On Sunday night, I attempted to drag the youth (and anyone else who I could sucker) into going out to see the Lego Movie. I had seen it on one prior occasion, but there was something that tickled me on a first viewing that I thought needed another investigation. Some concept that merited more attention.
The unabashedly Lord of the Rings style intro is closed out by a self-reflectively ridiculous prophecy about a particular minifig – a Special, who will come and be the most talented and interesting and creative person in the universe, incidentally saving everyone from stasis and an excess of order along the way. (Basically, the whole first 90% of the movie is the Matrix, backwards, with Legos. And Liam Neeson being hilarious).
In the film’s first fifteen minutes, a very ordinary construction worker discovers the maguffin, a small shard of plastic called the Piece of Resistance. This is the Prophecy – he must be the Special, and is to lead the diverse Master Builders against the villain, Lord Business.
The whole thing is heavy-handed, obvious, derivative, and silly. It’s also incredibly fun, well-written, referential, and self-aware, with some fabulous casting, effects, and music. And it makes what I submit is a fabulous set of theological points.
Everything Is Awesome
The theme song for the film is a ridiculously catchy pop tune called “Everything Is Awesome,” performed by Tegan and Sara and featuring the Lonely Island for the rap interludes. The song by itself deserves a full study, but the chorus will suffice for this medium.
Everything is awesome!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!
Everything is awesome
When you’re living on a dream!
Walking out of the theater both times, I was really, really struck by the communitarian, very Millenial attitude of the chorus. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. This thread runs through the whole film, and resonates deeply with my personal experiences. This is one of the reasons that I love church – because everything is cool when you’re part of a team, when we’re working together for the ministry of the Gospel in community.
“I Only Work in Black and Sometimes Very, Very Dark Grey.”
As Emmett and the Master Builders endeavor to escape from an attack by President Business’ robot army, they come to the conclusion that they must build a submarine to elude their flying adversaries. Together, using found blocks, they assemble the sub, pictured at right – a unicorn kitten princess, Batman, a Spaceman, a “free-spirited” teenager, a hippie wizard, and Emmett, our construction worker. As you can see, the submarine is a random hodgepodge of their individual styles, and very quickly falls apart once the group is underwater.
I sometimes fear that the church is just such a chimaera – an assemblage of bits and bobs, with no unity of hope or purpose or mission – in the words of the scriptures, “In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right,” (Judges 17:6). It’s astonishing that the submarine was able to work at all, and no surprise that it fell apart – for each one was doing what they thought to be the right way to go about it. Tom, who went to see the movie with us, nailed it, I think, when he referred to 1 Corinthians 11:12 – “Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.” Emmett steps in, the totally human Christ minifig, having no particular qualifications or skills except a heretofore undiscovered knack for leadership. He creates a plan and instructions, according to the challenges the group faces, and leads them into a successful mission. Together, the Master Builders, and, indeed, all of the citizens of the Lego Universe, are able to face down Lord Business and his MicroManagers, and to help Emmett to confront the villain with the Piece of Resistance.
And Then Wait What Now?
And then Emmett offers a hand in friendship. Emmett claims the mantle of the Special…and offers the same title to Lord Business. And to everyone in the Lego Universe.
You don’t have to be the bad guy. You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone. The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true. It’s about all of us. Right now, it’s about you. And you… still… can change everything.
The tension of much of the movie is the tension of the old debate in Lego building – am I building by the instructions, or am I going creatively nuts? But the real heart of the thing for me is the redemptive moment. In both the Lego Universe and the human meta-universe, briefly seen at the end of the film, there is true power in the redemptive moment. There is strength in the declaration that everyone is Special – that, in Christian parlance, we are all created in God’s image, that we are all worth trying to save. In the case of the Lego movie (because it has to), it works, and Will Farrell/Lord Business is in every sense redeemed.
I had a blast seeing this movie with my compatriots, and I am still sitting with some of it. There’s a deep layer consumerist layer of meaning that is, again, pretty self-aware. I love the redemptive moment though, and the community/leadership aspect. Overall, it was a solidly philosophical film, one I’m happy to encourage folks to go and see. Plus, it’s really funny and fun.
PS, I’d like points for avoiding the obvious John 1 in Greek joke. En arché ên legós…