“Come with me, if you want to be not dead”: The Lego Movie

About a month before its DVD release, _The Lego Movie_ has finally shown up at the cheap theaters, and we saw it today as a family, my first movie-in-the-cinema since my surgeries and hospitalization last year. It was well worth it, and even better than I’d expected from the very good reviews I’ve seen. It’s a multi-layered allegory and parody. I’d have to watch it again to remember all the fantastic quotations.
There are Batman references from the Adam West series (Batman makes sound effect noises while throwing a batarang) to the 1989 “I’m Batman” to “He’s the hero you deserve,” paraphrased from _The Dark Knight_. There’s even a running joke about the poor reception of the _Green Lantern_ movie. While it superficially plays on the seemingly disparate and conflicting franchises to which Lego has licenses (the fact that there are both “Lego DC” and “Lego Marvel” blows my mind).
However, all the film rights to franchises depicted in _The Lego Movie_–DC being the most prominent–are or have been held by Warner at some point. While _Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles_ is currently owned by Nickelodeon, the first four movies were distributed by New Line and/or Warner (and IIRC, Michelangelo doesn’t get a speaking part). _Star Wars_, while usually associated with Fox and now owned by Disney, had some affiliation with Warner via the _Clone Wars_ series and the first _Lego Star Wars_ animated projects on Cartoon Network (and the brief cameo of _Star Wars_ characters doesn’t end well).
On the serious side, it starts with a dystopian world where mindless anonymous workers awaken in the morning, do exercises, read an instruction book on how to be happy, drink coffee, turn on their televisions, and hear messages from President Business, president of the world and the Octan Corporation, which is a trusted company because it “makes all the TV shows, music, history books and voting machines” (“Octan” is a fictional brand on Lego toys dating back to 1992, when it was first used for a gasoline station set). Everyone eats the same foods, listens to the same song (“Everything is Awesome”), watches the same sitcom (_Where are my pants?_, which has the same story and joke) every night, and drinks the same expensive coffee. It’s like a mixture of _Brave New World_, _1984_ and _Fahrenheit 451_–or maybe it’s really just the world we live in. So we have the basic “brainwashed minion breaks out of his dystopian reality to find a bigger world” trope, even to an ending twist that is more like Plato’s myth of the Cave or perhaps _The Matrix_ than the others. Yet, on the other hand, it plays on the dystopian cliches by having a message of the need for a balance between individuality and creativity on the one hand with teamwork and following the rules, on the other.
Meanwhile, the myth of the cave twist makes the story a story-within-a-story, a kind of masque, and parallels (much like the _Republic_) its social theme with a family theme.

Not only is it another great-for-all-ages film, I think it will stand up to more repeated viewings and in-depth analysis than many children’s films: it manages to be both funny and meaningful, and there were far too many jokes, themes and symbols to catch in one sitting.

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