Every generation needs its myths, its heroic tales, in order to inform young people how to assimilate in nature, society, and the life cycle. Hunting cultures have learned to revere their prey, asking the animal for success in the hunt. Agricultural civilizations also have seen life feeding on life, and spark tales of gods who are ‘cut up’ and spread out through the land, only to be born again – seeds planted in order to bring forth the future crop, as well as the future generations.
These stories explain the way the ‘system’ that we are born into works, where ever we happen to be born. In this age of both parents working, they are often too busy (in the best case scenario), or too preoccupied to give guidance. In modern society, who or what do youth turn to for guidance? They are bombarded by technological toys, TV, video games and movies. Just maybe, they will find salvation in their imaginations. I’ve seen the power of the recent Lego© Movie on that imagination.
When I was young, I spent hours lost in worlds of my own creation. I know this is nothing unique, and would hope not. Watching my girlfriend’s son play with his toys now, I see those same strange worlds breaking through. If you had to figure a proportion of one toy versus another, there’s no doubt Lego© blocks would outnumber the other options in his room. That accounting is verified when you step on one, and bite your lip in order to spare the little guy some choice obscenities.
While Lego© sets come with instructions to make the image on the box, the true joy is in ‘freewheeling it,’ and coming up with your own designs. At the start of the movie, our hero Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) lives in a world that is completely scripted. Everything is, out of the box, arranged to the last detail. A rebel underground fights against this system, but it appears Emmet revels in the very same methods that they despise. He enjoys the same bland TV programming, the same expensive coffee, as the next citizen.
Emmet is that ‘unlikely hero’ cliché. Even key figures in the underground, like Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and wise sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman in a very ‘Ben Kenobi’ role), don’t see how he could be the prophetic ‘Special’ who will foil Lord Business’ schemes. Over the course of a world spanning and pop culture-referencing journey, Emmet slowly reveals his special talent: his ability to come up with building plans that, while limited in scope, are simple, brilliant, and there when you need them most.
It is common in hero myths for the protagonist to return with a boon. Emmet carries two with him for the course of the movie: the “Piece of Resistance,” which will cap the ‘glue’ holding together Lord Business’ (Will Farell) tyrannical plan, and his quirky creative inventions. Before he can truly become a hero, he will also pass over to the”Land of the Dead,” a “Belly of the Whale,” plot twist with hints both seen and mentioned throughout the course of the movie.
Through it all, the Lego© citizens, and hopefully a few human boys and girls in the audience, learn that it’s more important to have a seemingly ridiculous original idea, than a pre-packaged and socially acceptable one. That is the only way a society moves forward – that is the true glue of civilization.
The Lego© Movie.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Starring Will Ferell and Chris Pratt in lead roles, with Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson.
100 minutes. Rated PG.
3.5 out of 4 stars.