Although I’d heard (universally) good things about this film, it was not high on my watch list but schedules determined this was the only one available in which I was even remotely interested. And I’m not going to break the consensus – it was great fun.
The plot is a standard ‘little guy has to find hidden strengths to defeat the big-business forces who want to rule the world’. It opens with a skit on the Gandalf vs the Balrog scene in Lord of the Rings, as the wizard Vitruvius tries and fails to stop the evil “Lord Business” from acquiring a superweapon with which he intends to destroy the world. Vitruvius warns Lord Business that there is a prophecy of the “special”, a master builder who will find the “piece of resistance” and will free the world from tyranny.
Emmet Brickowoski is a boring, run-of-the-mill worker in this world made entirely of lego. Emmet is happy in a world of stifling conformity, though he is not popular at work, being too ordinary even in a world that seems perfectly happy with mind-numbing mediocrity. Leaving work, he stumbles upon a mysterious and glamorous loner on his building site. Trying to get close enough to speak to her, he falls into a pit and finds a mysterious object which seems to call to him, and wakes up in a police cell with the piece of resistance affixed to his back.
Emmet is no master builder, only able to make anything by following instructions, but could he really be the prophecied “special”?
The film constantly, and successfully, pokes fun at both cinematic and more general cultural tropes and clichés. The idea of prophecy, of a destined person to save the world, both maverick and yet (incoherently) the culmination of a master-plan, most memorably portrayed in The Matrix and now itself a tediously conformist film cliché, is itself effectively ridiculed, and there is a warmth and inclusiveness about this film.
There is so much wit, ingenuity and downright subversion evident here that it is really hard to recall that its existence is due to the needs of a toy company to shift more product. But then Lego was always a little different among toy manufacturers, being among the first to offer gender-free advertising (which they’ve offered again, recently). Kudos to Lego for trusting filmmakers to make a proper film, without overtly selling product to us, and in doing so, have made a really great advert for their philosophy and product.