The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
US (2019) Dir. Mike Mitchell
Having expanded on the Lego franchise with a successful film in 2014, instead of a direct sequel, the universe branched off to focus on individual characters, like with the witty and action packed Lego Batman Movie, and the largely forgotten flop Lego Ninjago Movie. Five years later, a sequel to The Lego Movie finally arrives.
Shortly after the events of the first film, the Lego world of Bricksburg is invaded by aliens from the Duplo universe. To broker peace, ordinary construction worker Emmet builds a heart for the Duplo, but one of the creatures eats it and fighting ensues. Five years later, following more Duplo attacks, Bricksburg is now Apocalypseburg, a ravaged version of its former self with many Lego people now missing.
An intergalactic being named General Sweet Mayhem arrives from the Duplo universe one day and takes Lucy, Batman, Benny, Metalbeard, and Unikitty back to the Systar System. Its Queen, Watevra Wa’Nabi brainwashes the Lego friends into believing she is not evil, except for Lucy, and tricks Batman into marrying her. Meanwhile, Emmet sets off to rescue his friends, with the assist shady loner Rex Dangervest.
Film sequels are often difficult unless you have a good story or continuing an extant one. When you factor into the big selling point of Lego is the endless possibilities of what can be created with these plastic blocks, by extrapolation, a film script should also have the freedom of a limitless scope of imagination. The Lego Movie 2 sits in a weird grey area of having some bold new ideas but also relies heavily on an established formula.
To elaborate, there is a greater focus on the real world outside of the Lego universe, which only played a small part in the first film in the final act. It was a cute twist but one that took us out of the main story; in this instance by referencing it more frequently it becomes part of the main story. Writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller clearly had a moral to impart about inclusion and sharing which perhaps wouldn’t have worked by keeping the action solely in the Lego world.
Because it was established at the end of the first film the young boy Finn (Jadon Sand) was forced to share his toys with his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), viewers who remember this will be able to associate the presence of the interloping Duplo toys as Bianca’s interference with Finn’s activities. The change in the Lego world five years later is a symbol of Finn’s growing up and like most teens, losing the innocence of his prepubescent years and embracing darker, edgier influences.
Of course, what we see is a fantasised interpretation of the new world Finn has created. The primary point of order is how everything has changed, and maybe not for the best – that is subjective – with the exception of Emmet who is still egregiously chirpy, clean cut, and thinks everything is awesome. Lucy/Wildstyle may be Emmet’s girlfriend but even she wants him to toughen up and take life in gritty Apocalypseburg more seriously.
When his friends are taken to the Systar System, Emmet is forced to make the rescue alone, as the other Lego denizens don’t believe he has the bricks to pull it off. A happy accident sees him collide with the spacecraft piloted by Rex Dangervest, a rugged all-action hero with a trio of Raptors as his crews. Rex has a grudge against the Systar System and its Queen, so when Emmet outlines his plans Rex is all in.
Meanwhile, the Queen is a shape shifting Duplo toy and welcomes her guests by singing a song about how not evil she is, convincing everyone except Lucy, who is able to read between the lines of the contrary lyrics. As such, she is quickly outcast from the others and is forced to go it alone when the Queen proposes to Batman, believing it is all a ruse that will trigger Armamageddon.
Even though we are aware that this is being played out through the imagination of a child in the real world, the tangibility of the way the action is presented lures us into forgetting this salient fact. When the big reveal comes as to how and why this came to be, the poignancy behind it is far more impactful, putting some of the idea as well as key points in the dialogue into a new perspective. This is a rather clever piece of subliminal moralising albeit with borderline saccharine execution being a U rated film.
Like before, the humour comes courtesy of the various characters present and the one-liners befitting them, a non-stop barrage of self-referential gags, witty in-jokes, and pop culture mockery. What hampers the success rate is the fact this was what made the first film and the Batman spin-off so great; the repetition that works for younger audiences won’t stand up so well for older ones. That said, the change brought about when in the Systar System adds a new twist to some of them, Batman being the obvious one.
Reflecting changes in social attitudes regarding inclusion and female representation, the subplot of Bianca’s playing with Finn’s toys ties in with Lucy being the nominal hero of the tale, and the biggest performance afforded to the Queen. Some might balk at the heavy pink and sparkles theme of the Systar System as being too gender specific or maybe even a lazy stereotype, but the politics behind it, for wanting a better term, is on message enough that it should override such derision.
In the final analysis, The Lego Movie 2 is a perfectly entertaining, well meaning, and very busy addition to the Lego franchise but does suffer from sequel-itis, in being somewhat beholden to the precedents set by its predecessors. It has plenty of new ideas to avoid being a carbon copy but the spectre of the retread will loom heavy for the more cynical viewer.