Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary [Review]

Last night I was able to attend a screening of Beyond the Brick at the Seattle International Film Festival. I have to say that I did not have high hopes or expectations. I have found that, at the best of times, they tend to have a skewed view of the fan community, so I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing how a documentary with LEGO’s official stamp of approval would deal with us adult fans. I am glad to say that my misgivings were unjustified. It was good, even (dare I say it?) better than The LEGO Movie itself. Go ahead, stone me in the comments, but everything WAS awesome.

So what exactly is Beyond the Brick?

In a Q&A session after the screening, one of the directors said that their goal was to create a film that not only told the story of LEGO but showed the vast community that has grown up around it. The idea was to delve into what it is about the LEGO brick that touches us and inspires us, how the system of play drives creativity and who are the people who have been changed and/or affected by LEGO. Did they succeed? I think think they did. I have been a fan of LEGO’s products for 35 years and I learned quite a few things about the global LEGO community that I never knew and was reminded of things that I had forgotten. The filmmakers were able to touch on many different aspects of LEGO and the effects it has had over the years and around the globe. Some of these included changes in the art world, new therapies with special needs children, the adult fan phenomenon, crowd-sourcing before it was a buzzword and sending minifigs into Space.

Was everything really awesome about the film?

No film is ever perfect. I felt there were some key members of the fan community who were overlooked and who could have offered insight into the concepts that the filmmakers were wanting to explore. But, in their defense, they couldn’t talk to everyone and they definitely couldn’t fit every detail into 90 minutes. There were only a few omissions that really bothered me, such as leaving out the collaborators of several projects and making it appear that the projects were built by a single person. One example of those was a minor collaboration I took part in at BrickCon. I was in the film, talking about the build but there were actually two of us there. My partner-in-crime was cut out. There were other, more important examples, involving large convention collaborations, that didn’t give full credit to those involved. But really that is my only serious critique of the film. Overall, it is a very well-crafted film that does an excellent job of showing off the LEGO community to the world. You should go see it or get a hold of the DVD when it comes out.

Check out this clip from the film, via The Wall Street Journal (Many thanks to my coworker, Brett, for sending me the link):

5 comments on “Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary [Review]

  1. daniel.fort

    I went and saw the film today; it was definitely a better experience than the Lego movie earlier this year. During the panel the directors admitted that the hardest part of creating the film wasn’t finding content to put into it, but deciding which content to not include. It was a good film nonetheless, and did an excellent job of exploring how the use of Lego bricks has expanded far beyond the imagination of the company.

  2. Iain

    I agree with Josh – overall this is a cleverly conceived and well put together documentary. The pacing and energy of the film should keep audiences of all interests and ages engaged. One thing I think our readers should be aware of though, is that it was in NO way intended to be a film specifically about AFOL culture (…unlike the new Brony documentary!). While the seed of the idea actually came from the producer’s visit to a LEGO convention, the directors realized that there was a much larger story that needed to be told.

    I should also point out that the ‘trailer’ above is not strictly a trailer: it’s a direct, unedited clip. And in my opinion they somehow managed to choose the *cheesiest* minute of the entire film for their promo! The rest of the film is way less cringe-inducing than this excerpt.

    What blew everyone away about this documentary was the sheer breadth of stories that it manages to weave together. The film makers wanted to illustrate the universal appeal of the brick, and I think they succeeded. And the film is also quite entertaining, thanks to a combination of Jason Bateman’s narration, Tommy Williamson’s *hilarious* animated sequences, and some really good interviews with a variety of folks from The LEGO Company. There’s even a little excitement toward the end as LEGO designers face off against AFOLs in a master builder contest!

  3. Aanchir

    Have there been any announcements about how this will be available for home viewing, for those who can’t make it out to a film festival? I’m glad the new brony documentary is getting a home media release, but I haven’t heard anything similar about this DVD, and it’s something I think is worth checking out despite me not living near any major independent film festivals that I know of.

  4. Iain

    The film makers are working on distribution deals right now, and I suspect an official announcement may be forthcoming. They sounded very optimistic when we talked to them. So I have a feeling you may get to see this flick in the not too distant future!

  5. megwood

    The producer, who was at the May 17th screening I went to myself at SIFF, mentioned that the film had been picked up by a distributor and would be available “via the usual channels” in “late 2014 or early 2015.” I really enjoyed it myself, by the way — fascinating (and funny!) look at the myriad ways in which LEGO are used by people of all ages and in all fields!

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