The Lego Movie: Not Just Another Brick in the Wall of CGI Films

The Lego Movie, I confess, kinda snuck up on me.

I’d been mildly interested in it for a while, as the film marks the first cinematic appearance of Wonder Woman, like ever. Seriously. Don’t think too much about how the inaugural appearance on the big screen of the most famous and arguably the most beloved female superhero is a cameo in a film about bricks.

Still a better Wonder Woman incarnation than Man of Steel 2.

Still a better Wonder Woman incarnation than Man of Steel 2.


The film didn’t sound particularly promising on paper, but I decided to give it go. It was Valentine’s Day after all, and nothing says ‘I love you’ like Lego.

The Lego Movie centres on main character Emmett, a fairly ordinary little dude, just another smiley face in the contented crowd of the City. However, a chance encounter with Wild Style, a Master Builder (those who can manipulate Lego without the instructions), leads Emmett to a bizarre looking piece of equipment which is all that stands between the evil Lord Business and World Domination. But is Emmett the Special, the one Brick to lead us all, or is he just as ordinary as he seems on the surface?

The Lego Movie has a lot of stuff going for it- it’s comprised of not just good, but great ideas, that slot together to create a series of interesting worlds and scenarios. On the surface, it has some of the most innovative CGI of recent years. By embracing the limitations of Lego, the animators have created challenges that were not only fun for them to solve, but are also fun for us, as an audience, to watch their solutions. The sea set piece is amazing, and a lot of the goofy creations the Master Builders create are marvellous to look at.

The Lego Movie: silly fun, but fun all the same.

The Lego Movie: silly fun, but fun all the same.


In terms of storytelling, the film has not just one, but two very intriguing worlds which are deeply twisted, but oh so watchable. There are a number of points (and one quite early on) where the storytelling dips and the film becomes a little boring, but it’s definitely one to stick with- there is a love triangle that is so engaging and fresh that it puts Twilight and The Hunger Games to shame. I don’t think we’re going to see Team Emmett t-shirts any time soon, but the romance aspect of the film adds a lot of comedy and is definitely one of its highlights.

Emotionally, the film also works- it’s hard to watch a film about toys without the ghost of Toy Story hanging over the proceedings, but The Lego Movie really adds something to the idea that adults, teenagers and children will be able to take something away from.

This is a zippy, zany film with annoyingly catchy music, a decent female lead (in fact, it seems to thrive off developing characters which are normally one dimensional, like the love interest and the villain), a big heart, and the stupidest (but most fun) sound effects ever committed to film. It’s like being stuck in a child’s head for an hour and forty minutes, but yes, unfortunately it does sometimes feel very much like you’re trapped.

The Lego Movie is often delightful, and the makers should be very proud of what they’ve achieved with it, but it does feel like watching someone else play the most awesome game of Lego ever, and it never quite manages to engage you entirely as an audience- there is something slightly passive about the whole experience. There’s only so much you can take before you want to get in on the action- and I guess Lego’s hoping that desire will lead you straight to their stores. Touché, Lego. Touché.


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Frozen: Snow Queens with Attitude!

Tangled, Brave, and now Frozen– no, it’s not just a trend of adjective titled films, but big animated productions from Disney and Pixar which have made a conscious effort to have strong female protagonists. Disney and Pixar are arguably the most dominant forces on the animation market, and since The Princess and the Frog we’ve had a host of ‘princesses’ who are not just your average royalty, Boo-Boo.

'Don't believe everything you read in fairytales, Boo-Boo! Some women are pretty strong... and some can even read!'

‘Don’t believe everything you read in fairytales, Boo-Boo! Some women are pretty strong… and some can even read!’

In a year where I considered myself spoiled with female buddy movie The Heat, in came Frozen, the pinnacle of western animation’s feminist journey so far. Tiana was ambitious, Merida’s story revolved around her relationship with her mother instead of her relationship with boyz, and Rapunzel was so much feistier than the Auroras and Cinderellas of yesteryear. But watching Frozen, I felt more affinity with Anna and Elsa than I’d had with any Disney princess. That’s not to say their fore-runners haven’t had kick-ass qualities that I wanted and wished to have- but here were two women who felt like women, and most importantly they shared traits that were less ethereal and more realistic. Sorry Eilonwy, but Anna, with her incredible social awkwardness, is so my Disney Princess.

Sorry Eilonwy, but NO ONE cares about Black Cauldron. Apart from me, obvs.

Sorry Eilonwy, but NO ONE cares about Black Cauldron. Apart from me, obvs.

The songs are great, the jokes are cracking, the animation was sumptuous (and the ladies were obligatorily pretty, Lino DiSalvo) and I didn’t want the film to end. For the first time since my childhood, a Disney twist was actually surprising. The film transported me back to my own childhood. For you see, readers, I have a sister, and Frozen showcased a complicated, positive sisterhood tale that rang true. It was heart warming, and then it was heart melting, and by the end of the film I was a gushy puddle, as was my friend who grew up with no sisters.

What I really found interesting (and I promise you this is not a spoiler) was the opening of the film, where Elsa’s power is established, and, after a HEARTBREAKING ACCIDENT, we see her lock herself away in a room. The idea of Anna wandering around and growing up in a castle with an unknown and largely forgotten sister hidden away, reminded me strongly of Jane Eyre.

However, unlike Mrs. Rochester, Elsa is mostly a positive metaphor for female sexuality (her power is her sexuality, if you will follow me down the garden path of feminist theory). Yeah, Elsa is a party pooper, but because of the rich characterisation, you know she isn’t the bad guy (girl). In fact, she also seemed to be giving new insight into older Disney villainesses like Maleficent. Rather like Polly Teale’s stage adaptation of Jane Eyre, the separation of the innocent, virginal Anna from the mature, loose haired and slit skirted Elsa, only causes trouble and bother.

Jane Eyre and Mrs. Rochester in Teale's adaptation.

Jane Eyre and Mrs. Rochester in Teale’s adaptation.

This film isn’t just breaking new ground in animation with its more realistic female protagonists and feminist themes, but it also feels like an age since I saw two strong positive female characters in any film full stop. Yeah, The Heat and Frozen are both great sisterhood movies, but since we doin’ so well with the girls on film, let’s not be contented with two a year. Let’s get bigger and better. Let’s keep this thing going!

Sisters are doing it for themselves!

Sisters are doing it for themselves!

Or snowing, if you will.

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You Should Be Watching: Steven Universe

If you have any interest in animation, you’ve undoubtedly come across Pendleton Ward’s acclaimed show Adventure Time.

Some of the best moments on Ward’s beautiful brainchild have come courtesy of Rebecca Sugar, background artist turned storyboard artist, writer and composer. Sugar was one half of the dynamic writing team that provided us with such awesome moments as ‘It Came from the Nightosphere’, ‘Fiona and Cake’ and ‘Power Animal’ (a personal favourite).

Rebecca Sugar, rising star of animation.

Rebecca Sugar, rising star of animation.

After Season 4, Sugar left Adventure Time to work on her own show. And it’s a lady first! Sugar is the first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network Studios.

Steven Universe revolves around a character based on her younger brother… and that is where I snoozed off as well. Thankfully, I gave it a chance, and was immediately sucked in by the theme song.

I mean, that’s just adorable!

And then comes the fantastic set up- Garnet (voiced by Estelle for extra trivia points), Amethyst, and Pearl are the Crystal Gems, beautiful warrior women who save humanity on a day to day basis. And then there’s Steven, the protagonist, who is shorter, younger and definitely less gem-tastic than the rest of the group.

The elder sisters-younger brother dynamic of the show really works well. There are some genuinely hilarious, but also sweet, moments when the girls try to make Steven feel better about his non-contributions to the group. Each member of the Crystal Gems is also quite a fun character- I love all of them, even (or rather, especially) the prissy and overly protective Pearl.



As can be expected from a show with its roots anywhere near Adventure Time, the world is a little whacky- great portions of the show make little to no sense. However the show relies on the relationships, rather than randomness, for humour, which is a huge strength.

Visually, the show is gorgeous, taking its cues from old and new animation. The backgrounds are sumptuous, as would be expected from a background artist, and has more than a few nods to the old Hanna-Barbara cartoons. And the characters look as if Betty Boop and Olive Oil were thrown in a blender with Regular Show and Adventure Time. “Is that a bad thing?” you ask. No, my friend. No it is not.


An awesome looking show with visuals to die for? Check.

Interesting and funny characters? Check.

Whimsy? (Gotta have that whimsy!) Check.

Well then, why aren’t you watching it?

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