After Cannon films had run the Superman franchise into the ground and before Marvel’s cinematic universe emerged, there was an era dominated by the Batman films. From 1989-2008 The Dark Knight was the most popular comic book superhero series ever committed to celluloid. The hysteria that greeted the first three films set milestones in terms of marketing, merchandising, product placement deals, and box-office records. Today, the idolized character has been regulated to the junior varsity squad, while his peers have moved up in popularity and appeal. While Superman has always been my personal favorite in regards to comic-book heroes, Batman, is undoubtedly the savior and king of superhero cinema. So, it’s even more enjoyable that this LEGO take on the material is a clever homage and satirical comedy of all the incarnations that have come before.
Batman (Will Arnett) is a capable loner, his proficiency at capturing villains and thwarting attempts to destroy Gotham City have become commonplace. So much so that his arch-enemy, The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is more interested in proving his value to The Dark Knight than carrying out his nefarious plans of chaos. In an attempt to melt the coldness of Batman’s icy disposition towards family, The Joker turns himself in and is sentenced to time in the “phantom zone” with the worst offenders that Superman (Channing Tatum) has faced.
Robin (Michael Cera) is introduced as an orphan who is desperate for the parental figure he never had. His idolization for Batman is unwavering even in the face of harsh treatment from the man in the cowl. Alfred the Butler (Ralph Fiennes) is insistent that Bruce/Batman open himself up emotionally and realize that friends and family are the most important part of a quality life. Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is elected the new Commissioner of Gotham Police force, and her aggressive attitude towards crime leads to her teaming up with Batman & Robin as Batgirl.
The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t the startlingly excellent tale that The LEGO Movie was. The musical numbers aren’t catchy and the picture runs for about twenty minutes too long, a dead-space in the second act is critical, but the voice work from Will Arnett is the picture’s best asset. Sure, the visuals are stunning and the colorful images pop off the screen at times, but without the sly writing, and the quality readings from Arnett this would be just another mediocre kiddie pic. The LEGO Batman Movie is the best use of the titular character since Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy ended back in 2012.
Director: Chris McKay
Stars: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera