The Lego Movie – taking the ‘sub’ out of ‘subtext’

I went to see the Lego movie this morning. It was everything I hoped for – weird and wild and full of visual fun.

As they say in the film, everything is awesome!
As they say in the film, everything is awesome!

The film’s pretty clear in its underlying message – don’t try to fix everything in a sterile image of perfection, let life be messy, chaotic and fun. Near the end an unexpected plot and stylistic twist turned this from what you might generously call subtext to a full on out loud message about how people should play with their toys and with each other. That might sound like it trampled over any subtlety the movie had, but actually it worked. Despite the moral sledgehammer they were wielding I found it charming. The fact that it was tied to a visual shift and story twist really helped. (Sorry if I’m being a little cryptic, I’m trying not spoil the film.)

Sometimes the subtext can become the text. Sometimes it’s OK to just throw subtlety out the window and go ‘hey, here’s the message of my story!’. That’s particularly true when writing for children, but I think it applies with adults as well. If you do it well enough you can get away with that kind of thing. The risk is that doing it badly will really put people off your stories.

I heartily recommend the Lego movie. It’s awesome fun. And maybe it’ll inspire you in your own creative acts as well – something this wild and exciting really should.