Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

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The LEGO Movie was released in 2014 and its extraordinary quality and financial success was a pleasant surprise. It was therefore inevitable that the first in a series of sequels and spin-offs was announced just months after the original film was launched: The LEGO Batman Movie.

I have been very excited for the film since the first trailers were issued in March of 2015 and many of the associated sets are excellent so I am delighted to report that the movie is similarly impressive! This review is spoiler-free and I would ask that the comments are also kept free of spoilers as a courtesy to those who have yet to see the film.

The opening credits sequence instantly sets the tone for the movie as Batman addresses the audience before we leap into action with the Joker who is enacting another extravagant scheme. The rapid pace of the action continues throughout the film and once it gets going it rarely stops, with an almost constant bombardment of combat punctuated by short scenes of discussion and exposition. This does not suit every film but I think it is appropriate for the absurdist style of The LEGO Batman Movie.

The film is packed with jokes and references at a similarly frenetic pace and I think it sometimes goes a little too far in this respect as the plot is occasionally abandoned in favour of humour. However, the referential comedy appealed to me as a fan of Batman and the wider DC universe, although I can imagine it will fall flat for some people and the relative absence of LEGO-based humour is slightly disappointing. I would recommend familiarising yourself with past Batman films if you get a chance before seeing this one as many of the jokes are reliant upon this.

The storyline is thoroughly enjoyable as it subverts the nature of the relationship between Batman and the Joker, exploring the Caped Crusader's isolation from both his friends and enemies. This is expressed rather clumsily at times and does not offer the emotional weight which was so impressive in The LEGO Movie but it is certainly serviceable as a means of delivering jokes and provides a perfect opportunity for comment upon existing interpretations of Batman, of which there are many.

The depictions of each character were equally successful. Will Arnett lends unprecedented arrogance to Batman while Zach Galifianakis portrays the Joker with delightful relish and Ralph Fiennes's Alfred is as stoic as ever. However, Michael Cera's Robin was the standout performance in my opinion as he viewed the world and events around him with appropriate wonder, contrasting with the frank practicality of Rosario Dawson's Barbara Gordon. Most of the dialogue is limited to these five characters and the secondary villains featured in the film are little more than caricatures, although that is not at all surprising given their number.

Trailers and promotional material have revealed that the villains in this film are not limited to the DC universe and that is certainly the case as characters from almost every current licensee make an appearance, with a couple of notable exceptions. There are also a number of characters from new properties to look out for, including one which might be particularly suited to a future LEGO Dimensions pack. You can find out who I am referring to by following this link, although this may constitute a minor spoiler so please do not click on it if you wish to avoid them. If nothing else, it is a terrific cameo.

I was looking out for the vehicles and minifigures which have appeared in sets throughout the film and I spotted almost all of them, albeit only in the background in many cases. I am fairly confident that Barbara Gordon does not wear the police uniform of her Collectable Minifigure while Chief O'Hara plays a remarkably significant role in the early stages of the movie, increasing the appeal of 853651 The LEGO Batman Movie Accessory Set. All of the vehicles appear but I was surprised to see both Penguin's Duckmobile and the Arctic Roller driving together at one point as their owner could only have been at the controls of a single vehicle. Presumably he lent the limousine to another villain.

Overall

The LEGO Batman Movie is relentless fun. There is plenty to appreciate for fans of DC characters and the referential humour was brilliant, taking shots at the history of Batman, recent DC films and even Marvel! It is delightfully self-aware throughout and the simulated stop-motion animation looks fantastic, with a considerably duller colour palette than The LEGO Movie but just as much detail in every frame.

However, the storyline lacks the emotional weight of The LEGO Movie and I think some of the characters received undeserved short shrift as only a very few supporting characters had more than a single line of dialogue. Nevertheless, it is very enjoyable overall and I certainly recommend watching it, particularly since a brief moment in this movie might have major consequences for those to come.

 

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53 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

A great review, thanks Chris!

Overall I would agree that it's an entertaining film that will particularly appeal to DC/Batman fans. However there are a few dull sequences and, as seems to be a requisite for many animated films these days, a superfluous song that has none of the charm or catchiness of 'everything is awesome'.

What surprised me is how little screen-time many of the vehicles and, particularly, minifigures that LEGO has produced received. In some cases, if you blinked, you missed them. I'm sure some were absent altogether, at least in the form that they've been made.

Of all the vehicles that appear in sets, I think only three get more than 10 seconds screen-time, and one of them hasn't been released yet.

Having said that there's also some very cool, and unexpected, stuff in it that we can but hope appears in real LEGO form!

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By in United States,

If you remember the sets from TLM the vehicles barely had any screen time.

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By in United Kingdom,

"I am fairly confident that Barbara Gordon does not wear the police uniform of her Collectable Minifigure"

Nah, she's definitely in there for at least a split-second

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By in United States,

That's a great review, thank you! I'm excited to see it with my 6 yr old son.

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By in United States,

I am overly hyped to see the movie. Hoping to go opening night, 6 days away!

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By in United States,

Seeing this on Tuesday at a press screening. I'm annoyed I didn't get in on the Saturday press screenings, but at least I'm still seeing it early.

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By in Netherlands,

Am I'm the only adult Legofan in the world who doesn't know anything about things like 'Batman', 'Marvel', 'DC Comics' and other stuff related to comics, movies and games?

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By in United Kingdom,

I hope Finn and The Man Upstairs make an appearance in The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

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By in Sweden,

I think it's good that the movie isn't a slave to showcasing the actual LEGO products. As long as they at least make an appearance I think it's fine that they only show up briefly. Would be a much worse film if it felt like you were just watching a commercial for LEGO products, you know?

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By in United Kingdom,

This is a fair review, I think, especially when Huw's comment is taken into consideration as well.

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By in United Kingdom,

This review summed up my thoughts exactly. As a lego and comic book fan, it did fall a little short of my expectations but oh well.

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By in Sweden,

Is the movie employing the same CGI emulation of "stop motion" as The LEGO Movie? Or do figures move smoothly?

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By in United States,

@dutchlegofan50 No, you are not the only one. I will still see the film with my kids, and hope I am pleasantly surprised, but I suspect many of the references will pass me by.

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By in United States,

Very nice review! I'm quite excited to see the film next weekend.

On a semi-related note, I got to the bottom of the page and clicked the link to read the Tartan Batman review, but it just opens the movie review again. Is anyone else having this same problem?

(Okay, actually, it's ALL the links at the bottom. Is it just me?)

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Looks like I've introduced a bug recently! I'll get that sorted. Thanks.

Edit: now sorted.

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By in United Kingdom,

Saw it today, liked it but didn't love it. Plenty of nods to all previous Batman films, all I could hear of Batman was Bojack Horseman which lost some of the magic for me. But pretty funny, maybe played too much for laughs, but definitely well worth a watch if you like either Batman or Lego, you'll be really happy if you like both

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By in United States,

Yeah I saw CMF Barbara, only a tiny bit though.

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By in United States,

About the certain character that would be suitable for a Dimensions pack- that's surprising, LEGO usually doesn't associate themselves with R-rated movies, and I don't think a physical appearance by that character would be possible...

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By in United Kingdom,

Not as great as the Lego movie but still very good in my opinion. Nearly there but not quite

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By in United States,

Thanks for taking the time for writing this review.

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By in United Kingdom,

Just got back from watching it with my daughter. We both enjoyed it, although there were too many characters in my opinion that meant many didn't get the chance to shine. That said, there are some great bits and we were not disappointed.

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By in Denmark,

Why do some people use the term "film" - it's decades since the last "film" was made/shown.

What's wrong with the much more accurate and generic term "movie"?

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By in United States,

Meh I'd rather not see that franchise in Lego Dimensions

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By in United Kingdom,

@bok2 - 'Film' and 'movie' are essentially synonymous, although being British I tend to use the former more frequently. I realise that 'film' technically refers to a piece of cinema shot on film but it can also be applied to any cinematic work, even those shot digitally. If 'film' is good enough for the OED and BBFC then it is good enough for me.

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By in Italy,

So perhaps not worth me going to the nearest 'big city cinema' with preview showings then? Sounds like I can wait until the 'normal' release date but thanks to everyone for being pretty spoiler free. Now, if only viewers of Alien Covenant behaved the same way... we'll have to see

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By in United Kingdom,

I saw this in Imax 3D at Metrocentre Gateshead today (Sunday) at 6.30pm. I was surprised that there was less than ten people in the entire cinema. I'm also ashamed to say I fell asleep briefly near the beginning :( It was still great though.

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By in United States,

#samebatdateausnz

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By in United States,

I'm really hyped for the movie, will be going opening night! My cousins asked me to wait and see it with them on the 22nd, but I'm like "Uh...no. I'll see it then for the third time tho!" :)

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By in Hungary,

Isn't the premiere on 10th? Or everyone is a journalist here?

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By in United States,

Why is everybody here a journalist?

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By in Australia,

So annoying that we don't get it in Australia until late March. But I bet that has been done so it coincides with the next set of school holidays that begin the end of the first week in April....

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By in United Kingdom,

We are not all journalists: it opened a week earlier in the UK than elsewhere.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ To be specific, I don't think it opened a week early, but just had a "preview weekend" with showingsome on Sat and Sun. Never heard of that before. And the only reason I did hear of it is cos I read it on Brickset (I think).

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By in Germany,

Nicely and delicately described. Was becoming a victim of hype and bumph overload, but now have a resurgence of interest. Good job lads.

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By in United Kingdom,

Saw the movie yesterday at a preview screening.

I think I must have seen a different version of the movie than what the rest of you AFOL's saw. What I witnessed was a FREAKIN' AWESOME cinematic experience.

Gags straight in from the off. No boring intros, lots of action, loads of funny LEGO and Batman references, and didn't leave me bored, or short changed. Infact, I'll probably go and see it a couple of times, as there's tons of "off screen/background" gags and goofs going on at the same time.

My only recommendation would be to take some STRONG coffee before you go. You'll need it to keep up with the pace.

My Movie Rating : 110%

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By in United Kingdom,

I'll be honest. This has been shoved down our throats so much - what with the Sky adverts and the Channel 4 takeovers at 5 - that I'm so sick of Batman, I'm going to avoid it completely.

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By in United States,

"There are also a number of characters from new properties to look out for, including one which might be particularly suited to a future LEGO Dimensions pack. You can find out who I am referring to by following this link, although this may constitute a minor spoiler..."
I haven't seen the movie yet, so I could be wrong about this... but, the Lego City Undercover game had a henchman who was pretty much a parody/doppelganger of this character, so maybe that's who the Lego Batman cameo really was. Especially since Lego City is being added to Dimensions too.

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By in United States,

After reading this review, I may have to pass. Batman is my favorite crimefighter and obviously I love LEGO, but it seems like this will pale in comparison to the LEGO movie. Batman was great in small doses, but can he handle his own movie? I don't know.

Plus with all of the previews I've seen, how much more to the movie can there be?

And by having sets that are released and barely seen in the movie, it just shows that they are trying to move a product and want your money. Plain and simple. But since this is a giant money making company, I guess that makes sense.

And it hurts/sucks to say with Batman being my favorite, I think we have reached a Bat-saturation point. All the wacky suits in the CMF line and then this movie and Batfleck. When will it be over?

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By in United States,

@Sethro3: It would seem to me that having sets that barely show up in the movie would prove the OPPOSITE of it just being a soulless scheme to move products. After all, if they really wanted to move products at the expense of actual storytelling, it would make more sense to write as much of the movie as possible around those products and call plenty of attention to each one of them. Not to gloss over them to the point where you might not realize some of them were in the movie at all. If many of the products had very little relevance to the movie, that would seem to show that for the writers, the story came first.

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By in United Kingdom,

Sethro3, I wouldn't say that TLBM pales in comparison to TLM. It is definitely worth seeing on the big screen and there's a lot in the final quarter that hasn't been revealed in previews (unless, of course, we've different previews in mind).

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By in United States,

@Aanchir Great points!

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By in United States,

This was only a special preview weekend for the movie they did the same for the LEGO movie as well. I saw it a week earlier than its release. I can't wait to see this at the BFI IMAX at Waterloo London this Sunday. BATBEAR may even make an appearance

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By in United States,

Great, my brother wants to see it a few months after it comes out, and my parents will not let me go to Bella Terra alone. Now I need to wait MONTHS to see this movie.

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By in United States,

So sounds like a "wait for the dvd" type of movie.

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By in United Kingdom,

@CapnRex101,

"particularly since a brief moment in this movie might have major consequences for those to come."

Can you clarify what you mean by this?

Honestly i did not see any moment that i feel may have larger implications - other than the non-plot relevant tease that the story was being played out by a female human - who may or may not be related to the human character form the previous movie.

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By in United States,

@Dude45 According to the Cap, it is the same "CGI Stop-Motion" as TLM, which shouldn't be surprising. It is something that many people use in brickfilms, and it isn't really surprising to me that TLG is attempting to replicate it as well.

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By in United States,

@PicnicBasketSam I do agree with you on that point, but the character in question would be pretty easy to MOC as would every other character from that trilogy.

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By in United States,

Saw it yesterday and quite enjoyed it, although I agree it isn't as good as The Lego Movie. The main shortcoming, as I see it? TLM was a story that pretty much could only have been told with Lego, whether real or CGI. It celebrated values such as imagination, creativity, and originality, all things core to Lego.
TLBM, on the other hand, was a funny Batman story that they just happened to use Lego to tell. Other than one part of the climax, there really wasn't anything uniquely Lego about the story. Sure, there was the occasional "Batman (or Robin at one point) builds something on the fly" part, but overall, I don't think it would be difficult to tell this story using some other style of animation, completely expunging the Lego element (pun intended).
Does this make it a bad movie? No. As I said, I quite enjoyed it, and am looking forward to going back to see it again, this time with my brother and nephews. (I also want the sets even more than I did before.)
One thing I do wonder about, though: The whole plot of the movie is that Batman is a loner, is afraid to form attachments, etc. But a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot establishes this as being in the same continuity as, and taking place after, The Lego Movie. So, what about Wyldstyle, who after all was Batman's girlfriend in TLM? She gets no mention whatsoever.
Final note: Something I noticed is that the animation has two interesting differences from that in TLM. First, that effects such as smoke, fog, water, explosions, etc. are done realistically, rather than looking like they were made out of Lego.
Secondly, the minifigures. TLM exaggerated the range of motion a minifig can achieve, but TLBM has them posing in ways that, if you were doing them with a real minifig, you'd have to pull their arms, legs, or heads off to duplicate. Also, Batman's mask physically changes its shape to accommodate certain expressions, and Harley's pigtails move back and forth in a way the actual minifigure cannot without being modified.

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By in United Kingdom,

I took my kids this weekend to watch it,and it was awesome, funnily enough there were so many couples there with no children in tow , great movie / film ??

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By in United States,

@TheOtherMike
Walking out of the theater, I had many of the same thoughts as you about the film. I'm grateful that you were able to express these feelings so eloquently.

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By in United States,

@CapnRex101
I missed the tease that the story was being played out by a female human - who may or may not be related to the human character form the previous movie. When did that happen?

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By in United States,

Also, the morning after watching TLBM I realized that there was a huge plot-hole: J gets the idea for his scheme from the fact that S put Z in the P. Yet when we get to the P, Z is not there. Z should have been one of the villains with whom the Bat Bunch had to contend with. (I hope I'm being vague enough to not spoil it but clear enough that those who have can understand what I'm saying.)

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By in Netherlands,

I was excited to see this movie, but I'm dissapointed afterwards... Loved TLM and although I'm not a comics/superheroes enthusiast hoped that the style of TLM would make this movie interesting for me. But where there's creativity and building (SPACESHIP!!!) in TLM, I kind of missed this in The LEGO Batman Movie. It's more of a 'normal' animation movie starring LEGO minifigures as the characters than a movie that captures the LEGO experience (transforming and building on the go in TLM). It's not completely absent but I wish there was more of it. Hopefully the Ninjago movie will bring that back :-)

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