Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

The LEGO Batman Movie follows the surprising success of 2014’s The LEGO Movie. I went and saw The LEGO Movie with absolutely no expectations when it came out, and I was kinda blown away by how funny it actually was. I will say, however, that for me personally, the movie has not aged well. It is not a movie that I have found to be just as enjoyable with every consecutive viewing. Because of this, I was worried that the next film would be much less enjoyable than the original.

There isn’t a lot to say about the crew for this film; the director and team of writers have established themselves in comedy television with shows like Robot Chicken and Community. For most of them, The LEGO Batman Movie is the first film that they have worked on. So with that, I think I’ll just jump into the review.

Writing: 6.6/10

NOTE: If you’ll remember; for comedy films, I designate this section as “Writing” rather than “Story” because of the emphasis on jokes over narrative. The two are synonymous with each other though.

My biggest concern going into this movie was that the humor was going to be a recycled version of the jokes that worked so well for the original film. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. This movie carves out its own path and acts as a stand-alone film rather than a sequel or copy. True, the movie does share the same sense of humor as its predecessor, but it does not recycle the same jokes or play off of the same themes. It you thought the original LEGO movie was funny, then you will undoubtedly think that this film is just as humorous.

For me personally, there were two things that caught my attention as negative aspects.

1) I thought the sheer number of jokes far outweighed the quality of them. For the first 25-30 minutes of the film, I was having fun. By the 45 minute mark, however, my brain was beginning to reject the jokes in order to protect itself from critical levels of joke-deluge. I know, for many people (especially those belonging to a younger demographic than myself), that the rapid-succession style of comedy is preferred over building up to big punchlines. Short attention-spans are likely the cause of this, and comedians (especially those in film and TV) have taken note. Most popular comedy movies and TV shows reflect a movement toward the rapid-succession style these days. Being the pretentious prick that I am, I like to call this the “quantity-over-quality” form of comedy. How else can one explain the rise of names like Seth MacFarlane, Seth Rogen, Seth Green, or any other prominent comedian named Seth? Anyway, the point is that I wish writers were able to strike a good balance between quality and quantity. This might be entirely subjective, but some of my favorite writers – Mel Brooks, Mike Judge, The Coen Brothers (when they’re in a good mood), and Trey Parker – are people that I would attribute to being able to find a great balance for their various styles of comedy.

2) The LEGO Movie was able to tie in a heart-warming story about a younger child and his father in a dispute over how LEGOs are supposed to be played with. We learn that the plot and characters of the film are ones that exist in the child’s imagination. Normally, this would be something that I hate, but I think it worked wonderfully for the film and actually made me feel all warm and fuzzy. The LEGO Batman Movie alludes to this imaginative reality, but never expands on it. See the Message section for more detail.

Voice-Acting: 8.5/10

It’s Will Arnett; of course he’s perfect for this role. The one that really surprised me was Michael Cera (as Robin / Dick Grayson). Michael Cera is someone that quickly found his way to the top of my “Least Favorite Comedic Actors” list after exhausting his shtick as the super-insecure nerdy guy that somehow attracts ridiculous amounts of gorgeous women (do I sound envious? I certainly hope not). I can’t stand this era of comedic actors who only have one character that they can play, and I usually associate Cera with this group.

So, was his character exponentially different than other characters he has portrayed? … Well, no, not really. But the sense of humor of this film is so much different than the raunchy sex-driven humor that I usually expect to see from a film featuring Cera, that I was pleasantly surprised at how well he fit into the cast.

Everyone else works well too; not much else to say about this category.

Visuals: 8.8/10

The LEGO Movie was an astonishing achievement in the world of animation. Before this film, there were 3 ways to do animation: hand drawn, 3D (aka CGI), and stop-motion. If you read my review for Kubo and the Two Strings from earlier in 2016 (click here to view it, I would recommend reading this review because Kubo has the potential to be the first fully animated film to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects), you’ll remember that I tend to respect stop-motion more than other forms of animation because of the care, effort, and time that goes into creating every individual frame. What The LEGO Movie did was take the unique visual style of stop-motion animation and make it look much cleaner by incorporating a lot of 3D animation on top of it. The combination of stop-motion and 3D resulted in brand new and unique visual style that works brilliantly for the LEGO universe.

What this film did better than its predecessor was incorporate great color styling to build the world it was set in. For an environnment that is supposed to be dark and gritty, the colors really pop in this film. Deep reds and oranges are especially notable in big landscape-style shots.

Message: 4/10

As mentioned earlier, The LEGO Movie was able to incorporate a story about a real father-son relationship into its plot. This movie alludes to the idea that the LEGO characters are not actually real (for instance, all of the characters know that Gotham City rests upon the place where two tables meet each other), but the film never expands out to the “real world” like the original did. Part of me wants to say that’s a good thing, but at the same time, that part of me wishes they wouldn’t have alluded to the imaginative realm that is the LEGO universe.

Ultimately, the message of the film is pretty bland; “it takes a village, not a Batman.” Batman has to learn how to accept others into his life and not go it alone all the time, because it is the people that we surround ourselves with that make us who we are. If that sounded really profound, then you can applaud me instead of the movie, because I took a lot of liberties in expanding on its simplistic message.

X-Factor: 7.1/10, Self-Deprecation

The LEGO Batman Movie is very aware of Batman movies that have been made in the past. It takes this opportunity to incorporate them into its sarcastic style of humor, and it works very well, especially in the first 20 minutes of the film. If you listen to our last podcast episode (click here), Nick briefly talks about this and references a joke that was made about Suicide Squad.

Overall: 7/10

If you enjoyed The LEGO Movie and end up not enjoying The LEGO Batman Movie, then you should get yourself checked out because there is a good chance that you’ve been taken over by a Body-Snatcher or something. The two movies are very similar in their sense of humor, but thankfully, that’s about where the similarities stop. The animators are also getting better, improving on the already innovative work that went into the original 2014 film. I would expect nothing but bigger and better things to come from this animation team in the future.

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