Reel Talk

The Lego Movie 2 and the Horror of Adolescence

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A few years ago my brother and I popped into a movie theater, ready to watch a movie that we had virtually no expectations for. As you can probably assume, that movie was The Lego Movie, a film that I really had no idea what to expect from. The idea of making an animated film about something so commercial seemed kind of crass, and with an almost impossible odds of success. And yet, it worked. Over the years it’s become incredibly clear that film-makers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have a shocking gift at making movies that shouldn’t work turn out beautifully. And the Lego Movie was the movie that really cemented that idea for me. It was utterly hilarious, wonderfully animated, brilliantly edited, and had a shocking amount of heart and soul behind it. It ended up being all about children and parents, and the struggle to find common ground between the generations while simultaneously telling a story that bucks the idea of “chosen ones,” telling kids that anyone can make a difference. It was a hell of a movie, and has created a huge new franchise, which has had a pretty solid success rate. So, it seemed inevitable that we’d get a sequel, something that would attempt to recapture the magic while doing something different. Which, as we all know, is a very difficult thing to accomplish. I figured we’d get a fun movie, but one that didn’t really match up with the original, kind of a standard sequel trajectory. And yet, at least to me, that didn’t end up being the case. It’ll take a while to marinate on this, but I kind of think I may have ended up liking this one even more.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part picks up immediately after the first film, with our heroes standing triumphant only to find an invasion of aliens built out of Duplo blocks brought about by the sister of the boy who made the world of the first film. Our heroes, led by the average Emmet, attempt to befriend the aliens, but things don’t turn out well. The aliens begin destroying everything cheerful and bright in the world, leading to a slow decline over five years until everything in the world of LEGO is now grim, gritty and post apocalyptic. Except Emmet. He’s retained his unending optimism in the face of adversity, and tries to get his friends to stay positive. But, that gets a little difficult when another invasion of aliens arrive, causing everyone to flee into the fortress belonging to their strongest ally, Batman. However, thanks to Emmet’s compassion, an alien named General Mayhem gets into the fortress and delivers an ultimatum. She comes from the Systar System of planets, and has come to bring the leader of the LEGO characters with her to attend the wedding of Queen Watevre Wa’Nabi in the hopes of finding peace. The Master Builders immediately think that this is a trick, and try to fight back, but General Mayhem ends up defeating them and bringing Lucy, Batman, Metalbeard, Benny, and Unikitty with her to the Systar System, leaving Emmet behind. He immediately tries to rally the rest of the LEGO people to follow them, but no one seems very interested. So, he builds himself a rocket and blasts into space, trying to become the kind of grown-up hero that Lucy wants him to be. And, it doesn’t go well. Emmet almost immediately crashes into an asteroid, but is saved by a manly action hero named Rex Dangervest. Rex has heard tales about Emmet and having saved the world, and he agrees to help Emmet save his friends, while teaching him how to be manly.

Meanwhile, the rest of our Master Builder characters are brought to me Queen Wa’Nabi, who immediately comes off as incredibly suspicious. And, she also reveals that she plans on marrying Batman. Everyone is shocked by this, but Wa’Nabi ends up offering all the of the characters their dream lives, and they pretty quickly fall in line with it, choosing to work with her. Except Lucy. She’s convinced that this is an evil scheme, and gets to work finding a way to escape and ruin everything. She manages to flee Wa’Nabi’s forces, and meets up with Emmet and Rex, who have fought their way through waves of seemingly brainwashed LEGO’s. Together they come up with a plan to become Master Breakers, and break Wa’Nabi’s whole planet. Lucy loves the plan, and offers to go save their friends while Emmet and Rex get ready to destroy the planet. However, in the process Lucy learns something shocking. Wa’Nabi isn’t evil. She’s legitimately trying to bring peace between the Duplo people and the LEGO people, to avoid a disaster known as Our-Mom-Ageddon. So, if they’re good, who is the villain? Why, Rex of course! It turns out that Rex isn’t a new character, he’s a version of Emmet from the future that was lost and forgotten in the basement of the children who made their world. He grew bitter and resentful, and traveled back in time to force Emmet into a position that would cause the destruction of the Duplo and LEGO people, causing the children’s mother to pack up all of the toys and end both worlds. In the real world we see that things are tense between Finn and Bianca, the real children, causing their mother to threaten to get rid of the toys. But, at the last moment, Emmet is able to save the day. With the help of Lucy he’s able to defeat Rex’s evil machinations, and inspires Finn and Bianca to get along, causing a new age of peace between all the toys of LEGO and Duplo.

 

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Sitting down for this movie, I figured I’d enjoy it. I really liked the first one, and loved the Lego Batman movie, so it stood to reason that I would have a good time with this movie. But, I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot from it. Sequels often have seriously diminishing returns, and it made sense that this movie wouldn’t be able to quite capture the magic that the first one did. The first Lego Movie was so unexpected, and so groundbreaking, creating a movie that I definitely didn’t expect. The shock of making a good animated film based on LEGOs would be gone, the surprise of involving human actors who were in the real world would be gone, and we’d have gotten used to a whole bunch of random cameos. It didn’t seem like there would be anything left to surprise us with. And yet, this movie worked. It took what made the original film work and expanded upon it, making a movie that really stands on the shoulders of the original, not getting stuck in recreating the original (other than way too many references to “Everything is Awesome), but by building something different. And I really loved it. The movie is funny, it’s heart-felt, and it’s really well-animated. It’s maybe not quite as funny, and none of the music was really as catchy as “Everything is Awesome,” but it made up for that by pushing the the story to even greater places, tackling something that I personally am incredibly fascinated in.

I find myself harping on a lot of things over and over again on this site. When I first started Puzzled Pagan Presents I didn’t quite realize that there were certain elements to narrative and societies interaction with narrative that meant so much to me. And, one of the big ones is the idea that people shouldn’t be ashamed to like positive things. Most people, especially boys, become very jaded in their adolescence. There’s a pressure to abandon “childish” things and become “Mature,” as people make their way through their teenage years. And, often, that’s thanks to our society’s fixation on masculinity. Men are supposed to abandon their positive and childlike interests and become dark and gritty, like the world around them. Toughen themselves up. And, some people don’t get out of that mentality. They become wary of positive emotions and empathy, which seems like some sort of weakness. And, this movie looks at that phenomena, and expressly identifies it as ridiculous. Finn is getting older and doesn’t want anything to do with his girly little sister, or the charming and friendly world he created five years previous. Now he wants things to be dark, miserable, and gritty. Just like Rex, a caricature of badass machismo, trying to convince Emmet that he can’t rely on anyone else, and that the only way to make it through life is to be cruel and isolationist. But, that’s not sustainable. That mentality doesn’t make you a dark free spirit, it makes you an asshole. And, succumbing to those impulses, becoming a moody and belligerent adolescent isn’t going to go well for you. It ruins the entire world that both Finn and Bianca have made. But, by getting over himself, by embracing the idea that it’s okay to think about other people and to be a little silly sometimes, they’re able to save the day. You shouldn’t be ashamed about liking the things you like. Things can be silly and “childish.” If it makes you happy, it’s worth it. We’re all in this world together, and things are a hell of a lot more easy if we try to keep positive and empathetic. No one wants to be a moody teenager forever.

 

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Mike Mitchell, and released by Warner Bros. Pictures, 2019.

 

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