In the irreverent spirit of fun that made The LEGO Movie a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble - LEGO Batman - stars in his own big-screen adventure. But there are big changes brewing in Gotham City, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker's hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.
Will Arnett reprises his starring role from The LEGO Movie as the voice of LEGO Batman, aka Bruce Wayne. Zach Galifianakis (Muppets Most Wanted, the Hangover films) stars as The Joker; Michael Cera (TV's Arrested Development) as the orphan Dick Grayson; Rosario Dawson (TV's Daredevil) as Barbara Gordon; and Ralph Fiennes (the Harry Potter films) as Alfred.
While a fun movie, The Lego Batman Movie just can't live up to the lofty expectations set both by the previous The Lego Movie and my own expectations. Perhaps it was the trailers showing too much of the film's jokes, or even my own hype for the film, but it just wasn't the home run I was expecting. I was also underwhelmed by the limited use of Batman's villains, besides the Joker. The movie features so many of them, but they get rather limited screen time. Fortunately, the movie's strong emotional side and strong take on the Robin character ends up saving the day!
In The Lego Batman Movie, Batman finds that dealing with the criminal lot of Gotham City is not a substitute for his increasingly lonely life. Encouraged by Alfred, he ends up adopting an orphan named Dick Grayson. At roughly the same time, Barbara Gordon, the new Commissioner, feels that Batman alone isn't getting the job done anymore, and feels the need to get more involved in cleaning the city free of crime. Naturally, this run afoul of The Joker (who's also struggling with the idea that he just might not be Batman's #1 enemy) and a host of Gotham's worst thugs. Naturally, hilarity ensues.
The humor in The Lego Batman Movie worked, though none really had me laughing out loud besides Alfred's summation of Batman's moodiness over the years. I think the under-utilization of some of Batman's villains also resulted in some of the jokes not hitting, as some of the cameos and appearances were coming so fast that they almost didn't register. Besides a few brief moments for characters like Poison Ivy and Bane, most villains were a "blink and you'll miss 'em" affair, with The Joker getting the lion's share of the screen time.
In fact, I think the guest villains could've been replaced with the other Batman villains while Joker, Harley Quinn and some clown goons could've opened the movie. Personally, I really would've liked to see and hear more Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Riddler, and Catwoman. As for the guest villains, more iconic enemies like Darth Vader would've been preferred, especially considering Star Wars characters were able to appear in The Lego Movie, so it's not like that idea is totally without merit.
And while the film may have hit a few hiccups along the way, you can't fault it's great opening sequence. The 'winter gala' setting is a nice grounded scene, offering some great character moments before it launches into a crazy villain attack, like something out of Batman Forever or Batman and Robin. It helps to establish the absolutely outlandish world of Lego Batman and sets everything up perfectly. And, in establishing this over-the-top world, it actually helps to emphasize just how serious Batman's struggles are later in the film. It provides a very effective contrast.
Batman's desire to be alone in fear of losing loved ones was relate-able and really hit home. It ends up really giving the movie a powerful message about the importance of love and family, and really gives the movie it's emotional core. There are people out there with similar struggles, and this is something that, just maybe, could give them a bit of a boost. It goes without saying that the movie's message hit me loud and clear.
To touch upon our main cast of heroes briefly, Robin is adorably handled, Batgirl is given a strong, tough role to play and and Batman is handled in a surprisingly effective way. The multiple homages to the character's past were a great touch, and added a nice bit of absurdity to the already crazy world of The Lego Batman Movie. And, as I briefly touched upon, this film's multi-layered portrayal of Batman is a welcome take on the character. Unfortunately, the movie felt too hectic at times, which resulted in some scenes and character beats playing out far faster than they actually should've. Will Arnett was great as Batman, able to expand upon his hilarious extended role in The Lego Movie into a successful turn as headliner of his own film. Michael Cera is a standout as the endlessly enthusiastic Robin, whose wide-eyed wonder ends up giving the movie a lot of heart. Rosario Dawson as a no-nonsense Batgirl also offers a great spin on the beloved heroine.
Overall, this wasn't as great as I thought it would be. It was good, no question, but it left me underwhelmed. It's a movie I'd still Recommend that Batman fans check out, given that it does manage to hit a lot of great notes and is a pretty fun time.