Go watch the LEGO Movie.
Believe the hype, forget that it’s ostensibly a children’s film and go watch it immediately. Try to avoid as many spoilers as possible and go see it. Your cinema viewing experience in 2014 is that much richer after watching it. The LEGO Movie is a knock down, irreverent, inventive piece of cinema that I believe will launch a thousand and one creative careers out of its unwitting child audience. The LEGO Movie is the most important mainstream blockbuster film since Star Wars: A New Hope and there’s no doubt in my mind that decades from now they’ll be a raft of filmmakers, screenwriters and more citing watching The LEGO Movie as the “lightbulb moment” that pushed them to pursue a creative career.
Allow me to rein in my hyperbole for a moment. The LEGO Movie tells the story of everyman LEGO figure Emmet, who one day stumbles across mystical MacGuffin “the piece of resistance” and is enlisted by two Master Builders (LEGO characters who can build materials on the fly), action girl Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and old wise head Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) to stop evil tyrant Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from gluing the universe together with his Doomsday weapon “the Kraggle”. To tell you anyone more of the plot would be to smash this bizarre party piñata early and give away half the fun so I’ll move things on quickly to why I keep using Star Wars as a cultural touchstone.
Part of Star Wars’ success, both back in 1977 when A New Hope was first released and to this day, lies in its marriage of a simple tale with an extraordinary visual style and aesthetic. Luke Skywalker’s story is “The Hero of A Thousand Faces” tale writ large – a young adult is forced to go on a journey to gain a skill, or “boon” if we’re using Joseph Campbell’s terminology, so they might save the world. Along the way they will encounter a mentor (Obi Wan/Yoda), enjoy brief success (see the destruction of the Death Star), before descending into “Hell” (Luke’s time on Dagobah/losing his hand/discovering who Vader is) before eventually overcoming evil and saving the world. Luke Skywalker’s story is one you’ve heard a thousand times before (which certainly helped it spread internationally) – what made you stay to hear it told in Star Wars was the lightsabers, the Wookies, the Millennium Falcon and more. The closest cinematic successor mainstream cinema produced to Star Wars; the first Matrix film, worked on the same principle. Again, Neo’s story was simple and followed all the familiar beats – what made you stay was the cyberpunk setting, the amazing choreographed martial arts fight scenes and of course, bullet-time.
The LEGO Movie’s story (seems) to be a simple you’ve heard a dozen times before. What grabs you is the LEGO aesthetic. The LEGO Movie is an incredible marriage of CGI and stop motion animation that makes it one of the best movie worlds the big screen has seen in perhaps a decade. Watching Emmet do star jumps like a retro 2D platform character, water and fire made out of LEGO bricks and characters interlock claws rather than hold hands will have you snigger and bring into the film’s world – one that, unlike Star Wars and The Matrix, you can go home and replicate at home with a few toys and a camera.
This is one of the most intelligent, inventive, inspirational films in a long time and its visual style can be aped by a seven year old with a camera and a bit of patience. The same seven year olds that are going to be seeing this film in droves. Really think about that for a moment.
If the plot sounds like a children’s parody of The Matrix, then that’s part of the big joke that lies at the film’s core. Don’t dismiss The LEGO Movie as a children’s film or something not worthy of your times because it seems predictable (I assure you, a potentially divisive moment in the final act of the film completely blindsided me).
That Vitruvius, the film’s "mystical black man”, is voiced by cinema’s favourite father figure in Morgan Freeman is only the start of a number jokes that will have you mouth agape. Much like Lord and Miller’s previous surprise comedy hit, “21 Jump Street”, The LEGO Movie revels in and argues against its own existence. It could have been an overblown toy advert, so there are blink and you’ll miss it references to the LEGO toys on screen that you can buy. Emmet is an everyman, so of course he eats at chain restaurants and drinks overpriced coffee. The LEGO Movie even finds time to take a swipe at dads in the audience who are using their children as an excuse for a nostalgia hit. Ouch.
At the beginning of my viewing I was worried that The LEGO Movie might be too clever. I felt a nine year old girl stare at me and wondering why I was giggling at an obscure sight gag and began to worry that much of this may fly over children’s heads, but at every turn, The LEGO Movie boasts an innate understanding that simple doesn’t have to mean stupid, and sometimes you have to let entertainment be entertaining - “this is stupid but we like it anyway so let’s do it.”
As I left the cinema awestruck at The LEGO Movie, two ten years raced passed me, jumping up and down at their mum at how they were going to go home and start making stories of their own. You get the feeling there will be thousands more just like them.
The LEGO Movie just may shape a generation. Go watch it.
Carl Anka is but one of many sarcastic voices of ill-repute that suffers of obsessive pop-culture disorder and primarily exists on the internet. You can chat to him on Twitter – this week he’ll be mostly mourning the passing of Harold Ramis. RIP.