I made up my mind a long time ago to avoid kid’s movies. They were not made for my demographic and it just looks strange for a 24 year old with a red beard to be seen in a theater full of small children. One of the few times I made an exception was the first LEGO Movie. Since I was a toddler I never stopped enjoying the Legos. Each set gives you the means to make whatever you want in whatever way you want. It is like writing, but you can give your imagination a physical form unlike Minecraft, which produces more garbage YouTube channels than meaningful creations. The idea of a film based on Lego really appealed to me and I was more than impressed. Was the Batman themed follow-up just as good or did I make a huge mistake?
After Joker, played by Zach Galifianakis, turns himself in Batman, played by Will Arnett, has a crisis of purpose where his sole reason for being is gone. Alfred, played by Ralph Fiennes, decides to force him into moving on with his life.
LEGO Batman is what happens when you make the character self-aware. In the DC Pantheon, Batman is pure symbolism and does not leave room for real development. His parents died and that inspired him to dress up like a bat. That is all. Paired with the Joker you get order versus disorder and their dueling personalities types, but nothing that says anything about him as a person.
That is why Marvel is better.
Because the Lego brand exists outside of the DCEU, there is more than enough freedom of flexibility and meta-humor to ask questions that would otherwise go unanswered. This version of Batman is an over-the-top reclose that avoids relationships because he is afraid of losing people like his parents. LEGO Batman examines this idea in the heroic and personal sides of the character.
One plot thread involves the Gotham city police teaming up with Batman because his vigilante ways have not solved the crime problem. Being a loner he takes issue to this because he cannot do what he thinks is right according to his standards. At the same time, Joker feels he has a connection with Batman, who does not appreciate him, and seeks to prove him wrong. And with his reason for being gone, Batman must contend with real life. So consumed with being Batman, however, he cannot let go of being selfish and untrusting of others.
As a follow-up to LEGO Movie, the faux stop-motion animation remains consistent. Everything looks and moves like they are Legos being manipulated by hand. That was what drew me to the first movie, setting it apart and making it unique. That being said, the LEGO Batman characters appear to break themselves to perform movements outside of their limits. Traditional mini-figs have about 7 points of articulation unless you snapped their arms out of place. Their legs in the film also move in ways that are not possible with the real pieces.
The voice work was great with a cast that did a terrific job of keeping up the comedic momentum. Arnett was right back in his element as the best part of the first movie turned sole focus. Galifianakis’s style of misery brought a whole new dimension to Joker that fit this version of the character. Michael Cera was a perfect Robin because he was Michael Cera. Fiennes was also a great Alfred and Rosario Dawson played a nice Barbara Gordon. There are plenty of other comedic actors lending their voices to the many villain characters throughout, but there are too many to talk about after one viewing.
As a character piece, The LEGO Batman Movie transcends its child-centric trappings. It is something that fans of the character and regular people can laugh along with while learning about the nature of relationships. Even without “Batman” in the title, the movie would have made the same impact. If you are like me and have a strong aversion towards kid’s films, consider biting the bullet on this one.