It’s the return of the Legos in a DC-centric followup to 2014’s mega hit, The Lego Movie. Fortunately, most things are indeed, awesome.
DROPPING THE MIC
The Lego Batman movie is funny, colorful, and charming. Following up on the heels of the mega popular and critically acclaimed The Lego Movie, Bats gets his own film that centers on the theme of family. Naturally, the Wayne Family makes for a perfect centerpiece to the story. Though Batman doesn’t quite hold up as well as say Emmet did from the first film, The Lego Batman Movie takes what it can from the original and brings it over to its own film while distancing itself enough for this to be a good standalone movie.
Now I feel I must preface this review by stating that though the two movies are fairly different, Lego Batman does not hold up to the wonder or quality of The Lego Movie.
The first ten minutes of the movie throws everything at us and packs in loads of established Batman lore. Just about every Batman villain you can name makes an appearance, and likely a handful that even the most loyal of fans would be hard pressed to recognize. Batman is Gotham’s lauded, super star superhero that everyone seems to love. He locks up all of Gotham’s villains in Arkham Asylum (again) and despite the fame and fortune he feels, is in need of a more immediate, intimate family.
The story focuses on a few things here. First off is Batman/Bruce Wayne’s lack of family outside of his loyal father figure and butler Alfred Pennyworth. There were more than a few hilarious sequences during the film’s first third or so that were laugh out loud good; Batman’s microwaving of his Lobster dinner, Batman’s temper tantrum with Alfred, the revelation of the secret password to the Batcave (that jabs at a Marvel character we all love), etc. I could go on. Despite some jokes falling flat or just plain missing the boat, you know there’s another one coming just seconds away thanks to the insanely quick pace of the story. In some movies, this might come off as weak and obnoxious but in Lego Batman, it works. Second is the dynamic between Batman and Robin. Bruce Wayne accidentally adopts Robin early in the film, causing quite the commotion and obligation for Wayne. I know this was meant to be a touching, aw-inspiring plot, but it never once felt cute/adorable/meaningful to me. Most critics will disagree, but Robin comes off as unintentionally cheesy and annoying at times. The theme of The Lego Movie was to break the mold, to be yourself, and to stand out from the crowd with your individuality and creativity. Here, the theme is that family is about as important as anything you could possess, and that your friends and other loved ones can represent the family you don’t have. The issue is that the execution doesn’t quite hit the mark. Lego Batman’s themes are just as noble, but don’t quite have the same impact.
Third, the relationship between Batman and Joker is a focus. Their interactions are made into a bromance and it’s quite funny how things play out, with some jokes only to be understood by a more mature audience. Joker wants to be Batman’s greatest nemesis. He wants to be the reason Batman trains harder. It’s a detriment to Joker when he finds out that Batman doesn’t feel the same way, and the subplot takes its toll as Joker becomes obsessed with rising to the top of the villain chain. This is a theme that has become reoccurring more and more in recent years, most notably in the video game Batman: Arkham Knight, where Joker’s lust for fame and showmanship prove to be his true weakness.
The film is not as visually sound as The Lego Movies was. Though they are shot the same way in terms of using 99% Lego pieces and builds in its animation, the darker tones used in this film don’t quite work out. There’s usually too much going on at once on screen in a lot of moments, particularly action sequences that lessen the overall quality of the cinematics and thus, can be a strain to focus on. Whereas everything was crisp and clear in The Lego Movie, I can’t say the same for Lego Batman.
Will Arnett’s rendition of Batman is why this movie got the green light. He provided some of the funniest moments of The Lego Movie in limited screen time (“first try!” comes to mind). Rarely does something come out of Batman’s mouth and fail to bring laughter to the audience in this film. Thankfully, it’s a drastic departure from the Batman we see in the Lego Batman videogames. I touched on the relationship between Batman and Robin above and I’m not quite sure if it was the direction overall of the character or the voice acting. I believe it was the former. Michael Cera voices Robin, but I wish he felt more Michael Cera – socially awkward yet likable. This Robin was simply socially awkward. The fan favorite Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon, the newly appointed commissioner of Gotham who challenges the very idea of Batman and asks the question does Gotham truly need a vigilante like him?
Zack Galifianakis voices The Joker and though it’s nothing special, it felt like it was exactly what this iteration called for. Goofy, yet emotionally complex. Plus, how could you not love Galifianakis? His version vastly outperforms The Lego Batman Videogame trilogy’s version. Ralph Fiennes perhaps gives us the best performance from someone not named Will Arnett in his rendition of Alfred.
Overall, Lego Batman does a nice job of being self aware and fun. I loved seeing different Batman villains interact, such as Tom Hardy’s version of Bane to DeVito’s version of the Penguin. Thanks to Warner Bros. licensing, characters from some of your other favorite geeky movies appear, such as Harry Potter’s easy-to-take-down Voldemort, The Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz, King Kong, LOTR’s Sauron, and more. It was a nice ensemble crew that borrows from the concepts of the superb Lego Videogame series. The movie also references just about every Batman movie ever, making fun of some while paying an nice homage to others.
The Lego Batman Movie is a great way to kick off the 2017 movie year for geeks, fans of Legos, and everything in between. It was in an impossible position with regards to living up to its predecessor but despite its flaws and lack of a catchy musical theme, the movie is still mostly awesome.
+ Will Arnett’s Batman is worth the price of admission.
+ Ultra quick pacing actually helps the movie. Some jokes don’t stick the landing but never fear, a new one is coming up to the plate momentarily.
+ Good, wholesome message for kids and adults. The movie is enjoyable no matter what age you are.
– Messy visuals only due to the cramming of too much on screen all at once.
– Michael Cera’s Robin misses the boat.
– Pacing and cinematics cause the flow of the film to be iffy at best.
Josiah LeRoy writes, edits videos, hosts podcasts, and has the best beard in The Geekiverse. Did you know that The Lego Movie was one of his first movie reviews ever?
Other Lego Reviews from The Geekiverse:
The Lego Movie Videogame Review
Ranking The Lego Videogames
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