Batman is no stranger to the silver screen, having been the main focus of many previous films, and after a break out performance in 2014’s The Lego Movie, Will Arnett’s take on the Dark Knight in brick form returns. The Lego Batman Movie is a stand alone take on Batman that is set in the same Lego Universe that was established in The Lego Movie, and while it isn’t necessary to have seen the previous film, it certainly puts into context some events of the film. The film follows Batman as he faces his greatest fears, his toughest test, and his greatest villain, while maintaining much of the same charm and humor as previous incarnation of the Lego version of the character.
The Batman that this world has created is a loner, and while being alone is a major component of the Batman mythos, this version is too locked into his loneliness that it removes some of the better elements of the character. This version of Batman is also fairly clueless, which is something the world’s greatest detective shouldn’t be, and while it makes sense that this is a more comedic take on the character, the more emotional moments lack impact, because of how Batman handles the situation. There are many instances where Batman makes a decision, or treats another character in such a way that is very uncharacteristic of how, even a goofier Batman would react. There is a marriage to be made between the dark and brooding Batman of the Nolan trilogy, with the campy fun of Batman ‘66, but this isn’t always that happy medium. While the relationship elements in the movie don’t always land as they should, the Batman doing Batman things are all on point. Watching Lego Batman kick bricks is a blast to watch, and an earlier sequence of crime fighting is accompanied by a Batman original song, which is every bit as good as his song from The Lego Movie. Batman has plenty to fight in this movie as well, and while describing the big bads of the film will be giving away too much, Batman gets every opportunity to fight, or at least name check almost every villain from his past. Batman’s rogues gallery is vast, and while the mainstays like Joker and Riddler are present, it was also great to see obscure villains like Egghead and the Condiment King. While Batman is steadfastly a loner in the film, there are plenty of other characters besides the villains, as Batman regulars Alfred, Commissioner and Barbara Gordon, and Robin all appear throughout. The Robin in this film is a mix of many of the previous versions of Robin, as it is Dick Grayson, but the costume looks like Carrie Kelley, and the characters orphan backstory is a mix of Dick, and Jason Todd. The robin presented seems to be a stand in for the kids in the audience, as Dick is just head over heels for Batman, and wants to be him one day, since after all, he is the most famous orphan. There are times where Robin playing the lighthearted foil to Batman is a lot of fun, but there are also times where Batman is a little too dismissive of Robin, like forgetting the fact that he agreed to adopt him, and feel like a missed opportunity to develop a good relationship between the two, something that has been intriguing in the better Batman stories.
The highlight of this film really has to be the voice acting. As with the Lego movie, Will Arnett is hilarious as the titular character, and the scenes that call for his brand of smug bravado are delivered with expert precision, and garner a lot of laughs throughout. Michael Cera plays Robin, and his optimistic, wide-eyed earth view, is a new take on the character, and there are many instances where his “awe shucks” persona is really funny. The rest of the cast is also impressive, Barbara Gordon is voiced by Rosario Dawson, which is perfect for the no-nonsense attitude that Barbara posses. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprise their roles as Superman and Green Lantern from The Lego Movie, though unfortunately are relegated to minor roles. The best addition to the universe though is Zach Galifianakis, whose Joker is perfect for this universe. The character has all of the wackiness that you would expect for this type of movie, but also can be quite menacing when he is explaining his various master plans. This Joker never gets near the Ledger or Leto type of character, which is more than fine for this type of movie, but his cross between Mark Hamill’s, Jack Nicholson’s and Cesar Romero’s incarnations is spot on for the Lego-verse version of the character.
Despite the gripes with The Lego Batman Movie, the whole film really is quite enjoyable, though it doesn’t ever reach the heights of The Lego Movie. The animation style is a fun way to tell new stories outside of live action, or even traditional animation. The continued inclusion of building elements afforded by Lego, continuing the narrative that this Batman is a Master Builder, allow for Batman to get out of situations in new and different ways. While geared mostly towards kids, there is enough in the film with regards to humor, easter eggs, and callbacks, that any Batman fan should have a great time seeing it. Adults who liked The Lego Movie will probably still like this, though if they are not a fan of Batman, this will not do anything to change their minds. Given the surprising success of The Lego Movie, it was always possible that Lego Batman would fail to capture that same spirit, and end up being a mess, but thankfully this movie is fun, and funny, and worthwhile addition to the growing Lego Movie Universe.