LEGO Batman: Wonderfully absurd tribute to the Dark Knight

By: 
J.T. Johnson
Special to The Saline Courier

Little did I know that one of the best Batman films that I’ve ever seen would be made out of LEGO bricks. Now, with the release of “The LEGO Batman Movie,” I can say that is a reality that I live in. The new movie, which is a follow-up to 2014’s “The LEGO Movie,” is a stunning, absurd and funny look at the history of the Batman character.

Will Arnett returns as LEGO Batman and he may just very well be one of my favorite actors to take on the role. In the movie, Batman is the loner who is too afraid to get close to anyone, including his faithful butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), and an orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). This central theme about needing a family is the glue that holds the film together.

Despite that, don’t think that things ever get too serious. The jokes start from the very start of the film and keep on coming until the very end. The good news is that for the most part, these jokes hit their mark and only an extreme few fall flat on their faces.

The movie points out some of the flaws of the character that is often ignored, such as the fact that Batman never truly makes Gotham City any safer. On the other hand, it acknowledges pretty much every incarnation of Batman that there has ever been, from the 1966 television series to the Burton/Schumacher years to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. Yes, this is a film that you can tell was written by Batman fans for Batman fans.

There are so many references to previous incarnations of the Caped Crusader that I can’t even begin to reference them all. At one point, Batman and Robin get into a fight where they punch bad guys so hard that a few “BAM!” and “POW” cards pop up. And yes, there’s even a reference to the fact that the Joker once had a parade accompanied by Prince music.
Moving on from the references, it’s worth noting that the voice acting throughout is pretty solid as well. Cera is great as the aloof orphan Dick that admires Bruce Wayne. Fiennes, an actor who would make a great Alfred even in the live-action films, also shines as Batman’s famous butler and gives a pretty faithful portrayal of the character. Then there Dawson as Barbara who helps round out the main cast and is a great potential love interest for Batman.

Other celebrities also show up to give their brief, yet memorable cameos. This includes Channing Tatum as Superman and Doug Benson, who turns in his best Tom Hardy impression as Bane. Just like in “The LEGO Movie,” it was fun to try and guess who was voicing which character throughout the movie.

Finally, there are the visuals. “The LEGO Movie” stunned me with its impressive animation and the LEGO world that it created. Here, Gotham is alive as well and the action, while humorous, is also extremely fun to watch. Whether Batman and company are trying to stop the Joker and his team of evil partners or we’re just looking at the impressive Batcave, the movie is a visual delight.

I still can’t believe that a movie about the famous toy bricks was one of the best films of 2014. Now, I can’t believe that this follow-up actually managed to be just as impressive. With plenty of references to the famous DC character, this movie should appeal to both LEGO lovers and Batman fans of all ages.

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