LEGO Batman is the Hero We Deserve and the One We Need
Perhaps the biggest cinematic surprise of 2014 was The LEGO Movie. The notion was, here’s another lazy release from a major studio. Here’s another toy or IP being turned into a movie to make money instead of creating more original content.
But to the delight of everyone, LEGO Movie turned out to be a bitingly genius and original comedy. Written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the film was not only an energetic and colorful kids movie, it was also layered with subtext. Tackling such topics as consumerism, corporate greed and government control, LEGO Movie turned out to be one of the smartest films of 2014. The fact that it wasn’t even nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars is one of the all-time travesties in the history of the Academy.
It also made more money domestically than The Hobbit, Transformers, X-Men, Apes, Spider-Man and Godzilla so naturally, Warner Bros. was thinking franchise. One of the standouts from LEGO Movie was Batman portrayed brilliantly by Will Arnett. Poking fun at the persona of the caped crusader and the actors who’ve portrayed the character, Arnett tackled the role with inspired narcissism.
So naturally the first LEGO spinoff belongs to Batman and I can happily report that The LEGO Batman Movie is not only a great follow-up to the original, but a worthy entry in the Batman cinematic universe.
From the moment the Warner Bros. logo appeared on the screen, I had a big smile on my face. LEGO Batman jumps right into action as our dark knight is once again battling The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) on the streets of Gotham. And as usual, Batman foils Joker’s latest scheme.
It’s just another day at the office for Batman, but Joker at least wants validation that he’s Batman’s greatest foe. When Batman doesn’t extend that olive branch, the Joker feels hurt and unappreciated and intends to change the hero’s mind with a grand plan.
But Batman lives on an island both figuratively and literally. He doesn’t need anyone in his life (Or so he says) because that giant black hole is filled with living the playboy life, working on those abs and putting bad guys away and taking all the credit.
Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is the only person who recognizes Batman/Bruce Wayne’s pain and decides to shake things up by bringing in Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera) who Wayne accidentally adopts. Now Batman can no longer lone-wolf it by taking Robin under his wing (Puns!). He also has to deal with Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) becoming the new police commissioner in Gotham. She wants to work with Batman in fighting crime.
The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t quite as layered as The LEGO Movie because the focus is entirely on the lore of Batman. But that isn’t a nock. LEGO Batman simultaneously satirizes and celebrates the more than 80 years worth of history with the DC property.
In fact, there are so many jokes in this movie, it will require multiple viewings just to appreciate it. The references range from nods to the previous movie adaptations to other DC characters as well as a prominent Marvel character. They even threw in a Pulp Fiction joke just for good measure.
Chris Mckay takes over as director and he and the writers (There are five credited) show a great awareness for what the first LEGO Movie built which is meta humor. Shots from previous Batman movies are recreated, shade is thrown at Suicide Squad and the Batman/Joker relationship is not so subtly compared to the movie Jerry McGuire.
But the film rests on Arnett’s shoulders (Or vocals) and thankfully, he masters the character with that signature gravely voice (Someone get that man a throat lozenge) and comedic timing he honed from his days on Arrested Development. The voice cast is stacked, but his performance is rivaled only by Cera’s dewy-eyed turn as the young Robin.
One of the trailers to appear before the movie was The LEGO NINJAGO Movie. I laughed consistently throughout that trailer and after seeing LEGO Batman, it appears Warner Bros. has created their own Pixar brand of animation. If you have to take your kids to one movie this weekend, make it LEGO Batman because there will be humor for everyone.
The LEGO Batman Movie is the best iteration of the character to appear on the big screen since The Dark Knight. It’s also better than anything in the DCEU at the moment.