Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Lego Movie (Spoilers...SPOILERS!)

Ok.  Lego Movie. 

I don't generally do text reviews, but I've never been a fan of ranting at the camera for 20 minutes in a vlog about a movie I just saw.  I've done it a few times, and wasn't pleased with the results.  So, instead...TEXT!  (insert relevant clip of Egon Spengler: "Print is dead.")

From the moment my wife and I saw the trailer, we have been enthralled with the idea of the Lego Movie.  Unfortunately, she's down in South Carolina right now, so I had to go and see it on my own.  Thus there was no companion to witness some of the expressions I made.

How do I describe this film?  Its...well its DIFFERENT.  I've heard it described by people as a film about every time you played Lego as a child.  And...yup, that's pretty much accurate.  Also it has Allison Brie (Annie from Community) voicing a rainbow cat-unicorn-thing who sounds, and acts, like Pinky Pie...until she eventually loses her ever loving shit and turns into some sort of feral demon thing.  Which, my wife tells me, is a fairly accurate description of Pinky Pie.  So My Little Pony fans...there's your daily dose of pink crack.

The whole gist of the film is an every man discovering the magic within himself.  Even though he is the single most boring person on the planet.  Its an ODD film where every single other character (literally EVERY SINGLE OTHER CHARACTER who speaks to or about him), including his co-stars, tells the main character they are a useless idiot.  "You're the chosen one...dear GOD are you naff."  A bunk-bed couch WOULD be awesome, though.

I don't quite get which message the film is trying to deliver: Its either "believe in yourself", or "individuality just gets you into arguments, work together on a single plan to succeed...until that fails, then devolve into THE POWER OF INDIVIDUALITY!"  But heck if I care, because it has giant Lego robots and a plot which somehow is a hybrid of The Matrix and Toy Story

Basic plot: Lord Business has taken over the universe, built walls between the various Lego sets (except Bionicle, Ninjago, and Barbie...because those are embarassing, weird, and nobody wants to talk about them), and is planning on bringing the universe to utter stasis because chaos triggers his OCD.  He is aided by a legion of robots who all somehow look like the aliens from They Live, and larger "Micro-Manager" robots who look like the Sentinels from The Matrix triology.  So...basically the Technocracy from Mage: The Ascension.  But there's a flaw in his plan, namely a single mysterious dingus glued to the back of our boring protagonist, and it all just sort of devolves into sheer insanity from there. 

Every Lego set (save the Marvel ones) somehow make an appearance.  Star Wars?  Yup!  DC Comics?  Hells yeah (though I'm unclear on why Batman has his gadgets, Superman has his powers, and yet Green Lantern doesn't have a working power ring...maybe he just builts things out of green blocks, I dunno).  Old time Space Patrol?  THEY HAVE THE OLD TIME SPACE PATROL!  You have no idea how much I geeked out over that...Space Patrol was the BOMB back when I was a wee lad!

The basic plot structure is a fairly standard hero's journey...until the final quarter.  When it gets weird.  I mean like...final arc of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man weird.  I mean like the entirety of Rocky and Bullwinkle (the live action movie) weird.  I mean "Emmet travels down a sparkly tunnel and finds himself in the real world, where he is just an inanimate toy, yet still has full sentience, free will, and is able to find basic motive power even though it turns out that the entire movie has occurred because a kid decided to mess around with his father's carefully constructed Lego city in live action" weird.

...that run on sentence was an accurate description of the last quarter of this film.  SPOILERS!  Ahem.

The true glory of the Lego Movie is that in that sentence is contained the seeds for the sole time in cinema that Lovecraft's true vision of horror has ever been fully realized.  Emmet goes from his standardized, block-based reality (where everything is made of blocks, from the water to laser beams) into a world his mind and eyes literally CANNOT COMPREHEND.  The film tries its best to make everything from Emmet's point of view abstract, to try to show the alien nature of a world wherein shapes are defined by randomized organic lines, attachment is performed at a molecular, rather than contact, level, and where his very universe is laid out in miniature as a toy of incomprehensible giants engaged in some sort of bizarre meta-narrative which somehow affects his world even as they treat himself and his fellow Legonians as inanimate playthings.  This is Lovecraftian horror at its finest.  I spent the first few minutes of that scene just staring at the screen, mouth dropped open, eyes twitching, because they somehow stumbled into it.  Without meaning to, they gave life to Lovecraft's universe far better than any actual adaptation of Lovecraft's works (with the possible exception of In the Mouth of Madness) ever have.  No tentacles were needed.  No naked characters.  Just...the stark reality from Emmet's point of view that he has emerged into a truly alien cosmos, a foreign landscape to which he has no point of reference but which yet has utter control over his own.  THERE IS A CHILD WHO LITERALLY STEPS ON HIM WITHOUT REALIZING HE'S THERE!  DAMN!

That said, the true story that the final quarter of the Lego movie tells is that the entire film has been a metaphor for a son trying to relate to his father.  That his father's obsessive need to structure the perfect Lego city, then freeze it in time directly conflicts with his view that Lego is an interactive toy which is built, destroyed, and rebuilt to make any sort of play imaginable.  His father is damn near downright emotionally abusive...and I admit, I had flashbacks to my own childhood and my late stepfather denigrating how I played with my toys because it lacked order, apparent continuity, or boundaries between realities, franchises, or even types of toys.  And yet somehow, a reconciliation is established when the child makes his father SEE that this imposed structure, harshly enforced to the point of denigrating every change the child has made, no matter how skilled or creative, is actually HURTING his son.  Hurting him to the point that the child has chosen to represent the evil Lord Business as his own father.

...of course, it all ends with a laugh when his sister's Duplos invade, yet another alien cosmos enforcing itself into the Lego world.  Lovecraft lives!

This is a movie with far more depth than a film about Lego people who build with Legos should be.  Its genius, well performed, and actually pretty well written.  It drags on occasion when it gets too bogged down in the possibilities of...well...BEING LEGO, but that, I think, is the creators showing their love for the medium.  Its message may be mixed, but perhaps in the end it has no message (given that Morgan Freeman's speeches all boil down, quite literally, to the "Hang In There" cat poster with the word "BELIEVE!" at the top).

I give it four out of five, and recommend that you go see it.  Its definitely a *LOT* of fun.