In 2014’s The LEGO Movie, Batman (as voiced by Will Arnett) was a goofy side character who perfectly made fun of the “dark and serious” nature that has become accustomed to the masked vigilante. He was a selfish guy who would rather party with the Star Wars characters than spend quality time with his girlfriend. He wrote a heavy metal song talking about how dark his life is (but how being rich “kinda makes it better”). He was a character that only works with black LEGO pieces…and sometimes very, very, dark gray. So how in the world did they take this same character and make a feature-length film around him?
Nothing makes sense anymore. Here we have a sequel to a movie based on a toy, a movie that is effectively spoofing other movies based on comic books, a kids movie that can be enjoyed by kids but will only be truly appreciated by adults. Though it would have been possible to make a soulless cash-grab of a movie, the folks at WB Animation took the opportunity to make something truly special. Against all odds, The LEGO Batman Movie is phenomenal and is one of the best Batman movies ever made.
What Director Chris McKay and company understand is that the “LEGO Movie” set up allows filmmakers the levity to break the fourth wall and poke fun at the cinematic tropes they are spoofing. The audience has already bought into an animated film that is essentially a bunch of adults playing with toys, once you’ve established that you can be as ridiculous as you want. Not only does The LEGO Batman Movie have an amazing sense of humor, but it has an incredible understanding about what makes Batman great.
This LEGO Batman Understands The Dark Knight
Taking Batman to task for his “I’m so cool because I’m dark and gritty” attitude, The LEGO Batman Movie perfectly skewers the Dark Knight for his self-seriousness. 2016 gave us the R-rated Batman: The Killing Joke and the extremely dour Batman v Superman, it is almost too perfect that LEGO Batman is here to show us how to have a good time with this superhero again. Look, these movies don’t have to be that hard to get right. Batman is an orphan who fears connection with other people, throw in a Dick Grayson and a Barbara Gordon and the character arc writes itself! So unless you are Christopher Nolan and you have an Academy Award winning Joker in your cast, keep the story simple people.
Now to be clear, The LEGO Batman Movie is not all spoof and meta Batman commentary, it is mainly an entertaining animated action movie…that is extremely funny. Seriously, the jokes are flying at you constantly (it is possible you will miss many because you were laughing at the last joke). The voice cast is all great, with three central performances by Will Arnett, Michael Cera (Dick Grayson/Robin) and Zach Galifianakis (Joker). The story is a Batman-y as it gets. Joker has concocted a plan to defeat the Caped Crusader and Batman has to deal with his personal demons while taking on his greatest foe.
It is inside this straight forward story that The LEGO Batman Movie is able to shine. Whether it be his irresponsible raising of the newly adopted Robin, his rejection (but deep down inside, his longing for acceptance) of his Justice League pals, or his hate/love/hate relationship with the Joker, The LEGO Batman Movie uses these familiar tropes to tell a great Batman story. Honestly, I can’t believe it. A movie based on a toy version of a comic book character has reinvigorated my love for said character.
A Truly Great Batman Film
Everything about this film is top notch. The voice cast is great. The script is one of the funniest of the year (The LEGO Batman Movie should not only be nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it should be nominated for Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes). Continuing the trend started by 2014’s LEGO Movie, the animation on display here is magnificent, though it is CGI it has a great stop-motion element to it that makes sense for a movie based on toys.
Whether it be the hilarious jokes, the insane amount of easter eggs and Batfilm callbacks (they manage to fit in Michael Keaton’s “You wanna get nuts” line), or just the joy that comes with watching a fun film (remember when superhero movies used to be fun), The LEGO Batman Movie is a total win across the board. I’m not exactly sure how I rank all of the Batman movies, but I do know that The LEGO Batman Movie not only spoofs the series, but it joins Batman, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight as one of the best Batman movies ever made.