Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Film Review - "The Lego Movie" (2014) - A Hero's Journey

Figure 1. 'The Lego Movie Poster'

A timeless and classic children’s constructible toy now comes to life in this hyperactive and bubblegum pop movie known as The Lego Movie (2014).

The concept of the Lego Movie can be perceived to follow Joseph Campell’s theory known as the Hero’s Journey, and can be split into three acts accordingly; Separation, Initiation, and Return. Each act has a series of steps within which portrays the path of each tale respectively. Although some stories can vary in the order, the initial concept remains the same.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, both known for their collaborative directing on films such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) as well as 21 Jump Street (2012) and 22 Jump Street (2014), this whacky array of colour and adventure all begins with an ordinary construction worker, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt). 

Our story begins in the first stage, the Ordinary World, where things are, as the title implies, ordinary. The hero will go about their daily routine, possibly implying this to be monotonous or mundane. Emmet is just an ordinary face that always faded into the crowd, a follower, someone who always stuck to the instructions, until one day, his perception of the world he once knew was challenged by a random stranger. Said stranger (known later on in the film as the character Wyldstyle/Lucy) appears before us in a rush, searching for something. Having been spotted by Emmet, she flees, peaking Emmet’s curiosity, hence why he follows after her, only to shortly become lost. As he searches and tumbles down into deep underground caverns, he happens upon the film’s MacGuffin, the “Piece of Resistance”, which could also be considered as the hero’s Call to Adventure. From this scene of events, we can understand that Emmet should technically be classified as an Accidental Hero, a character who was used to the ordinary and then by chance, just happened upon a destiny far greater than his own. 

Upon coming into contact with the Piece of Resistance, Emmet has a vision of something outwardly and unknown to anyone else, only to then black out. He then wakes up to then find himself in a confrontational situation, persistently being questioned by a character called Bad Cop (accompanied by the other half of his personality, Good Cop) who works for the mastermind of the entire operation, Lord Business. But having known nothing of the prophecy and the Piece of Resistance, Emmet denies all questions of him being “The Special”, a character so creative beyond any other character who is capable of building extraordinary things. This denial will be the next step of this journey, The Refusal of the Call. Bad Cop refuses to believe that Emmet is oblivious to the situation and then sends him to the melting chamber.

This then leads the audience into meeting the Supernatural Aid, a being with immense power beyond the normal. The aid is then introduced to us as Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) after she assists Emmet escaping from his captors. Wyldstyle has an incredible power to build something out of anything, the ability of a Master Builder, who takes Emmet and Crosses the First Threshold, the departure of the ordinary world that he knows into a vast new land, The Old West. In a way, the characters tend to cross many thresholds into different worlds as there are varying amounts of Lego universes within the story.

Figure 2. 'Emmet, Vitruvius, and Wyldstyle'

The story then progresses on for Emmet to then meet another Supernatural Aid, or better known to be a Mentor, Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman). Teaming up, the trio set off to unlock Emmet’s mind and to convert him into a Master Builder. They travel various lands and happen upon many characters from popular culture, such as Batman, Dumbledore and Shaquille O’Neal, to name a few. But due to Emmet’s lack of integrity and his clumsy mannerisms, he accidentally is tracked down by Bad Cop and Lord Business’ henchmen, thus leading our main characters into The Belly of the Whale. As they build a submarine to escape the airships, they submerge deep underwater, only to have the submarine cave in on the group. The only thing surviving was Emmet’s invention of the double decker couch, the only component of the submarine that stayed together. The submerging of the characters could represent a baptism so to speak, as this is a turning point in the film for our hero Emmet, as well as some of the other characters. Emerging up from the waters, Emmet takes charge and makes plans to defeat Lord Business and his plot to superglue the worlds, the rebirth of the hero.

The Road of Trials, although is technically the “next step” in the journey, it has been a reoccurring theme throughout majority of the film. Emmet was constantly being knocked down for his ideas not meeting to the standards of most characters, and then to sacrifice himself to the deep vortex to save the Master Builders, only to discover that the vortex lead to the “real world”, our human world. Although daunting, he does not become deterred, Emmet perseveres onwards to help his companions. 

We then come to Meeting with the Goddess. Although there is no personification of a singular goddess, one could interpret this characteristic as Emmet being encouraged by his peers for being a great person whole is capable of making a change. This drives Emmet to strive to be a better person, and to then becoming a Master Builder.

Figure 3. 'Lord Business'

The Ultimate Boon created in this film is perhaps Emmet finally realising his true potential and becoming a Master Builder, and therefore more likely to fulfil the prophecy as The Special. This also ties in with the stage of Apotheosis, the point where Emmet has expanded his mind to the endless possibilities of these worlds and is now able to do things which he never would’ve imagined doing before, i.e. saving the city from being superglued, and building extraordinary creations from regular things (taking their original purpose and changing it to have another purpose).

Despite the Magical Flight having to appear after the Ultimate Boon, this film depicts this concept a little bit beforehand as well as after. Although it doesn’t necessarily have to be perceived as a literal flight, the example that comes to mind is in somewhat an actual flight. After travelling through the vortex, Emmet ends up in the human world and encounters the child behind all of the events happening to him and his companions. The child is then confronted by his father, who is the human representation of Lord Business, someone who everything to kept in order. In this world, Emmet is then inspired and truly has his mind opened. He then returns back to his Lego world (also possibly a portrayal of the Crossing of the Return Threshold) and confronts Lord Business with a fresh mind and open eyes. 

Going back to the father and son characters from the human world, as Emmet is conversing with Lord Business, the father is doing the same with his son. This then ties in with the Atonement of the Father stage. The father realises that children should have the freedom to play and that he need not be so stubborn and fixated on keeping things in order. Lord Business at the same time now realises that people should be allowed to create as it can lead to amazing things, and not chaos and disorder.

And now we come to the end of our story where the characters have been given the Freedom to Live. Although the film was comical throughout, the ending then became light-hearted, and therefore had somewhat of a resolved feeling to it, as if everything was now fine and everyone can coexist in peace.

Overall, The Lego Movie (2014) is a jovial experience of how creativity can give a sense of freedom, to which it is also an interesting example of how someone from an ordinary world can also become a hero.

Illustrations: 

Figure 1. 'The Lego Movie Poster' (2014) [Movie Poster] At: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1316605952/tt1490017?ref_=tt_ov_i# (Accessed on 30.09.15)

Figure 2. 'Emmet, Vitruvius, and Wyldstyle' (2014) [Movie Still] At: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/lPnY2NjSjrg/maxresdefault.jpg (Accessed on 30.09.15)

Figure 3. 'Lord Business' (2014) [Movie Still] At: http://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/mt/2014/02/president_business_full/lead_large.jpg (Accessed on 30.09.15)