Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out

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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

28 January

Lego patents its brick design, 1958

On this day in 1958 the Lego company patented the brick design it had been working on for five years. Originally a company created by a carpenter in 1932 to produce wooden toys (called Lego from the Danish phrase Leg Godt – play well) Lego had been into the production of plastic bricks since 1947. By the early 1950s more than half of the company’s output was plastic. In 1954 Godtfred, son of founder Ole Kirk Christiansen, acting on a conversation he’d had with an overseas buyer, began working on the idea of a toy system, and set about re-engineering bricks that Lego already produced so that they would lock together better and be more durable. Using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a different plastic than the one the company had been using before, and experimenting with locking systems, Lego came up with the brick still in production today. A brick made in 1958 will interlock with a 21st century brick. Because of this, the high quality of the product, the fact that it is as versatile as the mind of the person using it, its indestructibility (a 2×2 brick can withstand a force of 4,240 newtons), Lego has escaped the stigma usually loaded on to plastic toys. More than 38 billion bricks are sold each year.

Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (2012, dir: Guy Vasilovich)

One of a series of Star Wars homages made by the Lego people, The Empire Strikes Out stands up well when compared to similar spoofs by Robot Chicken and Family Guy. But don’t expect a full-sized brick-built temple to George Lucas. Lego Star Wars is only 22 minutes long but it does pack a lot in. Certainly it’s for the sort of person who knows that Darth Maul didn’t appear in The Empire Strikes Back but it isn’t acutely necessary to be a nerd to get enjoyment from it. The plot is loosely about the emperor calling in both Darths (Vader and Maul) to smash the rebel alliance once and for all. But it’s really just an excuse to get a few of the potentially most comic characters of the Lucas-verse in the same place at the same time. Camp is the overriding tone, somewhere between old-school vaudeville and the fast-churn humour of the Airplane films. And the humour isn’t just directed at Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and the team but at Lego too – when the Dark Star is blown up, everyone just shrugs “we can rebuild it”. Big pluses are John Williams’s score being cleared for use (Lucas has clearly given the nod) and even the voicework of some fairly familiar actors – Anthony Daniels (aka C-3PO), Julian Glover, Brian Blessed, Ahmed Best (yes, Jar Jar Binks turns up). Perhaps the best joke comes in the standoff between Darth Maul and Darth Vader, when they both try the death grip on each other (I won’t ruin it). What’s actually remarkable, if you come to Lego Star Wars cold, is how far a few stuck-together bricky characters with stuck-on Lego hair can get along the road to true Star Wars respectability. Or is that just the final proof of how bad George Lucas’s direction of human beings was in the original films themselves?

Why Watch?

  • It’s funny
  • A taster for the full length Lego Movie
  • There are some bona fide Star Wars names in there
  • Walks the line between mockery and salute

Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2014

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