• Film reviews

    #357 – The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

    The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

    Film review #357

    Director: Mike Mitchell

    SYNOPSIS: After Emmet Brickowski saved the world from Lord Business and the “Kragle”, strange creatures from the planet Duplo have begun attacking the Lego world. Five years on, the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland thanks to the constant attacks, and only Emmet seems to have not let this change him. When strange aliens from the Systar system kidnap Emmet’s friends, he heads into space to go and save them, and along the way meets Rex Dangervest, a veteran warrior who shows Emmet how to toughen up to face the horrors of the Systar system…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISThe Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a 2019 film and the sequel to the 2014 Lego Movie. The film starts right where the last one left off, with aliens from the planet “Duplo” have arrived in Bricksburg seemingly intent on destroying everything. Five years later, the constant attacks from these aliens has left the world in a post-apocalyptic state, as anything they try to build ends up being destroyed. In this new world, it seems all of the inhabitants and characters of the previous film have changed in order to adapt to this new world…all of them, that is, except Emmet, who is still his chirpy, optimistic, well-ordered self whose daily routine is seemingly unaffected by the chaos that is going on around him. Lucy attempts to toughen him up, but it seems to no avail. The opening scenes provide some good set-up, as well as establish some of the themes that the film will be exploring.The post-apocalyptic setting is obviously meant to parody Mad Max: Fury Road, and is a good place to show how characters have changed. I think the problem with this setting is that since Mad Max has such an iconic look and feel, as well as being an intense action film, it really is just too good to parody, and The Lego Movie 2 generally plays it as a straight parody without adding anything really special or creative, which is always going to render it underwhelming when comparing it to the source material.

    When the aliens return again, they kidnap all of Emmet’s friends and take them to the Systar system for a wedding ceremony. Emmet is left by himself to build a spaceship and travel to the system to get his friends back. On the way, he is rescued by Rex Dangervest, an all-round action hero with a penchant for destruction and a spaceship crew comprised of dinosaurs. Rex teaches Emmet how to break – rather than build – things, and tries to get him to change and to stop being so soft. This again plays into the themes laid out at the start of the film, and explores them with a good amount of depth, while exploring the impact of this change on everyone and everything around him. Rex’s character arc initially starts him out as this heroic and super-cool action hero, but his character does develop some different dimensions as the film progresses as his methods and goals become increasingly more extreme than Emmet’s. His story however does feel a little muddled, and when his role switches near the end of the film it doesn’t feel like it has been built up enough and there’s not enough time for the viewer to adjust to everything that happens in the climax to make it feel very rewarding. The same goes with Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi and all the new characters who have their roles shifted at the end, meaning that you struggle to get re-attached to the characters after the film has been setting them up in one way for the majority of the film only to reverse them near the end. Nevertheless, these are only minor concerns, and the story makes a good effort to build (pun intended) on the first film’s rather simple, but effective storyline, and add in some complexities and new struggles for the characters, while still making it easy to follow.

    The humour in this film, like the previous one, comes at the viewer thick and fast, and there’s definitely plenty of laughs to be had. Whereas the first one played with and poked fun of mediocrity and tropes, The Lego Movie 2 builds up some more complex jokes and uses the established characters to drive the humour from time to time. Some of the humour is really quite clever and unexpected. The film sometimes breaks the fourth wall for some of its jokes, and while this can be fine, I think the film does it a bit too much, and it ultimately distracts from the story. There’s also a lot more of the cutting away to the “real world” where a brother and sister are fighting for control of the toys and this is what is causing the conflict in the “Lego world”. It’s a clever link to the Lego mantra as being toys that are fuelled by imagination, but the constant switching back and forth, especially at the end, does some harm to the sense of peril the characters in the Lego world face when it’s constantly showing them as just playthings playing out a brother and sister feud. There’s also the inclusion of musical numbers, which I don’t think were really necessary.

    Overall, The Lego Movie 2 develops on the themes of its predecessor by providing the established characters with new challenges to face and a new world that requires them to change. It maintains the themes it sets out at the start and uses the development of the characters and their reactions to explore them with plenty of depth. The story itself does get a bit lost around the middle, and the climax doesn’t have the huge impact it should for numerous reasons, but these negatives don’t massively harm the enjoyment of the film, and it is still entertaining; featuring familiar characters but completely new challenges for them. The Lego Movie provided something original and new, and while this sequel can’t replicate that novelty, it carves out something new which, despite some shortcomings, is still a good film with plenty of entertainment.

  • Film reviews

    #356 – The Lego Movie (2014)

    The Lego Movie (2014)

    Film review #356

    Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

    SYNOPSIS: Emmet Brickowski is an average guy leading his average life in the Lego city of Bricksburg. After finishing his job as a construction worker, he spots a strange young woman hanging around. After chasing her, he falls into a strange portal and wakes up with a strange piece stuck to his back. It turns out that it is the “piece of resistance” that is part of a prophecy that can stop the  weapon known as the “Kragle”. Emmett is drawn out of his ordinary life and has to deal with the imaginative world beyond the instruction manuals he has up to now lived his life by in order to save the world…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISThe Lego Movie is a 2014 animated film based on the ubiquitous building blocks of the same name. Initial thoughts on what a Lego movie would be about throws up all sorts of issues: since Lego is essentially a medium for children’s imaginations to make any story they want and play however they want to, how can you make a film that encapsulates that while also adhering to the cinematic format by providing a coherent story, characters and setting?

    The film starts off introducing Emmet Brickowski, a plain and ordinary construction worker who lives his life according to the instruction manuals. After his work for the day, he notices a woman hanging around a construction site, and goes to investigate. He ends up falling through a portal, and wakes up imprisoned with a mysterious piece attached to his back. The woman reappears and rescues Emmet, telling him that he is “the special”, a chosen one who with the “piece of resistance” that is attached to his back will save the world from the ultimate weapon known as the “Kragle”. The plot essentially revolves around stopping Lord Business from destroying the world with the Kragle, and it’s a fairly standard storyline involving a prophecy, the corporate villain, the unsuspecting hero, and so on. Emmet is a plain and ordinary character, but this plays to his strength in terms of the story, as his conformity and always following instructions to fit in has left him forgettable to everyone around him because there is nothing to him outside of those instructions. When he is introduced to a world beyond the borders of his step-by-step life, where the “master builders” are able to build anything just by using their imagination, Emmet finds himself completely out of place, and must learn how to use his own imagination. This story arc ends up turning the very plain Emmet into a well defined character who has his own place in the world, and its a rewarding development to watch.

    Emmet’s dilemma really encapsulates the Lego mantra as a whole too: some people like to build by following the instructions, and some like to use their imaginations, but everyone should be able to play together. The Lego Moviereally is about Lego itself, and that is really quite clever. On top of that, it brings together a lot of the iconic sets, blocks and characters that Lego builders will recognise and just plays with them in a fun way. There is also the licensed characters from other franchises that make an appearance, and there is a lot of them. The film constantly throws these characters at the audience throughout the film, and offers some fun surprises and leaves you guessing just what will show up next. The most prominent of these characters is Batman, whose character is a cartoon-ish interpretation of him, and lends itself well to the unfamiliar setting. Other characters from DC comics, Star Wars, historical figures and Shaq himself also feature, and provide a cast that is so varied and unpredictable that it offsets the somewhat predictable details of the story. Even then, the film walks the fine line between telling a gripping story and parodying the familiar tropes to keep it humourous and entertaining. Given the diverse cast, there are a lot of small references that are easy to miss, but rewarding to find. The “Kragle” being named after “Krazy Glue” with some of the letters scratched off the side of the tube reminds me of a similar term in the film “Zardoz”, which would be an obscure reference to throw in there.

    The film has the look and feel of a stop-motion movie made with actual Lego figures, but is, in fact, entirely computer animated. This is a homage to a popular movement of home movies that people made with Lego sets (often termed “brickfilms”), and really builds on that feel and takes it to another level. The whole film is fun and colourful, with some eye-popping visuals. This is best found in the film’s action scenes, which are fluid and filled with imaginative sequences. Some of these scenes can be hard to follow when there’s so much happening on screen, and it is difficult to know where to focus your attention, but it doesn’t ruin the overall enjoyment. The Lego Movie is an ambitious project that aims to capture the diverse and limitless possibilities of its franchise into a cinematic experience, and for the most part it succeeds: the story is a little simple, but it stays true to the Lego ethos, and augments it with a large cast of characters and settings that really open up the film to appeal to a wide audience (again, similar to the Lego ethos). The film is humourous, entertaining, and maintains a high level of energy all the way through. Maybe the fast pace and constant shifting of focus won’t appeal to some people as it does feel like a child playing with Lego and making up a story as they go along, but I think it always manages to provide something worthwhile without going too over-the-top, and exceeds expectations in almost every way.