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<   No. 3329   2014-04-27   >

Comic #3329

1 {photo of a plane in the sky}
1 Caption: The LEGO Movie

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Oh my!
I'm pretty sure I've used this photo before. I don't actually have a lot of LEGO photos online, oddly enough.
The LEGO Movie finally opened here in Australia recently. Almost three months ago I received a burst of several emails from people overseas who had just seen the movie, variously asking me what I thought of it and imploring me to go see it as soon as possible. It was impossible for me to respond to either of those things until just now. I've already mentioned that I've now seen the movie, so all that remains is to describe my impressions.

There will be no serious spoilers in this review, but I will be mentioning some minor details. If that sort of thing might spoil it for you, come back here after you see the movie yourself.

First up, I liked it, and would recommend it. I think for kids it'll mostly be just a rollicking adventure with LEGO, but for adults there's a lot going on underneath, with many humorous references to pop culture, both modern and classic. I'm sure I missed a lot of these references, but there are so many in there that most people will spot plenty to keep them interested and amused. To give an indication of the breadth of these references, I was amazed in one scene when Abraham Lincoln flew away in a rocket powered chair, and someone said, "Abraham Lincoln, you bring your space chair right back here." This is so incredibly specific that it must surely be a reference to the original series Star Trek episode "The Savage Curtain". Depending on the geekiness levels of the rest of the audience, it's possible that I was the only person in the cinema at the time who got that reference.

But you certainly don't need to get all the clever references to enjoy the film. The action moves along at a good pace, with just enough breathing space to keep it under control and not feel overwhelming. There's kick-ass action, character moments, cutesy bits, and some good old scenery porn (which is Safe For Work, if you are unfamiliar with that term).

The fact that everything is made of LEGO bricks doesn't really matter that much for the most part. But it does come into the story when we see the inhabitants of this LEGO world building stuff, using whatever pieces happen to be lying around - and the stuff they build is functional. For them, that's the way the world works, and that's cool. And when I say everything is made of LEGO bricks, I mean everything. The sun is a big circle of yellow bricks in the (blue LEGO brick) sky. The water is clear or blue bricks, and sprays around in streams of bricks. This is what it must be like living in a world where the molecules are the size of books. The way the ocean ripples and moves in the pirate ship sequence is marvellous.

(Okay, for those who have seen the film, not quite everything is made of LEGO bricks, but that's a plot point, and I won't discuss it further here.)

One of my own LEGO movies.
The music is fast-paced and a lot of fun. Most of it was written by Mark Mothersbaugh, the guy who did the soundtrack for the amazingly good Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Mothersbaugh not only does lots of fun soundtrack music, but he is one of the founding members of the influential 1970s new wave band Devo! (Who are still together and performing and recording, by the way.) While Mothersbaugh didn't write the main theme tune, "Everything is AWESOME!!!" (video here), he did produce it, and it's amazingly catchy and infectious.

I want to elaborate on this point a little. I am sure to some people that song sounds like ridiculous modern trash. A couple of years ago I might have agreed. But I've been learning a lot about music recently, by learning to play different songs on the drums, by reading about the theory and psychology of music, and by deliberately expanding my range of listening to encompass some things I never would have listened to before. Listening to new music is the sort of thing that most people tend to do when they are teenagers, and they end up liking that new music. As we grow older, our tastes start to ossify, and instead of seeking new musical experiences, we get comfortable replaying the stuff we grew up with. At this point, new music starts to sound like "that weird modern rubbish the kids are listening to today - it's clearly not as good as the music when I was growing up!"

Most people fall into this pattern, and I am certainly guilty of it to some extent myself. I recognised it and wanted to do something about it. I know there's new music out there that other people like - surely they can't all be objectively wrong. It must just be a matter of taste and preference. Can I learn to like some of this new music too?

The answer, of course, is yes, you can. You just have to listen to it uncritically a few times, without dismissing it out of hand. It may not appeal at first, but look for something in the structure - the lyrics, the rhythm, the key changes, the instrumentation - anything that your brain can latch on to and think, "Actually, that bit is interesting and clever". It's not easy sometimes, and there are still songs I've tried to appreciate and have failed to, but the simple experience of sampling widely and trying to like something means you will get some hits. And once that happens you can try variations: other music by the same artist, or by closely associated artists of the same genre.

See the movie! (Oh, and read the book.)
You don't have to like everything (that may be impossible), but at least by trying everything and giving it a fair go you are open to discovering things you enjoy which you might never have suspected before. In some ways this is similar to teaching kids to be less fussy about their food. There's a whole world of amazing flavours and textures and eating experiences out there, but kids are often reluctant to try anything new in case they don't like it. Once they get over this fear, they discover more things that they like than they ever imagined possible.

So it is with music, and in fact, so it is with a lot of things in life.

Uh, where was I? Oh yeah, The LEGO Movie. The one negative I have about the movie is the name of the bad guy's MacGuffin. I won't say what it is, because that would spoil it. The MacGuffin itself is fine, but the name used to refer to it is peculiar to American culture, and unknown here in Australia (and I'm guessing in Europe too). Given that there is a small plot point caught up in the slight obfuscation and then revelation of the name, that is rather unfortunate, because audiences outside North America have no hope whatsoever of making that connection. To be fair, I'm not sure that there was any better way to do it, as the common name for this thing is simply different in different countries. It's just a shame that such a major plot element is weakened by having such a culture-specific name.

But that aside, the rest of the movie is great. As someone said to me after seeing it, "It's like they took the idea of Irregular Webcomic! - if not the actual characters - and made it into a movie."

If I can't recommend that, then something's clearly wrong. :-)

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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Last Modified: Thursday, 1 May 2014; 00:05:08 PST.
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