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Monday, 17 November 2014

The Lego Movie.


The LEGO Movie.



This was probably always a pretty difficult proposition for a film. Entertainment products slapped with the Lego name (gosh, that was an awkward and ambiguous sentence) usually tend towards parody: Canon events from things like Batman and Star Wars filtered through a heavy lens of parody and with, of course, a Lego block aesthetic.

It becomes a little more difficult when your film is just about Lego. Because Lego isn't really a distinct thing, it's something that you build other things out of, which is why you can take pretty much any property and give it a Lego spin. 

Anyway, the film is about Emmet, a young Lego construction worker in a dystopian Lego world ruled by the evil Lord Business, who secretly holds a superweapon called 'the Kragle'. Discovering a mysterious block called the Piece of Resistance, Emmet learns that he is the Special, who the wizard Vitruvius foretold would save the world from Lord Business and the Kragle.

There are certainly more than a few shades of the pop culture parody that is the bread and butter of the wildly popular Lego video games: Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Superman all have speaking roles (with Batman being a main character), and Princess Unikitty, another main character, is clearly a parody of My Little Pony. There are also cameos from several Star Wars characters, Shaquille O'Neal, Dumbledore and Gandalf, among others. Most of them are pretty ruthlessly satirised, especially Batman,

He needs to feel free to party with a bunch of strangers.

The main thrust of the film is about building, though, and creating stories. The whole plot is reminiscent of a child making up a story as he goes along (and for good reason - since that is, after all, what usually happens with actual Lego kits), with characters instantly travelling from metropolises to Wild West deserts to technicolour ponycat utopias, encountering literally two-faced police officers (played by Liam Neeson, doing his Taken voice for 'Bad Cop' and what I can only describe as an impersonation of the Father Ted cast for 'Good Cop') and giant robotic pirates and 1980s astronauts, before eventually besieging the 'infinitiest floor' of Lord Business' evil tower.

The pace is lightning fast and the jokes are pretty much constantly coming. There's never really a period of longer than thirty seconds without humour, and surprisingly, all of the jokes are really good. They're very often cheesy, but equally often they're surprisingly subtle and nuanced, working on several levels - and both kinds of jokes work really well for the film. It is laugh out loud funny in a way that I'm not sure the trailers really did justice to. 

A lot of that is down to the writing - it's a very tight script and you can see that not only has a lot of care been put into every part of it , but also that any dead weight on it has been trimmed off pretty thoroughly, with the exception of one section towards the end where it starts to slow down slightly. An equal amount of that, though, is down to the writing: Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks, playing the two leads, are both excellent, as are Will Ferrell and Liam Neeson as the villains. 

Her name is Wyldstyle, yes.

Also helping the film are that it has a great soundtrack and, obviously, a unique animation style (because I doubt anyone else is legally permitted to emulate it. There have been greater victories for originality, I admit). The main song, Everything Is Awesome, is ridiculously catchy, a lot of fun, and also intensely creepy, especially when you consider the context it usually plays in.

The film does have flaws, though. I'm really not keen on the 'ordinary dude discovers that he is special despite not earning it' trope, especially when it's inevitably coupled with the 'much more skilled woman is not special' trope: The film is clearly aware of how tired that trope is, as it subverts it pretty hard towards the end of the film, and does its best to parody it earlier on ("You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe."), but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. 

It also, as mentioned before, has a point towards the end where it slows right down. This is largely due to a plot twist. The plot twist is great, it makes perfect sense for the film, and while I did see it coming, it's still probably one of the biggest plot twists in a film this year - but it does unfortunately cause a bit of a lag in pace. Not a vast one, just enough of one to be noticeable.

On the other hand, big stompy boots.

But overall, it's a very strong film. Definitely one of the strongest this - did it even come out this year? Definitely one of the strongest of whatever year it came out in, and I recommend it. Especially if you like Liam Neeson doing Father Ted cast impersonations. 

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