Month: August 2014

The Lego Movie: Is Everything Awesome?

The Lego Movie is not your average “kid’s movie.” It is packed with relevant socio-political cultural allusions, relentless in its humor, catchy when you wish it wasn’t (Admit it now – you have sung “everything is awesome” at least once since watching), and what may have caught us all off guard – it was deeply emotional and philosophically robust. Who knew going into a Lego movie would mean being confronted with complex views of time, libertarian freedom, and the nature and purpose of god and man?

Maybe you didn’t catch those, but they were there. **Spoiler alert** While the word “god” was never used, “the man upstairs” immediately stepped into a god-like character, controlling the whole Lego world (a character reserved only for one as morally astute as Will Farrell) from the infinitieth-floor.

Represented as “President Business” in the Lego world, the man upstairs decries the status of the world by saying, “People everywhere are always messing with my stuff. But I have a way to fix that. A way to keep things exactly the way they are supposed to be – permanently.” Gluing Lego pieces into place is, representing a deterministic universe fixed in time and space, the ultimate Lego-world conflict.

Although intuition and cultural context might lead us to suspect a critique of the Christian God, whatever aims the film had at representing the man upstairs this way were foiled by both his deterministic desires and the film’s rejection of a creation from nothing (ex nihilo):

“All the people of the universe were once free to travel and mingle and built whatever they wanted. But president business was confused by all the chaos, so he erected walls between the worlds and became obsessed with order and perfection…”

Liberal trends in the Christian church want to view the Bible as merely one of many ancient near Eastern creation myths by interpreting its narrative to describe a God who merely patterns the chaos of time and space, instead of creating time and space in Genesis 1. This god does not transcend the created world, but only exists within it. Ironically, not only is this unorthodox, it is clearly not the case with Will Farrell’s character, who exists both outside and within, an inconsistency worth a good smile and some armchair reflection on the creator-creature distinction.

The movie is not shy about its inconsistencies. Cloud koo-koo-land appears as the ideal-utopian society, which exists in a heavenly-cloud realm. Princess Uni-kitty describes it:

“‘Here in cloud koo-koo-land there are no rules. There is no government. No babysitters. No bed-times. No frowney-faces. No bushy mustaches. And no negativity of any kind.’

‘You just said the word “no” like a thousand times.’

‘And there’s also no consistency. Any idea is a good idea, except the not happy ones – those you push down deep inside where you’ll never ever ever ever find them.'”

A fascinating glimpse into how the human will is interpreted in the Lego world, the writers show their poker hand here by admitting that there is no way to be consistent in saying that the ideal government is a government that has no government. But why is this “ni dieu, ni maitre” (No Gods, No Masters) such a powerful rallying point in heaven?

The Lego Movie puts forth its highest statement of value in the form of “the prophecy”, which is stated numerous times, but in its essential form is most directly told to Wild Style:

“The prophecy states that you are the special. The embodiment of good. The foiler of evil. The most talented, most brilliant, most important person in the universe.”

Unlike Biblical prophecy, this prophecy is not an infallible revelation of an all-powerful God at all, but is admittedly made up, “because the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be.” And this takes on a utilitarian aspect when Emmet asks, “How can I believe I’m the special when I’m not?”, and the answer is “Because the world depends on it.”

This really is a fascinating concept. The creativity of the creature, or the Lego in this case, contains the purposes of the whole world, and recognizing self-value is the key and universal objective.

This is similar to the Christian’s conception of Imago Dei (“Image of God”) with Adam and Eve, who were, as the pinnacle of God’s creation, sent out to actualize their creative powers by subduing the earth in order to reflect, and spread the reflection (i.e., image) of God’s glory. But in the Bible, this creative power comes indirectly; it is mirror-like. Because Adam and Eve are image, their creative power is derivative. Not so in the Lego world!

Because the inhabitants of the Lego cultures are asked to realize they are “the special” by creating anything, or destroying anything, as “ground breakers”, all sense of orientation for what a prophecy might mean by “foiler of evil” is completely lost, since morality, knowledge, and reality are self generating. If Unikitty says only happy ideas are good ones, what if it makes someone “happy” to lie or to murder in the Lego world? What kind of Lego creation is this in which chaos is the highest law? Even the Lego Movie creators are inconsistent in their hate of order since they created an entire movie that is now utterly fixed in its form. But relishing the inconsistency, Emmet’s Lego piece even moves by itself on the table as the power of the creature over the power of god starts to surface. The creation doesn’t need a creator!

It is just at this point that the film’s most stunning emotional arguments are made in the person of the son. In the humorous but profound argument about a “highly sophisticated interlocking brick system”, the father and the son are entirely at odds about their creation. The son does not see an ordered universe, but the father does. Through Emmet, the son makes a case for the chaos creation:

“What I see are people, inspired by each other, and by you. People taking what you made and making something new out of it.”

Through the mediation of the son, the father is reconciled to the world and no longer at odds with his creation.

Sound familiar?

Despite just how closely this narrative resembles a Christ-figure story, it is entirely at odds with a Biblical one. The Lego Movie says the god-figure, “the man upstairs”, is actually the bad guy! And the son’s character teaches us all that the father-creator is flat-out wrong. Except for a failure to see each person as a god-like creator and self governor, no wrong can be done in the Lego world. If sin is defined as “lack of conformity to, or transgression of God’s law”, then sin is actually the highest moral virtue in the Lego world.

But the Biblical God, the God of our world, claims sole right to say what is good and evil, and to order all of creation. Jesus came as fulfillment of prophecy to call men to repentance and faith in the God who made them, as well as to believe in Him as God’s Son so that they could be made right with the Father, and made to be like Him.

But the Lego Movie not your average “kid’s movie!” Instead of bringing sinful man up to heaven through the son, the Lego Movie brings sinful god down to earth through the son. While the movie was one of the most riveting and amusing “kid’s movies”, its religious values and teachings amount for the Christian to cosmic treason.

But who wants to think about all that!? Cue Music!

“Everything is awesome!”