Coming off the massive success of ‘The Lego Movie’ comes the solo outing for its dark, caped crusader. It may not meet the high standards of the last movie, but the fun of the film makes it hard to care.
The past few years have given us many takes on Batman. From Ben Affleck to David Mazouz, there have been many interpretations. Now, the team behind 2014’s animated hit The Lego Movie bring their version to the table. The Lego Batman Movie is a far cry from the other takes. The live-action dramas focus on a brooding loner, whereas the LEGO version… well, the LEGO version does too. But the level of humor & color that The Lego Batman Movie brings makes for a much better adventure.
The new movie is directed by Chris McKay, one of the animation directors of the last movie. It centers around Batman (Will Arnett), as cold and confident as ever. He’s got his rogues gallery to contend with – particularly the emotionally needy Joker (Zach Galifianakis). But everything changes when a new police commissioner steps up to the plate. Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) has a plan for the city that might render The Dark Knight obsolete. On top of that, Batman has to deal with an earnest orphan (Michael Cera) and an aged butler (Ralph Fiennes) who seek to become a family.
The Lego Batman Movie seeks the same balance of jokes and light-hearted action of its predecessor. It doesn’t reach the same level of success, but that’s mostly due to expectations. The Lego Movie took fans by surprise, while this movie had to meet that level of awesome. It doesn’t surprise the way the last movie did, but The Lego Batman Movie definitely has its charm down. The movie has enough humor and heart to match the colorful parade of characters. The film isn’t afraid to poke fun at the hero’s past, particularly his recent gritty demeanor. The pacing isn’t perfect, due to the amount of material built in. It’s not as good as The Lego Movie, but how could it be? If it’s better than Batman v. Superman, that’s good enough for me.
The way the movie tries to tap into the larger LEGO universe is also interesting. With so many worlds to choose from, it’s easy to get lost. The movie does pull other franchises into the equation, but not in the way The Lego Movie did. It’s a standalone Batman film, wrapped into a much grander cinematic universe. It’s confusing to try and figure out how Batman fits into the world established in the previous film. Though the movie does draw on other properties, it’s a much more focused Batman story. It’s the same way that the original film had a simple cast of protagonists, wrapped in the many worlds that Will Ferrell built. It may be hard to decipher how all the worlds collide in The Lego Batman Movie – so your best bet is to just focus on the fun.
The family narrative fits well for the intended demographic of the movie. The relationship between Batman and his super-friends makes for a heartwarming storyline. It’s especially nice to see a kinship form between Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon, as opposed to a full-on romance. Speaking of romance, the anti-relationship that Batman and Joker share is amusing, but only for a beat or two. It’s still more delightful than Jared Leto, but Galifanakis’ wounded non-lover routine quickly becomes tired. Thankfully, as the main focus is on Batman’s evolution into a family man, Joker doesn’t make the movie any less delightful.
The Lego Batman Movie is, in a funny way, important. Especially now, in an age where superheroes are ever-present at the box office. There’s always a level of grit, or gravity, as if superheroes are all serious. But this movie isn’t afraid to lean into the light-hearted antics that came from the origins of comic books. Even when it mocks the days of Adam West, it has the same amount of fun. Whether you like the comical days of old, or the darker Snyder spin, The Lego Batman Movie should give you everything and more. Including the best Batman theme song of all time.