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/ANALYSIS: The 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.