I looked forward to watching this, the moment the first trailer popped up. And while it wasn’t a über-blast, it was funny, witty, and satirical, and it fulfilled every expectation I had of it.
The satirical nature is seen throughout the film, making fun of tropes and clichés of the entertainment industry…and in fact, any form of entertainment. The first bit already made fun of the idea of prophecies and having ‘chosen ones’, a mockery of the ideal hero concept, where they take an unknown who was picked by a higher power to fulfil a great role.
Then there was the poking of modern living, where we all do the same things as society demands of us. Maybe it doesn’t apply as much to the US, but it’s a brilliant reflection of Singapore. We study to get a degree, we get a degree to get a job, and we get a job for money to get the 5Cs and whatnot. It’s all very orderly, very regimented. There’s no real environment for creative expression, but we can legitimately claim to be fairly successful; a premise of the movie, where order is prized over creativity, as that is how things should be, and what makes things work.
Of course, it wouldn’t be mocking modern culture if it didn’t make fun of Starbucks and their overpriced drinks, as well as pop culture and the TV industry (which, to be fair, is pretty spectacular in the US; Singapore TV? Pshaw). Then, as expected, there’s the whole 1984, Big Brother reference, with cameras watching everyone’s movements.
And that was just to set things up. When Lucy showed up, it gave Emmett the opportunity to gush over her. Which I took to be referencing the lack of strong female leads that aren’t known for their beauty. Emmett became the stereotypical heroine, swooning over the opposite sex. Lucy was the stronger character, and it’s nice to see a female character that’s not shallow. And a male lead being generally useless; that’s also pretty rare 😉
The movie also makes fun of how convenient things can happen for protagonists in all forms of entertainment, making Batman the tsukkomi as first the pirate ship rescued them from the middle of the ocean, then the Millennium Falcon popped up to ‘give’ them a hyperdrive. It’s pseudo 4th wall breaking stuff, and that’s brilliant.
Of course, there are some other moments like Bad Cop drawing Good Cop back on himself, a well-tread road (along with the good-cop-bad-cop routine itself); plenty of bad guys find their humanity in the end. Also, when Vitruvius died, he died before giving his message; another arrow at the cliché of a last message delivered at deathbed. When he said he made the prophecy up, it was like a huge nod to those who realised the mocking nature of the film.
Then there are the numerous references to other characters from other worlds, thanks to the Lego toys covering the spectrum of them. Batman pulled out that famous quote that Commissioner Gordon used; Vitruvius came back as a ghost mentor, in a homage to Obi-Wan Kenobi; Lord Business had his super stilts built with each step, like Iron Man; and the robot workers were Terminators, which of course then refer to Lord Business as SkyNet. Vitruvius was even a hipster, claiming to have liked Emmett before he was cool.
Beyond the fun and the satire, there’s also the emotional aspect. It’s not the best scripted, but it tugged at the heartstrings a little, as the entire movie was effectively an allegory for the controlling nature of a father who wants his perfect Lego world, which stifles his son’s creativity. And it’s what we sometimes see in the real world, with Tiger Moms and Dads.
Education should be helping children build a platform to express their talent and creativity, not to stifle it in the bid for good grades, degrees and a cushy job. Let the children be explore their potential.
Looking deeper, we can also see the aversion people have of socialist ideas. This may seem contradictory after all that I’ve said about expressing oneself and individuality, but socialism isn’t Communism. When they had to find a way into the tower, Emmett convinced them all to work together. That’s the key; society can have creative individuals expressing themselves, but there should be an overarching goal for everyone to move towards, a goal towards the betterment of humankind.
Other than the deeper implications behind such a cute film, what really won me over was the self-awareness of the film. The characters and the settings were unashamedly Lego, and that fact was referenced overtly and implicitly. Every plot device they pulled was done in such an obvious way, it was clearly meant to make fun of the device itself. That Emmett saw the world above and beyond his, was another moment of self-awareness.
I’m so glad this is getting a sequel.