The Lego Movie (2014) may initially seem like a corporate ploy to sell toys, and in a way it still is. Infused into that commercial scheme however is an hysterical narrative about potential and imagination. There is literally a laugh a minute, and the humor is spread out evenly amongst all age groups.
Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, the most ordinary character without imagination you will ever see, is seemingly “the special”, a being who will stop the evil plotting of Lord Business, Will Ferrell, who wishes to destroy all creativity and playtime in the world of the Legos. With Vitruvius, Morgan Freeman, as his mentor and Wyldstyle, Elizabeth Banks, and Batman, a hilarious Will Arnett, as sidekicks among others, Emmet engages in a daring quest that caravans through pirates, cowboys, superheroes, fantasy lands and a little boy’s basement. There is never a strong sense of danger involved in the events of the story, but that does not make it less compelling, instead adding a level of carefree fun absent in so many films.
While Emmet and Vitruvius have compelling characters and strong narratives, Batman steals the show in just a few scenes just because he is Batman. For fans of the character, they will not be disappointed with the Dark Knight.
Humor drives the narrative through its weaker points so the audience is always entertained. The end of act two and the beginning of act three do drag a little bit and some might have issues with the conclusion and its diverting focus, but it is where the film’s heart lies and makes the movie truly memorable.
Antagonist: Lord Business
Desire: Prove his worth
Inciting Incident: Emmet finds the Piece of Resistance, igniting a prophecy that he will save the realm
Act One Climax: Emmet is rescued by Wyldstyle who takes him to Vitruvius where he agrees to be trained as The Special
Midpoint: After Cloud Cuckooland is destroyed, Emmet is forced to lead the team to Lord Business’ layer in a last desperate attempt to save the realm
Act Two Climax: After Vitruvius is killed, Emmet sacrifices himself to save the Master Builders from Lord Business, giving Wyldstyle the command to stop his plan
Act Three Climax: Returning back to Legoland, Emmet uses his skills as a Master Builder to save his friends and uses his power as The Special to turn Lord Business towards the light with the knowledge he has learned
The film stresses a belief in the power of imagination. Finn is a boy who just wants to let his mind take him places and explore, but his father believes that things must be done according to a set of rigid instructions. While this may seem a flimsy premise for an entire film, it actually pits two contrasting views on creativity and the value of imagination against each other: one that values venturing out and attempting to create something unafraid of criticism, another that believes in strict interpretation and the achievement of perfection above all else. There is no doubt that the film is biased towards a belief in venturing out, but it is an interesting dynamic to consider. These two differing philosophies clash, symbolized by Lord Business’ incessant desire to create order and Emmet’s need to prove himself as “the special”.
Emmet’s journey is interesting in how he needs to prove himself to so many: Vitruvius, Wyldstyle, Batman, Lord Business, his friends who have all forgotten him and all of the Master Builders. This is very similar to the pressures put on to the boy representing him, Finn. As all children of that age, he is trying to prove himself to the world, trying to define himself for the first time in his life and terrified of failure. He needs a haven of escapism, somewhere where he is free to make mistakes and experiment with different things. The stories he invents with his Legos give him an avenue of freedom difficult to find in the adult world, something that his father has lost through his years in an environment that demands exacting interpretation. Only when Lord Business sees the value of pure creation, without the need to acquiesce to other people’s notions of perfection, can he appreciate the beauty of the freedom of youth that he has lost.
At the center of this conflict is the belief in the special, a made-up prophecy that aspires to everyone. As Emmet explains at the end of the film, the special can be anyone who sees the value in creation and expressing one’s thoughts. It is not limited to individuals of greatness (Emmett indeed is incredibly ordinary), but by those who learn to not be afraid of expressing themselves, especially to those of authority as Finn does with his father.
The Lego Movie will indeed sell toys and merchandise as it is intended to do. It is a corporate money-grab not that different from the Transformers (2007-present) movies or Space Jam (1996) or Battleship (2012). But Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have created their own imaginative romp that explores the value of youthful expression inside what could have been another stale appeal to the masses. The film contains all the joy and humor that modern audiences may have forgotten about in dark times and gives us a glimpse back into the wonderment of a child’s eyes.