The Lego Movie and World Building

I know, I know, I’ve promised to get back to historical blogging, and I promise I’ll blog later on this week about some nasty historical detail, really! So this will be a quick one.

Lego is about the most literal world building non-writers get to do on a regular basis. And if, like me, you have a hoard of these magic bricks, you know they have a universe of potential. So I was very pleased to see the Lego movie making use of so much of that potential. I applaud the film for surrendering to the Lego-ness of its medium. The laser shots were Legos. The steam from the steam engine–Legos! The water, the bubbles, the clouds of dust raised from the horses’ hooves–all Legos!

To those of you not indoctrinated into the realm of Lego, this probably sounds completely bizarre. But for me, as an obsessive world-builder, it’s perfect. I am so often frustrated when books or movies violate the culture and structure of the world they are trying to create and convince the viewer/reader is real. A recent example threw me out of a book set in Mongolia just after the death of Genghis Khan, featuring a teen on the steppes of the Mongolian plain comparing his view of the ger camp to seashells scattered on a shore. . .a thing he could not possibly have seen.

Mongolia then, as now, was landlocked, and this kid was, probably literally, a thousand miles from the ocean. Seashells in Mongolia were considered a striking and wonderful thing–and perhaps he might have seen one reverently kept by one of his elders who had traded for it along a line of strangers who may have been to the beach. He might have seen the image of one in Buddhist design. But a scattering of them? That would be a vision of remarkable treasures, not a glib comparison to the everyday sight of his home.

So to watch a film so true to its invented land was a pure delight. And the Lego movie was not afraid to be meta-fictional, calling on the tropes of the genre of Youtube Lego videos made by fans, using fishing line to make things fly and speaking in falsetto to voice characters who can’t bend in the usual ways of people. I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who have yet to go. Suffice it to say, this is a closely observed and remarkable work, one that manages to be both hilarious and moving. Bravo!

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About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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