(originally posted September 19th 2014)
(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Lego Movie)
I love this movie. I love it so damn much. It wasn’t always like that, though. When I first found out that a Lego movie was being made, I rolled my eyes and let out one hell of an exasperated sigh. The film synopsis didn’t inspire confidence. It sounded like the most generic child pandering I’d ever heard. Then the trailers came out. “Huh?” I thought, “This doesn’t look that bad. Actually seems pretty funny.” So, I watched it, expecting a basic but entertaining romp. What did I get? Something amazing. So here’s a list of everything that is awesome with this movie.
1. The Animation
I remember when the first trailer came out; everyone seemed surprised that it was being done with stop-motion. Makes sense, I guess? Using actual Lego would help make the film feel more authentic. But then it turned out that it wasn’t stop-motion. It was all CGI.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must’ve been to recreate that effect but it was worth it. I’ve always loved stop-motion; it has this lovely charm to it which perfectly fits with something like a Lego movie. Not to mention the fact that nearly everything was made with existing Lego bricks and I do mean everything. Smoke, water, even explosions.
It probably would’ve been easier and less time-consuming to make some basic environments but by putting the effort into creating an actual Lego universe, it makes The Lego Movie a visual treat.
2. The Little Details
One thing I love when watching films is noticing things on the second viewing that I didn’t see the first time. Little things that might only be in the background or appear on screen for maybe a second, andThe Lego Movie is chock full of them.
During Emmett’s intro scene, we can see all manner of signs and billboards that act as gags of their own, such as a poster of a music group called POPular Band. During the chase scene in the Wild West, the pigs that crash explode into bacon. You can even sometimes make out fingerprints on the minifigures. If these details weren’t in the movie, it probably wouldn’t affect the final product, but their mere existence shows how much fun the creators were having making the film. They went that extra mile to put in a gag that some people may never know about, but they did it anyway whether to appease the people who would notice it or to make themselves chuckle.
3. The Soundtrack
One thing I certainly wasn’t expecting was how much I would love the music to this film. Film soundtracks tend to not leave as big of an impression on me as videogame soundtracks, but I feel I need to give massive props to Mark Mothersbaugh for his work (who has worked on videogames so that might explain something).
The music is a weird blend of techno and orchestral; it’s like someone trying to modernise the epic scores from something like Lord of the Rings. It’s rather… grand for a film about Lego. It’s almost scary and ominous in some parts, particularly for scenes that take place in Lord Business’ office tower (our first shot of the abyss outside the tower genuinely frightened me).
It can be poppy and light-hearted too, though. The track ‘Emmet’s Morning’ perfectly captures Emmet’s desire to enjoy his life. It sounds like the kind of thing you’d listen to when you wake up knowing that it’s going to be a good day.
But my personal favourites are the music for the action scenes. Again, it’s the ominous not-really-Latin chanting. That’s like an instant win for me. It’s also fast paced and the inclusion of techno acts as if to highlight the threat that the villains pose. Plus, there’s a recurring tune in some of the tracks. I can’t explain it in words but whenever something heroic occurs, the same beats play out to fit the situation. I viewed it as Emmet’s own leitmotif since it played during pivotal moments that involved him, and it alters slightly to fit the situation.
After Emmet has seemingly sacrificed himself, Wyldstyle convinces the ordinary citizens to rebel against Lord Business and as they do, the beats play with a strong intensity, as if in memory of Emmet and what he ultimately inspired. Those same beats then play at the end when Emmet has saved the day and finally got together with Wyldstyle, only now they’re slightly slower and higher pitched, matching the lighter tone and acting as more of a victory cry than a battle charge.
And then there’s the one vocal song: Everything is Awesome. I love this track for two different reasons. One: I find it very catchy and enjoyable to listen to. On its own, I think it’s a good pick-me-up; one of those songs you listen to if you’re feeling a bit down and need cheering up. Two: it has layers. It’s one of the few (maybe the only) song that I’ve ever actually listened to and analysed.
At the beginning of the film, the song is played so as to convince the audience that everybody is happy with their lives and seemingly encourages the idea of teamwork – “Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.” But that’s not the case. It’s a subtle form of brainwashing. It’s apparent that the song is the only thing that Lord Business allows to be played (you even hear bits of it in the Wild West coming out of a gramophone). The song’s more ominous than anything; an attempt to have everybody think the same – “We’re the same, I’m like you, You’re like me.”
But by the end of the film, the song suddenly becomes true. Everyone has united together; they are a team and working in harmony. Even the aforementioned line about being the same takes a slightly different meaning, which I’ll get into more detail later.
All in all though, the soundtrack is just kickass, for me anyway. I highly recommend buying it on iTunes (though it may be an acquired taste).
4. The Action
Another thing that surprised me were the action scenes. They were well choreographed, intense and very creative. Due to the Master Builder’s ability to make almost anything out of the environment, it meant that there was a lot that the creators could get away with. Plus, there’s just so much going on.
Take the beginning of the Wild West chase. In the first few seconds, so much happens that it’s almost hard to follow it all. You need to watch it a few times and change your focus in order to get it all. I love over-the-top action that defies any laws of reality and since Lego is all about creativity and imagination, it means that the craziness of it all actually makes sense.
5. The Comedy
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen the film and already know why I love the humour (unless you didn’t find it funny). Practically every gag, be it visual or verbal, got a chuckle out of me and there were plenty of moments where I was left laughing out loud for a few seconds, not just because it was funny but because I was surprised by how funny it was. That really sums up the film in a nutshell: a surprise. But there’s more to it than that.
6. The Characters
I don’t think there’s a single character in this film that I don’t like to some capacity. I love Bad Cop because he’s so aggressive yet he has a stupidly nice side to him. I love Vitruvius because, despite being the wise mentor, he’s very kooky and is shown to be a bit of a hippie. I love Benny because he’s so hyperactive. I love Batman because he’s such an egotistical dick as opposed to the brooding silent character we’re more familiar with. I love Lord Business because he manages to be both a funny villain and a very effective/terrifying one. I love all the cameo characters because they get in some really good lines (Superman being a personal favourite) without completely hijacking the film.
And, of course, I love Emmet. From the moment he popped up on screen, I adored him. In the beginning, he’s just so upbeat, trying to enjoy his life and attempting to bond with the people around him. He’s just so peppy that you can’t help but feel for him when he learns that his ‘friends’ barely know him or think so little of him, ironically stating how there’s nothing about him that makes him special, because his attempts to fit in turned him into that one guy who just agrees with everyone.
This, of course, leads into his desire to live up to the prophecy: for the first time ever, he’s special, and with the fate of the universe in his hands, he actually manages to achieve something that the Master Builders never could. He was another member of the brainwashed masses and yet he turned that into a skill, using his knowledge of following instructions to break into Lord Business’ tower and came so close to actually thwarting him.
When the film reaches its climax, when Emmet finally understood everything, he went from being this adorable, well-meaning goof to being a total badass. In those few short moments, he decimated Lord Business’ forces; he didn’t need a prophecy to do that. I just love this kind of characterisation and development and combined with Chris Pratt’s performance, Emmet became one of my favourite protagonists ever.
7. The Themes and What It All Meant
When you read a basic summary of this film, you’d expect something run-of-the-mill, something simple to keep the kids quiet for an hour and half. That’s all the writers had to do. After all, The Lego Movie is, admittedly, one big advert to buy Lego. But much like something like Beast Wars, the writers went out of their way to make something genuinely entertaining. Not just entertaining, but also touching.
The way I see it is that the writers sat down and asked themselves “What is Lego about?” It’s about encouraging creativity and teamwork. “What kind of people use Lego?” You have those who follow the instructions; the people who buy playsets so that they can build that specific set, be it the Death Star, Hogwarts or that one scene from Toy Story 3. And then you have the people who build whatever they want; they’ll grab whatever bricks then can get their hands on and make whatever comes to mind. Both sides are represented in the film by the ordinary citizens and the Master Builders.
Now, the film seems to say that Lord Business’ plans to organise everything is wrong; I mean he’s the bad guy, right? The world and its people should be free to do whatever they want. But the Master Builders, despite being imaginative, can’t function as a team, as demonstrated by their attempts to build a submarine. Emmet, who winds up falling into both, acts as a union between the two. He demonstrates what could happen if you combined their talents. The film doesn’t support one way over the other; by working together, it results in everyone being happier.
The film also captures what it’s like when we played with Lego as kids. As a child, we know little of boundaries and logic. So, we lump everything together. We have Dumbledore and Gandalf side-by-side and build cybernetic pirates because we could and there was no reason not to. That’s why Emmet arriving in the real world and actually seeing the young boy, Finn, who is responsible for everything makes so much sense. But that wasn’t what blew my mind. It was the moment when Will Ferrell, voice of Lord Business, came down the stairs as Finn’s businessman father, who owns a basement filled with Lego sets that he’s meticulously built. Everything that had happened was a result of a boy’s strained relationship with his father. Lord Business wasn’t a power hungry tyrant; he was what Finn saw his dad as, and the scene where the dad realises this is almost heartbreaking. He’s not evil; he’s just unintentionally stifling his son’s creativity.
And when Finn and his dad actually start playing together, it shows another aspect of what makes Lego great. It’s timeless. Me, you, our siblings, and friends have all played with Lego at one point in our childhood, and the children of today are playing with it too, whether it be via the videogames or the actual thing. It’s the one thing that bridges that generational gap. It’s difficult dealing with someone much younger than you because we’re at different points in our lives, but everyone knows Lego.
There’s one last thing about the movie, though, and it’s going to sound really cheesy so I apologise if I cause you to vomit. It showed me how I should treat myself, and how I should treat the people around me.
Emmet thought that the prophecy was what made him special. The prophecy turned out to be fake. But as Vitruvius pointed out, Emmet achieved so much when he thought that he was special. That’s what we should think. We think that people who achieve greatness are automatically special, but that’s not the case. Anyone can be special. Everyone is special. That’s what I meant by that one lyric – “We’re the same, I’m like you, You’re like me.” It means we’re all special. It may be for different reasons but it’s the one thing we share. It’s not exclusive. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are or what you do. So, I leave you with this, courtesy of Emmet.
“You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone.”