I remember when I first went to see the original Lego Movie, my initial expectations of a lackluster, dull piece of corporate marketing were blown away by what turned out to be a film that was phenomenally well done, extremely funny, and even deeply philosophical; you can click here to read our review of The Lego Movie.
Thus, when Lego Batman was announced, I had some higher expectations going in. To some degree, Lego Batman fulfilled my expectations. In others, not so much.
The plot of the film is about Batman's loneliness and his need for family. Alfred, worried that Batman's excessive isolation is not healthy for him, encourages Batman to adopt the straight-and-narrow orphan Dick Grayson, who of course will be Robin. Though Batman is initially very reluctant to embrace Dick as a adopted son and partner, the two forge a deep friendship through their efforts to thwart and extremely complicated plot by the Joker to destroy Gotham and prove that he is Batman's ultimate nemesis.
What worked about this film? As can be expected from another Lego film, there was some great humor - both physical humor, as well as some excellent dialogue. The character development in Batman was very well managed: he goes from being an egotistical loner to a slightly less egotistical team player (Lego Batman wouldn't be Lego Batman if he didn't remain somewhat self-centered). There were homages to every single other Batman movie cleverly woven throughout the film - and even some references to the 1960s show and even the comic book from the 1940s. I chuckled at these, as obviously they are going to be way over the heads of most kids.
What didn't work? The plot about the Joker was extremely complicated. Joker is angry because Batman won't admit he is his biggest nemesis, so he gets himself thrown in prison by Batman knowing that Batman will not feel safe as long as the Joker is still within Gotham. This prompts Batman to steal a special weapon from Superman that will allow him to banish Joker to the Phantom Zone. Batman successfully banishes Joker, but as a vigilante acting outside the confines of the law, which brings him into conflict with the new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon. Meanwhile Joker - who actually wanted Batman to send him to the Phantom Zone - once there, he recruits a ton of other villains, many not even from the DC universe (Sauron and Voldemort both make appearances), somehow escapes easily to wreak havoc on Gotham. Batman has to unite with other DC villains to defeat the non-DC villains. Of course, Joker ultimately loses, but Batman does finally confess that he is his greatest nemesis, which Joker wanted to begin with so its kind of like Joker wins. Then the two share an awkward moment of each saying "I hate you" to each other - which is supposed to be touching as its the way a superhero and his nemesis say "I love you."
If that all sounds convoluted, it was. And this was all without even mentioning the other plot about Batman and Dick Grayson, or the conflicting crime fighting philosophies of Batman and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). There was just...a lot stuffed in this movie. I have a hard time believing they could not have found a way to simplify it.
There was also a ton of fast-paced Lego action in this film. The first movie had a lot of that, too - you know, Lego things driving around super fast, exploding, tons of shooting, machines suddenly being built in mid-flight. But I think they upped it in the second movie, because it felt like there was constantly a lot of crap flying around on the screen almost non-stop. In the beginning it was disorienting; by the end it was kind of boring. It's kind of like how Peter Jackson tried to cram the Hobbit films with even more action than the LOTR and the ten minute sword fights end up inducing yawns instead of thrills. Same deal here. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older I have lower tolerance for a bunch of fast-paced stuff, but I think there was too much action.
There was a few innuendos that might be over the head of young kids. Like when Robin says, "My name is Richard Grayson, but the other kids call me 'Dick'," and Batman says, "Kids can be cruel." There was some of that sort of thing.
All in all, it was an enjoyable movie - my kids definitely liked it, and I found myself laughing out loud on numerous points. But it doesn't live up to the original, both in terms of the plot and the action, which was too over the top.
I give it two out of three tiaras.