In a world in which the Star Wars licence has been gleefully palmend out onto everything from addictive avant mobile games to Danish building blocks, it seems inconceivable that fandorks are capable of apprehension when it comes to the future of the Star Wars franchise in the hands of Disney, the worst, and indeed much of the best, has already happened.
The idea of Lego following up their fan-favourite range of videogames and chokeable play sets with a 22-minute original animated movie is another non-starter when it comes to an extreme emotional reaction.
Sure, it means it’ll be aimed at 10-year-old boys, and it’ll be a glorified toy advert, but that’s exactly what Star Wars was in the first place, and the image of the saga that a lot of people have in their heads only exists in the more inaccessible corners of the Expanded Universe, where storytelling magic has been sacrificed on the blood-sodden, phallic altar of ‘adult themes’.
Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out, then, is just another thing that has happened. But coming from a place of genuine love, it strikes that brilliant, near-impossible balance between fan-pleasing in-jokes, canonical fidelity, and just being good harmless fun that will cause a lot of positive associations in its target audience, causing them to go all wide-eyed and dribbly in the aisles of Toys R Us. Just like the original trilogy did, and just like Disney will if they hit all their beats right.
Picking up straight after A New Hope, The Empires Strikes Out enlists a grab bag of original cast members (Brian Blessed, Anthony Daniels, Ahmed Best) and Clone Wars voice actors (Tom Kane, Sam Witwer) for a fantasy squint-a-bit sequel that has the Rebels looking for a new base to replace Yavin IV and the Empire building a new Death Star.
Packed inside this robust chassis of slavish continuity are shamelessly silly inclusions, jowl-wobbling Boss Nass-alike Gungans, teenage girls going weak-kneed at the sight of Hayden Christensen’s photo, a Dark Side mirror image of A New Hope‘s medal scene with Vader getting his dues, and Darth Maul’s unexplained return – crooning “I’m awwwwwwwwesome!” to the tune of his entrance theme from The Phantom Menace.
It’s daft, but it’s daft with you in mind, as Han Solo shoots first and C-3PO describes it as “a matter of some debate”.
At 22 minutes long, it can’t help but be something of a disappointment – even factoring in the free medal ceremony Vader Lego mini fig and the £5-plus cover price – but honestly, how much of this could you really have coped with? It’s like the Pod Race scene from The Phantom Menace; you always remember that being a thrill fest until you rewatch it and they do three excruciatingly long laps, and the reaction shots of CGI wobble monsters as they crash into stuff gets progressively less interesting with each pass.
It’s good harmless fun that ticks as many wookiepedia boxes as it does narrative ones, and a clear lesson to Disney that, like the original trilogy, it is possible to please the dorks, the kids and still sell lunchboxes.