It took me two viewings before I really came on board with The Lego Movie. The first time, I just didn’t get what the fuss was all about but, thanks to a chance special offer DVD, I gave it another chance. And I loved it. I couldn’t get the song out of my head and it finally made sense. Everything about that film was awesome. As is everything that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have come up with since. The Lego Batman movie proved to be a huge success and a lot of fun. Then, as you may well remember, Into The Spider-Verse proved to be my favourite film of last year. I mean it was basically perfect. I still can’t get over it. And, considering how many disappointments there were at this year’s Oscars, it was well deserving of its win. It seems as though Lord and Miller are definitely set to be quite the duo and, especially when it comes to animated features, they are a pretty safe bet. So, I was pretty excited by the release of a follow-up to The Lego Movie. Obviously, sequels to great movies aren’t necessarily great themselves and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how the second film would work. But I was looking forward to getting the gang back together to find out. And who knows. Everything was probably going to be awesome anyway.
The Lego world that we left at the end of The Lego Movie is decidedly different as we go into the sequel. The Duplo bricks that we briefly met at the previous film’s climax, have taken over and forced our friends into hiding. Instead of the fun and happy Bricksburg we find ourselves in the much darker Apocalypseburg. Most people have adjusted to the harder landscape with an attitude change but Emmet (Chris Pratt) is struggling to leave his old life behind. But, he is constantly plagued by visions of a coming disaster her titles “Armamageddon”. When the Duplo bricks kidnap some of the key members of Apocalypseburg, Emmet decides that “Armamageddon” is nigh and sets out to rescue his friends. The rest of the gang has been taken to the Systar System where their suspicious Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) plans to marry Batman (Will Arnett). She manages to subdue most of the group with her super catchy pop songs but Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) remains unconvinced. Thankfully, Emmet meets up with an impressive stranger Rex (also Pratt) who offers to help destroy the Queen. But can the pair rescue Lucy, save their friends, and stop the people of the Systar System from starting “Armamageddon”?
Of course, after the massive reveal of the first movie, this whole plot is played out with a knowing nod to the fact that everything is happening in the imagination of siblings Finn and Bianca. The pair are trying to share the toys but finding it difficult. It’s all very meta but not as much fun as it was the first time. It kind of bogs everything down a bit. All of the “real world” interactions or references just feel a bit less wow and more predictable this time. It’s all kind of “oh I see what you did there” instead. And, if I’m honest, the overall message of unity is kind of heavy and very earnest. It doesn’t have the same sweet sense of fun that the first film did. It all feels a bit more shcmaltzy and after-school special.
However, this film was made using the same template that Lord and Miller created for the first film. They may only act as writer and producer this time around but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have their names all over it. It is sharp and funny. The same original and fresh take on the same old stories. There are plenty of jokes and sight gags for the kids but these are, ultimately, very grown-up films. There are jokes about Hollywood’s endless need to repeat itself, references to its central star’s career, and an acceptance that there were problems with female representation the first time out. It is a film that doesn’t pander to the idea of what a family film is. It doesn’t resort to childish humour but offers something greater.
And, yes, it might not be as awesome the first time around. The story isn’t that great and the finale is a bit weak. It’s not different enough from the first one to be completely removed from it and, as such, it becomes painfully obvious how slight the narrative really is. And, as it bears repeating, the moral message is just presented really clumsily. But, that isn’t what this film is about. This is a film about imagination and creative expression. It’s the kind of film where anything can become possible. It’s about the amazing animation that brings to life characters that you’ll never forget. It’s weird, it self-referential, it’s way more intelligent than it deserves, and, most importantly, it’s funny.