The marriage of LEGO and whatever pop culture property is sensible enough to submit to the power of Denmark’s favourite toy, usually an hilariously manic one.
Jokes fly by you at a million miles an hour, character veer between hardcore meta and fourth wall breaking vivacity against a backdrop so colourful and vibrantly in your face that the pastel-loving among us need not turn up.
It’s a LOT, and gloriously, brilliantly, happily so.
LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales is, however, an exception to this frenetic rule, dialling down the pedal to the medal narrative and comedic frenzy to a more quietly-realised but no less entertaining dull roar.
First things first, if you are wanting to get your Halloween Star Wars fix, this is indeed the special you are looking for; for all the quips and silliness that abounds, LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales takes great care in telling a story that fits quite snugly into existing canon, even if it does at one point, go all merry and alternate history on Luke Skywalker’s bio to pretty entertaining effect it must said (story #3, “The Wookie’s Paw”).
Much like Star trek’s Lower Decks, which has as much fun with the idea of the franchise as it does faithfully respecting it, this ghoulishly Sith-centric story, wrapped around three shorter cautionary tales, set on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, has a ton of fun with many of Star Wars most iconic characters, narrative constants and ideas while telling a salient tale that accords nicely with the overall self-realisation message of the franchise.
And when we say fun, we do mean fun.
The special starts with Darth Vader (Matt Sloan) and Emperor Palpatine standing in the former’s castle on Mustafar, a planet near and dear to our favourite Sith villain, as Vader exults in how far he has come in evilness.
The Emperor isn’t as excited as Vader, arguing that perhaps some soft furnishings might not go astray in an interior that is very black, very empty and glossily austere; fast forward to the fall of the First Order in the final three films of the Skywalker Saga, and Jabba the Hutt’s cousin, Graballa (Dana Snyder) is planning on turning the now-abandoned villains’ lair into a swanky hotel for those who like their resorts with a touch of the Dark Side of the Force.
He is well underway with dubious renovations – the entrance area includes all the sets of stormtrooper armour ever made, which looks impressive but is hardly the relaxing welcome the avergae holidaymaker would want; of course, if you’re a fan of the Sith or volcanic heat, you’ll likely love the way you’re plunged into the none-too-subtle theming of the hotel right from the start.
So enthusiastic is her about his new hotel venture, and so convinced of its money-making potential, that he barely skips a beat when Poe Dameron (Jake Green) turns up after recently crashlanding on the planet with BB-8 in tow.
Poe simply wants help repairing his X-Wing and he’ll be on his way but Graballa, with all the self awareness of a Ferengi sniffing out a new deal, decides to give him the grand tour whether he wants it or not, a decision which brings the Rebels’ star pilot into direct contact with a scheming Sith remnant, Vader’s left-behind apprentice Vaneé (Tony Hale) who is full of misplaced self belief that he is set to become to next big thing in galaxy conquering evil.
With Graballa’s talented boy mechanic Dean (Raphael Alejandro) looking on, the tour soon morphs into less of a “hey, look at my hotel to be!” tour and more of a “A new Sith overlord coming your way soon!” as Vaneé spins three creepy stories that reference classic Star Wars characters and artifacts, and which indicate he all kinds of dark and nefarious things in mind.
As cautionary tales go about facing your fears and staying true to yourself go, LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales fits solidly into the overall instructive feel of many of the stories that have gone before in George Lucas’s now richly-realised and greatly expanded narrative galaxy.
It is not exactly a riot of manic comedy like many of its LEGO forebears and at first that lack of hilarity on speed stands out like a misfiring light saber.
But as LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales continues on its heavy on the messaging, spooky way, it becomes less concerned with quips and oneliners, thought there are plenty of those, many of them working well in the context of an at-times quite seriously thoughtful, Halloween-appropriate storyline, and more about finding your destiny, a recurrent theme in a franchise which is all about self-realisation (Luke, Han, Leia, Rey etc) and not losing your way while you do so (Vader, Kylo Ren who makes an appearance in the special).
It may not be the best LEGO outing nor the best Star Wars story ever, but it is creepy, funny, dark and silly, an entertaining entry in all things Halloween that is worth your time, if only so you learn where not to invest your tourist industry dollars and why zombie robots aren’t just scary, they are kind of ridiculous, the perfect embodiment of this special which is quite happy to gently scare you while making you lo-fi laugh at the same time.