Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Lego Movie: Not Everything Is Awesome

So I'm going for that "Social Pariah" achievement today: I don't really like the Lego Movie much.

It feels good to get that out, frankly. I floated the idea today on Facebook, and was emboldened by the emphatic reaction (one like and one comment agreeing with me), so decided to phone in base this week's blog around it.

What brought this on, you ask? I happened to catch it on TV at my mom's place this afternoon, and decided to give it another shot (I once tried to watch it on a plane but I turned it off shortly after - possibly for Jack Reacher). I made it quite a bit further in than the last time, too - but that extra 20 minutes wasn't much to my liking either.

In fact, if I were being provocative (moi?), I might even go so far as to borrow some writers' reactions to Interstellar and call it an ideological monstrosity.

OK, that's kind of a strong statement, so I'm gonna backpedal a bit here. Interstellar was an ideological monstrosity because there's a pretty shocking lack of non-white characters (apart from one supporting character) and because, as my sister puts it, it implies that famine and starvation are only the end of the world when they're happening to the West.

The Lego Movie, in that light, maybe doesn't quite fit into that mold, but I find it pretty insidious in its own way. The bad guy, to begin with, is named "Business", and his whole deal is that, like business in real life, he hates spontaneity. He only wants people to follow the instructions that come with each Lego kit, and he doesn't like intermixing, ie using bricks from multiple types of kits to create wondrous new things limited only by YOUR imagination. He hates that stuff SO MUCH, that he's going to use Krazy Glue to immobilize everybody, everywhere.

If you've read my blog before, you may know that I lean slightly leftward, on the political spectrum, and that I am somewhat mistrustful of large corporations. If I could get away with it, corporations would be the bad guys in all my stories (slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean). So, uh, why is Lord/President Business such a problem?

Well, it's all so on-the-nose that it kind of deflates the magic and inhibits suspension of disbelief. And once that's gone, you start to see things about the movie: the fact that it's pretty much the exact same plot as the Matrix, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings; the fact that despite all this "anti-business" and "anti-imagination" stuff, you're still watching a movie using dozens of major licensed properties, which was released by a big studio and came with a catchy song.

And as far as the plot, I think it illustrates what I was saying recently about the dangers of following a beat sheet too closely. If you can see exactly where Blake Snyder would have put his beats, then the movie's not doing its job and drawing you in (much like if you're noticing how clever the author is, the novel's broken).

There are some cute parts of the movie, of course. Having Will Arnett play Batman, for instance, and play him as the dickhead boyfriend of the main guy's love interest, is inspired. Morgan Freeman turns in a nice performance as the mentor, and Liam Neeson does a good job as the (conflicted) evil henchman. And bringing together all of the big properties - DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc - into one movie implies that it should be fun. But let's be honest: Wreckit Ralph did a much better job of setting up the main character, his world and his dramatic need, while pulling together characters from a bunch of classic videogames. And it had Sarah Silverman. Need I say more?

So yeah, not a big fan of the Lego Movie. I know a lot of people on my Twitter feed (comedians and the like) loved it, and many were disappointed it wasn't nominated for best animated film or some crap. I'm not. The supreme irony of the movie is that in telling kids how important it is to let your imagination run free, the filmmakers have had to rein Lego in and cram its ethos into the straitjacket of the modern Hollywood screenplay. Good job, Business.