DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.
Normally, I do not write about any animated film or television series, but it is a common topic on Odyssey Online and my cousin really enjoyed this film when he was five-years-old, and that’s how Metal-Beard’s tale of woe elicited interest from me. Because “The Lego Movie” is a phenomenal film that appeals to people of all backgrounds, young and old, liberal and conservative, and has nearly a 100% approval rating on the Tomatometer, I wanted to write about one of its most fascinating characters–Metal-Beard.
Basically, this is a man (or, well, a Lego figure) who literally rebuilt himself upon being nearly destroyed after a failed attack on Lord Business. This is the character, the archetype, who we all aspire to be like, who adapts to any disaster that might occur, no matter how traumatic and life-altering. Metal-Beard shows his resilience by making his last stand against the micromanagers as Finn’s father, played by Will Ferrell who non-coincidentally also plays the voice of Lord Business, glues every Lego set in its proper place accompanied by the Gregorian chants in the background music. Nick Offerman himself felt empowered providing the voice of Metal-Beard.
Although he becomes an imposing Master Builder with cannon-fingers, he continues to harken back to that event with Vitruvius remarking, “Here we go again.” It caused him to relive it through his relatable self-loathing when he referred to this new body as a “useless hunk of garbage,” even though his new body would be useless if it could not sustain itself against an army of robots and micromanagers on top of Benny’s spaceship. Of course, the transition into this new form would not exactly be a pleasant experience. The shaping of an identity can only be eloquently described by Jane Ripplemeyer from Bharati Mukherjee’s novel “Jasmine,”
“There are no harmless, compassionate ways to remake oneself. We murder who we were so we can rebirth ourselves in the images of dreams.”
Perhaps Metal-Beard’s dreams consisted of his vengeance against Lord Business. No matter how powerful or successful any of us might become, it just might not be enough for some.
This sense of helplessness causes the other Master Builders to feel ill at ease when being around him, along with his narcissism when he talked about his former “strapping virile pirate body.” Being a captain over a hearty Master Builder crew may well require a certain amount of ego and charisma. That type of ego may also convince Metal-Beard to avoid engaging in any lost causes if there is no way of effectively defeating Lord Business, which is why he does not help Emmet and his friends for the first time. Of course, as Dutch psychologists in their study about narcissism in leadership roles might deduce, Metal-Beard’s assistance would be desired in circumstances like when Emmet and his band hide in a double-decker couch and they are uncertain about how to infiltrate Lord Business’ tower, which leads Metal-Beard to ask Emmett to come up with a plan.”
Metal-Beard’s modification also represents adaptation, since Legos, even parts of the figures, can click to any other Lego surface. This would allow anyone to expand his/her imagination beyond what the instruction manuals dictate (or what the Kragle can glue together). In the directors’ and actors’ commentary, it was stated that building from Legos was like putting together a sandwich with any foods that are available. So, Metal-Beard could represent endurance as well as the lesson that Offerman took from Metal-Beard, which is that it is acceptable to be weird and to creatively interpret the rules. This becomes an important key to Metal-Beard’s character since he can transform his “useless hunk of garbage” into a singing head or a copy machine.
Creativity would also require a lot of intelligence, and it did help the actors that Offerman used brilliant command of the English language in his emails to them; and one usage needed for the characterization of Metal-Beard was his knowledge of nautical terms. Metal-Beard’s own form cannot be classified in any other way, which is what makes him unique. Even Finn’s father remarks “Is that a robot-pirate?” If you ask me, Metal-Beard can be anything.
The directors did state that Metal-Beard was originally supposed to be Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, which would have been a weird combination, but it would have been interesting to position Metal-Beard as a more central character. I will say that if there can be a “Lego Movie” spin-off focusing on Batman, then there might also be an interesting study of Metal-Beard. His “tale of woe” could be the main plot for “The Lego Metal-Beard Movie” or just calling it “Metal-Beard and his Tale of Woe.”
There is definitely a close link that Offerman has to Metal-Beard which made his performance believable. Although he does not figure prominently in “The Lego Movie,” children and adults can see how Metal-Beard’s narcissism, helplessness, creativity, vengeance, and endurance are attributes of a conflicted and relatable character.
Maier, Steven F. and Martin E. P. Seligman. “Learned helplessness at fifty: Insights from neuroscience.” Psychological review 123 4 (2016): 349-67.
Nevicka, B., De Hoogh, A, et al. “Uncertainty enhances the preference for narcissistic leaders.” European Journal of Social Sciences 43 (2013). 370-80.