THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
Director: Chris McKay
Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate
I would never have expected The LEGO Movie to be a runaway hit when it came out in 2014. It was wildly creative even for someone who barely played with Legos as a kid. One of the best parts of that movie was its depiction of Batman, voiced by funnyman Will Arnett doing his best Christian Bale impression. Now Lego Batman has his own movie, and it not only lives up to the expectations of the first film, but also succeeds at being better than any of the DC Cinematic Universe movies so far. In a big sweeping opening scene, the Joker (Galifianakis) rounds up all of Gotham’s finest villains and plants a bomb at the energy facility plant. Batman naturally swoops in and saves the day in pure Batman fashion. He heads back to Wayne Manor on Wayne Island where he lives with his butler, Alfred (Fiennes). We get a glimpse into his extremely lonely life despite living with 100% rage 24/7 365 days a year.
The Joker and his crew return for their revenge at a gala for Commissioner Jim Gordon’s (Elizondo) retirement. They stage a big takeover leaving new commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Dawson), and Batman scrambling to take control of the situation. In another surprise move, the Joker turns himself in and locks up the rest of his cronies. Batman’s ego starts to get in the way when he gets the idea to send the Joker up into the Phantom Zone. Sounds great for the Caped Crusader but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s playing into the Joker’s hand. Batman beams him up to the Zone where the Joker joins forces with some of cinema’s greatest villains like King Kong, Godzilla, Sauron, Voldemort, and the Wicked Witch of the West. Back down in Gotham, Batman learns that he inadvertently agreed to take in an orphan boy. Surprise, it’s Dick Grayson/Robin, voiced by the energetic Michael Cera. When the Joker and his swarm of villains strike down in Gotham, it becomes too great of a battle for Batman to face alone. He’s a guy that typically likes to work alone but calls on Barbara, Robin, and even Alfred to save Gotham.
Like the first film, it is high energy right from the very beginning. It starts with that big opening action sequence with the Joker and all of Gotham’s finest ranging from Catwoman and The Riddler to King Tut, Egghead, and even The Condiment King. As someone that grew up watching the old 1966 Batman TV series with Adam West, I was giddy to see this appreciation for the old show and cartoony villains that came before. There’s a joyful absurdity that comes into play when you realize the five person writing team has created a huge tribute to the entire Batman canon. There are images of various bat symbols, posters, comics, and multiple references to all of the previous movies. It’s apparent that the creative team involved has a deep love of the superhero. Naturally, there are slight jabs at their rival, Marvel, along the way. One of Batman’s passwords in the Batcave is “Iron Man sucks.”
As you can tell, there is plenty of silly humor to cater toward the kids in the audience who are still playing with Legos. Adults should not worry as there are just as many witty moments and adult jokes as well as messages to take back to your child. There’s a new theme song, “Friends Are Family”, highlighting the movie’s importance on family for both Batman and Robin. Family can come in all shapes and sizes with the realization for both of them that it takes a village to make a change in this world. This concept really rang out true for me throughout the movie given the current political climate where we are seeing a very divided nation. The movie opens and closes with some lyrics from Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” which felt very poignant. If I remember correctly, Batman even tries to take credit for the song thanks to his super huge ego.
The LEGO Batman Movie doesn’t technically belong in the DC Cinematic Universe with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad despite having the crossover characters. This take on the Caped Crusader is far superior to these recent iterations of Batman and Superman. I’ll go so far as to say it’s even better than the other recent Batman animated film The Killing Joke that was based on the graphic novel of the same name. It’s a very self-aware movie, as it knows it’s a Lego Batman movie and really plays into the fun of it. Unlike those other movies, this doesn’t take itself too seriously. The premise is very simple and the film is essentially shaped around a bunch of action sequences, heavy use of Batman lore, and it’s sense of humor. The writers know how to spoof the cocky attitude of Batman to make him funny while paying into the family themes. The voice talents of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zach Galifianakis are along for the kick-butt ride. I find it amusing that Fiennes is voicing Alfred instead of his legendary character Voldemort from the Harry Potter movies. Eddie Izzard plays him this time as he’s on Team Joker.
The animation isn’t as detail oriented as the first film, which really adhered to everything looking and feeling like Lego pieces. Nor does this one have the “surprise” ending that the first film had. The first film felt so creative and inventive that perhaps this one can’t have that same element of surprise that you just didn’t expect going into the first film. The LEGO Batman Movie will surely leave kids and their Batman-obsessed parents having a great time. Did I mention there’s a reference to Prince and his “Batdance?”
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Everything is awesome with this sequel.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS