Feb 17, 2017

[Movies] The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

As a big fan of the LEGO games by TT Games (former Traveller's Tales), it wasn't much of a leap for me to totally embrace the craziness of The LEGO Movie when it came out in 2014. But it really was a unique movie experience that wasn't even like the video games that had come before it - it was just something else. And when they confirmed that they were going to make a spinoff movie based on the LEGO Batman character, I was totally onboard.

Normally I'm quite skeptical of spin-off movies - just look at how terrible the Wolverine movies were versus the main X-Men movies. But given how the first movie had flowed, I was curious to see what they would do given a single character to focus on - especially one was famous as Batman.

But the end result was beyond my expectations and we have have one of the best Batman movies ever made. Sure we all respect the Nolan creations as they're a different sort of brilliant, but this one iteration of Batman is one that will surely live on in our memories as a crazy little character we can't help but love.

Synopsis: The LEGO Batman Movie is a standalone spinoff movie in The LEGO Movie franchise. The movie was directed by Chris McKay with a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington.

It has been three years since the events of The LEGO Movie and Batman (Will Arnett) continues to fight crime in Gotham City. The movie's opening confrontation with the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) ends with him declaring that Joker means nothing to him - something that actually hurts the Joker's feelings. And this odd rejection is what drives him to seek new ways of gaining Batman's respect as his arch-enemy.

The next day Bruce Wayne attends a gala for the retirement of Commissioner Gordon (Héctor Elizondo). At the gala it is announced that the role of police commissioner to his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson). But at the same time, Joker and the other villains show up only to surrender to him, thus stopping crime in Gotham City all at once. Now Batman needs to find a way to still have a sense of purpose without crime but also to figure out what exactly the Joker is up to.

What I Loved: LEGO Batman is an amazing character and Will Arnett and the writers clearly decided to have a lot of fun with him starting him from narrating the opening credits to all of his ridiculous dialog throughout the movie. And to elevate his rivalry with the Joker into some odd bromance was an amazing idea that really gave the movie a crazy flair to it.

And initially I thought we were just going to get the various DC Heroes in this movie as that was the extent that the LEGO Batman video games had expanded outside of LEGO Dimensions. But I couldn't have been more wrong and they found a way to bring in several LEGO franchise IPs into the mix of things while being totally cheeky about their participation as well. And you have to love the playful wit that defines the movie.

What Could Have Been Better:  While I was laughing throughout most of the movie, I'll admit that the plot itself felt a little convoluted in some parts, especially how Batman being alone had to be stressed through his non-relationship with the Joker, his affection for Barbara Gordon and his new ward in the form of Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), later Robin. It's a lot of plot angles to deal with and I think we could have trimmed things down a bit there.

And as much as they tried to burden Batman with a crew including a funny version of Alfred the butler (Ralph Fiennes), the group never really felt like a true team. Sure, Batman himself resisted them coming together until the very end of things and I'm sure that was a factor. But The LEGO Movie also included an unlikely team of LEGO heroes and they felt more cohesive than this crew.

TL;DR: The LEGO Batman Movie works because it uses the sort of self-aware humor of the franchise thus far and applies it to the almost ridiculous legacy of Batman both in print and in film. The movie has jokes from start to finish and manages to poke fun at almost all incarnations of Batman while at the same time celebrating them as well. Thus the movie gets a stellar 5 obscure Batman villains brought into the movie out of a possible 5.

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