As of this moment, there is some reason to worry about how Warner Bros. handles its DC comic book properties. The company’s recent endeavors, such as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Suicide Squad,” have been plagued by issues ranging from inconsistent and overly grim tones to underdeveloped characters. Luckily, however, “The Lego Batman Movie,” the new film based on DC Comics characters, comes as a timely upturn. With a sharp script, wickedly fast pacing, and a surprisingly deep and personal story, this spinoff to 2014’s “The Lego Movie” is a universally fun ride.
The story begins with Batman once again saving Gotham City from a terrorist attack by the Joker. It is in this thrilling action scene that an interesting conflict is set up: Joker believes that he is Batman’s greatest villain, but is hurt when Batman denies that the two of them have a codependent relationship. This sets into motion a story that tackles familiar yet essential questions that have pervaded many comic books, films, and video games in Batman’s 78-year-history. Why does Batman work alone? Why is he afraid to have friends and loved ones in his life? Are Batman and Joker merely two sides of the same coin? The film explores these themes to a great extent, digging deep into the characters of both Batman and Joker and developing them carefully.
What makes “The Lego Batman Movie” feel fresh is that it shines a very unique light on these familiar ideas. Whereas many previous Batman films have chosen to explore such concepts in a more serious manner, “Lego Batman” chooses to view them from a comedic perspective. In fact, this overall comedic tone is the film’s best trait. With the same self-referential, satirical humor as its predecessor, the film is filled with hysterical jokes nearly every minute poke fun at everything from studio executives to Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Unfortunately, this is also one of the film’s weaknesses. At times, the jokes come so quickly that there is almost no room to breathe—laughing too hard at one joke can cause the audience to miss the next one. One can’t help but wonder if this is a product of having five screenwriters, perhaps each contributing their own set of jokes that occasionally clash with each other. The tones are also similarly inconsistent. The film varies in mood from scene to scene, going from comedy to drama and back to comedy, and slightly jarring transitions sometimes cause these tones to not quite gel together.
As always, Will Arnett is perfect not just as Batman, but also as a hilarious spoof of Christian Bale’s Dark Knight. Newcomers like Zach Galifianakis as the Joker and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Batman’s butler, are welcome additions as well, but the real standout here is Robin, voiced by Michael Cera with suitably youthful energy.
The film’s animation is unsurprisingly gorgeous, with the 2014 film’s animation co-director and editor Chris McKay returning, but this time as director. Colors are bright, models are sharp, and animations are fluid yet realistic. In addition, the film features a couple of catchy and noteworthy pieces of music. Even though “Everything is Awesome,” the standout song from the previous film, is nowhere to be found, Batman rapping about why he’s awesome is a perfectly fine substitute. All of the technical aspects of the film are excellent, creating an immersive visual and auditory experience.
Perhaps the greatest thing about “The Lego Batman Movie” is that it offers something worthwhile for everyone. Like many Pixar movies, this film doesn’t assume the age, maturity, or tastes of its viewers. Those looking for more dramatic flair will appreciate the film’s touching story of family, and those simply looking for a funny, entertaining ride will find a lot to love here as well. “The Lego Batman Movie” may be the best film featuring the Caped Crusader since Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” Here’s hoping DC can continue its winning streak with “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League” later this year.
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