There’s something inherently charming about the way mini-figures (characters) move in The Lego Batman Movie. They can zip from one place to the next, but their movements remain as clunky as their block bodies. To see exactly what I mean, look at the way Batman moves in this movie, then look at how he moves in the 2008 Lego Batman video game. Notice how fluid and flexible he moves in the latter.
What makes Lego Batman Movie’s animation instantly appealing, and at times wildly hilarious, is discipline. As madcap crazy as Lego Batman gets, it follows the same rules set by The Lego Movie: everything you see on screen, you can build in real life. Obvious product placement aside, this forces animators to work under restrictions. A great example is when Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) asks Batman (Will Arnett) if he wants to talk about his feelings. Batman proceeds to roll around on the floor and up the stairs, punctuating each roll with a childish “NO!”. Moreover, since everything looks so true to Lego, we’re constantly reminded that we’re watching an action adventure movie playing out on a tiny plastic scale. So when the action gets intense, it’s also funny. And when emotions well up, it’s even funnier.
“I saved the world again today. It was off the chain.”
This is a big part of what sets Lego Batman Movie a cut above other recent Lord-Miller animation productions (ie. Storks, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2): restraint. But there still isn’t enough restraint for it to come close to the odd maturity of its predecessor. The Lego Movie will always be a cut above Lego Batman Movie, but I still think they’re two different animals. Lego Batman feels like a child bashing their toys together in a fiery micro-explosion. Given Lego Batman’s character, I can admire that. It gets dizzying at times, but everything, from the self-awareness to the scratched up brick textures, feels true to Lego.
In a surprising twist, the movie’s also pretty true to Batman. I’ve always envisioned Arnett’s iteration of Batman as Christian Bale being imitated by a 10-year-old. A child who attaches themselves to the brooding self-dependant Caped Crusader, yet doesn’t recognize the scared child underneath.
“Behind all the sturm and batarang, you’re just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for mommy and daddy! It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic!” – The Joker (Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker)
Behind all the snappy jokes and roller coaster animation, there’s a strong emotional undercurrent to The Lego Batman Movie: the necessity of teamwork. It’s hardly a groundbreaking concept, and it’s played a bit on the nose, but it rings true to Lego and Batman. No brick can stand on its own, just as Batman can’t fight criminals without a team behind him and criminals in front of him.
This is The Lego Batman Movie at its best. It’s only at its worst when it loses focus on its morals, namely during the action scenes. There’s moments where the film pulverizes my eyes with so much colour and motion that I have no idea where to look or what to feel. They’re dispersed and short enough, but they pull me out of the movie almost as easily as the simpler scenes pull me back in. For example, Lego Batman watching a lobster cook in the microwave. Easily one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year.
“I have aged phenomenally.”
There’s a lot to like about The Lego Batman Movie, and only a little that takes me out of it. It proves much of what makes The Lego Movie incredible isn’t lightning in a bottle, and it gives me hope for the oncoming slew of Lego films ahead.
My Rating: 7/10