Lighting almost strikes twice for Lego with this follow-up to the hit Lego Movie.
This movie picks up in the same universe as The Lego Movie. Lego Batman (Will Arnett) is being Lego Batman, i.e. awesome. He’s using his master building skills to single-handedly keep his city safe. Despite all his heroism, Batman finds himself virtually alone. He only has Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and his supercomputer to talk to. He doesn’t even take ownership of having the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) as a rival, a fact that hurts the Joker’s feelings. In order to make Batman admit that he’s his greatest rival, the Joker concocts a hare-brained scheme to unleash the greatest villains in the LEGO universe.
At the same time, Batman is forced two welcome two new people into his life. The first is the orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who quickly becomes his kid sidekick: Robin. The second is the new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). Barbara insists that Batman work with the police instead of just doing his own thing. Batman’s long-time caretaker Alfred also encourages him to let these people into his life in order to get over the fear of loss that was instilled in him when his parents were killed.
After Batman ends up getting himself trapped in the Phantom Zone (yeah, the one from the Superman Movies), he is forced to watch as the Joker’s forces overtake the city. In order to save the city, Batman must learn to rely on others and accept that he has close relationships.
What did I think?
When it comes to comedy, Lego Batman is surprisingly consistent. Often movies like this fire all of their ammo in big set pieces and go into a comedic lull. That doesn’t really happen here. It’s a blitzkreig of jokes for about 85% of the movie; banter, sight gags, puns, jokes pulled from Batman lore, there’s a bounty to choose from. I’d estimate that even if I only found half of the jokes funny I’d still be more entertained than I am during the majority of comedy movies.
I can’t say enough about how much care was taken to draw things out of the deep corners and crevices of the Batman mythology for this. It starts at the very beginning of the movie when a pilot tells the Joker that Batman always stops him. The pilot then rehashes Joker capers from Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) and Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). I immediately thought, “wow those are really specific callbacks”, but that was just the beginning. This movie references everything from the Adam West 1960’s Batman (with both a clip and a sound bubble joke) to the more recent animated shows and comic book arcs (with characters like Music Meister and Condiment King). My favorite reference was actually the theme/idea that the Joker and Batman are actually in a co-dependent relationship. The movie took the idea to a comedic extreme, but that idea is one of the cornerstones of the comic book story lines “Death of the Family” and “Endgam”. Both of those are great Batman stories, BTW, and you should read them if you haven’t already.
If trying to figure out the Batman references isn’t enough, you can make a fun game out of trying to identify all of the actors lending their voices to the different characters. Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Garfunkle & Oates and even Billy Dee Williams are part of the cast. I won’t tell you who plays who (you could always go to IMDB to find out) except for one character just because of how delightful it is. Siri is being credited as the voice of Batman’s supercomputer aka ‘Puter.
My biggest problem with the movie (it’s not perfect) actually came from its other emotional through-line. Batman learns about the importance of family and letting people into his life years after the traumatic death of his family. This entire thing was very predictable and actually felt unnecessary to the movie, despite the fact that Batman’s emotional epiphany was the catalyst for the hero’s (and villain’s) climactic triumph. Aside from the predictability of the whole thing, I think I was put off by the “kinda-sorta” relationship between Barbara Gordon / Batgirl and Batman. This is something that people seem to keep trying to force into Batman stories and, previously, it resulted in some cringe-worthy circumstances in the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke. That wasn’t this movie’s fault, but it was hard not to think about it because there were so many references to everything else. It is possible that this could’ve been the movie’s way of making fun of that, but I would’ve rather Batman not tried to hit on Batgirl at all.
Other than that part of the movie, I think this was a home run. I’m curious to see if it holds up to another viewing but, in the theater, it was perfectly delightful.
The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
- You can tell that this movie was made by people who really care about the history and mythos of Batman as a character
- Has the same charm and irreverence as the Lego Movie
- The movie's silliness makes its attempt to have emotional moments feel forced and a little unneccessary
- May rely a little too heavily on deep Batman jokes for some casual watchers