BLAP! ZLOTT! KAPOW! LEGO Batman punches its way to be one of the most entertaining DC movies yet
Fresh off the disappointing start to the expanded DC cinematic universe with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, in swings The LEGO Batman Movie, a refreshingly funny meta action flick. Will Arnett reprises his vocal role as the caped crusader, his second feature film appearance since stealing the show in the 2014 smash hit The LEGO Movie. It was only eight months after The LEGO Movie‘s initial theatrical release that Warner Bros. announced that Arnett/Batman was to get his own flick, ultimately helmed by Robot Chicken producer Chris McKay. The quick trigger finger wasn’t without merit. Inspired by Christian Bale’s most recent take on Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and with the endless ability to skewer the super hero universe and genre that have been constantly under the microscope lately, LEGO Batman was a sure bet. And, indeed, the bet paid off. The LEGO Batman Movie is a fun, frenetic, visual marvel with a little less witty humor and heart than its LEGO film predecessor. But with enough laughs and dazzling animation to ensure its blockbuster status, it also places among the best superhero films of the last few years.
Comparing The LEGO Batman Movie to The LEGO Movie is unfair, considering the first one had the benefit of breaking the mold and utilizing a story that, literally, could include anything it wanted to. LEGO Batman is a bit narrower in scope, yet the challenge remains to avoid a one-joke storyline. For the most part, the filmmakers succeed. LEGO Batman opens with a complex action set piece featuring a slew of classic Batman villains, led by the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) attempting to destroy Gotham in a sequence very reminiscent of the openings of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The villains are thwarted by Batman, who also sends a clear and emotionally scarring message to the Joker about, how do I put this… their relationship? It also puts the wheels in motion for the Joker to devise a new plot to turn the tables on Batman and Gotham; meanwhile, Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, deals with the ramifications of an accidental adoption, that of Richard Grayson, aka Robin (Michael Cera). The latter storyline is where the heart of LEGO Batman takes shape, and though it doesn’t reach the same emotional level as its predecessor, it’s just enough to keep us emotionally invested. But how does the humor and action stack up against the first one?…
… The action sequences are on another level entirely! They are complex and energetic, keeping pace and then one-upping the high-octane rush of Christopher Miller & Phil Lord’s original LEGO Movie direction, with incredible attention to detail paid by the hundreds of animators listed in the credits. Even as the witty humor subsides in the third act, the intricately designed sets, characters, and explosions of colorful bricks and lights are enough to keep the audience engaged. Despite its action-packed pacing, The LEGO Batman Movie runs about ten minutes too long. I’d happily watch Arnett and co.’s version of the Dark Knight for hours on end — his bromance with himself is endearing — but when the character’s antics take a side seat for action and tying up loose ends, the film starts to feel a bit, ironically, over indulgent. Let’s be clear, though, that The LEGO Batman Movie is awesome. <<cue “Everything is Awesome!!!” song>> It references all previous Batman incarnations, from the ’60s through the Nolans, pokes fun of the idea of “arch nemeses” in longstanding comic series, and pops in a steady flow of hilarious LEGO brick characters from just about every well-known science fiction fantasy franchise you can think of, except Marvel properties, of course. Gotta stay away from Marvel. Also, they don’t need the help.
The LEGO Batman Movie opens widely on Friday, February 10th.