As controversial as it may sound, The LEGO Batman Movie single-handedly just saved the DC movie franchise and will be remembered as the greatest superhero film ever made. Don’t believe me? Well, they say two Mahones are better than one, so here’s what my oldest daughter had to say after walking out of the theater: “It’s like my favorite movie. It was awesome. Way better than that olde tyme Batman (1989) movie you made us watch. I can’t say it’s better than Suicide Squad, because you wouldn’t let me see that–but everyone should see it. If you don’t like it, there’s something wrong with you!” Out of the mouths of babes come sage-like exhortation.
The film, in theaters now, is on pace to be widely successful, maybe slightly less so than its predecessor, The LEGO Movie, but certainly clicking with audiences nonetheless. Honestly, it’s hard to beat the uniqueness, silliness and sheer magic that the original film possessed. However, despite being singularly focused on the titular DC comicbook character this time around, it’s no less funny, grin-worthy, or resourceful than the original–just in it’s own distinct way. It was in 2014 when audiences were first introduced to Will Arnett’s gravelly-voiced, dark and brooding, egotistical, emotionally-stunted, Batman, and it’s that same angsty and dickish iteration we see in The LEGO Batman Movie, which is more of a spin-off than a sequel to the original film.
Simply put, The LEGO Batman Movie is the greatest DC film ever assembled–the crowning achievement, in an otherwise hodgepodge of a franchise. What makes the film so completely arresting and marveling is really three fold. Starting with its casting. LEGO Batman wouldn’t nearly pack as powerful of a punch if not for the boundless energy and charisma of its cast led by Arnett himself. Apart from Arnett whose clever boyish witticism absolutely shines in every scene–even when he’s free-stylin’ and beatboxing–comedian Zach Galifianakis, who’ll put a smile on that face, as The Joker, and Michael Cera, as plucky orphan Dick Grayson and sidekick Robin, likewise seem molded into their roles. All breathe new life into some long-established and iconic characters. Which is a tall order–no pun intended–considering the DCU has been a mixed-bag when it comes to casting, as evidenced by the construction, evolution, deconstruction, and eventual rebirth, as well as the endless revolving door of its live-action counterparts. Look no further than quintessential archetypical performances from Keaton (1989) and Ledger (2008), to down-right abhorrent and forgettable performances from Clooney (1997) and Leto (2016).
Secondly, the world of computerized animation is limitless and it’s suited for God-like powered figures–as well as tiny, yellow, mini-figured ones–who simply defy the laws of our natural world in strange and unbelievable ways. “Batman has no limits!” Well he does if he’s made of flesh and bones. Director Chris McKay (Robot Chicken) gets it, and that’s why he’s ideal at the helm. With live-action, studios are always having to up the ante with dazzling special effects, as well as pragmatic costumes and settings. It’s incredibly expensive and despite looking hyper-realistic now, many contemporary vanguard films, end up looking archaic and laughable to younger sensibilities and admittedly nostalgic adults. Look no further than: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), Batman and Robin (1995), Catwoman (2004), Superman Returns (2006), Green Lantern (2011), and on and on. Alan West, the Batman of the 60’s understood this and may have predicted the darker tone the newer films would eventually take, remarking famously on The Simpsons, “I suppose you’re only familiar with the new Batman movies. Michelle Pfeiffer? Ha! The only true Catwoman is Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, or Eartha Kitt. And I didn’t need molded plastic to improve my physique. Pure West! And why doesn’t Batman dance anymore? Remember the Batusi?” The edgy realism of modern films is so dark, so humorless. That’s why it’s refreshing that unlike their ten digit, live-action coequals, the LEGO heroes and villains aren’t forced to waller in a pit of despair and hopelessness. There’s already enough of that in the “real world” to go around. So when a bunch of LEGOs have to save the day by literally and figuratively putting their heads together to pull a city back from the brink of utter destruction, you don’t blink an eye, because they can interchange their heads and bodies!
But more importantly The LEGO Batman Movie accomplishes what no other DC film has been able to do to date, which is to ultimately bring the entire DCU under one roof–just in this case it’s a interlocking plate with 4.8 mm x 1.7 mm studs. That’s no small task! Not just the main characters mind you–every character–even the Wonder Twins! And even more that might surprise you. Furthermore, the film possesses innumerable easter eggs–so many so that a single viewing isn’t enough to catch them all, along with a multitude of self-referential jokes, and homages which celebrate the nearly 80 year-old comic book character’s storied history as seen through the years in various mediums including: newsprint, television, and the movie franchises. LEGO Batman will entertain the most hardcore of Batman fans, as well as young kids, angsty teens, adults, weirdos, tyrannical alien rulers, people who hate dumb voices, #notmybatman protesters, mutants, anyone suffering from chiroptophobia or lateriphobia, Mawmaws and even the uninitiated. But we are initiated–aren’t we?