The Lego Movie is a 2014 feature film based around the popular, plastic brick Lego brand. This film rejuvenated the brand and has since produced two spinoff movies featuring a few of the most popular Lego minifigures, Batman and Ninjago.
Why do I know this, you may ask? Because as I am writing this article, my eleven year old is singing, “We are ninjas on the W-A-A-Y, we are here to save the D-A-A-Y!” This, of course, is the theme song from The Lego Ninjago Movie released last month. So as a father of three young kids, The Lego Movie has become one of my family’s top choices for our weekly pizza and movie night.
I think we all find someone we relate with in the movie. There is Vitruvius, the mystic prophet. Emmet, the common, ordinary lego figure chosen by “The Man Upstairs.” Wildstyle (a.k.a. Lucy), the strong independent female with mad skills. Batman, the dark and brooding musician, which I identify with. Then there is Unikitty, the Enneagram type seven, my wife.
Back in 2014, we took the kids to watch it in our local theater, and I distinctly remember being struck with the prominent religious themes resonating throughout it. For example, as my kids laughed at Vitruvius’ prophecy:
One day a talented lass or fellow, a Special one with face of yellow, will make the Piece of Resistance found from its hiding refuge underground. And with a noble army at the helm, this Master Builder will thwart the Kragle and save the realm, and be the greatest, most interesting, most important person of all times. All this is true, because it rhymes.
Meanwhile, I was theologizing about how redemptive this story sounded. In my opinion, the best stories are redemptive stories: Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars, the Bible. In addition to the redemptive theme, I noticed several other religious references. There is a Noahic covenant theme, a Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) theme, and even a nod towards gnosticism or hidden knowledge themes. Nevertheless, outside of the Judeo-Christian themes (i.e., Messiah, sacrifice, redemption), The Lego Movie incorporates a lesser-known Hindu theme.
Lila is a Hindu concept consisting of the divine interplay between the Absolute and our lived-in, contingent reality. In a way, it is a beautiful concept. Based on this notion, our universe is the result of God manifesting in a way that allows the Divine to interact with matter in a tangible, cataphatic, hands on way (e.g., Gen. 2:7). Creation, then, is mere child’s play. The divine is pleased with and enjoys the interaction between Self and Creation. This image of the Divine, as a young child, playing with creation ends up being the main driving force behind The Lego Movie. As we find out near the end of the movie, everything the characters experience, their interactions, their thoughts, their story is simply the imagination and playfulness of a child. The Lego universe itself is just an extensive toy collection of “The Man Upstairs.” Hence, according to a particular view found in the Hindu tradition, the universe is the Divine’s playground.
Overall, I recommend watching The Lego Movie. It is a story that both kids and adults can relate with and enjoy, a rarity in today’s entertainment industry. It engages enough cultural, religious, and socio-economic contexts to keep it interesting for the adult viewer while it remains fun and lighthearted for the kids. On many levels, I find it reminds us of who we are as the imago Dei. We are “the Special.” We are “all capable of amazing things.” And so, as my favorite quote evokes us to remember, we must “Believe. I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true.”