Batman spurs the Lego resurgence

Underneath the silliness, movie about plastic bricks speaks into the caped crusader’s character.

Maxwell Heilman, Writer

The Lego Movie” will forever remain as the little movie that could. A movie that could very easily have become a weak attempt at revitalizing a toy company won critical acclaim with whimsical humor held together by a compact story and charming characters. The seemingly shoehorned addition of Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, in the film surprisingly resulted in a fan-favorite character, which explains why DC Entertainment and LEGO System A/S made him the centerpiece of their newest installment. “The Lego Batman Movie” succeeds as a sophomore release, a character study and joy ride of absurdity.

an unabashedly goofy tone

Before die-hard Batman fans grab their pitchforks, “Lego Batman” does an admirable job with its main character. Comedic hyperboles and juxtapositions aside, key aspects of the Dark Knight remain intact despite an unabashedly goofy tone. His story arc begins with him already established as Gotham City’s hero, sidestepping overdone origin stories and playing with the norms of his personality.

Director Chris McKay knows viewers do not need a scene where Bruce Wayne’s parents die and he decides to wear spandex and punch bad guys in the face, as the trailer highlights with Alfred Pennyworth, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, jabbing at how many directors have told Batman’s story over the years. “Lego Batman” focuses on more compelling aspects of the character — including his fear of letting other people into his life and relationship with the Joker as the yin to each other’s yang. The rest revels in inflating his eccentricities to an effect that will tickle the brains of longtime fans and casual viewers alike.

While it does feature appearances from all the regulars of the Batman franchise, the story never becomes bogged down by an overabundance of characters. McKay assumes audience familiarity, even joking about how many nemeses call Gotham home. He avoids pitfalls by focusing on Batman’s relationship, the Joker and the Batman Family. While taking substantial creative liberties with how and why Batman becomes involved with Robin, voiced by Michael Cera, and Batgirl, voiced by Rosario Dawson, his struggle with risking their harm in his crusade becomes the focal point. “Lego Batman” provides satire when appropriate, but its core centers around a lone wolf joining a pack.

No callbacks or fan-service,

Story writer Seth Grahame-Smith does not concern himself with fitting this movie into a cinematic universe. Emmet, Wyldstyle and The Man Upstairs have no part in “Lego Batman.” It functions entirely separate from “The Lego Movie.” No callbacks or fan-service, save for Batman’s use of his Master Builder abilities, get in the way of the film’s simple premise — Batman must save the city from the Joker.

Uproarious visuals and tangents in the plot will more than satisfy fans of the original’s anything-goes approach, but this film shares near-perfect comedic timing with its predecessor. After Adam Sandler and the recent work of Seth MacFarlane all but destroyed the concept of telling actual jokes in mainstream moviemaking, “Lego Batman” features plenty of followable setups and payoffs, while spitfire dialogue keeps viewers on their toes with anything from breaking the fourth wall to cleverly placed adult-aimed cracks.

Above all, “Lego Batman” provides a sense of innocence and spunk largely absent in its contemporaries. It replaces convoluted exposition and forced endings with sheer fun and excitement. Deeper questions of taking responsibility, living selflessly and the symbiotic relationship between good and evil remain integral to the story, but unbridled imagination and youthful adventurousness make Chris Mckay’s film a ridiculous, unpredictable and ultimately compelling addition to a franchise already becoming a beacon of hope for mainstream all-ages filmmaking.

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