After the explosive success of the bright, hilarious and unexpectedly deep The Lego Movie, it's no surprise that the series was continued. This spin-off flick was given to Will Arnett for his brilliantly rendered serious goof of a Batman. No other character deserves the solo spotlight more, and it couldn't have been handled any better -- leaving me wondering whether it might have actually surpassed its mother film in hilarity and excellence.
|Because... he's Lego Batman.
Right off the bat (Get it? It's a bat pun!) there's around twenty minutes of non-stop gut-busting comedy. Really smart stuff too. Jokes flew over the heads of the crumb-crunching, popcorn-barfing target audience at the same impressive speeds at which the plot moved along to keep them interested. I think I laughed more than they did. Will Arnett was already the comedy highlight of the last Lego Movie; here, the entire script was catered to that wonky, surprisingly highbrow style of comedy that works so well for the humorously serious, satirized character of Lego Batman and leaves me in stitches embarrassingly often... some might say.
The humor does tone down eventually, just enough so that the plot can be developed with the proper amount of importance. There's not much to the plot -- the threat of the movie being directly connected with Batman's character development, with just a few unusual elements, so everything fits together neatly and simply. Just as it should be. It leaves more time for the delightful wise-cracks and overly-dramatic parody, and you gotta pack it in with the kiddie run time.
|The wit is strong with this one.
The theme is similarly connected and similarly simple. Granted, it didn't move me nearly as much as the theme of The Lego Movie, but it did have some nice things to say about unity and love that mean a lot it the world today -- but was presented more tactfully than most movies with a purposeful message these days, without placing blame or pointing fingers or encouraging the creation of bad guys at all. With help from a Michael Jackson song, it says to take a look at yourself first when there's a problem, and suggests that the people you're fighting against may actually be important in the big picture and not as evil as you might think.
The movie made me very happy with the amount of movie references it made, including many references to other Batman films, and also films outside of the universe. The supporting cast, made up of Michael Cera as Robin, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, and Rosario Dawson as Batgirl in the core group, to Zach Galifianakis and Jenny Slate, and spreading out into cameo after cameo including many returning cameos from The Lego Movie, Jemaine Clement as the Eye of Sauron and Siri as... a... computer... -- they were all great. I'm bad at the game of "Guess the Actor without Seeing Their Face" but I enjoyed playing nonetheless.
|You might think the Joker is played as the main villain by now... which is perfect for this.
In direct comparison to The Lego Movie there are some wins and some losses. It's at least just as funny. I would argue funnier. The plot isn't as creative or original, but it's a Batman movie, and in spite of being Lego is somehow is relevant when held up against even the best live action portrayals of the character, which cannot be a small feat. The theme wasn't as personally effective and moving as the last Lego film, but I enjoyed it plenty, and (for whatever it's worth) approved of it equally.
One random comment: the medium of this film allows for something to be done with Batman that no other film has done -- make the Wayne mansion huge. It was really, truly, mindbogglingly, depressingly, no-way-even-James-Cameron-could-get-the-budget-for-live-action-scale-like-this massive. Almost as cool as that was how it was used not only for comedy, but for effortless dramatic effect too. For some reason all that impressed me.
|But, mostly, it's just a whole bunch of goofy fun.
It was almost exactly what I expected, so color me a satisfied consumer. The biggest worry I had concerning this spin-off was that it might just ride the coattails of the original flick, but that apparently wasn't even a potential issue that was worked around. Hardly even worth being called a spin-off at all -- it is after all, Batman. Comedy or drama, fighting or dancing, saving the day or beat-boxing, Batman -- and especially Lego Batman -- flies on the merit of his own wings.