In an early episode of The Simpsons, Homer buys Marge a bowling ball for her birthday. A ball he obviously wants for himself. This act of sub-par husbandry (so to speak) has led, in our house, to the expression ‘Homer Present’ meaning a gift one gives that you really want yourself.
With that thought in mind the Fat Bloke Family, in celebration of Mrs Bloke’s birthday, decamped down to the cinema to watch The Lego Batman movie on its preview weekend. ‘You like Lego Batman don’t you honey, remember, you smiled slightly at the trailer?’ Now, because I’m a gentleman I won’t tell you her age, except to say that there was a spirited conversation in the car about what point Early 40’s ended and Mid 40’s began. I felt that when you are nearer to 45 than 40 you are in the ‘mids’.
Apparently I am wrong.
The movie though was great and we all enjoyed it. This is the second Lego movie and, what at first seemed the most cynical of Toy cash-ins, is actually becoming a truly ground breaking and innovative franchise. The first Lego Movie, released in 2014, won the Bafta for Best Animated Film and blew my mind. The action was frenetic, the gags piled high and the sheer, crazy imagination created a story that was so different to other kids films and, at times, was genuinely moving. Add to that a range of characters from the licences Lego has for producing toys and you ended up with a film where Han Solo, Batman, Dumbledore and Gandalf all rub shoulders. It was such a chaotic mixture of craziness it was utterly irresistible. The Batman in that movie was dark, into death metal and only wore black, (and sometimes very, very dark grey) was egotistical and emotionally distant. Voiced by Will Arnett this comedy Dark Knight seemed to exemplify better in one inch of plastic every other Big and Small Screen outing of the Dark Knight.
That this character earned his own spin-off movie also made me think ‘Cash In’, but the trailers looked fun and in a similar vein to the first movie so we gave it a shot. (Incidentally I must give a shout out to The Light Cinema Wisbech, three tickets for a brand new film for only £4.50 each. Excellent value.) I was laughing straight away. It is immediately knowing and tipping a nod to the audience that, whatever this is, it is not a standard superhero movie. I am pretty certain I missed many of the sight gags and inside jokes, they came so thick and fast. (For example a sign up Arkham Asylum pointing to the ‘Museum and Gift Shop’ and ‘Basket Weaving’ and a sign on The Jokers cell saying ‘No Stationery’ – Disappearing pencil from The Dark Knight anyone?) They refer to all the previous Batman movies, including the ‘weird 60’s one.’ (I miss the 60’s, Alfred the butler at one point complains.)
What I liked though was that the plot and best bits were not all laid out in the Trailers. Far from it. The character list explodes again from the DC universe. (Condiment Man?) to a mind boggling list of cinema villains as Batman wrestles with his own emotions and fears. (Clown Snakes being one apparently)
It does not, perhaps, have quite the emotional punch of the first film’s live action sequences, but again it is bonkers, and imaginative, and doesn’t take itself seriously. It is not a toy cash-in. These are stand alone films of real worth in the genre of Children’s Animation. Would I go and see it if I weren’t taking a child along? Yup. Would I go see it again? Yup, ‘cos I want to catch more of those jokes I missed. It’s a very solid 4 out of 5.
But then, well, I have a confession to make.
I am just a bit of an AFOL. That is, what us big boys and girls who have failed to grow up, call ourselves – Adult Friends Of Lego. I love Lego, always have. From being a tiny sprog playing with my brothers handed down bricks. (Many of which I still have and, thanks to the construction quality of the brand, still work.) I was lucky enough to grow up in the golden age of Lego, when the Space and Castle themes joined the existing City range. Some ranges have worked out for them, some haven’t. Joining up to create Star Wars sets was economic genius. Those early sets in the Star Wars range are now serious collectibles. In times of financial stress I’ve had to sell sets on Ebay and sold them for more than the Purchase price. Some Lego minifigures are literally worth their weight in gold.
I love those little minifigures. They are so tactile and friendly and fit so well into their world. So many times I’ve seen my son, with just a couple of those little guys disappear into an epic adventure played out in tiny scale.
Yes, there are issues with representations of race and gender but it’s getting better and yes, there is the common complaint that ‘in my day it was just bricks’ where as now many sets have complicated larger, formed plastic sections. But the bricks are still there, you can use both and all are fully compatible. Lego can take you from newborn baby with Duplo up to Graduate level robotics with Mindstorms. (Check out mindstorm machines on You Tube it is amazing what people can do.) And all those bricks are compatible, made from high quality plastic, formed to within tiny margins of error. Ever tried to get apart two flat bricks? Hard isn’t it, that’s because the fit is so damned good.
So, how to do you make friends with an AFOL? Buy them a random 1kg bag of bricks off eBay. How do you make an enemy of an AFOL? Tell him Megabloks is just as good. (Oh, the heresy. It really, really isn’t)
And how does an AFOL amuse himself after going to see The Lego Batman Movie? He visits Frankie and Benny’s and logs into their wifi as Bruce Wayne of Gotham, with I AM BATMAN as an email address. Well Little Bloke thought it was funny.
All in all, to quote Pink Floyd, it’s just another brick in the wall.
So, you see, Mrs Bloke, we may be in our early (mid) 40’s, but this husky fella is still a little boy at heart and always will be.
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