It’s just…you want The Lego Batman Movie only? Word, no, that’s cool. We’ll do Lego Batman. Which is pretty good and fun, but it is not The Lego Movie, that I can say. Well, let’s just call this my knowing nod to the decimation of the fourth wall, one of Lego Batman’s well utilized tropes.
Okay, how about:
The DC Universe just got a lot bigger and significantly brighter with the arrival of Lego Batman, the not-quite-a-sequel spinoff of 2014’s magnificent The Lego Movie. And yes, as the second title card reveals this is part of the DC Universe, what our Will Arnett as Batman voiceover describes as, “The house that Batman built.” Is it canon? Legit, get a grip, no one cares, but of the film’s many accomplishments, the greatest achievement is a much needed reset for Batman and DC.
Where Trump’s America warrants increasingly miserable Zack Snyder helmed vanity projects, this is a sweet, meta breeze blowing through the dark© and gritty© world in which Superman and company have cloistered themselves. Where I decided I’d only go see the next installment of Suicide Squad if I was promised—in writing—that it would be more stupefying/consciously bad than the first, Lego Batman and the arrival of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may signal a change. Because, call me crazy, but maybe, just maybe, Batman isn’t something to be taken so seriously.
I’d insert some sort of obligatory plot explainer here, but this film knows you know the story. All of them, for the last 78 years. And with encyclopedic knowledge and an endearing lack of mercy, Lego Batman comes after every iteration. A mixture of celebration and derision, the entire notion of Batman, from the self-seriousness to elaborate merchandising, is tweaked. Joker is at the forefront, and where angle of supervillain and superhero as equivalent necessities is pretty well explored, this picture ratchets it up to full blown codependence. And when it comes to Batman and a jilted Joker, that infamous line has never been more gossamer thin.
Lego Batman does carry an essential quality with it from The Lego Movie (the 2014 masterpiece from Warner Bros. Animation)—it’s joyful and frenetic. Like it’s drawn from the Bob Clampett playbook, the jokes are relentless, strung on an unbroken chain of high energy. Whether it’s off camera commentary, a sight gag, slapstick, or an in-joke, Lego Batman never relents. Admittedly, the high intensity style is gonna rub some folks wrong. Like, if you have a slight headache and are already pissed at the kids, the madcap fervor will push you over the edge. Because our little brick universe doesn’t stop at an aural assault—raining down joke-a-second heavy artillery— it offers some of the busiest animated pyrotechnics I can recall. Every frame is crammed with movement, except for scenes built on a deliberate lack of movement, a whiplash effect at every turn.
The one component missing is a nugget of profundity. It’s a big ask of any film, but the precedent had been set with 2014’s Miller and Lord chef d’oeuvre, The Lego Movie. Admittedly they enjoyed the exploitation of a universe with no set rules—where Batman is coated in lore to the point of being bronzed—but you can see this film aching for that sweet spot and never quite landing a precise touch. There are a couple of noticeable differences this go round. One, Miller and Lord have moved from the director’s chair to the producer role. Two, the list of accredited writers expands from four to six. It’s the fate of any property of this magnitude, but it certainly feels like more hands, visions, and voices in the pot.
Even with all of these competing elements, The Lego Batman Movie succeeds. And, unlike other recent iterations of DC product, you want to root for it. The film’s strength lies in knowing exactly what is. It’s a movie about Batman and Legos and relationships gleefully packed in cannon and blasted in bits of colored confetti across the screen.
Your only lingering question may be, “do I need to see 2014 pillar of cinema The Lego Movie so I can follow Lego Batman?” And to that I say yes, because...you haven’t seen The Lego Movie?! It is SO GOOD!
—By Monte Monreal