WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, in theaters now.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part sets itself up early with an obvious conflict. When an alien force kidnaps most of the heroes that saved Bricksburg in the 2014 film, it's up to the kind but "not tough" Emmet (Chris Pratt) to rescue them from Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) and her enforcer General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz). Emmet ends up teaming with Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt) to reach them in time.
But the film takes an interesting swerve and casts in a new light the motivations of the apparent villains while adding a surprisingly tragic twist to the seemingly benevolent Dangervest.
Come Together, Right Now
While Unikitty (Alison Brie), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny (Charlie Day) are instantly taken in by the charms of Watevra, Batman (Will Arnett) and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) are more resistant. Batman is eventually brought into the fold, however, and agrees to marry Watevra to essentially unite their kingdoms. But Lucy becomes convinced that Mayhem and her Queen are brainwashing everyone, escapes. Meanwhile, Emmet and Rex come to the same conclusion after meeting other citizens, who are seemingly brainwashed, Stepford Wives-style. The three unite, and come up with a plan to free all their friends and destroy Watevera's world.
However, Lucy discovers Mayhem and Watevra aren't actually evil, and that there is no brainwashing. Watevra really does want to marry Batman, to combine her world with the remnants of Bricksburg. Lucy tries to warn Emmet, but he's convinced by Dangervest to follow through with the plan, and destroys the kingdom. This causes "Our-Mom-ageddon": In reality, destroying the castle was the act of Finn (Jadon Sand), the boy playing with Emmet. That ruins the castle his sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) had built to play with him. The fight leads their mother (Maya Rudolph) to order them to put all the LEGO in their storage bins, fulfilling the dream Emmet had and sealing away everyone except Emmet and Dangervest (who escape.)
My Own Worst Enemy
This is where the film really veers, and reveals that Dangervest is Emmet. Well, an Emmet from the future who never made it to Watevra's world and instead became lost under the Washing Machine. He waited for his friends to look for him, but they never did. Eventually giving in to bitterness, he managed to actually get up and build new things. He created the Dangervest persona as a means to become "tough enough" to fix the world. He stole parts from various time machines to construct his own, traveled back into the past and saved the younger Emmet so they could complete their mission to find their friends.
But he doesn't use the opportunity to save his friends. He actively goads Emmet into becoming more like him, a cool and tough "hero" who can do what needs to be done. And after they've destroyed the kingdom, Dangervest grabs Emmet and departs, leaving the rest of his friends for Our-Mom-ageddon. It's spiteful, growing out of his resentment their supposed abandonment of him. He's not a master villain trying to destroy the world; he's an angry man trying to complete the mission he set out to do. It's just that, by the time he actually does that, he's forgotten his original purpose. He became more focused on Emmet changing and growing up, instead of trying to save the people he cared about.
It's an interesting twist, and a lot of that is due to how little of Emmet remains in Dangervest. He still has a bit of his charm, and his positivity toward Emmet is still a major part of his personality. But it's all directed with a purpose. He's not supportive, he's quietly manipulative. He even tries to ensure the continuation of his timeline by blasting Emmet underneath the Washing Machine to suffer the fate he once endured: abandoned by his friends, and left to stew until he decides to give into his anger and become Dangervest, thus completing the loop.
When the two finally come to blows beneath the Washing Machine, they even point out that they're the personification of a child's imagination. Looking at Dangervest like that makes him a surprisingly complicated character. He's a preteen taking all the wrong lessons from heroes, mistaking selfishness for self-reliance, and cruelty for necessity. Finn almost destroys his relationship with his sister, just as Emmet nearly becomes the depressing but self-assured loner Dangervest, in an attempt to be "tough" and "cool." But when Finn remembers the connection he has with Bianca and how important love can be, he reevaluates his attitude.
In the end, Lucy fights for Emmet to remain a good man over a tough one, and that turns out to be the secret weapon against Dangervest. She escapes the bins and comes back for Emmet, thereby altering Dangervest's past. He fades from the time stream, and allows Emmet (and Finn, playing out this adventure) the chance to remain a good person. It's a surprisingly heartfelt twist, turning the hero into the villain without ever forgetting that it's a good heart that can save the day.
Directed by Mike Mitchell, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part reunites Chris Pratt as Emmet, Elizabeth Banks as Lucy (aka Wyldstyle), Will Arnett as Batman, Nick Offerman as Metal Beard and Alison Brie as Unikitty. They're joined by Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa-Nab, Stephanie Beatriz as Sweet Mayhem and Arturo Castro as Ice Cream Cone. The film opens on February 8, 2019.