UK Release: (Previews February 8th – 9th2014), UK Wide: February 14th 2014
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from ‘Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs’ and ’21 Jump Street’ fame, ‘THE LEGO MOVIE’ tells the story of ‘Lego City’ construction worker Emmett (Chris Pratt) ending up going on a Monomyth-style adventure with the help of Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) to stop President/Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying the city brick-by-brick. On paper people thought this film was going to be a massive toy advert, instead what you get is something far more deserving of you attention and something very, very funny indeed. The thing with Lego is that after releasing a tie-in range with the ‘Star Wars’ brand, the business has been resurrected from bankruptcy into a global powerhouse. The brand has reached into the computer game business, to fan made movies on Youtube. So it’s only natural that the blocks get onto the big screen.
Visual this film is stunning, the attention to detail is immaculate, the Lego land evokes the character of Aardman. Characters have a photo-realistic plastic texture to their bodies (for an example there is a line through the centre of Emmett’s hair), space helmets tend to be broken split in the same place as the actual toy, and the characters themselves move like as if they made of stop motion (this can be seen with the horses just moving up and down as they walk since their legs don’t move). It is an incredible achievement which blurs lines between stop motion and computer animation perfectly, and plays well to the crowd who make Lego inspired fan made trailer on the internet. This is just an example of how far Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are prepared to go in capturing the creativity of the toy. An entire history of Lego is mensioned and plays a big part in this film. Everything from the ‘Lego City’ sets to the ‘Lego DC Superhero’ sets is here. There is also referencing to the recent Lego videogames, with the idea of how the Master Builder creates things, to the noticeable difference between the 1980’s spaceman yellow faced Lego to the more modern looking characters. This is used as a technique to appeal to a wide audience age range, allowing them to have the same experience. I got a kick out of Octan Corporation, and the old sets which had that branding on. This really is a excellent use of a license, and certainly brings in some very pleasant cameos and gags about following ‘instructions’ and having numbers appear when they are about to build something.
I think the main advantage and most interesting point to this film is its weird mix of ‘Idiocracy’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, and how it is scathing in its anti-authoritarian and non-conformist rhetoric , filled with consumerism ($80 for a cup of coffee) and anti-establishment themes and gags. This is fairly amusing as its taking more a pop at itself if anything (I mean after all this is ‘THE LEGO MOVIE’), but it certainly helps in making you feel like it isn’t as much as a big toy advert then you might suspect. One of the more interesting idea in the films narrative is the Monomyth approach to it all. The characters (particularly Morgan Freeman’s prophet) tend to make knowing references of the narrative structure and its clichés, (a bit like Nick Offerman’s Chief Hardy in ’21 Jump Street’). This doesn’t take away though from the central theme of believing in yourself, even against the odds and the idea of creativity of childhood. A lot of the good gags come from what happens in the background scenes, which will warrant another watch, there is also a lot of ‘hallmark’ gags from the directors, including that of a hallucination scene, which has been seen in ’21 Jump Street’ and ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’. There is also some good cinematic referencing to ‘Westworld’ and ‘Green Lantern’, where the Jonah Hill voice character is in the guest of the 2011 Ryan Reynolds character , where he acts more like a irritating fool to Channing Tatum’s Superman, clearly a in-joke reference to the poor 2011 feature. This film also marks the first cinematic outing of Wonder Women (voiced by Cobie Smulders).
There are good committed performances from the voice cast. Chris Pratt shines with his enthusiasm, Elizabeth Banks has an element of spunkiness, Will Ferrell , Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson are probably the best he has ever been in a long time and Will Arnett is arguably the unofficial best Batman ever, stealing the film. The film also has a surprising twist, which does take elements of ‘Tron’, ‘Toy Story’ and ‘The Matrix’, but it does add up with what happens earlier in the film. It has caused criticism but I would worry more about the fact it does loose a little focus with the plots central drive, mainly because of its very ‘knowing’ of the narrative humour. Other issues does include the fact that it does get too busy (and noisy at times), sometimes with it getting a little ‘carried away’ it does mean side plot threads don’t come to any real conclusion. But this should not be taken away, this films contains probably the best soundtrack of the year so far. The ‘Everything is Awesome’ is a song which will get stuck in your head long after the film has ended, and is something which will win you over in the early goings of the film, and don’t get me started on a certain song attributed to Batman.
Generally speaking this is the best thing to be released from Warner Bros. Animation, and will really put them on the map against Dreamworks Animation and Pixar. For the directors this sets the bar high for ’22 Jump Street’ come the summer. A very good fun piece of cinema, which feels like an instant sugar rush which you will instantly want more off (and that not just from background gags). Just like the bricks themselves this is a film all about building them, and building them to your heart. Probably the best animated feature I have seen since ‘Toy Story 3’.