Lego Batman: Bruce Yourself
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After The Lego Movie proved that such a blatantly product-driven and ridiculous concept of making an entire feature film about Legos could be fun for all ages, I was looking forward to another entry in the series. When the first trailer for The Lego Batman Movie came out, however, my skepticism came right back. Batman was only a side character in the original film. Could this parody of a character carry an entire film? If you asked me when the first trailer for the movie came out, I would have said no. But after watching the movie? Let’s just say that I was happy to be proven wrong.
It is important to note that this is not a sequel to The Lego Movie. It is a spinoff with an entirely standalone story that has almost no connection to the original film. In fact, it is not so much a tribute to the Lego brand like the previous movie, but instead a loving parody of all things Batman. The Lego aspect of the film is actually not very important aside from a handful of scenes where it is mentioned. So how does it do as a parody? It does great. This is not a parody of any single iteration of Batman. There are references going all the way back to the first ever film version that was made all the way back in 1943, with other references including almost every version of the character since then. Bane has references to both his comic version and (in?)famous portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises, the entire Justice League makes a short cameo, and even the most obscure and notoriously dumb Batman villains, like Kite Man, King Tut, and Clock King get to make appearances.
But before going on to other parts of the film, it is important to clarify why these references work so well. Other DC films that have come out recently, such as Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman, have made the grave mistake of using comic references to substitute actual understanding of the source material. For example, the Joker in Suicide Squad may wear a different one of the iconic character’s outfits from the comics in each scene he is in, the film still remains a bloated, overly gritty, and nonsensical mess that does not even utilize its characters for the type of story they were intended for. Lego Batman, on the other hand, lets little references to the comics stay as nothing more than what they need to be: small jokes for older and more dedicated viewers to find. They do not compensate for a lack of anything else in the film. And on a related note, Lego Batman actually makes not one, but two amusing and well-placed jabs at Suicide Squad.
Comic references and jabs at other adaptations of DC aside, it must be noted that Lego Batman has a lot of good comedy. While a few jokes do fall flat, the more important ones are both memorable and original. For example, the movie frequently brings up Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror to represent what changes Batman needs to make to himself to be a better hero. One of the first jokes in the film is based on this, as is one of the last. It is a highly amusing connecting thread throughout the movie that does not become annoying or overstay its welcome. There is also the story of the relationship between Batman and the Joker, which is portrayed as a sort of inverted romantic comedy where the Joker wants nothing more than to hear Batman say that he is his worst enemy and that he hates him. Other villains even function as a sort of support group and the whole plotline feels like a cheesy romcom. This is one of the main plotlines of the movie and provides plenty of laughs for the entire runtime. There are plenty of other funny jokes in the movie, but as the Joker once said back in the 90s: “If you have to explain the joke, there is no joke!”
However, the jokes would not be funny without good performances to deliver them. And the performances were very good. Will Arnett reprises his role as Batman, portraying an exaggerated parody of the character complete with the ridiculous Christian Bale-inspired voice and “too cool for school” attitude. Michael Cera plays Robin, who is portrayed as a parody of his source material much like Arnett’s Batman. And as a parody, Robin is very funny with various jabs at the old-school version of the character who had a penchant for strange speech patterns and not wearing pants. Zach Galifianakis plays the Joker, who as mentioned earlier is one of the best parts of the film. Those were just my favorites- there were plenty of other greatly performed roles as well.
So Lego Batman is a loving, hilarious, well-acted parody of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes. Is there anything wrong with it? Well, just like any movie, the answer is yes. As mentioned before, a couple of jokes in the movie do fall flat or last too long. Thankfully they did not detract too much from my viewing, as there were plenty of better ones to offset them. There are also many non-Batman related villains that appear as part of the odd but immensely amusing plot, but I feel like a few could have been used a bit better in the movie, especially Voldemort who wound up having only one joke surrounding him- and it was one of the most obvious Harry Potter jokes to make. Of course, he was not the focus of the movie so I gave his underwhelming role a pass, but I still feel that he could have been much more entertaining. Not to mention that the original actor of Voldemort is on the film’s payroll but only plays Alfred. Voldemort’s replacement performs just fine, but replacing him at all is still a confusing decision. The entire Lego setting is also a bit underused, being acknowledged about twice if my memory is correct. After just how much work was put into making it a vital part of The Lego Movie, I was slightly disappointed to see it overlooked. For example- practically everything in the last film was legos, even things like water and smoke. In Lego Batman, all of these are traditionally animated without lego effects. Perhaps not important to all viewers, but was something to miss from the original film.
As for my final consensus, I think Lego Batman is certainly worth a watch for fans of Batman, DC, the Lego brand, or the previous film. For others, perhaps this is not the right movie. But for anyone who does fall into those categories, it is certainly an enjoyable one hundred and four minutes of pure laughter. If you can’t watch it in theaters, save a spot for it in your Netflix queue.