, taking a different approach to the Astromech’s iconic domed head. Studs are out, a series of cascading curved bricks are in.
The effect works remarkably well, creating a really pleasing curved look. Fans of SNOT will undoubtedly be delighted with the techniques used as studs are more or less banished from the dome.
The head swivels around as you may expect, although the movement isn’t as smooth as I would have expected.
Here are a look at more angles of R2’s head.
One of the most substantial upgrades comes from LEGO’s clever engineering of R2-D2’s toolkit of equipment which they’ve built into the model – which dramatically increases the interactivity and playability – this isn’t JUST a display piece.
Pop open a corner of R2’s head and out comes his periscope.
But that’s not all!
In another cleverly hidden nook is a hidden compartment for Luke’s lightsaber, you can remove. Sadly it doesn’t eject itself out like in the movies, which would’ve been REALLY cool if LEGO was able to do mimic it.
No complaints with R2’s head, but I am dreaming of the day LEGO finally gives us proper silver elements for R2’s metallic head, instead of grey – THAT would make for the ultimate R2-D2. Maybe in the next 10 years.
R2’s body is also cleaned up quite significantly, with more curves and a slightly stockier body. I like the amount of details, especially with how LEGO have done the power recharge couplers and various exhaust vents.
The vents on the side, are really nice.
R2-D2’s legs have undergone the least changes, with only a few small tweaks here and there.
The most interesting visual change are the hoses on R2’s legs – which are now in pearl gold instead of dark reddish brown variants. It’s an interesting change as I always felt like the brown hoses were much more movie-accurate but maybe they’re not in production any longer.
Here’s a look at R2’s back which is very clean and smooth. There are 2 buttons that you can press that will activate R2’s arms that pop out the front.
Useful if you want to zap, burn or grab stuff!
Another substantial upgrade is R2’s third leg – the mechanism works just like the movies – tilt R2’s body back and his third leg magically pops out.
It’s extremely satisfying as demonstrated in this GIF!
Here’s a look at the UCS R2-D2 plaque, and minifigure included. I thought this would be a perfect time to re-launch a new R2-D2 minifigure with a third leg, but alas, its time for an upgrade is not now.
What will get collectors excited is this special commemorative 50 Years of Lucasfilm printed brick, which is a fun little addition that will make it worth your while if you choose to splurge on the new UCS R2-D2.
Comparison with Old UCS R2-D2 (2012)
Here are some side by side shots of the new 2021 UCS R2-D2 versus the older 2012 UCS R2-D2.
For most long-time LEGO Star Wars fans, the big question to answer is – is this worth the upgrade?
Looking at the them both side by side, they look distinctively different enough, but I’d say it’s not that big an upgrade that warrants an instant purchase – especially if you own the original.
The major differences are the head design, play features but otherwise, most things remain equal.
I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I’ve had my UCS R2-D2 in storage all this time – it’s been kept in a box, within a box, protected from sunlight, but when I fished him out for comparison photos, I discovered that many white pieces on the OG R2-D2 had yellowed quite significantly.
They’re yellowing in uneven spots, and I was quite taken aback as I thought I was being quite careful with storage and keeping him away from UV light.
If your original R2-D2 has been on display for some time and has yellowed quite a bit, and you have the cash to spare, it would probably be worth an upgrade.
What I liked:
- Very pleased that LEGO didn’t get lazy and re-released the exact same R2-D2
- New head design is quite nice to look at
- Play features and interactivity has been updated
- 50th Anniversary Lucasfilm brick is a nice bonus
- Hasn’t had much of a price increase
What I didn’t like:
- If you own the original – there isn’t enough to warrant an immediate purchase
- Leg mechanism can be quite fiddly at times
- LEGO didn’t use shiny silver elements for his head
- More printed elements for R2-D2 would’ve been great
Credit to LEGO for re-releasing R2-D2 but not taking the shortcut of not making any updates.
The new 2021 UCS R2-D2 is a great addition to any LEGO Star Wars fan, especially if you missed out on the original, which does cost quite a bit on the secondary market.
R2-D2’s status is legendary, and this set makes for a fantastic display piece, with plenty of neat features thrown in that you can use to entertain yourself or friends or kids.
LEGO need to be commended for the new head design, and for vastly improving the third leg function and for little fixes here and there, while keeping to the spirit of the original.
They’ve updated it just enough to give it its own identity, while not making the original obsolete.
75308 is clearly the ultimate UCS R2-D2 set, and in my opinion, outclasses the original in nearly every department except old school nostalgic charm, so if you’ve been wanting an awesome R2-D2 display piece – this 2021 version is the one for you.
If you already own the original, and are not a completionist, you’re probably fine to skip this and save up for upcoming UCS sets like the Republic Gunship.
Otherwise, this is a satisfying model that will delight Star Wars fans just in time for May the 4th.
Rating and score: 4/5 ★★★★✰
Build  – The build was very fun, with varied techniques while not being too challenging or frustrating.
Real Value  – The price is decent, only rising US$20 compared to the original, so this remains quite an accessible set.
Innovation  – The play features baked in are really fun, and the third leg mechanism is so fun to put into action.
Coolness  – It’s a massive R2-D2 model that’s made for display. What more could you want.
Keepability  – As a Star Wars UCS set – this almost ensures that it will retain its value, and may deserve a permanent spot in your Star Wars collection.
Thanks for reading my review of the 2021 UCS R2-D2!
LEGO 75308 R2-D2 will go on sale on 1 May 2021 on LEGO.com
I’d love to know what you think of the new UCS R2-D2. If you own the original, would you pick this one up too?
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Special thanks to the LEGO Group for providing this set for review.