Starting with a hilarious voice-over indicating that all of the “most important movies” start with a black screen, it’s abundantly clear that The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t going to be your standard superhero romp.
And why should we expect it? As the second movie from the LEGO franchise, after 2014’s unbelievably great The LEGO Movie, a solid blueprint is followed: when the audience expects you to turn left, zag right, and whenever and wherever possible – make fun of the source material.
The biggest benefit that The LEGO Batman Movie has is its star: the Dark Knight himself, Batman.
Will Arnett’s version of the character, introduced in The LEGO Movie, is a glorious distillation of decades of Batman mythos, sent through a filter of over-the-top darkness and goofy ego. What’s astounding about the film, however, is that it’s able to take a bit player from the prior film – who I was concerned would only work in small servings – and turn him into a fully fleshed-out version of the character.
The LEGO Batman Movie takes advantage of nearly 80 years of pop-culture Batman knowledge, referencing everything from the 1960’s television series to last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and finds a common element: Batman is only truly great due to those who surround him.
The plot of the film is pretty simple (as one would expect for a family film): Batman needs to learn how to accept the stitched-together extended family that makes him great, whether it’s his father-figure Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), his adopted ward Robin (Michael Cera), or his incredible rogues-gallery of villains, lead by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis)
It’s an interesting angle for the character, one debated strongly by fans for years: is Batman actually interesting? Or is he only interesting due to the characters that surround him. But the film doesn’t get bogged down in the emotions – for the kids, it’s a fun, colorful Bat-romp with dozens of characters, but for the adults, it’s an interesting (and hilarious) look into what has made Batman such a lasting icon for so long.
The film, directed by Chris McKenna (who co-directed The LEGO Movie) moves at a brisk pace, running just 104 minutes, and the animation work by Warner Animation Group is genuinely beautiful, feeling like an astounding stop-motion LEGO film, and presenting probably the most colorful version of Gotham City yet.
If I had any gripes about the film, it would be that the movie never reaches the heights of The LEGO Movie, which somehow found a way to incorporate questions of the creator myth and overall philosophy into a movie about building blocks. But when a movie is this fun, this enjoyable, and this delightful, it’s hard to take it down. The LEGO franchise is delivering in ways I never expected, and I cannot wait to see where it goes next.
Whether you’re age 8 or 80, if you love Batman, this is a must-see. Check it out this weekend.
The LEGO Batman Movie is in theaters now.