Published on February 10th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Lego Batman Movie
This spinoff to the Lego Movie sees the breakout character of Will Arnett’s Batman in his own world, fighting The Joker and his own doubts.
In a world where the filmmakers could draw from any properties that they had the licensing to, one of the breakout stars of the 2014 The Lego Movie was Batman. Will Arnett provided the voice for a character that was a comical send up of the cool, dark Batman we know and love. The Lego Movie itself was a burst of brilliance in a world of often dim-witted multiplex fare, the rare mainstream movie that succeeded on multiple levels. It was as funny and heartfelt as it was visually jaw dropping. Batman is back in The Lego Batman Movie, this time inhabiting the world we normally know him from, Gotham City, or in this case, Lego Gotham City.
Batman’s cool exterior is a defense mechanism he has taken on after the death of his parents, so much so that he spends his lonely life trying to convince himself that his existence as a billionaire vigilante is pretty awesome. When The Joker tries to take over the city yet again, Batman upsets him by refusing to agree that they are yin and yang mortal enemies. “I’m fighting a few people right now,” he says, hurting the feelings of the Crown Prince of Crime. Even Superman seems to rank higher on Bats’ list of enemies. When The Joker comes up with a new plan to make Batman realize the strength of their relationship, or blow up Gotham trying, Batman finds help (that he doesn’t want) from Alfred, the new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon, and a goofy young orphan named Dick Grayson.
There’s a lot of voice talent on display here with Michael Cera as Robin, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, and Zack Galifianakis as The Joker (fans of Arrested Development will enjoy having Cera and Arnett together again). That said, lot of serious talent also goes under utilized with throw away and one liner characters played by actors like Jonah Hill, Jason Mantzoukas, Jemaine Clement, Conan O’Brien, and even Billy Dee Williams (sort of reprising his role as Harvey Dent, or rather, as Two Face, the bad guy he never became in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie). Not that you could squeeze all those characters into a coherent story, which is often the problem that actual superhero movies have. Oddly enough, Eddie Izzard plays Voldemort instead of Ralph Fiennes doing double duty (and yes, that means they bring in a few characters from other franchises, a mixing of Lego sets once again).
One of the strengths of the movie is the rich lore of Batman that it has to draw from. And I don’t mean that the movie leans on in jokes that only the comic fans would know (though there are a few of those cleverly buried in there), but rather, the movie and television properties. There are more than a few references to Burton, Nolan, and Schumacher properties, with special attention paid to the 60s Adam West Batman.
And like the original Lego Movie, this one is amazing to behold with almost seizure-inducing colour and detail. The only problem with this is that what was insanely novel with the original Lego Movie, is now something we’ve seen before. It’s no fault of the movie, but one can’t help but not be as wowed as much a second time.
There are more diminishing returns relating to the overall humour. Where the first Lego Movie buzzed with wall-to-wall laughs, Batman feels less saturated with jokes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still funny, but I just didn’t find myself laughing out loud over and over again. It’s also a story with heart, but telegraphed from the opening moments, where the Lego Movie took a more clever path to many of its themes. I know it may not be fair to hold it up against the original Lego Movie so much, but you really can’t help it. Same world (sort of), same characters, same look — diminished end result.
I don’t want to go down too negative a bat-hole here though; The Batman Lego Movie was still a clever, funny, cute flick. In fact, I’d note that it’s better than at least a handful of actual Batman movies. I like that they actually included Robin without getting caught up in a Robin origin story.
I didn’t take my little guy (yes, I saw a movie about kids’ toys and comic book superheroes with adults), but I think kids will love the non-stop action and bright Lego universe. Unlike the original Lego Movie (there I go again), this one won’t end up on my top movies of the year list, but it was a fun send up of one of my favourite comic book heroes.