By JENSEN LIM LEONG
The following review contains minor spoilers.
The Lego Batman Movie is a spin-off of the critically acclaimed The Lego Movie from 2014. It takes the film’s interpretation of Batman, played by Will Arnett, and gives him his own standalone film. It is directed by Chris McKay and stars Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, Michael Cera as Robin, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred and Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon.
Each actor plays a parody of their character except for Alfred. Arnett plays a wonderfully self-obsessed Batman who contrasts with Galifianakis’s Joker who is obsessed with only Batman. Cera’s Robin is charming but slightly annoying, while Dawson’s Barbara Gordon is oddly defiant. Fiennes, on the other hand, simply plays Alfred. After Michael Caine’s excellent performance and interpretation of the character, every preceding actor to take the role has followed his mold for the character. His performance was quite charming but was not a caricature or a parody like the other characters.
The plot revolves around the Joker attempting to get Batman to admit that he is Batman’s greatest villain. The Joker’s ultimate goal is for Batman to say “I hate you,” which is an obvious play on the goal of couples to say “I love you.” It also follows much of the same storyline as The Lego Movie, where the hero is oblivious to most of the outside world, comes to his realization after going through a different dimension and finally saves the villain instead of punishing them. The main difference is Batman is cocky, whereas Emmet, the protagonist of The Lego Movie, lacks confidence.
The action in the film is oddly charming because Batman and Joker’s gadgets and contraptions are even more ridiculous thanks to the endless possibilities of Legos. Batman can make any type of transportation or gadget out of the Legos around him, and Joker’s contraptions can expand to an undefined size. The film also makes sure to replace gunfire with all the characters yelling “pew pew pew.” I honestly think, from now on, all firefights in films should have its characters exclaiming “pew pew pew” whenever they fire a weapon.
What The Lego Batman Movie does better than anything is that it knows how to have fun. Everything follows a logical structure that does not cause audiences to ask too many questions. It might not seem like much, but this was a problem shared by both Batman V.S. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. Logical structure matters because if audience members are constantly asking questions during a scene, they cannot enjoy themselves during that scene. This film adds Voldemort (Harry Potter), Sauron (Lord of the Rings) and Daleks (Dr. Who) and somehow the movie makes much more sense than most of the superhero films from last year. The characters also have much more developed character arcs. Batman’s progression from a lonely man who lives in Bruce Wayne’s basement to a family man is much more believable than Batman changing because his mother has the same name as Superman’s.
Lego Batman is also the funniest superhero movie ever. Films like Deadpool are hilarious, but the comedy does not revolve around superhero-related topics, at least not to the extent of The Lego Batman Movie. It has no problem making fun of how the Joker is stopped by Batman every time, so the citizens have nothing to ever truly fear. There are also jokes about how the police department’s sole purpose is to turn on the Bat Signal. Many of the superhero-related jokes allude to the 1960s incarnation of Batman played by Adam West. Gadgets like bat shark repellent and the ability to punch people so hard that onomatopoeia starts popping out of the air are all staples of the original 1960s TV show. The writers truly earn the right to make fun of the characters too, by flexing their knowledge of the Batman Universe to a ridiculous amount. There is no shortage of Easter eggs and character cameos. I thought I was the only person who knew Condiment King, but apparently, I was wrong. The film has no problem making jokes about the Warner Bros’ past failures like Suicide Squad and Batman and Robin with jokes that make fun of the premise or features of those films.
If Deadpool is the dirty, self-aware superhero movie, then Lego Batman is the sanguine counterpart. In fact, Lego Batman acts very much like Deadpool in many ways. Instead of making fun of movie production, Lego Batman takes a more specific approach and makes fun of the character and tropes.
For some reason, Lego Batman is a fan of romantic comedies, but he laughs at parts that are supposed to be romantic. It could be considered a commentary of how cliché scenes in romantic comedies parallel each other so much that none of them appear genuine, but this is The Lego Batman Movie so maybe this is too deep of an interpretation. But the movie resolves with Batman saying “I hate you” directly to Joker, so maybe the writers actually do want romantic movies to change their techniques. The airline that Joker hijacks in the first scene is named McGuffin Airlines. For those who do not know, a McGuffin is an item in a film, show or novel that is used exclusively to move the plot along and typically has a vague backstory or none to begin with. Perfect examples include the Tesseract (Avengers), R2-D2 (Star Wars: A New Hope) and Rosebud (Citizen Kane).
The film has an interesting soundtrack that makes one think that Warner Brothers were trying to make another song that was as successful as “Everything is Awesome,” but all they ended up with is a comedic opening song with a bunch of remixed pop songs later in the film. This annoyed me a little, not just for this movie, but for most blockbuster films and trailers in general where studios take out the score and replace it with a remixed pop soundtrack. It worked for Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, but every return to this trope makes me hate it a little bit more, but I digress. Batman tends to beatbox and rap because he enjoys it, but this also serves as a good look into how he deals with his issues and problems.
The Lego Batman Movie is a jack of all trades; it speaks to lovers of film, superheroes, Batman, comedy, action and animation. It honors the source material it comes from and creates a lovely film that is a blast to watch from beginning to end.