If you’d have told me prior to its release, one the best Batman films in the past three decades was going to be made completely of plastic building blocks brought to life with computer animation, I would’ve sprayed shark repellant in your face. Nevertheless, thanks to the recent release of The LEGO Batman Movie, here I stand ready to eat my own words; which, fortunately for me, aren’t constructed of tiny plastic bricks.
As is the norm, it goes without saying that one’s own expectations prior to viewing any flick have as much of an impact on how one ultimately judges a film, as the film itself. At least on first viewing. I mention this because my hopes for The LEGO Batman Movie were higher than most based on my enjoyment of the trailers and my fondness for the original The LEGO Movie. That film, which starred Chris Pratt pre-blockbuster movie star status, was released during the technologically archaic days of cinema way back in 2014.
So why did I love The LEGO Batman Movie as much as its 2014 kind-sorta-predecessor? Let me show you by building my case, brick-by-brick.
Affleck who? Bale what? More than anything else I list below, I’d have to say Will Arnett’s take on The Dark Knight was easily the best thing about the entire film. Combined with his notoriously deadpan humor, Arnett’s satirical riff on how almost every prior Bruce Wayne’s voice goes Barry White and gravelly when they don the cowl, was nothing short of hilarious. If there was anyone other than Arnett who could have tackled the tiniest version of the caped crusader, I’m not aware of him (or her). Arnett didn’t just knock it out of the park, he knocked it out of the Gotham City.
Most would agree (at least I hope so for sake of my safety from die hard Batman fans), one of the major reasons Batman remains one of the most popular superheroes in pop-culture, is due to his stable of eccentrically peculiar arch-enemies. Much like Batman, none of his foes really have super powers, but rather rely on gadgets and intelligence to dories to the top of the crime ring. The LEGO Batman Movie pulls no punches in the villain department as pretty much every widely known, and some of the most obscure, baddies make some sort of cameo. Hell, LEGO even tapped a few of its non-Batman related licenses to join the antagonist fray. Appropriately however, The Joker (voiced enthusiastically by Zach Galifianakis), is the leader of the pack.
What’s a satirical Batman flick made of toy bricks without references to anything and everything Batman. From the opening studio logo introductions to the end credits, The LEGO Batman Movie is chalk-a-block (see what I did there), full of nods to the storied history of the caped crusader on screen (and in the comics). From his early black and white TV days, to his bulkier Affleck edition, no bat, or costume is left unturned. To my surprise, a great deal of homage is paid to the 1966 Batman TV series made famous by Adam West. Being one of my favorite versions of Batman, it was a welcome [Pow!] surprise.
I’m not going to lie. The one thing I love most about Batman has nothing to do with the man behind the mask, but his automotive choice of transportation. Ever since the classic black and red tail-finned boat of the 1966 Batman television series, I’ve been enamored with Batman main ride, aptly named, the Batmobile. While the 1989 Tim Burton rendition remains my personal favorite (the animated series and 66′ versions aren’t far behind), LEGO’s new entry, nicknamed “The Speedwagon” has easily skyrocketed right behind those I just mentioned. The classic 50’s Model T-esque front end planted on the monster car wheel set, gives the vehicle a memorable look and sets apart from almost every Batmobile before it.
I hit on this earlier with Arnett’s voice work as this incarnation of The Dark Knight, but the writing staff deserves major kudos for giving him and the rest of the cast several laugh-out-loud moments. Yes, this is a movie revolving around a popular children’s toy, but make no mistake about it, most of the humor is written for adults (aka the big kids at heart.) In my particular theater it was the adults laughing the entire time, while the kids sat silent. That’s when you know you’ve hit you’re firing on all cylinders in a children’s movie.
As with the first LEGO Movie, seeing an entire film created out of bricks, computer animated or not, is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Given the colorful nature and sharp features of LEGO, it almost goes without saying this is one of the few films that truly benefits from the depth that a 3D viewing provides. I took in a 3D showing and would, without a doubt, recommend it in that format. That said, should you suffer motion sickness or just not like wearing uncomfortable pieces of plastic on your face for close to two hours, the 2D version should more than suffice.
Even with all it’s humor, visuals gags, nostalgia and bat-vehicles, what helps elevate The LEGO Batman Movie above and Batman Beyond a simple movie about toys, is the genuine heart at the core of it’s central plot. If WB and DC Comics had even a fraction of the heartfelt moments of this LEGO master build in films such as Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I’m bet fans would be singing a much different tune. And in turn, so would the studios pocketbooks.
When you stack all of the above together, you’ve not only got one of the most entertaining Batman films in 30 years, but one of the best DC Comics films since… well, ever. The lesson? When your superhero properties are struggling with fans, critics and the box-office, leave it to LEGO to build a better Batman. Everything was awesome… again.