By Caleb Fox
The Lego Batman Movie is exactly what happens when everything about a film just clicks into place, like say, a set of modular brick-based building toys.
Following up The Lego Movie, a subversive triumph of animated filmmaking, was no small feat. Rather than just a direct sequel, Warner Bros. has opted to construct a cinematic franchise featuring the Lego universe, and Will Arnett’s Batman is the first character to get a spin-off film.
And what a film it is! The movie is all at once a hilarious comic book genre parody, an exciting animated adventure with an emotional core, and a love letter to the vast Batman mythology.
The plot centres around Batman trying to save Gotham City from the Joker’s latest plan and explores whether or not the grim hero can find happiness for himself as he struggles to raise an orphan boy he accidentally adopts. The film could have gotten away with a simple plot that functioned only as an excuse to see a beautifully animated romp through the Lego Batman universe, but instead the script has a significant amount of narrative substance. The themes of friendship and family are great for kids, but the film will also resonate with older viewers.
While the plot is well thought out and entertaining, the aforementioned romp is still delivered in spades. The animation is absolutely gorgeous. Everything looks as if it is happening in stop motion, but that doesn’t limit the movie’s ability to create a visual spectacle. The action scenes are exciting and kinetic. The movie creates several set-pieces which are truly thrilling, and they are exactly what you’d think kids are imagining when they play with their own Lego minifigures. And the character designs on those minifigures are impressive and they pack a lot of detail into those small frames. Robin’s design, which approaches newborn puppy-levels of adorableness, is a definite highlight.
(The Lego Batman Movie, Warner Bros. Pictures)
Of course all this beautiful imagery would be pointless without actors to bring it to life, and the filmmakers assemble a stellar voice cast. Michael Cera adds to the cuteness and lovability of the boy wonder, easily making the adorable Lego orphan turned superhero sidekick the best ever onscreen version of Robin. Ralph Fiennes is a perfect combination of dry humour and caring father figure as Alfred; it’s easy to imagine the seasoned actor playing the character in a live action film. Among a sea of villains, the standout is Doug Benson, who delivers a side-splitting impression of Tom Hardy’s Bane. The only real disappointment is Zach Galifianakis’ Joker, who sounds a lot like…himself. Rather than inhabiting the character with menace, mirth, or anything unique, Galifianakis is sadly forgettable. But the rest of cast make up for any shortcomings, and of course, leading man Will Arnett reprising his role as the Dark Knight is fantastic. His brooding seriousness and grave bravado never wavers, even when he’s delivering the most hilarious of lines.
And there are a whole lot of hilarious lines packed into the film’s 106-minute run time. The laughs start from the very first frame, and continue in rapid succession thereafter. The movie fires moments of hilarity at the audience so quickly that any jokes which don’t land for the viewer will be quickly forgotten. And for the most part, the humour is as razor sharp as the edge of a batarang.
But even when the film is ribbing the titular hero, it’s clear that all the laughter comes from a place of love. The film-makers obviously have respect for the caped crusader and his storied history. The movie mines even the most obscure elements of the Batman mythos, and the many references and Easter eggs are sure to be a delight for lifelong bat-fans.
Overall, The Lego Batman Movie is another huge win for the Lego franchise. The film is an absolute blast to watch, and whether you’re a kid, a parent, a fan, a casual movie-goer, or anywhere in between, this fantastic movie should put a big Joker-sized smile on your face.
(Featured Image: The Lego Batman, Warner Bros. Pictures)