Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
One of the only flaws of The LEGO Movie was it was such a profound example of the possibilities LEGOs have when committed to film that it, with its humor and energetic premise, set such a high bar for sequels and spinoffs that would inevitably follow. The Lego Batman Movie comes a surprisingly restrained three years to the weekend The LEGO Movie was released into American theaters, showing how serious the filmmakers were about creating something memorable rather than something that was a blatant cash-in.
While The Lego Batman Movie, for better or for worse, keeps the manic pacing of its predecessor, it seizes the moment while still only scratching the surface of the potential for Lego superhero films, in turn giving us the bestBatman movie since The Dark Knight.
The film shows Bruce "Batman" Wayne (voiced by Will Arnett) as the much-loved hero of Gotham City, the town still riddled with crime and villains, yet quietly tormented by his constant desire to be alone. He spends most of his days inside his spacious Batcave, his only two friends his loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Ralph Fiennes) and his Batcomputer (Susan Bennett, the voice of the iPhone's Siri). Two things, however, will soon work to change his ways as the same day Bruce Wayne inadvertently adopts a spunky young orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), a new police commissioner takes over Gotham City. The new head of police, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), unveils a plan to combat crime in Gotham City that doesn't involve Batman, but instead places an emphasis on actually rounding up his many enemies that he's resorted to just letting go uncaptured for too long.
The LEGO Batman Movie
Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson
10 February 2017
Steve's Grade: B+
Meanwhile, The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is obsessed with getting Batman to admit the two have a formidable hero/villain relationship, similar to that of both Superman and General Zod, but Batman's hardened ways won't let him budge. This prompts Joker to unite a band of villains from several different franchises, partly in hopes of the good old world domination, but also to hopefully gain the respect and admiration from Batman himself. He's faced with the decision to allow a new family of close friends to form, training Dick as his sidekick Robin, as well as bringing Alfred and Barbara even closer into his life.
The Lego Batman Movie is just as manic as The LEGO Movie, and now it's becoming a bit questionable in terms of what motivates the need to have such chaos clutter the screen at all times. With all the colorful, meticulously constructed sets, neatly assembled and layered cityscapes, amongst countless other Easter eggs, it'd be nice if director Chris McKay (Moral Orel) slowed down just a little bit to allow establishing shots to linger or brief scenes of dialog to flourish so we can enjoy the atmosphere. It's strange that the animators that undoubtedly spent countless hours of detailing and coloring on these painstaking sets don't want to show them off in a way that showcases such unbelievable craft.
The forgiveness I harbor for such frantic pacing comes with how successful the group of screenwriters (Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington) are when it comes to craft a mile a minute screenplay that provides memorable and diverse laughs. The humor in The Lego Batman Movie tags every base from basic puns, absurdist undertones, references, visual gags, situational humor, and so on, prompting for a beautiful, crafty amalgamation of humor from many different facets. It's a script as unique as the hundreds of different Lego pieces that occupy mine and many other kids' toyboxes across the globe.
The Lego Batman Movie is spirited and limitless, much like the toys themselves. Two films into the soon-to-be massive Lego film franchise and this is a formula that still feels like it's only scratching the surface of possibilities in the best possible way. You get the feeling that the filmmakers are like children on set, allowing ideas to blossom naturally while couching other ideas for later projects. These films possess a lovely sense of what it means to be childlike without being immature and imaginative without being too abstract. They're simple, grounded affairs that leave a lot to the eye and even more to the mind.