When I saw “The
That latter question of course yielded a big yes last weekend, with the film pulling in $69.1 million, one of the largest-ever openings for a movie this time of year.
Extracting lessons from a film that is sui generis in so many ways doesn't really make sense — the reason it worked is precisely because it wasn't like anything else. Then again, there are some things the Phil Lord-Chris Miller film did — and didn't — do that helped make it better than the average (minifigure) bear. A breakdown:
About a toy. The comparisons made by many in the blogocracy — this space included — is to "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe," two successful movie franchises based on toys. But those films were far less lauded, in part because many of us could sense what they really were: big action movies with a tie-in slapped on to make marketing the film easier. "Lego" may have been greenlighted in part because it had a name people knew. But the toy wasn't just an excuse for a film: its essence was also part and parcel of the movie, from its look to its themes (e.g., the legitimate tension between freedom and conformity).
Changes in latitude. It seems self-evident: Let creative people run the show and keep corporate interests out of the edit room as long as possible. Of course, when hundreds of millions of dollars are involved, good luck getting that lock to work. Still, "Lego" — perhaps because of the originating company's Danish roots, perhaps because Lord and Miller, as well as producer Dan Lin, were coming off hits and had a fair amount of clout — was made with a comparatively small amount of interference. "Lego," for instance, didn't have full script approval.
Brand love. Take a character people really have love for, not just remember, and make a movie about that. (See also under:
Adult content. The real kind, not an occasional aside. I grew up in the age of
Acknowledge the elephant. Or, mock yourself and no one will mock you. Most movies with branded characters galore play it with a straight face, making us roll our eyes. But "Lego" constantly poked fun at these elements even as it threw them at us: "Batman" playing against type as a jerk, shots of Lego sets that were actually failed lines, and, of course, the song. Oh, that song. It's much easier to hum along to something as shamelessly sugary as "Everything is Awesome" if we know that the filmmakers want us in on the shamelessness. Or as Miller said: "We want to point out how plastic pop music can be, but we also wanted to note how we all love to listen to it sometimes anyway."
Happy accidents. It's striking how often good movies happen because something in the system didn't operate as it usually does. “
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