by Mikael Trench
In 2014, we were given one of the most surprising animated films of all time, “The Lego Movie.” What we all thought would be no more than a 90 minute commercial for legos turned out to be one of the most inventive films of the year with its creative animation, clever self-aware humor and surprisingly well-handled emotional depth. Another perk was its cast of eccentric characters from different movie universes, from Han Solo to Michelangelo, but probably most prominently, Batman. The character turned out to be so well-received by audiences thanks to his over-the-top darkness and comedic performance by Will Arnett, that the same crew that brought us “The Lego Movie” announced that a spinoff sequel starring their version of the dark knight would be coming out in 2017. Now that everyone’s favorite caped crusader is here to stop crime brick by brick, will “The Lego Batman Movie” continue to prove that everything is awesome or is this a Lego set that needs to be taken apart?
The film’s premise tells the story of a much more egocentric Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) and his plans to crack a massive plan being created by the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) and an army of other Batman villains. Along the way, he must team up with a young boy he adopted named Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera), the new commissioner of Gotham City Barbara Gordon (voiced by Rosario Dawson) and his butler Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) which Batman finds difficult due to his fear of losing another family.
For starters, the animation here is spectacular. Much like “The Lego Movie,” this film makes the interesting yet risky choice to make nearly all its visuals, from the biggest buildings to the smallest bricks, look like actual Lego pieces and succeeds at giving the film its unforgettable look. It can even be argued that this film’s visuals are better than those of “The Lego Movie.” Since this is a superhero film as well, the filmmakers took extra care into making sure that the animation during the action sequences was grander in scale and faster paced than ever. Even when there isn’t any action, the film still succeeds at giving the environments some very distinct looks from Bruce Wayne’s expansive mansion to Superman’s fortress of solitude and especially all of Gotham City, with a great attention to detail being put into all the colors as well as the construction of all these locations. The character animation is also fascinating with its ability to make these CGI characters appear to move like stop motion Legos. The animation has a balance of jerky movements and more fluid ones that appear during larger scaled action scenes.
The humor in this film is also exceptionally strong. From the very beginning, jokes are being thrown left and right and it never lets up. Very much like “The Lego Movie,” a lot of the humor here is self-referential, however in this case, not only does it feel more prominent, but it works a bit better. If you’re a fan of Batman, especially, this film pulls no punches when it comes to poking jokes at his history, from his more obscure and ridiculous villains from the comics to the over-the-top gags of the 1966 Adam West Batman TV series to the almost comedic level of darkness Batman has acquired from his more recent cinematic outings. These jokes aren’t only hilarious, but also serve as interesting ways of exploring some of the characters’ pasts.
Speaking of which, the film’s characters are also great. Batman is given a more egotistical persona than ever before which, while a little more difficult to make a distinction between him and his alter ego Bruce Wayne, was still a hilarious interpretation of the character and Arnett’s performance is as comedic as ever. Dick Grayson also stood out, probably being one of the best Robins portrayed on the screen with his energetic, positive and rather adorable attitude that made him a lot of fun to be around. Barbara Gordon and Alfred played similar roles, both acting as the ones who bring Batman back to reality and try to get him to accept being part of a family again, but still stood out from each other enough to be very likable with Alfred acting as a father figure to Bruce and Barbara as a excellent fighter with loads of charisma.
Special mention must be made of the Joker, who may be the best portrayal of the character since Heath Ledger’s iconic performance and certainly the best one of the decade thus far. This Joker may not be as insane as the others we have gotten used to before, but his over-the-top kookiness and hatred for Batman was enough to make him enjoyable. Throughout the entire film, Joker is constantly trying to make Batman admit that he absolutely hates him, but since Batman is unwilling to give Joker the satisfaction, the clown prince of crime goes to extraordinary lengths to make Batman admit his true hatred for him.
Finally, the film contained a surprising amount of depth and emotion to it. Batman’s struggle to accept being in another family goes into an interesting direction as the film goes on and his unwillingness to admit it to anyone is fascinating. The film doesn’t unnecessarily shift tones to make the entire experience into a completely somber one, but still has some emotional moments to help us understand the character of Batman much better. It’s a welcome sigh of relief that while this film’s main goal is to still be funny, it knows not to skip out on the roots of Batman’s origins and how to cleverly incorporate them into the story.
Overall, there is little to dislike about “The Lego Batman Movie.” With its self aware tone, beautiful animation, charismatic characters, fun action and gut busting comedy, this film can be considered as just as good or even better than “The Lego Movie” and perhaps better than certain other Batman films in the past few years (*cough*cough* “Batman v. Superman” *cough*cough*). If you are a Batman fan, a lover of animation or are just looking for a good time, then “The Lego Batman Movie” is a must see.
Surprising emotional depth
Grand scaled action scenes
Hilarious nods to Batman’s history
Since both Batman and Bruce Wayne are egotistical characters in this film, differentiating their personalities can be tough.