Meaning can be found in some of the most unlikely places, and many insights can be gained even from the mundane. One doesn’t typically expect to be inspired by a kid’s movie, but all are not equal and some are not only made better, but they may even contain important lessons to teach our world.
The Lego Movie is certainly not ordinary, it’s a high-energy film complete with fast-paced action scenes, a continuously driving, pulsating soundtrack, and enough humor, charm, and socio-political references to keep any adult entertained. Though this movie will definitely appeal to adolescents, tweens, and even most teenagers, the message behind the storyline is something that we should all take some time to reflect upon.
As the film begins we’re introduced to a world not unlike our own, where people are working, playing, and living average lives, albeit as Lego mini-figures within a Legoland universe. We’re soon brought into the life of Emmet, the main character of the story, who is clearly representational of the everyman persona that we can all identify with. His character epitomizes the most normal, average, boring everyday person one imagine, and although he thinks he is nothing special, he will soon discover he is very special indeed.
Emmet is just one of the many corporate-coffee sipping workers who are needlessly deconstructing all the interesting buildings in the city to replace them with average, cookie-cutter office structures and skyscrapers. All this is being directed by “President Business,” whom everyone just loves, and it is funded by the Octan Energy Corporation, which controls the media, government and all industry. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it?
Though everyone is seemingly satisfied, singing an annoying pop bubblegum tune all day called Everything is Awesome, something certainly doesn’t seem right. Surveillance cameras surround Bricksburg’s inhabitants and propaganda posters display Orwellian messages from the President, like “I’ve got my eye on you!” There is even a character who serves as both good cop and bad cop, by swiveling his head to switch roles between his good and evil sides. When President Business gives the cop a choice between being loyal to him or being with his family, the bad cop part of him decidedly chooses his fealty to the President and his plan to freeze the world. He starts by freezing bad cop’s parents, forcing the cop to finish the job.
The citizens of this Lego world, called Bricksburg, are mindlessly following their instructions every day, both at home and at work, never questioning anything and certainly never being creative. At one point, Emmet suddenly notices a figure in the shadows of his construction site looking through bricks, and immediately thinks to follow the rules by stopping her, but is captured by her beauty and follows her as she runs away. As he bumbles along, he accidentally discovers the very important Piece of Resistance, which is what the mysterious girl that he was pursuing had been looking for.
Throughout the rest of the story, Emmet meets a wise sage named Vitruvius (played by Morgan Freeman, of course), who tells him about a prophecy involving the “Special,” a savior figure who will appear at the right moment to save the day, and he is introduced to a whole rag tag group of Master Builders who subversively create without instructions. Although this group of free thinking Master Builders isn’t too impressed with Emmet’s leadership abilities once he is named as the Special, they all end up banding together after Emmet inadvertently saves them all by creating a ridiculous double decker couch in which they stow away when their get-away submarine is destroyed by the President’s army.
I won’t mention too many more details of the movie, because I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But I must say that although this film is filled with hilarious one liners and flashy animations, it also speaks some great truths. Emmet’s character is one that we can all relate to…he doesn’t feel like he’s anything special and is just living however he thinks society expects him to. And although he feels safe and secure, following his instructions day in and day out, his entire world is threatened by invasive, controlling social structures and destructive corporate interests that orchestrate and finance the enslavement of the masses.
Although there are some who have awakened, and see through the lies and deceit of their daily existence, they are still ultimately powerless until they learn how to harness the power of their ingenuity and each claim their Special power to rise above and resist. When Emmet and the other Master Builders finally realize that their spontaneous, intuitive powers of creativity are what they need to use to fight against President Business, Emmet is finally able to defeat him by also causing a change of heart in him. In a twist ending that plays out on multiple planes of existence in the hearts of a son and father, and between a ruthless ruler and a mere working class man, the story ends with a heartwarming message promoting understanding and creativity.
These are the challenges we also face in our particular time and place. America is much like Bricksburg, a country where plutocracy rules and the average person just goes right along with what society expects, pretending that everything is just fine. While our government is increasingly bought and controlled by wealthy corporations, the people are all too willing to accept security instead of fighting for liberty.
We live amongst the ever-watching eye of surveillance, internet eavesdropping and cell phone wiretapping technologies. Our government and our people are probably the most fearful and paranoid on the planet, though we’re the most comfortable, protected, and privileged humans ever. We need to find our specialness, and our creativity. We need to move beyond our selfishness, our sense of entitlement, and our need to control everything. Most of all, we need to find our compassion again and reclaim the playfulness, ingenuity, and love that our children put into everything.