Movie Review: “Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary”
Spoiler Alert: While the film is a documentary, I’ve outlined the main sections of the film below which might take away some of the fun.
I love that Seattle has a rich music and arts community, especially for a city it’s size. This includes the Seattle International Film Festival; SIFF is one of the biggest independent movie festivals in the world.
This year has undoubtedly been a great year for LEGO (especially given the excellent “LEGO Movie”) which makes for a great time to debut a documentary about LEGO community as a whole. The film is called “Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary”, and it’s touring the festival circuit right now. It debuted a couple weeks ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, and Seattle is just it’s second city. Keep your eye’s peeled for a showing in your city!
About the Film
As the film is a documentary, it doesn’t have a plot per-se. That said, the film employs short stop-motion segments featuring the classic LEGO Minifigure, who explores the world of LEGO through his own eyes.
An film excerpt courtesy of WSJ.com.
The film starts where you would expect: scenes of kids around the world free-building LEGO creations in their home. After that introduction, we meet the LEGO Minifigure who starts us off in a rather long and extremely well done stop-motion segment where we see the history of the company, from wooden toys to the first plastic bricks, the advent of the Minifigure, the rise of themes such as Classic Space and Pirates, falling profits, and their rebound through a focus on building and licensing deals such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and more. This section was an absolute delight, what better way to show off the history of LEGO than through a brilliant stop-motion sequence.
After this, the film sprawls a bit; over the course of several “chapters” we learn more about the broader world of LEGO created by Adult fans of LEGO from around the world. This includes a very well done sequence where they really quickly highlighted the many acronyms that LEGO fans use to describe their hobby including AFOL or Adult Fan of LEGO, TFOL for teens, KFOL for kids, LUG or LEGO User Group, SNOT for Studs Not On Top, and even BURP or Big Ugly Rock Piece.
This is also when we learn about the rich community of LEGO User Groups which host major events to showcase their creations. The film included extensive footage from BrickCon, the biggest annual event by the Seattle LEGO Users Group. This made the film even more interesting for me, as I know some of the people featured in the film. They included scenes from the LEGO building competition which they held last year, which looked like a lot of fun. This is when they showcased some of the most noteworthy Fan-made LEGO creations including many of the models built in Seattle.
We also get a behind-the-scenes look at the LEGO company headquarters in Billund, Denmark. This includes video of the factory where the bricks are made, and you get a brief glimpse into the rooms full of every different LEGO part you could ever imagine where LEGO designers create new products. The film also showcases behind the scenes footage of the brick-built city which was featured in the recent ‘LEGO Movie’ which came out in February.
A crowd-funded stop-motion LEGO film. (It hasn’t been completed yet.)
From here we explore LEGO as an art medium even further, with a segment on the rise of fan-made stop-motion LEGO films, which has been fueled even more by cheap digital cameras and the ease to share your films on YouTube. We also learn about the well respected large scale LEGO Art made by Nathan Sawaya, and the debut of his “Art of the Brick” exhibit in New York City.
The film closes with the therapeutic use of LEGO bricks to help developmentally challenged kids overcome their anxieties by building LEGO models. They have shown great results in asking kids work together to complete a model, by swapping between building, sorting and instructing roles. This is interleaved with a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the largest LEGO Model ever created, a life-sized LEGO Star Wars X-Wing made with more than 5 million bricks. The film tries to bring everything to closure by showing how both a massive commercial LEGO installations and the experience building a regular LEGO set can bring happiness to Kids, even grown-up ones.
The film was a very enjoyable exploration of the breadth of ways people have incorporated LEGO into their lives. It lacks the depth that some dedicated fans might have liked to see, but I hope this helps help the film find a broader audience. At 95 minutes, the film does drag on at times, especially in the end. I think a 60-minute edit would be perfect for a broader television release, should they get that opportunity.
As I saw the film at a Festival, the directors and some of the Seattle-area LEGO fans who were featured in the film, so we got a chance to ask some questions.
I asked the directors if the timing of the film is related to the official “LEGO movie”. They indicated that they started the project without knowing about the LEGO Movie, but they had some help from the LEGO company in creating the film, and had hoped to release both films at the same time. Needless to say, the movie was released before the documentary. They did indicate that the film should see broader distribution in US Theatres soon, and that the documentary will be sold in stores as well.
There were also questions for the fans featured in the film, who indicated that they were also impressed by the breadth of topics covered int he film and that they learned something new too. Someone asked Alice Finch how many bricks are in her Hogwarts and Rivendell models, and how much it cost. She indicated that there are 400k in Hogwarts, 200k in Rivendell, and that she doesn’t want to know how much they cost to build.
More Q&A with the filmmakers can be found in this interview at The Victory Report.