The biggest gamble of The Lego Movie is the late reveal that it’s all a story being acted out by a kid as he plays with Legos. In order to fully sell the twist, the movie has to pull out of the wonderful animated world it built and show you a live-action suburban basement. That’s a hard shake to the viewers’ sense of disbelief, but it’s worth it. The Lego Movie is a story about imagination. In order to fulfill that goal, it has to show you that anyone – or, at least, anyone with Legos – could tell a story like this.
Emmet takes a kind of dream-quest into this world, seeing it but not understanding it. He’s just a toy here, with limited agency. But what he sees in our world gives him the strength to win the fight in his. He doesn’t have to understand it. Seeing is enough.
The Lego Movie 2 returns to that “real” world a number of times, and it ultimately becomes the staging ground for a bizarre metaphysical battle in the third act. Rex Dangervest is, in fact, Emmet from the future. He was accidentally left under the dryer in the basement for a long, long time, and the isolation made him bitter. So he ripped apart a bunch of Lego time machines to build his own, bigger Lego time machine. Except that, on the meta level, this is insane. It means that Rex actually traveled back in time. He foresees – then causes – real-world events that the kids playing with the Legos could not reasonably have predicted.
The strangest thing about The Lego Movie 2 is how much lore there is baked into it. You’re expected to have seen the first one AND a bunch of other movies (a scene at the end genuinely will not make sense if you haven’t seen Back to the Future, although that’s hardly a big request). BUT you’re also expected to not have put so much thought into them that you wrote all the analytical stuff I just wrote here.
The end result is comparable to a late entry in a horror franchise that’s about to keel over from all the retcons. If Lord and Miller are asked to write a sequel to their recent hit Spiderverse, which seems likely at this point, I’m hoping they’ll have learned from The Lego Movie 2 about how much lore is too much lore.