On Why the Lego Movie is a work of Staggering Genius

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Let this awesome hit you in the face

I have a number of problems with the Lego Movie. Firstly, it’s not out on Blu-Ray yet. I have pre-ordered it, but that hasn’t made the yawning sense of loss in my gut disappear. Secondly, I have now wasted a good portion of my life staring at the Lego Movie Lego sets on Amazon, carefully examining each one with the “Look Closer” function in an effort to decide, should I ever have any money, which set I might allow myself to splurge on (as it were).

There have only ever been two films I have seen in the cinema that I have felt such a sudden, obsessive affection for – the other one was Avengers Assemble, wherein as the credits rolled I immediately turned to Marty and said “Holy fuck shit I need to see that again RIGHT NOW.” Thanks to repeated cinema visits and one thoroughly used blu-ray I have now seen Avengers upwards of forty times, and I am still not even slightly tired of it, nor will I ever be. The sheer glee I feel as Loki smacks that chap in the face with his staff (accompanied usually by me saying, “Here it comes. Look. Wheeeeee…SMACK!”) or Captain American saying, “Son. Just don’t,” has not diminished even a tiny bit.

lego 3But yes. The Lego Movie. I grinned all the way through this film. I think I even started to annoy the other adults in the screening with my chortling and exclamations of wonder, and given that almost all the other adults in the cinema were escorting sugar-filled eight year olds, this is saying something. It was pure, ridiculous joy from start to finish, and I need to see it again now, so when is the blu-ray out? Huh? HUH?

Anyway. Here are some reasons that the Lego Movie is a work of staggering genius.

Animation

Admittedly this gives it a head-start in the AWESOME FILM CATEGORY for me because I am a bit of an animation geek, but this is just lovely. Brilliantly, rather than going with the slightly “bendy Lego” style of the Lego videogames and cartoons, they have created an animation style that looks like real Lego bricks animated with stop motion*. This means that the bricks have a real solidity to them, and aside from the number of lovely visual jokes they get to cram in, (oh god, the way Lord Business’s evil boots get bigger and bigger as he moves across the screen) there is also a real visceral joy for a Lego fan here – just to see that many bricks on screen, appearing and disappearing, creating and changing and building in the blink of an eye.

Voices

Now, I saw the trailer for this ages ago, and once I’d listed it in my head as the third most exciting thing to be happening in 2014 (after my book coming out and Dragon Age 3 being released in the Autumn) I promptly ignored any hype or information about it, because I didn’t want to inadvertently spoil anything for myself. Consequently, I had no clue who the voice actors would be. Morgan Freeman, you guys, as a mysterious hippy wizard. Will Ferrell as LORD BUSINESS, possibly the greatest name in anything ever. Those were the two that I recognised during the film – I did not spot Liam Neeson as Bad Cop until the credits rolled, or Will Arnett as Batman, but that is the joy of truly good voice-casting – I didn’t spot it because it worked so seamlessly. (Batman, in fact, deserves a review all of his own. I am a little surprised that the Lego Movie was allowed to depict Batman as, let’s face it, a bit of a jerk, but what a joy that was. I’m still laughing over “Untitled Self-Portrait”…**) I also didn’t realise Chris Pratt was voicing Emmet, or that Charlie Day was the voice of Benny, two of my favourite comedy actors from telly stuff. They were both absolutely spot on, to the extent that Benny appears to have been adopted as the film’s automatic meme (try shouting SPACESHIP! into your timeline on twitter). I already own a Wyldstyle fig, and it is the best.

And Alison Brie as Unikitty. Can I have a Unikitty now please?

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SPACESHIP!!!

The Message

Now, I don’t want to go into spoilers too much because there could possibly be a few unfortunate souls reading this who haven’t actually seen the film yet, but there is a moment when the film steps outside itself and reveals a slightly meta, reality bending extra level. It’s not entirely unexpected – if you figure out the nature of the Kragle early on you’ll probably guess it – but even so I actually found it quite moving (or it hit me right in the feels, in tumblr speak). Lord Business wants everything to stay in its appointed place – no wild creations, no mixing of worlds – while the Master Builders support unbridled creativity. As a kid who grew up with a giant bucket of Lego scavenged from the collections of older cousins, where there were no instructions and no plans of what you had to make, this struck me as the most important thing about Lego – that it encourages kids to make things. Anything they like, with no restrictions.

Sure, these days I’m a geeky collector of Lego and I have just spent the last few weeks putting together various Hobbit themed sets I got for my birthday. There is a joy in building something that is so incredibly well designed, so beautifully thought out. But my Bag End is currently playing host to Mini-figs from across the Lego world. Boromir is sharing a bench with Thor, and Wydrin is hanging out on the roof with Dwalin. When I was a kid I made giant houses that inevitably fell over, and space-stations inhabited by space-penguins, and it really was the best toy ever. It’s true that it’s also entirely possible to make worlds from toilet roll tubes and shoe boxes, and that’s certainly the less expensive way, but you have to respect a toy that has the idea of pure imaginative creation at its heart. And this was what took the film up a level for me. This was a kid’s film, a kid’s film that made me laugh, and then unexpectedly made me a bit teary-eyed.

That Song

I was ear-wormed for about three days straight.

Actually, aside from being so cheery and chirpy and so incredibly catchy it drives you a little insane, “Everything is Awesome” is used with precision cleverness throughout the film. In the opening sequence, where at first everything looks sunny and happy and amazing, the lyrics of the ridiculously catchy song are the first clues that things are not right here, and in fact what we’re looking at is more a colourful, relentlessly cheerful version of 1984 – that realisation gave me a little shiver, as unlikely as that sounds. Towards the end of the film, the meaning of the song has been retconned slightly as the regular Lego chaps and the Master Builders work together as a team to throw down the micro-managers. It’s a small thing, but it’s another sign that the people who made this film really thought about it, and made it with love – and when you think that it could have been just another gaudy toy advert, that’s pretty cool.

Toys

Best toy advert ever. Lego, just take my money already.

 

*From what I’ve been able to glean, the animation in the main part of the film is CGI made to look like stop-motion, although it’s so well done I’m still not entirely sure… oh, and the amazing end credits sequence is genuinely stop-motion, apparently. Amazeballs.

**DARKNESS. NO PARENTS. SUPER RICH. Kinda makes it better.

One thought on “On Why the Lego Movie is a work of Staggering Genius

  1. I agree with everything you say here! The only things I want to buy, though, are the mystery figures. The sets didn’t do much for me. I did pick up a Hobbit set 1/2 price last week, though, so that may have spoiled me!

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