John Paul the Great Catholic University believes in the power of story to impact us in profound ways. The Power of Story Essay Contest asks prospective students (juniors or seniors in high school) to write an essay reflecting on a story they have experienced (could be a Film, TV show, Play, Novel, Video Game, or Graphic Novel) that was particularly effective in drawing its audience closer to truth, beauty, and goodness, and explain how the story was a gift to the audience.
The award for the grand prize winner is an all-expense paid two-night trip to our campus in San Diego. Congratulations to Cian Magner for writing the winning essay!
The Lego Movie
Although it’s probably an unorthodox film to be used for such a prompt, The Lego Movie (2014) is a film that holds a near and dear place in my heart. While at face value the film may seem foolish, childish, and even like a two-hour long commercial, I think that what lies beneath is a heartfelt, creative, and genuine storyline that provides commentary on not only the conformity of today’s society but also the importance of family, companionship, and fraternity.
The basic plot of The Lego Movie is nothing out of the ordinary. It tells the story of a zero-to-hero minifigure named Emmet, who must find his way and what truly makes him special in a battle against the oppressive Lord Business. Although I enjoyed the storyline immensely, even if it was clearly meant for a younger audience, it’s not where this film truly shines. What left an impression on me when watching this film was the messages it sends, and the social commentary it relays. For example, one of the main themes in the movie is the idea of social conformity and social norm, or, as the film puts it, “following the instructions.” The inhabitants of Bricksburg follow the same routine every day, without breaking stride, and never go against the instructions. I think that this idea can have real implications in our own society today, where the ideas of conformity can dominate our wills, and routines can become barriers, impeding us from becoming anything more than what our habits dictate us to be.
Another essential message of the plot is the importance of family. One of the bigger reveals in the plot line is that the events in the Lego world are a mere reflection of the imagination of a boy named Finn. Finn’s father, characterized as Lord Business, has been gluing all the Legos together, preventing Finn from using them creatively. Through a heartfelt speech between father and son, Finn is able to show his dad that there’s no need to have everything perfect and conforming, and they can play together as a team. While perhaps cliché, I actually really enjoyed the parallels between Emmet/Lord Business with son/father. Their reconciliation at the end stressed the importance of cooperation, compromise, and family. For someone who lives in a large family with many siblings, I can say first hand that these values are of utmost importance, especially in a society where we can many times forget the value of family.
Although I really enjoyed the messages that this film had to offer, it’s not the main reason why I have such a strong connection with this film. Much of my affection for this film is rooted in nostalgia, as Lego construction blocks have had a big impact on my own childhood. I can remember spending hours with my brothers in front of a big Lego pile, with blocks strewn across our living room floor like a booby trap just waiting to strike at the bottoms of my parents’ feet. Many of my fondest childhood memories are associated with these simple bricks, and to me, they represent more than just a toy: it means childhood, serenity, and family. I also can largely credit my fascination with filmmaking to Legos themselves, as my first ever videos were short stop-motion animations using the ever-versatile bricks. These short clips, objectively unimpressive and terribly short, would begin a slow progression to an ever-increasing interest in the filmmaking process.
Thus when I first heard of the release of a Hollywood-made blockbuster film centered around the Lego franchise, my reaction was nothing short of sheer excitement and anticipation. Finally, after years of making my own amateur Lego films, Hollywood was going to show me how it was done. And I was not disappointed.
The animation style was quirky, exciting, and realistic enough that I was almost fooled into thinking it was stop-motion animation. The writing was funny, well-paced, and enjoyable to all ranges of audience members. The plot had real value, and it wasn’t just a commercial like many had feared. But what this film did for me more than anything was revitalized an interest in filmmaking, and brought me back to a time in my childhood that was spent in front of my parents’ camera, with legos in hand, creativity filling my mind, and a smile across my face. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
I had been living in France for just over a year, and while I had become fairly well adjusted to the new environment and culture, there was still a lot that I felt I was lacking. And one such thing was a purpose. I had few friends, few obligations, and few hobbies, and every day felt like a day just waiting to return back to my home in Peoria, Illinois. I was in desperate need of a purpose: something to keep me going, something to look forward to. And The Lego Movie gave me that. Immediately after getting home from the movie I ripped open the old tote of Legos and just starting building. I started imagining new storylines, new characters, and different shots that I could film and animate. I grew excited about filming again, and I started to create my own films after almost two years of hiatus.
Since then I’ve continued to film, continued to be inspired, and continued to grow in my abilities. I’ve expanded beyond just Legos, and have developed an affinity for directing and editing. But when I look back at my journey, I realize that I have a lot of credit to give to The Lego Movie. It has provided me with a solid foundation to rely upon for creativity and inspiration, and serves as a reminder to the values I hold dearest.