Move over Christopher Nolan (and yeah, I know I’m gonna get blasted for that) – the saga of the Caped Crusader has soared to new heights with this relentlessly faced-paced and intentionally “Dark” spinoff to 2014’s fantastical, and fantastic, “The LEGO Movie”.
The opening shot of “The LEGO Batman Movie” is a black screen. Why? Because, as Batman (voiced, once again, with sublime brilliance by Will Arnett) explains in his introductory narration: all great, important movies start with a black screen. With that line, we immediately know we’re in for a wild, fun-filled ride.
Director Chris McKay (of “Robot Chicken” fame) and five screenwriters pack “LEGO Batman” with a head-spinning amount of material. There are dozens of characters. Joining Bruce Wayne/Batman as headliners are butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes – a perfect voice casting choice), a young orphan who eventually becomes sidekick Robin (voiced by Michael Cera), Gotham City’s new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), and, leading a crew of villains that includes just about every bad guy and gal in the DC Universe, The Joker. Zach Galifianakis gives a dastardly enthusiastic voice performance as Batman’s Greatest Villain – at least that’s what The Joker thinks, though Batman refuses to agree.
References to the mythology of The Dark Knight comics, along with the pop culture TV and movie versions of The Caped Crusader, are everywhere in “The LEGO Batman Movie”. Diehards will appreciate that McKay and his crew really know their stuff. But while they play the Batman legacy for laughs (and there are plenty), this is much more of an homage than a parody.
In fact, in some ways, this script does a better job examining the Bruce Wayne/Batman psyche (as both his worthiness as a crime-fighter and overall mental health are given surprisingly serious treatments) than some live-action Batman movies. It takes itself far more seriously than the goofy Clooney/Schwarzenegger version and is much more true to the subject matter than the contrived “Batman v. Superman”. The mature material won’t mean anything to kids, who’ll simply enjoy the frenetic action and outlandish gags. But for teens, adults, and especially those who have made Bruce Wayne’s world an important part of their world – the content is undeniably impressive.
There are a couple of dry spots, and a few times the over-abundance of cameos becomes almost too much to handle. If there’s a superhero or super villain from this world who ISN’T in “LEGO Batman”, he or she needs to get a new agent. But with Arnett’s captivating performance, stellar animation and a story that smartly mixes humor and drama, this is the year’s first “Must-See” film.
Makes me wanna quote Heath Ledger’s Joker: “Now there’s a Batman”…Movie. On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The LEGO Batman Movie” gets a B+.
Running Time: 104 min.