The Lego Movie
Story by Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman and Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
The Lego Movie constantly refrains the song “Everything is Awesome!” throughout the film, and though the song is presented as a joke because things aren’t awesome, it best describes The Lego Movie. Because everything is awesome. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller took a toy commercial and traditional hero’s journey narrative and turned it into a celebration of tossing out instructions and a collectivist uniting against conformity and conservatism. Also it’s fun and hilarious.
The unlikely group of heroes unite against President Business, who controls the entire world and wants things to stay just the way they are. He gets incensed when things are built that don’t follow the rules or are weird. His reign has seen the Lego city become a virtual police state where everyone follows a huge list of rules and destroys anything out of the ordinary to be replaced with construction that follows the rules. The people are lulled into accepting their reality with glee, thanks to control of television and music, where every show is Where’s My Pants? and every song is the aforementioned “Everything is Awesome!”
The resistance becomes a celebration of individuality vs marching to the same drum beat. The Lego Movie encourages you to build what you want, and not worry about if your projects conflict with what someone expects you to do. While President Business seeks his stagnant perfection, the real progress and fun comes from the chaos of creation.
Lord Business persecutes those that disrupt his order, particularly Master Builders. Characters who are Master Builders can manipulate reality and build anything they want from the parts of the world. They see each piece as it’s own piece, with limitless potential to build into anything they want. Part of the dilemma of Emmet is he’s spent so much time following the rules and instructions he doesn’t have an imagination to build whatever he wants.
All the familiar tropes of the traditional hero’s journey narrative are around – the girl, the rogue, the old mentor character, the villain using robots as goons so no one feels guilty when many are murdered, death and rebirth, a prophecy, and spirituality. But it’s not the individual pieces, it’s what you build with them. And like the sequence where several characters unite to build a ridiculous submarine, the pieces come together in unexpected patterns and become a creation beyond the instructions. The Lego Movie is a meta piece, both by having all the various Lego factions deal with a threat that exists in a Toy Storyesque original universe, and by going beyond meta with scenes featuring The Man Upstairs.
Most of Lego’s franchises are present: Monsters, Spacemen, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, NBA All Stars, DC Comics, The Simpsons (though the Marvel Legos are noticeably absent!) The franchise mixup is realistic because who kept these toys separate as a child? Of course everyone and anyone who could go together was together, and Lego sets make it a thousand times easier to put everyone in the same box. Even the Legos I had as a kid are represented, thanks to 1980-Something Space Guy aka Benny (though I only ever broke one of the helmets like his is!) I’d build all sorts of random stuff, but I did also like having some of the big vehicle constructs built like the instructions (Hey, the Alien Moon Stalker was awesome!) I wonder where that puts me on the echelon of following instructions vs. creativity.
Instead of moving bricks around with stop motion, the film is computer animated, but pains are made to make things appear just like actual toys are moving around – from the blocky way characters move to the movements patterns of smoke/fire/water flowing along lines of growing and shrinking bricks. Everything is made of Lego, but functions like it does if it were real. Taking a shower in Lego water gets you covered in round pellet pieces that get you wet. Lego fire burns away other Lego bricks. The world stays internally consistent and is wonderful.
Not only do the regular citizens of the Lego city use their imaginations and ingenuity to build machines to rise up against their oppressor, the hero earns his heroic merit badge not because he destroys the villain, but because he wants the villain to join with him and free himself via imagination. It is a parallel to the scenes with The Man Upstairs, which turns them more heartwarming. The tossing of the usual narrative of destroying the evil makes the revolution more inclusive, Emmet embracing his Christ-like event by showing forgiveness that Jesus would be proud of. The oppressed have risen against the 1%, but they are not against innovation and industry, just equality, so everyone is allowed to build upon what came before.
The Lego Movie restores Batman to his rightful place as campy, while still keeping the dark edge. There is the best Batman song since the theme song to the tv show (Okay, maybe the Seal song is better. Maybe!) Some of the other cameos and supporting characters are priceless, Green Lantern and Superman’s interaction is probably disturbingly realistic. We also get the first appearance of Wonder Woman in a movie. This is a shame on both DC Comics and the Warner Brothers executives. The Star Wars characters pop by and things get amazing. Benny the 1980-Something Space Guy is obsessed with building spaceships, Unikitty attempts to always be nice, while Metal Beard is the pirate monster assembled from junk everyone needs in their life. Liam Neeson admirably plays the conflicted Bad Cop/Good Cop, who is a living angel/devil on the shoulders, until one of his faces is erased.
As you may have guessed from this appearing before the official release date of The Lego Movie, I once again attended an advanced screening, as a member of the public. So, yes, Tars has sold out again! Damn you, Tars! And it makes this sound even worse: There isn’t really any negative things I could find about the film. A bit of spots where the story seems to jump ahead (perhaps some deleted scenes), but beyond that things go along at a smooth pace. A funny aside: Before The Lego Movie, the preshow rolled an ad for Hasbro’s KRE-O bricks, which are now branding themselves as being the bricks with attitudes.
Regardless of your attitude, The Lego Movie is worth checking out, so get off your double decker couch and build a ticket out of Lego pieces and go see it! (Not responsible if you are arrested for ticket fraud!)
Rated 9/10 (Shaq, Wonder Woman, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dummy, Lincoln, Mermaid, Ninjago, Scary Clown)
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