I love the new Dino theme that Lego released this year. Not just because the sets are decent (though they are pretty good). Not because the dinosaurs are the best ever produced (though they are). And not just because of the incredible playability available in pretty much every set. No what I love most of all is the complete lack of pretense. What do I mean? Let me elaborate.
Lego has made 3 previous forays into the world of dinosaurs. The first was the Dino Island line of sets from the Adventurers theme back in 2000. The storyline for that series borrowed from the Lost World hypothesis made famous by Michael Chrichton in his book of the same name: somewhere there is an as of yet unexplored place where animals thought to be extinct have survived undetected until now! Probable? Not so much but certainly plausible.
Next came the Jurassic Park III sets which were part of the studios theme. This was a straight up license and drew directly from the Jurassic Park storyline to explain how humans were facing dinosaurs in a perilous quest for survival.
Finally there was the Dino 2010 theme from 2005. The premise here was that some sort of radioactive accident had unleashed a hoard of mutant beasts, most notably ferocious dinosaurs! This was in keeping with the zombie/apocalypse-from-science-gone-wrong-motif which has been popular for the last decade (think of movies such as I Am Legend). A super thin explanation? Absolutely; but it works and fit with the cultural pattern of the time.
What I love about this most recent installment in the man versus dino category is that Lego has dropped all attempts at coming up with a reason for how or why man suddenly finds himself in the presence of fully grown long extinct creatures. All pretense is gone, they give us no story, no explanation, just awesome sets where men fight dinosaurs.
And they can get away with this because of the rule of awesome. What is that? Simple. It is the concept that so long as a given thing is awesome it needs no explanation. This is a major force in our culture right now. The most recent large scale example I have seen of this idea is the soon to be released movie Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I saw a preview for this last week. Perhaps the movie will give more background but the 3 minute preview gave zero explanation for how one of America’s greatest leaders had an entire previous life, hitherto unknown, in which he slew all manner of satanic beasts. The idea is that the movie makers don’t need to explain because, for enough viewers (though I must confess I am not one of them…), the concept of Old Abe fighting vampires in his top hat is so awesome that their need for a rational explanation will be suspended. Lego is employing the exact same logic here: man versus dinosaurs is so intrinsically awesome that there need be no explanation for how it is possible, the fact that it exists is enough. And I must confess it’s true. When I first saw these sets I immediately said “I want those”. I needed no storyline, no explanation; they were just so cool that they immediately won me over. I highly recommend these sets!