The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the best things to happen to Marvel Comics and its characters since their inception. Tons of Marvel characters have become household names, and the movies are built on the concept of keeping fans eager for more. The problem is, movies aren’t churned out quickly like monthly comics. MCU movies shake things up. Heroes are born, heroes retire, and the Avengers roster is ever-changing. When an actor is done with a role, that’s it for the character.
Hence the need for MCU adjacent projects, which slow things down for fans who like to spend more time in the universe. Disney+ produces shows and mini-series, some with characters whose plots intersect with the movies, as a way to maintain interest in the brand. Then there are the animated shows, which have been heavily influenced by the MCU. The Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon in particular had the same spirit and nearly the same continuity as the movies. Avengers Assemble ended up being the longest running Marvel cartoon ever, but it struggled to keep pace with what was going on in the movies. The LEGO specials somehow seem to hit the sweet spot of being perfect for fans of the MCU movies who are attached to certain characters and don’t want to be confused by non-movie continuity.
2013 saw a LEGO Marvel video game which touched many corners of the Marvel Universe, including stuff from the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. The first LEGO Marvel movie was in 2015. Lego Marvel Superheroes: Avengers Reassembled took heavily from Avengers Age of Ultron and had some plot bits from Ant-Man thrown in. Based on the idea that fans who like the movies, particularly children, would like a lighter jokier version with nods to the MCU all done in LEGO. Disney has been regularly making these LEGO Marvel Superhero movies since then. While not on the level of the theatrically released The LEGO Batman Movie and running at about 45 minutes, these specials are more comparable to Disney’s LEGO Star Wars specials.
There have been half a dozen LEGO Marvel movies over the last decade. Most of them star the Avengers, but there have also been specials for the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man. Most of these specials have come off the heels of the latest MCU project. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Black Panther came out only four months after the MCU Black Panther movie while LEGO Marvel Avengers: Loki in Training was released the same year as the first season of the Loki show on Disney+.
The most recent LEGO Marvel special to be released was LEGO Marvel Avengers: Code Red. The two most relevant MCU works for this one were Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as Sam Wilson is now sharing the Captain America mantle with Steve Rogers, and Black Widow. The MCU movie established that Red Guardian raised Natasha, so in this special, he shows up as her embarrassing and overprotective dad. Unfortunately for him, heroes and villains with the word “red” in their name were being abducted, and Red Guardian was targeted.
The Avengers investigate and, with the help of Wolverine, they confront the Collector. This version of the Collector differs from the MCU version in that he’s a direct parody of obsessive action figure collectors. His goal was to package and store people with colors in their names and began with the color red (but not “scarlet” or “crimson”). It’s a silly premise that’s absolutely perfect for a LEGO movie.
These LEGO specials are great because they don’t just continue the spirit of the MCU, they also throw in some references to the larger Marvel Universe. Because of the use of “red” named characters, some very obscure characters from Marvel lore get call-outs. There’s Red Ghost, a Fantastic Four villain, and Wolverine’s involvement brings in Omega Red. While Omega Red may be well known to a large chunk of the audience, he’s never been in a live action movie, so his appearance is a pleasant surprise. Omega Red can drain the life out of a person with his tentacles, but in this movie, he drains the life out of people, particularly Wolverine, with his exuberance. It’s tough to decide who is funnier between him and Red Guardian. Red Hulk is oddly absent, but Red She-Hulk is used as an alternative to parallel what Black Widow goes through.
The cast from Avengers Assemble reprise their roles. Also returning is Steve Blum, who proves that he can voice Wolverine in any situation. While Trevor Devall’s Red Guardian is similar to Black Widow‘s David Harbour, Haley Joel Osment doesn’t try to imitate Benicio Del Toro as the Collector.
While this special obviously skews younger, there’s no denying that it’s fun for anyone. The Collector talks unboxing videos, Thor expresses his taste in music, and Captain America displays an unwavering faith in Santa Claus. Even with everyone rendered as a LEGO figure, there’s a fair amount of action along with the comedy. The Avengers fight, but they also eat and go bowling.
I can’t complain about these LEGO specials. They aren’t full blown movies, but they’re a great way to pass the time between MCU movies or shows. They’re fun to sit back and enjoy, and they don’t ask you to take them seriously no matter how hardcore a Marvel fan you are.