Last year, for a shining moment, it almost seemed like Warner Bros had finally found the shared cinematic universe that they’d been looking for.
Not with the DCEU, of course – that has always been a garbage fire. Warner’s biggest success, instead, appeared to be the series of movies that it was spinning off from “The Lego Movie”.
After the unprecedented success of the first feature length Lego commercial, which came bundled with weirdly poignant themes of anti-consumerism, Warner Bros eagerly leapt to work trying to make more of these films.
When “The Lego Batman Movie” turned out to be the most entertaining DC superhero film of the decade at the time (“Wonder Woman” has now overtaken it), it seemed as if this movie formula was made of gold.
Now, all Warner Bros needed to do was continue creating father-son films about building blocks forever, and they should be able to keep the money and the critical acclaim pouring in, right?
Then, “The Ninjago Movie” happened.
Unfortunately, this film was always going to struggle – Lego’s proprietary ninja-themed toy line hardly has the same mass appeal as Batman, nor the wider cultural relevance as a broader look at Lego as a whole.
This clearly wasn’t a movie that was going to resonate with adults in the way that “The Lego Batman Movie” did, and as such, when it turned out to not actually be all that great, it wasn’t too big of a surprise.
Now, Warner Animation Group (WAG) is struggling to make a fourth “Lego Movie”. The official sequel to the Chris Pratt film is still a long way away, and in the meantime, the planned “Billion Brick Race” has just lost its director.
According to Jorge R Guttierez, who was slated to direct the movie:
“I would like to publicly and from the bottom of my heart thank everyone I worked with at Briksburg, LEGO and WAG. These last 9 months were a rollercoaster of thrills to say the least. I met so many amazing new people and learned a ton from all these incredible artists, directors, writers, editors, producers and execs. I leave a better filmmaker and it’s because of you all. May our paths cross again. Gracias mis amigos. And as I toasted on my first day there, ‘May we slip n slide on the blood of our enemies!!!’”
This is a big loss for the Lego franchise. Guttierez was something of a star catch when he initially signed onto the project, having directed “The Book of Life” previously.
The script for “Billion Brick Race” also comes from the cream of the crop of Hollywood talent, having been written by Jason Segel, who also penned the screenplay for 2011’s “The Muppets”, alongside Drew Pearce, who wrote “Iron Man 3”.
The damage to “Billion Brick Race” is going to hit the brand hard – if Warner Bros can’t get a solid, appealing Lego movie out the door soon, they risk losing the momentum that they’ve generated thus far.
Maybe, though, if the studio wants to draw in bigger crowds with the next Lego movie, it might be a good idea to make a film for someone other than the standard father-son crowd.
Would it really hurt to make a Lego film that focuses on a female main character? After all, Lego bricks have never been exclusively a male toy, no matter what the marketing may have you believe.
If the fledgling Lego Cinematic Universe shrivels up and dies in the near future, it might be worth assuming that this is because the films have become too formulaic. Seriously, every single one of these movies thus far have revolved around crummy father figures earning redemption.
Maybe when “Billion Brick Race” gets back on track, the focus can lean away from yet more adorable plastic blocks of testosterone for once.