Batman is likely the most iconic superhero of all time, dating back to 1941 when the character was conceived by Bob Kane in Detective Comics. The Caped Crusader soon went from being an adult dressed as an animal to a deadly assassin who used his skills for good. The Batman comics also lent way to the creation of several villains and sidekicks, some almost as iconic as Batman himself.
The character lept off the comic pages as early as the 1940s black and white serials. Brought to mainstream attention with the corny 1960s Adam West TV show, Batman came to the silver screen in 1989, when Tim Burton ushered in the modern superhero film era with Batman, starring Micheal Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. While the sequels to Batman were disappointing, and the fourth film in the series, Batman and Robin considered to be one of the worst films of all time, the film version of Batman took a dramatic turn in 2005 when Christopher Nolan rebooted the series with Batman Begins, a dark retelling of Wayne’s origins. Spawning one of the most critically and financially successful trilogies of all time, The Dark Knight trilogy was followed by another reboot of Batman in the new DC Expanded Universe. 2016 saw Batman v. Superman, which was a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination. The grim and murderous Batman who acted a complete fool for the entire movie forecasted a poor iteration of the character for the future DC movies like Justice League, coming this November. Yet no one suspected that before Justice League, cinema would receive perhaps the best Batman movie of all time in The LEGO Batman Movie.
Batman was a key supporting character in 2014’s The LEGO Movie. Voiced by Will Arnett, The LEGO Movie showed a Batman that captured the arrogance and over the top flashiness of the character, with fast paced dialogue that drew on decades of cinematic Batman. Now, 2017 has brought both a follow up to The LEGO Movie as well as a solid Batman film, perhaps the best yet ( yes, this superlative considers The Dark Knight). Set entirely in Batman’s universe rather than the multiverse setting of The LEGO Movie, this new film has LEGO incarnations of all of Batman’s supporting characters, including Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl, Robin, and all of Batman’s villains (there is even a montage showcasing the dozens of Batman’s adversaries). The main adversary is the Joker, as should be the case in any quintessential Batman film. Without delving into the plot too much, the core narrative is about Batman dealing with the lonely nature of being an orphaned billionaire assassin. While The Dark Knight and Burton’s Batman touched on these themes, The LEGO Batman Movie features Wayne’s clash of inner ego with the desire to be loved by others. As every incarnation of Batman involves his parent’s death at a young age, it is natural that the dramatic weight is about Batman redefining to himself what it means to be a part of a family.
As in The LEGO Movie, the animation in LEGO Batman is superb. The stop motion appearance of the lego sets and figures is incredibly impressive. This medium is far more engaging and fun to look at than the overused generic CGI found in Disney and Dreamworks films recently. One must wonder how all of the sets were story boarded. LEGO brand has always had a certain humor in adapting real life activities into the LEGO world. Mundane activities such as cooking food or throwing out trash is some of the most pleasurable and humorous things to watch in the film. The conception of action scenes are incredible, and this film is even better in IMAX despite its animated format. One of the largest strengths of the LEGO brand is the legal ability to bring in licensed properties and put them all together. Never would I have thought I would see a film on the big screen that pits Batman against not only the gang of DC villains, yet King Kong, Sauron, Lord Voldemort, the Daleks, and many others. Overall, The LEGO Batman Movie is one of the most fun experiences I have ever had in the theater. The cliche of appraising animated films as adult films is admittedly overused, but never has it been more true than in The LEGO Batman Movie. Similar to Deadpool with less violence and nudity, the self referential parody and references to the entire comic book movie industry make this film one that only people with a broad knowledge of film in general can appreciate the comedy to the fullest extent. Hopefully The LEGO Batman Movie will not be snubbed by the Academy like The LEGO Movie was at the Oscars. Yet Oscars or not, The LEGO Batman Movie is superior to its predecessor and worth the full price of admission at least twice.