The Lego Batman Movie – Review (Spoiler Free)

Well, it’s been three years since The Lego Movie,
and now we’re getting all sorts of Lego films. Aside from the direct sequel, there’s a film based on the Ninjago line later
this year, which seems like a bit of an odd choice. Will it have the same appeal for adults
that The Lego Movie did? Hard to say. But before that, we have The Lego Batman Movie, and easily one of the best-looking
animated features of 2017 only a month in. The Lego Movie gave us a great take on the Dark Knight, with Will Arnett’s self-amused gravelly performance alongside the writing making for a Batman
that mocks the growly Christian Bale Batman. But he also had layers to his mocking sarcastic humor
that elevated him to a legitimately great character too. So, a feature-length take on that
Batman certainly has potential, and the trailers have done a wonder in selling it. I haven’t seen an animated film’s trailers get laughs
from all audiences this consistently in a long time. And with everyone and their mother dissatisfied,
to say the least, with the recent films of the DC Universe, the world certainly seems ready for a
different take on the Caped Crusader. Obviously, the film doesn’t have
the novelty of The Lego Movie. A trait shared with all follow-ups, but it was
what made The Lego Movie such a well-loved hit. But, this may offer something else that flick doesn’t.
So, let’s take apart this Batman. It should be mentioned that it has no connection
to The Lego Movie beyond the titular character and everything being made of Lego,
which is a good thing, I think. So, this macho, self-regarding Dark Knight
is pretty content to remain alone in his Batcave when he’s not disposing of the rogues of Gotham.
Unsurprisingly, his solitude is challenged, first by his accidental adoption
of a wide-eyed orphan, the future Robin, and then by new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon, and her co-operative approach to crime
that runs counter to Batman’s one-man approach. And alongside that, the Joker,
stung by Batman’s indifference to their ongoing rivalry, hatches a grand plan to finally get his attention. Let me clarify; the film doesn’t have the heart
or the depth of The Lego Movie, where the third-act twist informed the whole flick
in such a pleasingly conceptual way. But, if you’re among the group of people who didn’t like the direction that film took
with it’s twist, you may prefer this film. Either way, it makes up for it
by being relentlessly, consistently funny. There’s a truckload of in-jokes here,
from political subversion to the odd live-action clip
that works far better then it sounds. But mostly it pokes light fun at other fiction. Obviously other DC superheroes, but there’s also
amusement in the depth of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, ranging from the instantly recognizable,
like Harley Quinn and Bane, down to throwaway forgotten loons,
several making cameos from the 60’s Batman series. Indeed, Batman fans will have a field day
with how the film dives into his lore. Thankfully, unlike other superhero films of today,
the only canon that matters is the film’s own, and you need know no more then the Batman facts
that have saturated pop culture to remain delighted. Many of the best gags mock something specific
about Batman’s history in such a way that even the uninformed will get the joke. The film riffs on other
pop culture characters later on, even if much like the cameos in The Lego Movie, nearly all
of them are properties under the command of Warner. Before I get ahead of myself, I should clarify that the
film doesn’t succeed quite as well at being a parody that is also an exemplar of the thing being parodied, for
the two don’t end up meshing as well the whole time. There are a few plot points that would seem rife
for satirizing the way Batman’s lore is throughout, but such points remain uncommented on. And the side characters get close to iconic treatment
without getting quite all the way there. Robin’s an excited hyperactive child,
but not as delightful as the sugary embodiment of children’s playtime that was Unikitty. This Joker is wacky and madcap,
but not as distinctive as he could have been. And much like Wyldstyle, Barbara Gordon
suffers from being marginally underwritten. That’s twice that’s happened
to the only main female character. Visually, there’s not a whole lot to say,
for the film’s look hasn’t changed from The Lego Movie bar minor tweaks and the natural
evolution of animation technology. And if I’m being honest,
the visuals aren’t as special here as they were there, with far less shots highlighting deliberate
imperfections in the Lego pieces. That’s alongside a greater quantity of frantic
action set-pieces, which tend to feel less like simulated Lego stop-motion, and more
like ordinary animated action par for the course. But, the film’s look and oftentimes outrageously random
physics still works for all the reasons it did before, and there’s more then enough inspired design choices
and flourishes in the animation to compensate. I’m especially fond of the fresh suits
worn by Robin and Alfred throughout. There’s no denying the film gets marginally less funny
as it goes on, and much like The Lego Movie, some trimming here and there,
especially in the middle, would be quite welcome. And the fact that everyone and everything
is made of Lego matters little outside of scattered moments where vehicles are assembled. But these are mostly quibbles, for the final
flick is still a delightful romp. The star-studded cast has a wild time, with Ralph
Fiennes’ Alfred Pennyworth being especially on-point. The story and characters work well enough
and leave the film with a satisfying emotional core. If you’re like me and are long since tired
of the superhero drought we’re in that seems to have no end in sight,
this film is just what you need. And while the issues I’ve mentioned will
potentially leave the film with a lower re-watch value outside of Batman aficionados then The Lego Movie, there’s no denying this still hits
the same wide-grinned quality, by and large. As long as these Lego films can continue being
this delightful, hey, more power to those bricks. Thanks for watching the review, folks. As always,
I’m your host, Mike Culligan, of Cartoon Karma. If you liked what you saw, leave a like or a comment,
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to my face. Until next time, folks.

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