April 6th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The NSW election and our incredible shrinking farming sector

SOCIETY The pervasive and pernicious online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coffers are full but Treasurer will take spending cautiously

OPINION Judge treats Cardinal Pell to a spot of 'open justice'

NATIONAL AFFAIRS NSW Liberals re-election gives a boost to Morrison

ECONOMICS The Great Dragon uncoils all around the globe

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS President Donald Trump: an unlikely promise keeper Part 2

REFLECTION On the conviction of Cardinal Pell

FICTION Orange Years: The Japie Greyling Story

TERRORISM Lessons from Christchurch

ASIAN AFFAIRS Xi's imperious play prompts U.S. to repair Asian friendships

YPAT Getting with the program: one young person's story

MUSIC To market, to market, to sell a good song

CINEMA The LEGO Movie 2: Building a world

BOOK REVIEW A template for living alongside the world

BOOK REVIEW Catholic Maryland and early tolerance



THE BUDGET Take your tax cuts and be merry, for tomorrow ... is another day

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The LEGO Movie 2: Building a world

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, April 6, 2019




To all brothers and sisters. They do make the world a better place.

The nature of creativity – the crafting of something new from what there is – is fertile ground for storytellers. It provides a ready stage to explore big passions and big personalities. But it often buys into the myth of the artist-as-hero. Such stories can be magnificent, but they can also lack context, re-treading fantasies of the lone genius against an unappreciative world.

2014’s The LEGO Movie offered a counterpoint to such simplistic storytelling, simultaneously praising wild imaginings and orderly instruction-following showcasing the importance of both for creativity. That movie ended on a cliffhanger with the invasion of aliens from the Planet DUPLO who came to “destwoy” the Bricksburgers.

The LEGO Movie 2 picks up right at that moment with Emmet (Chris Pratt), the hero of the first film, offering the aliens a LEGO heart – only for it to be eaten. The invaders go on a rampage before flying back to the Systar System – returning regularly for anything bright or shiny, always accompanied by catchy pop music. In response, the Bricksburgers build a “grittier, cooler, more mature society” from the wreckage – Apocalypseburg, a heckish place to live where only the toughest survive.

Emmet, however, remains the same. He’s kind and sweet and all he wants is to build a house for himself and his special best friend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) where their friends can come over and hang on the double-decker porch swing.

The super-tough, cynical Lucy is afraid the house will attract aliens – and she’s right, as an alien spaceship commanded by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives, kidnapping her, Batman (Will Arnett), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Spacepilot Benny (Charlie Day) and Uni­kitty (Alison Brie) for a “matrimonial ceremony” hosted by Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), ruler of the Systar System.


The distraught Emmet rebuilds his house into a spaceship and flies through the Stairgate to rescue them all. He’s almost killed by asteroids only to be saved at the last minute by the super-cool Rex Dangervest (Chris Pratt), a galaxy defending archaeologist, cowboy and raptor-trainer. Together, the two will boldly go where no one has gone before to save their friends.

You might be forgiven for thinking this story has been created by children on too much sugar – and you would be right. The big twist in the first movie was that all the action took place in the imagined universe of a young boy playing with his father’s ginormous LEGO collection in their basement, and the tension between his wild imaginings and his father’s obsessive desire to treat LEGO as art.

That boy, Finn (Jadon Sand, and Graham Miller as the young Finn), is now a young teenager and his dad (Will Ferrell) has left all the LEGO for Finn and his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) to play with. The conflict in this story comes from the tension between the siblings with their different styles of play and different interests.

As Chesterton points out in The Toy Theatre, there’s nothing quite as serious as a child at play, and this film bears that out. The stakes are high and the logic flexible, but the world-building is real. Emmet and Lucy’s adventures are not an allegory a la C.S. Lewis and Narnia, but a Tolkien-esque exercise in subcreation, fashioning a living and breathing universe that exists of its own accord. It may echo the events of the “real world” but it does not exist to explain those events. Rather, it exists for itself – and the joy of its creators.

This does not mean there are no lessons to be learned, as good art, like life itself, always has something to teach us. The bad guy is driven by a lonely individualism, born of despair at a world where everything is not awesome. Where the villain of the first film saw the world’s imperfection as an excuse to freeze people into a “perfect” state, this one just wants to break it all down.

This film poignantly builds on the key insight of the first: that the joy of creativity, of life itself, is about more than just us and that not everything being awesome does not mean we can’t make things better by working together and trying to be better.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm