When I think back about The Lego Movie, I distinctly remember three things; Unikitty, the “Everything is awesome” song, and of course, Lego Batman. It was shortly after the release of that film that they announced that Lego Batman would get his own theatrical spin-off, and it’s finally here. The Lego Batman Movie is the best time I’ve had in the theater watching a Batman movie since 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm; my favorite Batman movie of all time, and still is.
The Lego Batman Movie tells us the story of Batman and his relationships; not just with Alfred, but with that of both friend and foe alike. One such relationship that has come to define Batman, no matter the iteration, is that of Batman and the Joker. The version of this relationship is almost a parody of romantic comedies where one side is vastly more invested in it than the other, and a plan is set in motion to make that other person feel the same way. Of course, there is no actual romance here and the “I Love You’s” are replaced with “I Hate You’s” and “I’m currently seeing other people” with “I’m currently fighting a few different people right now”. When Batman tells the Joker that he means absolutely nothing to him, well, you can’t help but feel a bit sad for the guy. I mean, look at this face..
Will Arnett’s Batman is self-absorbed, arrogant but still very likable. Arnett plays him with a very sad vulnerability that comes off even more so due to the fantastic facial animation on display, even if it is on the face of a Lego character who emotes with glowing blue eyes and a small mouth. Batman is still very much haunted by the loss of his parents, the family unit he doesn’t know he desperately wants to have again. When his loner status is threatened due to the possibility of gaining said family unit, well, he doesn’t know how to handle it.
During the course of the story, Bruce Wayne accidentally adopts orphan Dick Grayson. This union is treated like an unconventional introduction to parenting for Batman and is some of the best highlights in the film. Michael Cera’s role as Dick is superb and his big-eyed glasses just add a comical touch that compliments the voice so well. Nearly every interaction between Batman and Robin is well written, well acted and to borrow a phrase from Robin himself, I’m quite “jazzed” by the both of them.
Zach Galifianakis is technically the second ‘animated’ Joker to hit the big screen and while he doesn’t do anything terribly memorable for the role, the visual scope that this Joker entails more than makes up for it. This Joker has an almost feral look to him and the emotional spectrum that runs across his face during the film is some of the best work in the movie. I would have preferred someone a little more high-pitched for the vocals, but that’s just me.
The Lego Batman Movie sees the retirement of Jim Gordon, replaced by his daughter Barbara, played by Rosario Dawson. This isn’t Dawson’s only DC voice-over work as she provided the vocals for Wonder Woman in a few of the ‘New 52’ based animated films. This is another voice that I felt was ok but could have been better. Nothing for me really stands out here and while the character does have a few fun moments in the film, none of them are my favorite by far.
Providing support, both parental and otherwise is Alfred Pennyworth, voiced by Ralph Fiennes. While it’s a bit strange that Fiennes isn’t voicing another character featured in the film, his role here as Alfred is rather great. He has a nice tone as the butler of Bruce Wayne and even gets involved in many of the final moments of the film, to a degree many Alfred’s have not.
Much has been talked about the opening act, and how beyond amazing it is, and they’re not wrong; it’s incredible. Batman is tasked with disarming a bomb that could very well destroy Gotham City, the only problem? The dozens and dozens of villains that stand between him and the explosive. The sheer number of foes that Batman must take down is staggering, many of who are from decades worth of comics or based upon various TV shows, both live action and animated. I got a good laugh from seeing Condiment King, who actually existed, despite the villain being quite lame. This scene is made even better by a song that Batman sings while vanquishing said enemies. It’s easily the best part of this movie due to its sheer silliness and charm.
Chris McKay was heavily involved during the production of The Lego Movie and having him continue that involvement here as Director was a smart and logical choice. His framing of the action and emotional moments are well done and the pacing of the movie is brisk without feeling overly too fast. Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay is remarkable as not only does it hit all the comedic feels that The Lego Movie had, it does so while providing a solid voice to what a Lego Batman Movie should have without compromising it.
Where The Lego Movie was bright and colorful, The Lego Batman Movie is dark and colorful, as one would expect with a movie adaptation of the Lego Dark Knight. Because of the dark nature of the movie, the colors tend to stand out more, and this is also poked fun at during a moment in the film where Batman is trying to teach stealth to a bright and colorful Robin who can’t help but stand out like a sore thumb. I would have to give the visual edge to The Lego Batman Movie over The Lego Movie as it just looks better overall. Characters are well animated, colorful and you can visually look at any of the main characters and be impressed with each and every one of them, especially Robin and his big-eyes.
The Lego Batman Movie is tremendous and exceeded all my expectations. It’s funny, charming and has some deep emotional hooks that can really hit home. Its first act sets the pacing and delivers a fun filled movie from start to finish. The Joker and Barbara Gordon are pretty much the only parts of the film I believe could have been done better as neither of them really stand out. They also could have dropped the entire beat-boxing scene as the whole moment is not that great and comes off a bit awkward. Michael Cera’s Robin is beyond brilliant and his open enthusiasm is the counter to Batman on so many levels. From Batman visiting the Fortress of Solitude, microwaving his lobster thermidor, or having video problems on his TV, The Lego Batman Movie is engaging, entertaining and some of the best fun you can have at the theater and wait until you find out Batman’s super secret password.
Hey Batman, how’d you like the review?