I first became aware of The Lego Movie when the trailer to the film was shown last December before my viewing of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug. My initial reaction was along the lines of “what. the. hell?”, failing to see how anybody could take the concept of a generations old toy brick system and make a film with engaging characters, substantial plot and enough interesting content to keep an audience satisfied for ninety minutes. However, for the past few weeks I had been hearing a lot of praise for the picture, with some critics applauding it for a pleasantly surprising depth. With these new expectations in mind, I decided to put aside my reservations and give it a go.
I am pleased to report that I was not disappointed. In what feels like a stroke of creative genius, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have managed to make a film that is shiny and exciting on the surface yet more metaphorically intelligent than many I have seen in recent times that aspire to be outright intellectual and mature. We follow the film’s protagonist, construction worker Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) as he is swept up in a manic and action packed adventure to save the Lego universe before the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) can complete his micro management plan of locking everything in place using the deadly weapon ‘Kragle’, a type of super glue. Emmet is helped along the way by a number of well known franchise characters (all in Lego form, of course) such as Batman, the Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman and even a few historical figures like William Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln. The blending of these multiple franchise characters is done in a much more effective way than Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph, that whilst attaining the use of favourites like Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog, did not expand their presence past mere cameos. The Lego Movie, on the other hand, boasts Batman in particular as a fully fledged supporting character and the refreshingly comical representation that Will Arnett provides is one of the highlights of the film. A significant number of pop culture references and allusions to other movies are also prevalent throughout, and this helps to make the film an accessible and enjoyable experience for all age groups. In fact, there are points in the film where you would be forgiven for forgetting that it is predominantly for children at all, the dry wit of Morgan Freeman and Elizabeth Banks being much more appealing to an older audience. I was also worried about the possibility of the clunky Lego-like animation being an obstacle in my enjoyment of the film, but the ways in which it is demonstrated are so clever that after the first few scenes it feels as though you could be watching any kind of cartoon.
Aside from the sheer immense fun of the animated action and the, at times, surprisingly intelligent and wry humour, the most impressive aspect of The Lego Movie is the overarching metaphor that it carries throughout the narrative. Emmet is a character that operates, in his life and his job, by following a strict set of instructions, whether it be for a project at work or simply for getting out of bed in the morning. In order to defeat Lord Business he must break out of his regimented routine and become a creative and unique ‘master builder’, constructing machines that are outside of his enemies’ imagination. This can be seen as a metaphor for how the concept and culture of Lego has changed in our own society over the years, with the growing popularity of the instruction based franchise kits such as Harry Potter and Star Wars taking precedent over the traditional sets of generic building blocks. In a way this shift in Lego use has dampened the creativity of the toy, and the filmmakers are trying to tell us that the real enjoyment and satisfaction of Lego comes in the unique creations that you make yourself rather than the step by step replicas of the Millennium Falcon that all end up looking exactly the same. Admittedly there are a few points in the plot where this message becomes somewhat confused and contradictory, but ultimately the sentiment remains strong and understandable.
Overall, The Lego Movie is a film that punches way above its weight in terms of sophistication and message. Whilst the entertaining animation and exquisitely choreographed action sequences will be more than enough for the younger audience, the deeper metaphorical content and combination of mature, in-joke humour will assure the adult demographic that this will not be just a dutiful trip to the cinema to stay in the good books of their children. Yes, the plot becomes slightly messy at points during parts of the film, with a plot twist towards the end that I will not discuss for fear of spoiling, but this can be forgiven in lieu of the amount of fun you have whilst watching. Certainly my most pleasant surprise of the year so far.