Sunday, February 19, 2017
The LEGO Batman Movie opens with a sequence of jokes I found absolutely hilarious - just great. Likewise, the next twenty minutes or so were a lot of fun, even if it did start to feel like an extended version of its trailer.
The rest of the movie wasn't quite as good, but it was definitely solid. It was funny, enjoyable entertainment, essentially a parody version of Batman that managed to incorporate enough of his character and world to still feel quintessentially like Batman. Tons of references to the character's history permeate the movie, allowing them to lampoon what makes Batman silly while honoring the character's core. Hell, half the time, they lampoon the core and celebrate the silly: that's fun, too.
Except... we've already gotten this. Actually, we've gotten it a few times over. Batman: Brave and the Bold explored the whimsy of Gold and Silver-Age Batman, even as it allowed breathing room to push the envelope into darker territory. And the unofficial homage, Holy Musical, Batman went in an even more absurd direction. Hell, Holy Musical could arguably be the wellspring of both this AND Batman v Superman.
If you're wondering if there's overlap, the answer is absolutely. Brave and the Bold approached Batman's rogue's gallery with a similar sense of humor, beating LEGO to characters like Crazy Quilt and King Tut. Meanwhile, Holy Musical's characterization of Batman and Robin were essentially identical to that of The LEGO Batman Movie: Batman is an emotionally immature man-child, while Robin is a spastic kid starving for approval. Plus, the basic premise is the same - it's about Batman becoming part of a family again (also his arc in Holy Musical and arguably Batman v Superman).
Strip these elements away, and the only thing this movie is really offering are LEGO's. And that's a pretty big problem. Because, unlike The LEGO Movie this spun off of, there's no thematic justification for everything being made of building blocks. Sure, there are a few jokes and a forced metaphor at the end, but you could rewrite a couple scenes, alter some jokes, and use this same script in a conventional animated Batman spoof. 90% of the jokes and scenes would work just as well. Some might even work better.
Unlike its predecessor, this doesn't transcend being a toy commercial. For what it's worth, this is a pretty great toy commercial, but don't expect more.
If you haven't seen Brave and the Bold and/or Holy Musical, I suspect The LEGO Batman Movie will feel much more fresh. But, honestly, I'd recommend tracking those down first - they're both more interesting, more original, and more nuanced.
Despite those reservations, this is still fun. It's worth seeing at some point... but maybe not on the big screen.