In April of 2020, Universal Pictures signed a deal with the Lego Group to develop feature films based on the building block toy franchise. This opens up a slew of creative opportunities that were never explored at Warner Bros.
Warner Bros has only produced four films based on Lego: two original films using a mix of original characters and IP characters, a Lego Ninjago movie, and a Lego Batman movie. After the financial underperformance of The LEGO Movie 2 and Lego Ninjago, development of future films was halted. Following that, Universal Studios acquired the rights to make Lego films.
Warner Bros. has really only made one film based on an actual Lego franchise. Ironically, this was also one of their biggest mistakes. While Lego doesn’t currently have many original ongoing lines, they do have an immense back catalog of properties ripe for adaptation. None of Universal’s own IPs, like Jurassic Park and Fast & Furious, really need Lego films. Neither of those are anywhere near the level of popularity of IPs like Batman and they don’t really need to cross platforms either. Their output is high enough as is.
Universal is known as the Movie Monsters studio due to being the biggest producer of classic monster films, such as Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. In 2012, Lego launched a line of sets titled Monster Fighters, in which Lord Vampyre is attempting to collect six Moonstones, all based around various monsters, to permanently eclipse the sun and allow monsters to take over the Lego world, while Dr. Rodney Rathbone leads a team to stop them. With Universal’s affinity for telling monster stories, this Lego IP is one that would suit them very well. Perhaps they could even combine it with the Pharaoh’s Quest line and bring in The Mummy.
Another easy option would be the Lego Atlantis theme. Warner Bros.’ Aquaman proved that there is an appetite among audiences for films along that line, with the film grossing over $1 billion in the notoriously competitive month of December. An underwater Indiana Jones-style adventure featuring sea monsters would not be a hard sell for Universal, given their success with the widely popular and cheesy Jurassic Park and Fast and Furious films.
One of Lego’s all-time biggest themes was Bionicle, a more than decade-long line of sets that developed incredibly expansive lore across interconnected Lego sets, books, animated movies, comics, and video games. It was created as a way to give Lego their own Star Wars-type franchise, with a cast of biomechanical beings protecting the universe, with a fair bit of inspiration coming from Polynesian and, more specifically, Maori themes. Bionicle, while probably the riskiest of the aforementioned options, has the most franchise potential if executed well.
Using discontinued themes for new Lego movies is not only Universal’s smartest possible play, it also gives Lego the ability to relaunch these lines as movie tie-ins. It may not seem like the most conventional path, but after Warner Bros.’s missteps, unconventional is exactly what the brand needs.