The Lego Batman Movie (2017) — One of the best Batman movies, period.

“I’m a little concerned. I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016 and 2012 and 2008 and 2005 and 1997 and 1995 and 1992 and 1989 and that weird one in 1966.”

Justin’s rating: Batastic!

Justin’s review: The Lego Movie was an absolutely delightful surprise when it arrived in 2014. It was smart, genuinely funny, didn’t pander directly to kids, and was clearly made by people who loved the toys and geek culture in general. It shouldn’t be a refreshing change when we encounter the rare movie that isn’t pretentious or pushing a “message,” but these days it is.

Out of the many elements that made Lego Movie such a blast was Will Arnett’s Batman, who was a hilarious mix of bravado, gadgets, and growly quips. I can totally see why the higher ups decided that he’d be a prime candidate for a spin-off.

Everything that The Lego Movie was to geek pop culture, The Lego Batman Movie became to the long-running Batman franchise. I don’t know how the creators managed to tie together so many of the on-screen appearances of the Caped Crusader and decades of references, villains, and tropes, but they did. And it is glorious.

Batman (Arnett) is at the top of his game at the start of the film, saving Lego Gotham City from yet another coordinated attack by his rogue’s gallery. But things for this showboating superhero start to go off the rails when the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) declares that the two of them are arch-enemies — a feeling that Bats does not reciprocate. The dissonance grows louder when Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) takes over as police commissioner and steers the town away from a need for a masked vigilante. And then all of the villains surrender en masse — and Batman finds himself at wit’s end without bad guys to fight or a city to cheer him on.

If this wasn’t already the strangest week for Bruce Wayne (who lives in Batman’s attic), he accidentally adopts Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). The bubbly, nerdy, and decidedly un-cool Robin quickly puts a crimp in Batman’s style.

By pulling the rug out from under Batman, this movie forces him to examine pretty much everything about his character: his origin story, his relationships with friends and foe alike, his obsessive need to be wanted and admired, and his trend to always go alone. But when the Phantom Zone spits out Voldemort, King Kong, and Sauron, he’s going to have to admit that the old way of doing things aren’t going to get the job done this time…

The more you know about Batman — especially his movie appearances — the more laughs you’re going to get out of this film. You can (and people have) spend tons of time identifying every franchise reference, from rather recognizable digs to extremely nerdy specificities (such as a rapid assortment of hilarious canon outfits). Probably the biggest laugh I got was when the film started listing all of Batman’s enemies, digging deeper and deeper into the more ridiculous and obscure true entries (“Polka Dot Man! Mime! Orca! Calendar Man!”). But a degree of Batology isn’t necessary to enjoy this; it’s a witty and personable movie that delights adults and kids alike.

A special shout-out must be made for the amazing casting on all levels. I was delighted to see that Billy Dee Williams finally got to be Two-Face (after the 1989 movie teased this development when Williams played Harvey Dent). Jenny Slate is Harley Quinn. Garfunkel and Oates (Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome) play Clayface and Poison Ivy. Seth Green gets to be King Kong. Eddie Izzard joins in as Voldemort. Zoë Kravitz got to be Catwoman here first before 2022’s The Batman. Oh, and Conan O’Brien is the Riddler. Coco. C’mon.

I also dig the CGI Lego animation here. It’s just as perfect as it was in The Lego Movie, with jerky little movements and an entire world that looks like it was made up of these toy blocks. So often, little jokes or moments were sold on the visual medium. I also got the sense that the animators kept trying to one-up previous scenes.

Maybe we’ve been taking Batman way too seriously since the ’80s — it’s refreshing to have a movie that cuts loose with the goofy and admirable sides of this beloved character.

Didja notice?

  • Batman’s narration over the opening credits (“DC… the house that Batman built!”)
  • The password is “Iron Man sucks”
  • Bruce Wayne lives in Batman’s attic
  • Batman ripping into Robin’s name (“As in the small midwestern frail bird?”)
  • “Nope, they’re all real. Probably worth a Google.”
  • Daleks! Ask your nerd friends.
  • “Together, we’re gonna punch these guys so hard, words describing the impact are gonna spontaneously materialize out of thin air.”
  • “Now I have two dads, and one of them is Batman!”
  • The Bat-Shark Repellent is back

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