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Byrd: The joy of The Lego Movie

BY MATTHEW BYRD | FEBRUARY 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sometimes, a great film hits you like a baseball bat across the nose. At first you’re completely shocked, bloodied, maybe a little bleary-eyed. But once your vision clears, you end up in awe of the product that just bludgeoned you.

At first glance, The Lego Movie seems like the least likely film to produce such an effect. The initial trailers made is seem as if the film would be a slick, soulless commercial for Lego, yet another horrible “toy film” in the vein of Transformers and GI Joe.

But within minutes, the film took a blocky baseball bat and smacked me right on the head.

The basic plot of The Lego Movie is delightfully silly. The Evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) rules over the land, not with an Orwellian iron fist but rather with a mass consumerist, conformist, capitalist empire that dulls the populace into submission. Lord Business, however, is about to launch a plot involving the “Kragle,” glue that will freeze the world into place so people will stop interfering with his vision of the world.

However, “a Piece of Resistance” prophesized by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) is said to be able to stop Lord Business. This piece can only be attained by “The Special,” a unique individual and the most interesting and talented in the world.

“The Special” turns out to be Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), an average construction worker who doesn’t particularly stand out in any way, shape or form. Emmet accidentally stumbles upon the “Piece of Resistance,” joining Vitruvius, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett) because if you’re gonna tear down a dystopian state, you might as well not even try if you don’t have the Caped Crusader on your side.

The film employs a wacky, irreverent style of humor that seems downright revolutionary in a sea of animated films defined by their formulaic, cheap, and bland sense of humor. The film fires off rapid-fire one-liners, skewering every thing from Batman’s brooding, humorless persona to the heroically unbelievable speeches at the heart of the standard sports film to whole enterprise of collecting Lego figures.

However, the truly radical heart of The Lego Movie lies in its full-scale assault on conformity and rigid societal structures. I mean, the whole film revolves around stopping a plot to literally freeze the world in its place.

The film argues that the soul of society lies in its fluidity, in its movement. The ideal society is one which is constantly moving, evolving. In the film’s words, a society must “build.” It must experiment.

It makes sense that the film’s dystopia would therefore not be a regressive state but rather a stagnant one. The terror at the heart of Lord Business’s plan is not that it destroys society. When the characters constantly talk about how Lord Business will “end the world,” they don’t mean that there will be a void. They fear that the world will enter a stasis from which nothing new can be created.

This is where the whole concept of “building” Legos is ingeniously utilized, because it plays into the notion of moving forward, or building. The resistance to Lord Business wants to create a world any Lego can build whatever Lego they want to build. It’s not necessarily that the consumerist society that Lord Business has constructed is “bad,” but rather that it should be not be the uniform construction; that it should be but one construction in a diverse, multifaceted, pluralistic world.

All of this, coming from a “toy movie” is certain to feel like a baseball bat to the head. Swing away.


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