When I first heard this movie was getting made, I let out my aggravated sigh reserved exclusively for the horrible movie trifecta: sequels, remakes, and movies based on toys and games. Hollywood is insistent on wasting large gobs of money on properties that already have an audience. They don’t necessarily care about what is being made, just as long as they can sell it. Instead of taking chances on original ideas, Hollywood studios are content with just releasing hashed out crap. I thought this movie was going to be the same as Battleship, Transformers, and all of the sub par superhero movies out there. I am happy to say that the aggravated sigh was not necessary nor is a long angry diatribe about turning an art into commerce. Yay!
In Lego City, a young man lives identically to the neighbors and co-workers around him. Emmett follows a plan laid out in Lego manual style in order to live a good life. This manual is followed by everyone else. In this manual, you see how to start one’s morning, what music to listen to, and the best way to do his job. Emmett is shaken out of his zombie like existence by a young woman, named Wyldstyle. Emmett discovers Wyldstyle outside of his construction site searching for something. Instantly attracted to her, he tries to talk to her, only to fall into a very large hole and find the piece of resistance. This piece of resistance is makes him into a Neo-like one, and Wyldstyle wakes him up to a world completely unknown to him. This world is the world of hodge-podge and creativity. It is the world of the Master Builders, people who make unique structures that don’t follow any guidelines. Emmett must now find the Master Builder inside himself in order to save his Lego city from President/Lord Business, the evil mastermind who wants everything to be perfect and undeviating from the plan.
Nostalgia and reference plays an important part in making this film enjoyable for adults. Whether it was a childhood obsession or a tool to torture your siblings by breaking what they made, Lego was a big part of growing up for most Americans. Being able to sit in your room or dark basement and play for hours, making up silly stories with the objects you built yourself, is woven into our collective unconscious (at least my generation’s). Everything from the breakneck speed of the plot, the voice of Batman, and the crazy objects the Master Builders build can be taken from this time in our lives. Although nostalgia is present in almost every scene, it used to drive the plot instead of being inserted as a non-plot distraction a la Family Guy. The Hall of Relics that Lord Business collects (it is a room full of weird objects that usually made it into a person’s Lego bin. Band-aids, paper clips, and various little trinkets all appear in this Hall of Relics) is introduced early on and becomes an integral part of the plot later on in the movie. Nostalgia not only helps the plot but also the themes of the movie. Being able to create weird objects and redesign established Lego sets helps the characters realize that being different or creative is not things to reject. It is not enough that they just told a good story, but they did it while helping you to remember a happier time in your life. This is why the movie is so great.