Legos have been around a long time. The company, depending on how you define it, started as long ago as 1932, although they made wooden toys at the time. The more familiar plastic that kids love to build with and adults fear to step on started in 1947. Since so much of modern business is expanding the market, they have branched out into other areas, like video games, cartoons, and even amusement parks. At times I wonder if they’re trying to give Disney a run for its money.
In 2014, Lego upped their game and released an animated movie that did pretty well, drew in some really impressive cameos (Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels voicing their Star Wars characters among many others) and was just plain fun. Then they decided to build on one of the characters (mostly no pun intended) and in 2017 released the Lego Batman movie, with Will Arnett playing the title role, or at least voicing it. I finally got around to watching it this week.
The movie is a really odd combination of things, and best watched with your brain shut off, especially if you know comics in general and the Batman mythos in particular. It was fun, don’t get me wrong. But it was the weirdest bits of impressive trivia from the DC Cartoons and Batman stories set against the lead being pretty much diametrically opposed to just about everything the Batman character is in the comics and movies.
In very broad strokes, Batman can’t handle it when Commissioner Gordon retires, to be replaced by his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson). She emphasizes teamwork and compassion and questions the need for Batman at all, at least, how he currently works. In this world, Batman has somehow never captured a single villain, which makes you wonder where his outsized ego comes from. His comedic vanity and boastfulness actually remind me a lot more of Disney’s Darkwing Duck than any Batman I know of. To complicate things, the distracted Bruce Wayne accidentally adopts Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) at a party, and Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is on a very weird kick about his and Batman’s “relationship.” Things get stranger from there.
I was impressed by the voice cameos (Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Izzard among others) and the depth of the writers’ trivia knowledge. They dug up obscure villains from the 60’s Batman tv show, Batman: The Animated Series, and many of the comics. There was a sort of group Justice League cameo, with characters from the Superfriends cartoons and various comics. They did great homages to every era of Batman from the cartoons, movies, and tv. There were villains from all sorts of Warner Brothers movies, and even Dr. Who’s Daleks. How they got the rights for that I’m really not sure.
Yeah, when it comes to comics a lot of the time, I’m “that guy.” I have to admit, this weird characterization of the hero kept throwing me off, as did the utter mangling of Dick Grayson’s origin and Barbara following her story from the futuristic Batman Beyond. I’m clearly not the target audience for this.
That said, it was a lot of fun to watch and I’m not sorry I saw it. I just question some of the choices.
What I liked: They did a fantastic job recreating scenes from the various movies. The deep dive into the lists of Bat-foes was impressive. The general odd Lego humor is entertaining, and I have to give them points for including so many heroes in the JLA/Superfriends cameo (where was Black Canary?). The huge list of villains from other sources made for a lot of fun Easter Eggs, and flying brick Phyllis was amusing.
What I didn’t: Well, basically, Batman. And the rewrites of Robin and Batgirl’s histories. I know, I’m a comic book geek. I admit it. There were several points during the movie I was asking myself “now why would they change that?” and not coming up with any good answer.
It was still entertaining. I think I liked the Lego Movie better, but that’s me. I’ll give this a straight 3 out of 5 for humor value.