Bandai’s 1:72 Millennium Falcon model kit review

Video reviews, parts I and II



Bandai’s 1:72 Millennium Falcon: the full-text review

Bandai, the giant Japanese toy and model company, have been steadily building up an extensive catalogue of Star Wars model kits. And to near-universal acclaim – their products have been of very high quality and accuracy.

But fans have been clamouring for a few key models that, thus far, have not appeared. A giant Star Destroyer. A B-wing fighter. And the Millennium Falcon in 1:72 scale!

In 2015 and 2016 Bandai released a The Force Awakens (TFA) Falcon in 1:144 scale, and a Star Wars: A New Hope (ANH) Falcon in 1:350 scale. They also teased the fan world in 2015 by displaying a one-off prototype model of a 1:72 Falcon at a Tokyo trade show. And then... silence.

Finally, in early summer 2017, came the explosive news. Bandai would be releasing a 1:72 Millennium Falcon under the Perfect Grade” branding, and started taking pre-orders in Japan.

And so this is it! The Bandai 1:72 Millennium Falcon kit is a really awesome piece of model engineering. It is, by far, the most accurate model of everyone's favourite fantasy spaceship ever commercially produced. And only four decades after the original film's release.

This isn't your usual model kit based on a few photos and drawings. This is kind of like industrial archaeology. The Bandai team got access to the surviving five foot model at the Lucasfilm ranch in California, and combined the first-hand measurements and photography with research into the plastic model kit parts that were used to create the original miniature. These parts were then reproduced in 1:72 scale and used to build the final Falcon.

This thing gives obsessed fans everything they ever wanted... if they're willing to pay the price, that is. Even the early 2018 "Standard Version," which lacks some options and is a bit cheaper (see below), isn't super affordable. Inexpensive, this ship is not.

Photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017 courtesy Yomi Ayeni, Clockwork Watch.

What do I need to know?

Here are a few key factoids.
  • Scaled-down replica of the 1977-era five foot/1.7 metre Millennium Falcon shooting miniature, which had 3 landing gear boxes and 5 landing feet. (this is commonly known as the A New Hope (ANH) Falcon, although to be pedantic that name was applied retroactively to the 1977 film after its release) The Bandai model is clearly aimed at the übernerd market, since the 1977 version is not quite the Falcon version that most people know.
  • 482mm in length; about 19 inches. That makes it about a third the size of the original 5 foot miniature. Officially 1/3.6.
  • It's just a bit bigger than the old MPC/Ertl/AMT/Airfix model from the late 1970s. Notably larger than the Fine Molds/Revell Falcon, which was also sold as 1/72.
  • Snap-together engineering, using styrene plastic, like most Bandai models. Only the included optional etched metal parts require glue. The joining points are all keyed, making it impossible to snap parts to the wrong thing or the wrong way around.
  • If you're biased against snap-together kits, based on the "Snap-Tite" junk that Revell sells, never fear! Bandai's plastic engineering is excellent. Plus if you really want to use glue, feel free!
  • About 680 parts.
  • Made in Japan. Except for the battery box for powering the lights, which is made in China.
  • The complex and subtle proportions of the ship's design – saucer thickness and slope, mandible angles and length, cockpit tunnel width and angle – are dead-on.
  • Excellent detailing – almost every little greebly is present and correct. It's clear that Bandai's multi-year meticulous research (see links at the bottom) into all the original constituent model kit components has paid off. Even mold lines and pin marks on the original parts are replicated faithfully.
  • Moulded mostly in light grey, almost white, polystyrene plastic. A handful of parts are precoloured — clear windows, black for fans, etc. The model is not available pre-painted.
  • You have the choice of either clear plastic or open frames for the cockpit and gunbay windows. The clear plastic has nice windowy reflections, but it's a thick and unconvincing material which makes it harder to see interior details. The open frames more closely resemble the original shooting models, which lacked glazing.
  • Includes a large and ugly rectangular black plastic cradle-type stand. Definitely one of the few weak points of the kit. In fact, the stand is actually largely repurposed from a stand made for an earlier Bandai Gundam robot kit, and has some unused bits accordingly.
  • The initial release includes optional waterslide decals (though the Standard Version discussed later, does not). These decals are of three types. First, there are detailed reproductions of all the craploads of tiny detail decals used on the original five foot Falcon. Remarkably detailed and accurate, except for a few logos which had to be modified for trademark reasons. Second, there are coloured decals for those who want to avoid painting the red, yellow, and grey panels. (yes, it's sad to think that there will be some of these expensive models out there with decals and not a proper paint job!) Finally, there are decals for the cockpit interiors – though not for the gunbays.
  • The initial release did not include adhesive stickers. The Bandai 1:144 Falcon includes stickers, which of course look pretty lousy and toylike when used as actual stickers, but which serve as terrific temporary masks for painting! Unfortunately the Standard Version includes only adhesive stickers, which is massively disappointing and suggests Bandai are misreading their market a bit.
  • The initial release includes LED lighting for the engines, cockpit, landing gear bays, and boarding ramp. (though the ANH Falcon sets did not feature internal lighting in the landing gear or boarding ramp) The Standard Version does not include lights.
  • The initial release's battery box is hidden under the quarter plate that covers the engine area, which is kind of inconvenient. It has separate slide switches for each of three circuits (engine, cockpit, gunbays/landing gear), so you can turn each area on and off individually if you want to. Interestingly, it has a couple of free sockets. So you could wire up some LEDs and add other lights on that pack if you wanted to. People have theorized that Bandai included the extra sockets for future versions of the product, such as an ESB-era Falcon with headlights and undersaucer lights, for example.
  • The LEDs run off three AAA cells. Odd decision, as the runtime for AAs would have been longer, and there'd obviously be enough room to hold them.
  • Engine light for the initial ANH release is cool white. (the other supplied LEDs are more of a neutral white) A large frosted plastic diffuser is used to spread the LED light evenly across the engine aperture. The diffuser is untinted white in the initial release, but sadly it's tinted a light TFA-era blue for the Standard Version. Strangely both kits include a TFA-era engine grille with SE-era (sort of) internal engine details.
  • Although the ANH Falcon never featured headlights, and the PG Bandai 1:72 does not have holes in the mandible tips for lighting, interestingly enough there are precut grooves through the interior struts of the mandibles, making adding lights easy. It's as if Bandai are preparing for an eventual release of an Empire Strikes Back (ESB) era version someday.
  • The cockpit backwall for the initial release is essentially a lightpipe made of water-clear transparent plastic, and it has all the ESB era greeblies molded into it. The rear LEDs shine on two white plastic pieces to illuminate the lightbars, and also direct light into the edges of the clear plastic, allowing the various light points on the backwall to illuminate. The idea is that you take the supplied decal and apply it to the backwall with gallons of decal-setting solution (eg: Micro Sol) so that the decals wrap around the projecting greeblies. Personally the decals seem like a so-so idea to me, since a lot of people have had enormous difficulties getting them to lie flat. I think you're better off coating the clear backwall with opaque paint, painting in all the greeblies and details, then carefully scraping off the paint where the lights are located. Little drops of transparent colour can then be used to get the blue, yellow, and red lights.
  • The cockpit door is molded permanently into the backwall. You can't model an open-door cockpit without a lot of work – there's no corridor detailing, plus you'd have to remove a bunch of brackets used to hold up the LEDs. A shame, since the door was never actually shown closed in ANH. I don’t think there’s any evidence that the ANH full-size set actually had a door, in fact.
  • The cockpit interior sidewalls on the other hand, while separate components from the cockpit tube, are made of black plastic and cannot be illuminated out of the box. Not without drilling and installing SMD LEDs anyway.
  • Optional photo-etched metal parts are included  with the initial release for certain key details. The Standard Version has no etched parts. The six engine fan grilles, the three circular top hatches on the ridges, and the "Koolshade" ventilation strip wrapped around the cockpit neck are all supplied as both plastic and etched metal. A large trapezoidal block, with molded plastic fans emulating those on the original miniature, is also included for installation beneath the metal fan grilles. This all yields a very nice true 3D effect, because of the holes in the mesh. However, it's not a truly perfect implementation of the etched metal approach, since each grille is made of a single component. Some third-party grilles for other Falcon models (eg: the Green Strawberry grilles for the 1:144 Falcon) are made in layers, thereby simulating the Koolshade parts more accurately.
  • Plastic equivalents of the circular vents are also supplied for those who want to avoid glue and paint, or for those buying the Standard Version  They're solid plastic discs with engraved lines and don't have holes molded into them. Plastic versions of the Koolshade cockpit neck are shown here. These also include the circular openings beneath the mesh, and also a representation of the woven wires which aren't present on the etched version.
  • The larger pipes, such as the main ones on the mandibles, are extremely delicate separate components. This can be tricky when it comes to cutting the pipes off the sprue and installing them, but gives a much more realistic look than pipes molded to the surface.
  • Includes interior detailing for both the cockpit and the two gunbays. Oddly, the cockpit interior details are modelled after the ESB-era full-size set, not the ANH-era set.
  • The boarding ramp has the same two-option design as the Bandai 1:144 Falcon. In other words, the ramp is either a simple cover plate if the ship is in flight mode. Or it's a fixed ramp in down position, complete with interior sidewalls. It's therefore not hinged, and the vertical hydraulic pistons are molded into the sidewalls. This means you can't easily motorize the ramp with a moving mechanism, but you can interchange the two parts after the model is finished.
  • If you peer up the open ramp you can see a tiny bit of the internal corridor. It isn't the correct shape, though – see more further on.
  • No other interior details, such as the cockpit tunnel corridor, or the hold included with the De Agostini Falcon.
  • The top half of the cockpit cone can be removed to show the cockpit interior more clearly, but this unfortunately leaves a horizontal gap or seam at the halfway point. I would have preferred the entire end cone be removable, so you could optionally hold it in place with magnets, and avoid the seam. Oh well.
  • First commercial model of the Falcon to feature a convincing copy of the blaster damage on the saucer. (the De Agostini Falcon was probably the first to have battle damage, but it was badly done) The bottom saucer hole even comes with a detailed piece of plastic to put behind it, for a true 3D effect. The ship doesn't have the crumpled hull edges or the big round hole on the starboard docking ring, however. (note also the subtle sink lines parallel to the saucer edge – it's "perfect," but not absolutely so!)
  • Includes 6 optional seated figures (Han, Chewie, Leia, Luke, Ben, C-3PO) for the cockpit, highly detailed in ANH clothing but in unconvincingly stiff poses – everyone has their hands on their laps. Which is something I really don't understand. There's no technical molding reason why they couldn't have the figures leaning forward, with their arms in a position to operate the controls, or whatever. Look at C-3PO - he alone has his arms outstretched. And Bandai make excellent 1/12 scale figures with articulated joints and stuff. Oh well.
  • For licensing reasons with Disney there are no standing figures. Which is a bummer. Ideally you'd want, for example Solo and Chewie leaning forward in their respective seats and Luke and Obi-Wan standing behind them, to reenact the "that's no moon" scene. Fortunately, Gus at Falcon3DParts has made some pretty great-looking replacement figures based on the ones he designed for the De Agostini Falcon. They're not all in action poses, but are less static than Bandai's.
  • Official launch date in Japan was 28 August, 2017, and Japanese customers started posting photos of the kit the next day. Shipping to other countries was later in the year. The Standard Version was released in March 2018.
  • Official price in Japan of the first version was ¥43,200 with 8% tax; ¥40,000 without tax. That's about $390/$360 USD or £300/£280 GBP before shipping. The Standard Version is somewhat cheaper.
  • Initially available only in Japan, with the USA, Canada, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia following. No European distributors are known.
  • The plastic used to make this kit, like all Bandai kits, is not compatible with oil, lacquer, and solvent based paints. The plastic turns brittle and cracks. To play it safe, use only acrylic paints on an Bandai kit. Some people use oils or solvents after laying down a protective layer of primer on all surfaces, but it's still a potentially risky move. This warning also applies for thinners used in oil paints for weathering. Odourless turpenoids should be safe as an oil thinner if required. But no matter what, test first on pieces of sprue. You don't want to be the one to buy and assemble this kit, only to accidentally wreck it when you paint it!
  • Cannot fly unassisted, cure cancer, or bring world peace.

What version of the Falcon?

The Millennium Falcon is, one might say, a moving target! There are many different versions of the craft that have appeared on-screen, and it's literally impossible to produce a model that represents all versions.

So. The Bandai 1:72 Falcon kit is a mostly-faithful replica of the five-foot Star Wars effects miniature. Specifically the 1977-era model, which had three landing gear boxes with five feet and legs.

It therefore differs significantly in appearance from the Fine Molds/Revell 1:72 Falcon and the DeAgostini 1:43 Falcon, both of which were based on the 32" stunt model from Empire. This movie introduced a modified Millennium Falcon with five landing gear boxes and seven feet and legs. Needless to say it looks nothing like the white and blue version of the Falcon which appears in Solo (2018).

The five foot model from Star Wars (1977) is to the left; the 32" model from the Empire Strikes Back (1980) is to the right. The narrower undersaucer maintenance pits and additional two landing gear boxes can clearly be seen on the 1980 model.


So what's correct is just a matter of your priorities. Here are a few ways of looking at it, depending on who you are.

– I'm your basic Millennium Falcon/Star Wars fan.

If you just love this fantasy spaceship and want a truly awesome model of it, then this is the kit for you! Assuming you're willing to shell out the cash, that is. It looks stupendous, is of a good size (neither tiny like the 1:144 models, and not ginormous like the 1:43 model), and is fairly easy for an adult to construct. Build it out of the box and rock on!

– I'm a hardcore Star Wars (1977) on-screen appearance purist.

If your goal is to reproduce the appearance of the ship as it looked in movie theatres in 1977, then this thing is really close. The Bandai kit even faithfully reproduces most external details that were present during filming in 1976/77 but which have since broken off and been lost.

The main issues or inaccuracies are:
  • Wrong cockpit interior. The cockpit details are, for some bizarre reason, those of 1980's Empire Strikes Back. I honestly don't understand that. Why get all purist and make an ANH ship, yet include the wrong cockpit? If this bothers you, you need to cut out the extra ring of cockpit sidewall parts, remove the steering yokes, change a few details such as the nav computer display and the side/back greeblies, and replace the greeblies on the front panel of the dash console. And to be extra-accurate you also need to misalign the cockpit's internal light bars! The wedge-shaped panels above the front shelves are an approximation of the ANH panels, and don't have the ESB-era Volvo panels. You won't be able to use the supplied decals if you want ANH, partly because the Bandai decals are designed for the deeper cockpit, but also because the ESB and later cockpit had way more greeblage than its flatter ANH predecessor. Note one other point – the seats have vertical notches cut into them for the figurines to slot into it. For more details on the different versions of the cockpit, take a look at my related Millennium Falcon Notes page. Here's a photo of the Bandai 1:72 ESB-era backwall, and here's Joshua Maruska's CGI rendering of the ANH-era cockpit backwall.
  • Questionable TFA-style outer engine grille. The engine area was never shown unlit in 1977. All you saw of the back end was a wall of white light, animated through a filmmaking technique known as rotoscoping. So it's up to you. You could replace Bandai's supplied engine (which has an outer engine grille modelled after the one from The Force Awakens, with Fine Molds SE-style engine details beneath rather than TFA internals, strangely!) with a blank sheet of shiny white acrylic plastic just like the original shooting model. Or you could leave it as-is, since a blank white piece of plastic looks kind of stupid when it's not lit. Personally I'm kind of torn on this. Blank white looks terrible when the lights are powered off, even if it's accurate to the original model. The SE grille is the most accurate for the OT, such as it is. But I actually think the wider grid spacing of the TFA is a bit more aesthetically pleasing than the narrow SE grid. Decisions, decisions...
  • Handle holes. The five foot model has a number of strategically placed holes in the curved sidewalls. These were used as installation points for temporary handles to let the filmmakers carry the heavy model around. While they are just visible in the final movie in a couple of places, Bandai did not replicate these holes. The photo below is of the original shooting miniature, not the Bandai model.
  • Landing gear lights. Bandai include lighting in the landing gear wells for the initial release of the product. These lights for illuminating the landing legs did not appear until Empire, so you would need to omit, or turn off, the LEDs to be accurate to ANH. Note - there is no significant ground lighting in Tatooine's Docking Bay 94; just small ground lamps. The Death Star bay set had spotlights on the floor, shining up, which may have given the impression of saucer-mounted lights.
  • Boarding ramp lights. The boarding ramp in ANH had a few indicator lights on the walls, but had no interior ceiling lights. The original blueprints don't show any, and on-screen you can tell that the ramp is lit by studio lamps sitting on the floor. The ESB film set, on the other hand, had 6 (not 8 – that's only TFA/TLJ)  low circular ceiling lights running the length of the ramp interior in pairs, but the Bandai kit doesn't replicate these light fixtures - it just has an LED holder at the outer end. For accuracy you'll probably want to pull that out and install a ceiling plate with 6 holes for fibre optic ceiling lights.
  • Missing greeblies. Although Bandai carefully pored over existing photo documentation, in order to include all the greeblies that were present on the original 1977 model which have since been lost, they missed a few. Extensive research by RPF members Lab, Stuart Brown and eagle1, and Japanese model maker Seiji Takahashi, has revealed that there are about 5 greeblies omitted by Bandai that were part of the original miniature. I've made 3D printed replicas of these missing parts, for those interested.
  • Corridor interior. If you want to be extra accurate,  the full-size exterior set built for the ESB had the internal corridor detail at the top of the boarding ramp, but the ANH set apparently did not. Also, Bandai modelled this corridor as a straight section of a cylinder, which is wrong – to match the ESB set it should be a curved segment of a torus. The two circles of wall cushions shouldn't be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ramp, but should instead angle out slightly. It's kind of hard to see this detail easily, so I doubt most people are going to notice. But if it bothers you, I've made a 3D printed replacement corridor part.
 
Left of each pair: correct corridor which is a section of a doughnut.
Right of each pair: Bandai's incorrect corridor which is a section of a tube or cylinder.

– I'm a super-hardcore Star Wars (1977) shooting miniature purist.

If your goal is to make a scaled-down (roughly third-size) replica of the original shooting miniature, you’re mostly in luck. The exterior of the Bandai 1:72 is a convincing copy of that movie's five foot model.

However:
  • Wrong cockpit interior. The shooting miniature had cockpit detail that didn't look anything like the full sized sets. At all. In fact, the cockpit interior was recycled from the original iteration of the Falcon, long before the sets were constructed in England.  At this time Han's ship was still a long linear vehicle that later became the Rebel Blockade Runner. Despite the model's cockpit interior being quite visible in some scenes – notably the space slug cave and the rescuing Luke scenes in Empire – ILM never rebuilt the model to match the final sets. So if your goal is to make a detailed replica of the actual 1976/77 miniature you'll need to scratchbuild a new cockpit interior with a Morgan car seat and simulated CRT monitors atop the dash console! That's the really strange shooting miniature cockpit for the five footer down below. For more information on this oddball cockpit, check out my page on the subject!
  • Gunbay interior. The shooting miniatures had some details inside the gunbays, but they also didn't resemble the movie sets at all. You’d need to omit the Bandai 1:72 gunbay interiors and put the odd bits of random detailing that were present in the five foot model.
  • Engine. You'd want to put in a simple curved sheet of translucent white acrylic (plexiglas/perspex) to match the glass panel that was in the original model, as below.
  • Landing gear. The original 1977 miniature was used for in-flight shots only, and so never had any landing gear. Only the full-sized set had landing gear. So you'd want to omit the landing gear and install the closed doors.
  • Handle holes, missing greeblies, and landing gear lights. As above.

– I loved the Star Wars: a New Hope, Special Edition (1997) version of the Falcon.

This one is tricky because the CGI alterations introduced some changes and some continuity errors.
  • Wrong cockpit interior, handle holes, and landing gear lights as above.
  • Questionable engine. Here it gets complicated. The restored and altered Jabba footage in Docking Bay 94 affords a brief glimpse of the right edge of the back engine on the full size set. The Falcon's engine seems to be a flat curved gridless panel, painted body colour, with some greeblies on it. However a full view of the engine area is never shown.
Meanwhile ANH's modified Mos Eisley liftoff sequence features a computer model mostly based on the 32" ship from Empire, with a handful of details taken from the five foot model used in Star Wars. The CGI craft also features a new engine grille design, which consists of a backlit grid with finer spacing than that seen later in TFA. So to be more screen accurate you'll want to replace Bandai's TFA grille with an SE grille. There's a third-party opportunity, here!


– I loved The Empire Strikes Back (1980) version of the Falcon.

The Bandai 1:72 is not a precise replica of the five-foot miniature as it appeared in Empire, and it would take a fair bit of skilled work to convert it. This is because:
  • The ANH Falcon had three landing gear boxes containing 5 legs and 5 feet. The new ESB Falcons, both models and full-sized set, all had five landing gear boxes containing 7 legs and 7 feet. And so the five foot model used in ANH was permanently upgraded to five landing gear boxes, matching the other models and set. It would take a lot of skill and time to construct convincing landing gear boxes for the Bandai model. Or, to be more accurate, it’d take a lot of skill to replicate the fine hull plating molded into the bottom saucer!
But there are 3D printed solutions to reduce the amount of work required. I’m soon going to release a 3D printed pair of narrower underside maintenance pits. And Shapeways designer 308bits has produced the most tricky parts - detailed 3D printed landing gear boxes that fit onto the bottom hull surface, and extra landing gear legs for the new boxes. Installing these parts is not easy, however. And you have to make a thin patch of hull plating to fill the gap between the new narrow pits and the landing gear boxes.


This image, courtesy RPF members Jaitea and crackerjazz, shows the original ANH/1977 underside. The superimposed areas in green indicate where the new landing gear boxes were added for ESB. The yellow patches indicate where undersaucer lights were added. (note how the positions don't all match up with light positions on the full size set!) The red patches show the new bottom maintenance pit locations and shapes. And the blue lines show where some of the ANH pipes were removed for the ESB model.
  • Exterior lighting. The 5 foot miniature built for ANH was modified for ESB to include mandible-tip headlights and undersaucer lighting. This was intended to match the full sized set built in Britain. The Bandai model lacks these lighting points, but they wouldn’t be difficult to add.
  • Dish ring. The ESB-era radar dish on the five foot model appears to have lost its central ring detail that was present in ANH. At least it seems that way in the "Luke is rescued from Cloud City" scene. (the ring was present on the full-size set, but this is only visible in behind-the-scenes photographs and is not seen in actual film footage) This ring is a separate component clipped to the Bandai 1:72 dish, albeit slightly overscale in thickness, and thus easy to omit (you'll just need to fill in the holes).
  • If you want to be crazy completist, the small Entex greebly midway along the starboard mandible is missing the pair of struts from a Tiger I kit. You'll have to cut that off the Bandai-supplied part, which is accurate to 1977.
  • Engine issue above, as per the 1977 movie.
  • However, the Bandai 1:72 already has a cockpit interior that closely matches the ESB set.

– I want a The Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition (2000) Falcon.
  • Same as ESB above, with the added issue of the CGI Falcon featuring an engine grille. Since the CGI Falcon in the SE films was kind of a mishmash of five foot and 32" features, this would have to be an approximation anyway.

– I want a Return of the Jedi (1983 and 1997) Falcon.
  • Same as ESB above. Or you could knock off the radar dish if you wanted to show the ship as it appeared at the end of the film!

– I loved the Falcon in The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017)

The Force Awakens and the Last Jedi both used a computer graphic replica of the Empire-era 5 foot model, embellished with numerous changes to reflect the passage of time.

The Bandai 1:72 is not a representation of this ship, and it would take considerable time and effort to convert. You would need to add the bottom landing gear, narrow and move the underside pits, replace the round dish with the bow tie version. Add a bazillion new pipes and greeblies to the sidewalls and docking rings. And remove some of the old ones - many OT greeblies aren't present on the TFA ship.

– I want to recreate the 5 foot Falcon model as it exists today.

The 5 foot model was permanently altered in 1978/79 in order to film the Empire Strikes Back. So it has the narrow underside pits, some undersaucer lighting, and extra landing gear boxes, as above.

In addition, some greeblies have also broken off the model and been lost, so there are some subtle differences from the 1976/77 shooting miniature. You could cut off or omit some of these missing greeblies if you really wanted to. Which ones are left remains an exercise for the reader.

– I want a Falcon like the Han Solo movie (2018).

The Falcon looks quite different in "Solo," the standalone prequel film, since it appears earlier in time than the Original Trilogy. This version of the ship has an extra layer of smooth external panels in white and blue, and with a detachable nose piece. Totally different. Bandai and Revell both sell models of the Lando Calrissian Falcon, but in 1:144 only.

– I want to make a Falcon that looks the way I want, because really, who cares?

So if you're not a screen-accuracy purist and just want to have fun, this is a hell of a great model to play with!

I expect we'll see a lot of Bandai 1:72 Falcons with ESB-style undersaucer lights, but no extra landing gear. Simply because lights are cool. The key to the whole thing is to make the model yours, and to have a totally great time!

The lower-cost Standard Version

In December 2017 Bandai announced that they would be releasing  a "Standard Version"  of the PG Falcon in March 2018. There are a number of key differences, but note that it's still patterned after the ANH/1977 movie edition. This is not an ESB version of the model!
  • Lower price.
  • No internal lighting.
  • The two untinted diffuser sheets for the engine are replaced with two blue-tinted plastic pieces.
  • No etched metal parts.
  • Waterslide decals apparently replaced with stickers.
So. Is the initial release worth the higher price? Here are the main points to consider.
  • The missing lighting is easily solved by installing any LEDs and batteries. No big deal. You can easily wire up your own, or if LEDs make you uncomfortable I'm sure some third parties will be selling their own kits. Or check out my article on LED lighting.
  • The blue plastic diffuser pieces are kind of annoying if you're going for an ANH look, since the blue colour is more TFA than Original Trilogy. The pieces are not hard to replace, but a minor hassle. You could easily replace them with a curved strip of translucent plastic and be done with it.
  •  The lack of cockpit tunnel neck etching is a shame, but to be honest the plastic parts really aren't too bad. They're pretty detailed, simulate the weaving of the Koolshade which the etched parts don't do, and include the holes.
  •  However, the engine deck fans look kinda lousy as solid panels, rather than open grilles, IMO. This is one area that's too bad at the moment. I don't know if the two main makers of Star Wars etched metal components - Paragrafix and Green Strawberry - plan on making fan grille replacements. One would think it's a reasonable third party opportunity, but you'd have to wait for them to release the products.
  • Most people shelling out to buy this expensive thing as also going to the trouble of painting it, as that's the only way to make it look good. The stickers might actually be useful in this regard - you could use the negatives of the stickers as paint masks to paint your panels!
  • The biggest pain is that you'd be missing all the teeny tiny detail decals. There is a third party decal set or two, scaled to the 1/72 Fine Molds Falcon. This is a smaller model, but pretty close. JBOT is one maker. However, I don't know if they include all the decals that Bandai do.
So in short, if you want all the stuff that's missing from the Standard Version, buy the initial release right away! It'll cost you more in money and hassle to make up for the difference. However, if you don't really care about any or all of the missing features then the Standard Version is a reasonable buy. 

What do we not know?

Bandai's future plans

Bandai have said that this Falcon will be a “limited quantity” kit. What that means, however, is not yet known. We know that they've announced a Standard Version which, as many of us predicted, lacks the metal etched parts and the lights. If the initial release will then be dropped, we don't know. I think it's likely.

However, will Bandai ever make an ESB-era version of the kit with 5 landing gear boxes? My bet is that they will when it makes economic sense to do so. The lower saucer was designed in two halves, quite possibly to make such a change easier, the battery box has two spare connectors, and they've molded grooves inside the mandibles to facilitate headlight wiring.

So to do an ESB Falcon they'd just need to replace the lower front saucer with a new one with landing gear boxes, replace the front mandible tips with headlight-equipped versions, and supply a new sprue with the extra landing gear.

How does the Bandai 1:72 compare to...

...the MPC/Ertl/AMT/Airfix Millennium Falcon?
This one, produced in the USA in around 1979 and long discontinued, was the first commercially available Falcon model. And of course is based around the original 1977 Star Wars five foot design. Scale-wise it works out to maybe 1:78 or so? By today's standards it's pretty bad. It lacks proper details, and most importantly the proportions are totally out of whack – its sidewalls are notoriously thick, for one thing. But at the time, especially if you were a kid, it was pretty amazing. A number of cottage industry makers have produced more accurate replica parts for improving this kit, but it's a ton of work and money to get it approaching accurate.

...the Fine Molds/Revell Master Series 1:72 Millennium Falcon?
Japan's Fine Molds 1:72 Falcon from 2005, later reboxed by Revell and still sold today as part of their "Master Series," was the first decent Falcon model commercially produced. It has an absolute ton of detailing, but is regrettably let down by its proportions. Its saucer is a bit too flat, and the mandible angles are wrong. Notably, it's based around the ESB 32" Falcon, not the five footer. It includes a bunch of figures (which are worse sculpts, but with slightly more natural poses than Bandai's - which are better depends on your priorities!) and includes a couple of stormtroopers for good measure. Finally, it's generally considered a bit underscale.

...the DeAgostini 1:43 Millennium Falcon?
This is a British-designed, Chinese-built "partworks" weekly subscription kit, and it builds a pretty huge finished model that's about a metre long. Notably however, it's based around the ESB 32" Falcon, and not the 5 foot Falcon. It's also got a metal frame with ABS panels, rather than being just a styrene model. Despite being really expensive and full of detail, the quality of the plastic moulding is definitely a notch or two down from Bandai’s extremely crisp styrene moulds.

Half the size, obviously. But also modelled after the TFA Falcon, not the Original Trilogy Falcon.

Even smaller, just as obviously. Mostly built around the OT design with some random TFA details.

What's wrong with this thing?

To summarize, this kit is really really good. It’s the most accurate and detailed commercial model of the Millennium Falcon - or any Star Wars ship - ever produced. Quite possibly it’s the most elaborate model of any fantasy spacecraft ever sold.

Should you buy it? Many fans have flocked to online stores already, credit cards in hand. But there are a handful of annoyances that come with the kit. They’re pretty minor on the whole, and I’ve already mentioned them in the body of this document. But to summarize:
  • The kit is not cheap.
  • The Standard Version is a bit cheaper, but is also missing a lot of stuff that people will want – especially the decals.
  • The initial release of the kit has limited availability, and cannot be bought in Europe except via grey market import.
  • This isn't a problem as such, but the landing gear bays and a handful of other details (mainly the external light positions) were chosen by Bandai to be ANH-style, not ESB-style. Presumably Bandai may release an updated ESB kit in the future, but for now this is what they sell.
  • The cockpit interior is the era-incorrect Empire Strikes Back cockpit, not the Star Wars/A New Hope cockpit, which would have been more accurate.
  • The cockpit tunnel is filled with plastic brackets to support the LEDs and attach to the saucer. If you want to open up the door and install corridor detailing (since the door was always open in ANH) you'll need to cut them out.
  • The cockpit cone window struts are slightly thicker than they were, proportionally speaking, on the five footer. You could sand or cut them down carefully, but doing so would lose the interior strut detail.
  • The cockpit interior sidewalls are black plastic and cannot be illuminated easily. You could drill out holes and install SMD LEDs if you wanted.
  • The seats don't have proper backs. Admittedly you can't see the backs once they're installed, but it's one of those things.
  • The rear seats always face forward – you can't rotate them to various angles like in the movies, at least not without surgery. They also have big square bases rather than posts.
  • The seats also have slots for clipping the figures in. If you leave the figures out, you'll need to fill in the slots.
  • The five human/Wookiee/droid figures are detailed really nicely, but sit in bolt upright and unconvincing postures. C-3PO looks okay, though his arms are a bit splayed.
  • The engine grille has TFA-era spacing, but the internal TFA grating is not included. Instead it has an OT SE-era internal design. So it’s kind of a hybrid TFA/OT SE grille, which is a bit weird for an Original Trilogy model.
  • The boarding ramp is not movable. It’s either up or down, depending on which snap-in components you install.
  • The ramp interior has detailed wedge-shaped sidewalls. But oddly the engraved panel lines are stepped double lines, rather than the correct single lines. Also, Bandai made the common error of mirroring the internal ramp details. It's a little known fact that the Star Wars film set had different details on each side of the ramp.
  • The ramp has interior ceiling lighting (not available in the Standard Version)  which only appeared in ESB. The ramp is lit by an LED at one end, rather than by the evenly spaced dual rows of ceiling lights that were featured in the actual ESB movie set. The ramp ceiling is also marred by a long seam.
  • As described above, the short bit of interior corridor visible at the top of the ramp is not correct – it's cylindrical and not a segment of a torus as it should be. I've made several 3D-printed replacement corridors to fix this problem.
  • The landing gear rings are not perforated on the angled sides. This would have been a difficult thing to injection-mould unless the rings had been made of multiple parts. The top surface is perforated correctly. I've made 3D printed replacement gear rings with movie-accurate perforations, if you want to fix this problem.
  • Much of the saucer battle damage is moulded into the plastic. But the crushed and bent saucer edges, some of the underside saucer damage, and most notably the starboard docking ring hole, are not. The simulated damage isn't bad, and definitely looks like the damage on the original model. But it's also limited by what injection moulding technology can do – it still needs some work with a knife to get rid of soft edges, vertical walls in the plastic, etc.
  • The optional etched metal fan grilles and cockpit collar grille (not available in the Standard Version)  are highly detailed, but only come as one metal piece per grille. They aren’t designed to be layered, which would have yielded increased realism. The Koolshade for the fan grilles is lacking its raised bars, for example.
  • The fan mechanisms are molded as a single black plastic block. This means it’s not easy to remove them as individual components if you want to motorize the internal fans. Also, the fan mouldings are actually kind of flawed. The blades go all the way to the outer edge, where on the real model they didn't touch. This makes them a little fiddly to paint, since the discs and fan blades were black but the fan interior was a medium grey colour. The fan tops are aligned to the horizon, rather than angled to the slope of the saucer, which means that each fan disc is oddly aligned. Finally, the rectangular hole/slot in the centre of each fan disc is longer than it should be, and on some of the fake fans is misaligned relative to the central disc. To address these problems I've designed 3D-printed replacements – both regular static fans and animated motorizable fans.
  • The gunbays are moulded in two separate pieces. Unfortunately the seams run straight down the middle of the roof, which looks obvious and is a shame. I wish the circular backwall were a separate third component, so it wouldn't be bisected by an obvious seam. Likewise, if the seams had been in the diagonally-situated corners of the gunbay they wouldn't have been as obvious as they are - they run through the middle of the top and bottom panels. Still. It's hard to see the gunbay once the ship is assembled, so I guess few people will notice.
  • The thin pipes on the jaws are molded in place. If you're the sort of person who wants to replace them with glued-on wires you're in for a lot of work. The mandible pipes are mostly separate parts.
  • A small few parts are molded as solid objects rather than having holes or openings. For example, the "Kettenkrad" perforated half-cylinder on the side of the right mandible has depressions rather than holes, and must be drilled and cut out for accuracy. Or you could buy a 3D print - I have made one available.
  • Bandai faithfully reproduced the five foot ship as it appeared in the 1977 movie. However extensive research by some RPF model makers and others reveal that there are four or five tiny greeblies missing from the Bandai kit that were present in 1977, as noted above.
  • The internal lighting (not available in the Standard Version) runs off three AAA cells, which has a shorter runtime than AAs would.
  • The included display stand is pretty bad, and quite a letdown compared to the overall high quality of the kit. It's clunky, ugly, and rectangular, and the flat base has rows of sink marks in the plastic where the internal braces are located. As noted above it’s a part largely repurposed from a previous Bandai robot model kit.
  • No stickers are included; just waterslide decals. The decals offer much higher quality, but it’s a shame since the stickers are perfect when repurposed as one-time masks for speeding up the painting process.
  • The decals are great and finely detailed where solid colours (black, white, etc) are involved. But areas that are meant to be shades of a colour, such as the cockpit door or one of the saucer panels, are printed using halftones. When viewed close up, or in photos, you can see the dots.
So...

Are any of those things show-stoppers? Probably not. Either you won't care about the minor problems, or they're just an opportunity for you to tinker with the model and make sure that it is, in fact, truly perfect!

Also, have you noticed that the majority of the problems listed here are with the black plastic components, such as the engine fans and the stand? It's weird – it's almost like Bandai assigned their B team to work on the black plastic or something!

Third-party add-on products

I've made a separate page for third-party add-on products.

Interesting Links


Bandai official website (English translation).

Bandai Facebook site.

Bandai official launch video:



A writeup on some of the greeblies replicated in the Bandai 1:72 Falcon.

Bandai blog article, 1. Really interesting Japanese article – machine-translation.

Bandai blog article, 2. More fascinating notes on the detailing. Japanese; machine-translation.

Bandai blog article, 3. Information on the undersaucer pits. Japanese; machine-translation.

Bandai blog article, 4. Information about the body proportions. Japanese; machine-translation.

Bandai blog article, 5. More on kitbashed parts. Japanese; machine-translation.

Some really useful PG Falcon building tips from Japanese model maker Seiji Takahashi. Includes a list of simple modifications and improvements to the kit, such as drilling out the parts which don't have holes where they should, etc. Part I in Japanese and part I machine-translated to English. Part II in Japanese and part II machine-translated to English.

Mobile phone footage of a display model of the Bandai 1:72 at a trade show. Interestingly this prototype has a minor error - a slightly scooped-out area on top of one of the four round mandible maintenance pits. That error does not appear on the production version.


Some closeup shots of a few components. Note that the grey-white parts are Bandai 1:72 Falcon parts. The medium-grey parts are 32" Falcon details, and are not from Bandai - perhaps from the Fine Molds 1:72 model?

A great collection of beautifully-lit photos of many of the components that make up the Bandai 1:72 kit.

Bandai Falcon build log. By Jason Eaton, an expert model-maker turning his eye to the PG Falcon. Shows some of the original "donor" parts for some of the greeblies, along with the 1/3.6 scale Bandai representations.

In addition to being an accomplished hard surface CGI modeller, who's worked on the Force Awakens Falcon amongst other high-profile projects, ILM's Masa Narita is also a scale model builder! Here's his Perfect Grade Falcon

Contact

Anything in this article missing? Anything wrong? Email me at millenniumfalconnotes@gmail.com.

Thanks

Big thank you to RPF members Lab and Jaitea for their assistance with this piece.


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