Is everything still awesome? That’s what I was hoping for as I waited for #TheLegoBatmanMovie to start up. Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 2014 film, simply titled The Lego Movie turned out to be a genuine surprise for audiences and critics and was the launch for what is now going to be a string of Lego inspired films. After a bit of a wait and a new director, #LegoBatman finally has his own movie (because he’s Batman).
First up, Lego Batman is a really clever film. Directed this time by Chris McKay (who was an animation co-director on The Lego Movie), Lego Batman boasts a plethora of things to view at any given moment. Eagle eyed fans will be quick to notice the little in jokes and jabs at the property, including some direct hits on the troubled DC Extended Universe. The attention to detail is spectacular, from the tiny Lego flames to the Joker’s outlandish new house at Wayne Manor is stellar. Everything feels exactly as it should: a Lego version of the Gotham we’ve come to love from all the various forms of media out there to date: film, games, comics and animation. The film does a better job at realizing the comic book nature of the world than the current string of live action films. Also worth noting that the guys over at CinemaSins are going to love the opening. That’s what the film did so well, it felt in tune with the audiences perception of Batman and film in general. From the intentional “pew pew” sounds to calling out certain tropes and even going back in time, the film was on point with it’s style and presentation.
The humor is also (for the most part) on point, heavily satirizing the character, genre and pop/geek culture as a whole. If you’ve been a fan of anything from DC to Dr. Who, you’ll find something to get a laugh out of. The laughs almost never stop so you may miss a few things but it encourages multiple viewings. But the best laughs come from the caped crusader himself. Batman (voiced by Will Arnet again), is awesome at everything; with his nine abs of steel and five million plus great ideas. Working with him of course is Alfred, voiced by Ralph Fiennes and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). Together, along with the Boy Wonder himself, they must stop Joker’s crazy plan to try and destroy Gotham (again). Lego Batman’s the perfect parody of the beloved character, everything he was in The Lego Movie but on notch 11.
Which is kind of the problem with Lego Batman. When the comic relief ends of being the lead, what made that particular brand of humor special and welcome ends up getting a bit repetitive and uninspired after awhile. The plot follows the caped vigilante as he continues to embark on a crusade against the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) only to have the city of Gotham, now working with Commissioner Barbara Gordon, realize that Batman isn’t very good at this job if these super villains are STILL on the loose. He has a bit of a falling out with Joker, declaring that he’s not Batman’s greatest nemesis which ultimately really puts Joker in a bad mood. On top of that, Batman is kind of a loner (but that’s okay, Batman works alone, or so he tells himself). At a reception for Jim Gordon’s retirement however, while not paying any attention whatsoever to the situation, he unintentionally adopts a young boy named Richard (Michael Cera) who will become Robin to our Batman. Bats here must take on the mantle of fatherhood and teach what he knows to his young and very eager (in a kind of annoying way) newly adoptive son whilst also learning what it means to have a family, perhaps Batman’s greatest fear. Because Batman’s tough and wears black and works alone and doesn’t know how to function with anyone else.
Where the film nails it however is the presentation and the action set pieces. It’s amazing to see the individual Lego pieces move around the world, interacting with objects in rapid motion to the point of feeling alive despite the fact that it’s a hard block life out there. When the Batwing or the Batmobile are traversing Gotham, the city feels alive, with citizens reacting to the news and covering up their children’s eyes to the terror being presented on screen. During the action, it’s quick and energetic, full of slapstick cartoon action that is both a joy to watch and a hoot. Combining humor and action is not always easy but the film does a great job at balancing the two.
The story is regrettably not as compelling as the film’s predecessor. It’s a good Batman story, about accepting the responsibility of family and no longer being alone, but the arc didn’t hit me the way Emit’s arc did in The Lego Movie did. Further pulling me out of the film was Robin, whose over excitement about everything felt forced and often annoying rather than natural and welcoming. On the flip side, the parts of the narrative with Batman and Joker working out their “hate relationship” was genuinely funny, especially if you’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Joker’s master plan was also great fun to watch on screen.
Overall, I had some solid laughs out of The Lego Batman Movie. It presented some clever scenarios and had fun with the property and properties of other films (cough cough Warner Bros. films largely). The finale felt something akin to the Superhero cafe/Villain Pub from the HITSHE videos and it was great fun watching it unfold. But the story failed to deliver anything quite as memorable. If you’re a fan of the Lego brand of humor this should be for you and children and families should have fun with it regardless! But in terms of a great animated feature, this one was just decent. Is everything still awesome? Everything’s pretty decent.
originally posted on creators.co