The Lego Movie is a 2014 family adventure/comedy. It's about what you would expect from the title, featuring a cast of Lego mini figure people having a Lego related adventure in a Lego world. If you pitched me the concept I would have shot it down and told you to make a Saturday morning cartoon. Yes, everybody loves Legos but that hardly means they'll make a good movie. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be really good.

Before diving into the movie it's worth noting that Lego has made forays into media before this. Bionicle (their most successful franchise, I think) had no less than four CGI movies each over and hour in length. Combine that with numerous video games, comic books, and flash animations and the Lego Movie hardly seems out of place. But all of those were aimed at specific toy lines and the kids who played with them. Lego Movie was going to have to represent the brand as a whole and it was going to have to do it in theaters, raising the bar significantly.

Spoilers follow.

The Lego Movie stars Emmet Brickowski (Voice acted by Chris Pratt) a typical everyman construction worker who's completely bought into the contemporary setting where the story begins. His world is essentially an engineered society run by President Business, an amalgamation of most of the negative stereotypes of villains and corporate executives. Emmet is enjoying another day of highly prescribed work and play when he notices a girl searching the construction site. He attempts to get her attention only to come in contact with the Piece of Resistance, a macguffin that can save the world. It chooses him as its avatar by fusing to his back which in turn gets him arrested by the police force under the control of President Business only to be rescued by the girl from the construction site. During their escape she informs him that he's "the Special;" who's prophesied to save the world from President Business's plan to end it. She also introduces herself as Wild Style and tells him about the existence of master builders, people who can build without instructions. It's pretty soon afterwards that she realizes Emmet is a twit whose never experienced a single original thought in his life and doesn't really want to. The remainder of the movie is a game of cat and mouse between the master builders and President Business interspersed with Emmet slowly coming into his own. I won't give away the ending except to say that it doesn't really conform to typical chosen one versus dark lord narratives; though it is consistent with the tone of the movie.

End of spoilers.

So ... what makes this movie good? It would have been really easy for Lego Movie to just be a two hour commercial and I think it's to its credit that it accomplishes that and a lot more. Probably one of the best feature of this movie is that it takes it's themes seriously without taking itself seriously. The core plot is very on the nose that its a chosen hero against the evil empire plot; going so far as to have the prophecy specify that the Special is explicitly supposed to be the most interesting, talented, all around best person ever. The wish fulfillment is on display in a way that even children can probably understand. Contrasted with Master Builders who are shown to be collectively talented and powerful but also overly particular Prima Donnas who can barely put aside their creative differences long enough to save the world. The whole tension of personal specialness contrasted against mindless conformity is actually addressed in a way that shows their pros and cons rather than coming down firmly on one side or the other. Taken along side an antagonist who's fixation on control mirrors some of the master builders themselves and you have a plot that's arguably more nuanced than most dramas. The central message that I came away with was that getting wrapped up in whether a person is a conformist who always follows the instruction or a wild and free individual who uses the blocks according to their caprice is a distraction from what is really important in life; playing with Legos.

The other thing that really impressed me about the movie is the animation. I was convinced that it was about fifty-fifty mixture of CGI and stop motion animation. In reality it was ninety nine percent CGI that just made the effort to look like actual Legos. This is a departure from the other Lego animated works where the characters had articulation the elbows, knees, waist, and other parts which are clearly lacking in Lego minis. This in turn gave the the movie a weird sort of verisimilitude to the visuals. Water, fire, lasers, clouds, clouds of dust, nearly every part of the environment looks like a real Lego pieces and the few places when items aren't made of Legos is deliberate and striking.

All in all I like Lego movie because it tells a good story with a good moral in a way that's fun and silly enough that you can ignore those elements and still enjoy the movie.


IRON NODER X: XTREME XCELLENCE

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