Friday, 21 February 2014

The LEGO Movie (Film Review)

The Lego Movie was one of those films which could have so easily failed. Based on promoting a toyline, you'd expect it to either be a soulless cash grab or unremarkable cheesy fun. This one though? It's actually genuinely great on just about every level, something undoubtedly helped by having the creators of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs involved. 

Set in a world of Lego, the film follows the life of construction worker Emmet as he carries out his life as dictated by his instruction manual. As with most of the world he follows this to the letter, happily accepting what is presented to him. At least until a chance encounter results in him joining a resistance movement to keep the world built as people desire, not as is dictated. Unfortunately for them, Emmet is seemingly the least qualified person imaginable to be any kind of chosen one...

The film cleverly knows exactly how to present itself, subverting the traditional stories and tropes in exactly the right way while having as much fun as possible. The story is kept ingeniously simple, making it accessible to just about anyone but at the same time it deals with more complex ideas than most would guess. Many traditional thematic archetypes and elements are introduced one after the other only to be twisted or altered in some distinct way, but it still somehow surprises you every time. This goes several times over for Will Ferrell's Lord Business, who seems completely irredeemable at first but undergoes some surprising developments.

The film is matching Pixar at times with its quality of storytelling and characters, and you just know the writers were having fun thinking up who they could throw in. It could honestly well be this generation's Toy Story. Of course, it's not just the writing that backs up this point.

The voice acting overall consists of a great number of spectacular choices. Perhaps not the ones you would expect for the roles, besides Morgan Freeman anyway, but even those voicing side characters surpass the blocky appearances of their on screen figures. There are honestly few to no times that the actor's performances felt as if they were not matching up with the animations, and serious props need to be given to the film's voice director.

The animation itself is... well, look at the trailers. The vast majority of people who witnessed it thought that they were watching stop motion initially and minute details such as scratches, faded transfers and chipped bricks are all taken into account. You'll start to realise this more as you notice the distinct differences between the older and newer figures, especially 80s Spaceman. The cinematography is fast and frantic, with a constant sense of movement and the sheer degree of activity on screen at any time is astonishing, with hundreds of objects moving at any time across the screen. The gunfights especially take this into account, using those coloured tube parts to represent laser bolts from guns.

What's very unfortunate however is that for all the effort put into it, the animation serves as an odd double edged sword. A good number of the bigger battles feel as if they simply have too much going on, with your mind attempting to keep track of everything present on screen at once. The aforementioned gunfight, done semi-Matrix style is an especially big offender and it's a real shame because of the sheer amount of detail and effort put into it. Then again, when the biggest complaint is "they were a little too extensive with the fights" then something is clearly going right.

Besides that though, another failing is a surprisingly weaker start than you'd guess. Most films go in and hit with an event which is strong but won't overshadow later moments of awesome, Avengers being just one example, but not so much here. It feels more as if the film was still trying to find its footing and taking some time to build up to the stuff hinted at in the opening. It's not bad per-say but it will leave you wondering just what all the hype was about for some time.

Finally, there's the variety of characters. Now, everything from Star Wars to DC Comics was thrown in here and they tried to make as much use as possible. Hell, they made Batman a major character for crying out loud. However, at times it did feel as if some of that could have been left to the background with focus more squarely placed on certain characters. Rather than giving everyone one minute or about thirty seconds of screen time glory, they could have shifted their focus a bit more to limit that to certain figures. 

Honestly though, these are very minor flaws in an otherwise spectacular film. Without resorting to outright nitpicking, there's really very little which is truly negative to criticise here. 
Honestly, go watch it if you get the chance. It's the best animated movie of its kind we've seen since Wreck-It Ralph.

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