What I’ve Been Watching: The Lego Movie

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Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs was one of the surprise hits of 2009. It had a combination of charm, surrealism, humour and imagination so many other animated films aim for, but so few attain. Its directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller followed it up with 21 Jump Street, another film with charm and humour in abundance.

The Lego Movie sees Lord and Miller back on pixelated ground, this time in an attempt to the bring the Lego brand to the big screen for the first time.

The movie sees Emmet (Chris Pratt) trying to save the world from the evil Lord Business after accidentally getting his hands on The Piece of Resistance, the only object in the Lego Universe that can prevent Lord Business from completing his evil plan.

The creation of a universe is something that science fiction/fantasy films excel at, and the reason that their fans tend to be so much more dedicated than the rest. When done right, like in the case of Star Wars, Star Trek or Doctor Who, it allows fans to get lost in hours of speculation, debate, and “What if?”. It is as though the creators’ work is merely opening a door into a place we will spend much longer in than the mere runtime of the work.

Lego, the toy, is much like these works. It allows for possibilities. Chances are when we get our hands on a new set we will complete it as intended (much like watching a film for the first time) but soon afterwards we will start to wonder ‘What if?”. “What if this house had an extra storey?”; “What if I was able to combine my X-Wing and Millennium Falcon?”; “What if The Simpson’s house had a Batcave?”

In many ways The Lego Movie is an exploration of these questions. At its heart is the idea that yes, following the instructions can produce awesome things, but one should not be limited by them. Any toy’s popularity should never be limited to what it was intended to do, but rather what it can become in the hands of its owner. Perhaps this spells out the main difference between childhood and adulthood. Children are prepared to experiment, and make mistakes with their possessions. Adults buy stuff and simply use it as intended. (Compare for example the way a child will use a large cardboard box to an adult).

This theme makes the movie works for children as they see the awesomely imagined creations on screen and hopefully go home thinking about the things they could create with their own lego sets (or perhaps Minecraft characters). However, it also works for adults in terms of reminding us what it was like to be a child, and how easy it is to lose that sense of exploration and wonder.

The Lego Movie then is a film that could simply of been a cynical cash-in on the popularity of its brand. However, it succeeds precisely because it reflects precisely the thing which makes this toy so great: possibilities.

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