The LEGO Batman Movie review: Lightning (almost) strikes twice
When The LEGO Movie came out in 2014 we didn’t watch it with the highest expectations.
We thought it would either be a glorified 100 minute advert or a subpar children’s movie hoping to sell tickets off of a popular brand.
Luckily we were wrong and The LEGO Movie proved to be a self-aware, genuinely funny and beautifully animated movie, despite what the Oscars thought. We’ve watched it several times since it was released to see if it stood up to the initial showings, and it wasn’t our love of LEGO getting in the way – and it holds up.
So when we heard that the Batman in that movie would be getting his own feature film in the form of The LEGO Batman Movie, we went in with a little more faith, still wary that it may still be a bad advert or a coasting kid’s flick.
You can put those worries aside… well, most of them at least. The newest LEGO movie brings over a lot of what made that first movie so damn good, but stops just short of matching it.
From the opening credits sequence where Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) tells you “from DC Comics, the house Batman built. Suck it, Superman” you know you’re going to be in for a good time here.
What follows is one of the most over the top and fast paced opening sequences we’ve ever seen. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) leads a team of Batman’s enemies in a bid to blow up a power plant which will destroy Gotham City. Batman single-handedly saves the day, all while singing a song of how cool he is in between beating down villains and driving the oversized Batmobile known as “The Speedwagon”.
After a parade around the city and dropping off a load of bat merchandise at the local orphanage where the future Robin (Michael Cera) is living, Batman retreats to his cave where his only company is Siri (yes, Apple’s Siri), Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and a plate of lobster thermidor.
This sequence highlights everything great about The LEGO Batman Movie. The expertly crafted parody of DC Comics is superb, from the way Batman beats down C-class villains such as Calendar Man and Kite Man to the humour of the Bat Cave’s secret password being “Iron Man sucks”, those elements are spot on.
But the break neck speed of this sequence, and the rest of the movie, as well as the terrible plot really hamper the experience. We’ve touched on bad pacing in a number of films, but this movie may be the one of the worst culprits. The creators of this movie pack so much into the run time it feels like a 30 minute cartoon instead of a full length movie.
Now, a movie in which time seems to fly by isn’t a bad thing as the recent xXx movie showed. But, while the last LEGO movie felt like an exciting and layered journey, this movie feels like a hastily cut sequence of plot threads that are resolved unnaturally fast.
The pace and story may seem like a strange subject to broach here, but it’s so jarring that it spoils much of the movie. It doesn’t help that the it’s also overtly complex, involving hundreds of characters.
And yes, we do mean hundreds. It would be a spoiler to say who they are or even where they come from, but we will say that they bring in characters outside of the DC Comics licence, which more than reminds us of the LEGO Dimensions game.
Director Chris McKay or story writer Seth Grahame-Smith should have paired the story down to be simpler, or extended the run time so each part of the movie got more attention. This problem is obvious because everything we do see and hear, even for a short time, is done so well.
On top of this, the creative nature of LEGO barely gets a look in. The first movie used the concept of imagination through interlocking bricks as a major plot point, which was present at every stage and scene in the movie. Here? It’s brought up maybe five times at most.
It may sound like nitpicking to point this out and it’s not like we didn’t have a good time with this movie. The attention to detail here and the beauty of everything being a legit LEGO brick is still awe inspiring.
And that’s maybe where The LEGO Batman Movie deviates from the original LEGO Movie. It has traded in the better story, pacing and aesthetic for more laughs and even more charm and in jokes.
We honestly think that’s a fair trade, by all accounts. This isn’t as good as that first movie, but it recaptures so much of that original magic that it still, easily, becomes a must-see movie for everyone with a pair of eyes and an inner child.