Friday, February 10, 2017


The LEGO Batman Movie is the second feature production from LEGO, via Warner Brothers Animation. The film is directed by The LEGO Movie animation supervisor Chris McKay and tells a Batman story where The Joker is trying to get Batman to admit he’s his greatest foe by attacking Gotham. Meanwhile Batman has to learn the importance of teamwork. The film stars Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zach Galifianakis.

I was quite blown away by this movie. It is a satirical comedic take on Batman across all of his comic and film incarnations that somehow manages to pay solid tribute and homage to all of them (and bringing something new to the table). It is almost wall-to-wall funny and features heart-wrenching emotional moments in-between. The LEGO Batman Movie is successful due to brilliant writing, a compelling narrative, and some really strong characterization.

The writing work done by Seth Graheme-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington was stellar in this film. I don’t think there was a wasted line of dialogue in this film. Everything was either an extremely clever Batman joke, a simple joke, a character building moment, or something to get the audience emotionally invested. There are few films I can say this for, but I honestly cannot remember a single moment of filler in the hour and a half runtime. That is tough to do and makes this film an absolute delight to watch. The writers showcased a great deal of “nerd cred” in the process as well, as this film contains some of the most wildly clever, out there, and deep cut references in Batman and DC mythology, as well as geekdom more broadly. The zippiness of it all left me with a constant smile on my face and that is something that there really is no replacement for.

On top of good writing generally, the film really has a compelling narrative. Yes, the basic building blocks are pretty common to to a Batman story (The Joker attacking Gotham). However, the way those are used to tell a more expansive tale, as well as to develop a story with a message and great character moments, is impressive, to say the least. At the start of the film (and throughout the marketing campaign) I was wondering if this film would have a story that would actually engage me. I got so much more than I was expecting as after just a few moments I was locked in and focused on every single word in the rest of the film.

Finally, what The LEGO Batman Movie most effectively nails is its characterization. Although every character in the film is a satirized caricature of their actual comic or film incarnations, they all retain the heart and soul of those characters making me fully buy into them as three dimensional figures. I understood how they fit into the canon of what we already know from these characters, and I fully understood the setup and motivations for all of them as assembled in the LEGO universe. Will Arnett really brings something great (and new) to Batman making his rendition of the Caped Crusader one of my favorites. The true standout in this film, for me, was Michael Cera as Robin. He brought a level of childish innocence to the film that has been far too absent from from Robin incarnations on the big screen. Further, the emotional heft his storyline (and the voice performance) brings to the film is special, to say the least.

I have almost no issues with this film. The only one I might point to is that some of the action got a bit ridiculous and lacked a certain something needed for me engage with it as something really happening. The film maintains the tactile style from The LEGO Movie which, though interesting, doesn’t lend itself especially well to exciting action sequences. This is a very minor issue and has next to no impact on my feelings about the film overall.

I think The LEGO Batman Movie is an absolute triumph and proves that The LEGO Movie was no fluke. I was going in expecting to enjoy myself, but I was not expecting to get the level of enjoyment and, frankly, emotional engagement with this story as I got. This is one of the best satirical parodies I have ever seen and did justice to, as well as expanded my affections for, one of the greatest characters of all time. This is definitely a film I would recommend to anyone and is, in my view, essential viewing for Batman fans. I’m shocked at how I felt walking out but, in this case, that shock is incredible happiness.

Ryan’s Score: 9/10

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