The Gospel According to LEGOs
Box Office Mojo forecasts Son of God and the latest thinly veiled Taken rehash will have what it takes to knock The LEGO Movie off of its top spot in domestic movie ticket sales.
It's been a remarkable three-week box office run with over $187 million and counting. That it would take a one-two combo of Liam Neeson and Jesus to knock LEGO off of its perch is nothing short of incredible.
Since Warner Bros. has demonstrated the bankability of storytelling with LEGOs, allow me to suggest a follow-up: the Passion of the Christ in LEGOs.
No, I'm not joking, nor can I take credit for the idea. Credit or blame Brendan Powell Smith for that.
Smith is the artist and photographer behind a two-volume graphic novel The Brick Bible, as well as a series of kids LEGO books that derive from the Bible, and Assassination: The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents.
You can bet I'll be spending some time on the LEGO grassy knoll soon.
Reading Smith's treatment of the Gospels in the Brick Bible's New Testament Thursday was a unique experience. It's a deceptively simple concept. Many of us read the "Picture Bible" when we were children. This is superficially the same concept, except with plastic bricks and figures.
"Deceptively simple" because adapting the Bible to any medium comes with its own challenges. That goes double when you're practically inventing a whole new medium -- stop-motion LEGO storytelling with the occasional computer manipulation -- as you go.
Smith pulled all of the Gospels, including John, together in one giant synopsis. This was a huge piece of work, with great effort going into the choices of costume, setting, and camera angle for each panel.
For the text, Smith used a jumble of translations with his own tweaks. Anyone familiar with the Gospels will quibble here and there and wonder why a few scenes didn't make the cut. Yet they will also see that this is recognizably most of the Life of Jesus material in the New Testament.
Smith was limited by the existing LEGO parts and figures, which forced his hand on some choices. He calls the Holy Spirit by its King James designation, the Holy Ghost, early on because it's easier to show an actual sheet-sporting ghost in LEGOs than an invisible spirit.
Conversely, He did some things with this new visual medium that are quite incredible. When Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount, Smith gives us some of the mental images that he might have been going for in living color.
For instance, when Jesus tells the crowds that if they do not forgive others "your father will not forgive your sins," we see average Joe law abiding LEGO figure burning in the flames of Hell. You haven't seen Hell until you've seen LEGO Hell. The same goes for Jesus casting demons out of possessed people.
The Brick Bible has not been without its controversies. Smith is very open about the fact that he is an atheist though one with no animus against religion. His approach to the Bible, judging from the Gospels, is to tell the stories as, well, faithfully as he can -- with LEGOs.
Some have balked that his telling has been too violent, sexual, or vulgar. Sam's Club stopped selling some Brick Bibles after parents complained. Smith responded that he only held up a LEGO-shaped mirror to what's already in these believers' own holy book.
That defense slightly understates his interpretive achievement, however. After watching The LEGO Movie and reading The Brick Bible, it's not hard to smell potential here. Warner Bros. ought to lock down the movie rights, pronto.