Movie Review: ‘THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE’ – a master build

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
Rated PG, 104 minutes.
Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario DawsonRalph FiennesSiriZach Galifianakis and Jenny Slate

When we take a look at the ever-growing cultural obsession with comic book movies and combine that with Hollywood producers’ apparent determination to relentlessly capitalize on successful films with sequels and spin-offs galore, it shouldn’t be that surprising that THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is a thing. Fortunately for said producers and audiences alike, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is a delightful outing and stands as a devoted love letter to fans of the Caped Crusader, both young and old.

After stealing the show in 2014’s THE LEGO MOVIE as a supporting character, Will Arnett returns to reprise the role of our titular hero and, thankfully, never crosses the line between charmingly obnoxious and outright annoying. Newcomers to the franchise include Ralph Fiennes (THE AVENGERS, not the good one) as the world’s most underpaid butler, Alfred Pennyworth; Rosario Dawson (THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH) as Gotham City’s idealistic new police commissioner Barbara Gordon; and Michael Cera (YEAR ONE) as the endearingly naive sidekick Robin. Robin never fails to win the audience over with his adorably wide eyes and genuine sincerity throughout the film. Another standout character is The Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (THE HANGOVER PART II) who seems more obsessed with being Batman’s main love hate interest than he is with actually defeating him. This dynamic is mostly hilarious, yet can end up feeling a little forced by the time the credits roll.

Batman (Will Arnett) and Robin (Michael Cera) join forces in THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The opening 10 minutes of the film feature more fan service and references to Batman lore than conceivably possible, accompanied by the charmingly self-aware sense of humor from the previous film. The Joker decides to round up every imaginable bad guy Batman has ever fought in an elaborate attempt to destroy Gotham City once and for all. However, Gotham locals seem to have grown bored with the Clown Prince’s numerous attempts at criminal masterworks, as everyone knows that Batman will always show up to save the day once more, which of course is exactly what happens. Feeling like the king of Gotham, Batman returns to his outrageously large mansion to be welcomed home by… nobody. We quickly learn that underneath the cowl adored by the world, Bruce Wayne is an incredibly lonely guy.

Despite being comprised entirely of plastic construction blocks, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE offers what is arguably one of the most fascinating explorations of Batman’s humanity. It is no secret that Bruce Wayne has always come with emotional baggage, yet in nearly all previous Batman films the familiar themes of emotional (as well as physical) isolation are often barely touched upon if at all. By directly addressing these ideas, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE proves to have far greater emotional depth than expected.

While not without the occasional misstep, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE ends up being the sequel we didn’t expect, as well as the Batman film we didn’t know we needed.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE opens nationwide on Friday, Feb. 10.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.