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.
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.