The Animation Corner: “Lego Batman”

BENJAMIN K. PAPLHAM | ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR 

“The Lion King” is a brilliant example of a film that nails the first few seconds—the sun peeking over the horizon while the epic opening line of “Circle of Life” echoes across the Pride Lands instantly grabs the audience. “The Fellowship of the Ring” has a similar effect, as Galadriel’s narration of elvish and English has a haunting, sorrowful tone that sends chills up my spine as soon as the title fades onto the screen.

And then there’s “The Lego Batman Movie.”

Now, I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet, but I’ll just say that if there were any doubts that “Lego Batman” could repeat the success of “The Lego Movie”, those fears are erased within the opening. From the first sound of Batman’s deep, gravely voice, I knew that it would be impossible for me not to love every second.

Set after the events of his adventure with Emmet and Wyldstyle, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett: “Bojack Horseman”) lives a life of crime-fighting and luxury. When he’s not (as the song, “Who’s the Batman?” claims) doing sick backflips, being the manliest man or turning Two-Face into Black-and-Blue-Face, Batman spends his days watching romantic comedies (alone), eating lobster (alone) and staring at portraits of his parents (when he thinks Alfred isn’t around). As is easily apparent, the only thing bigger for Batman than his childish behavior and ego is his soul-crushing loneliness. But all of that will change when Batman accidentally adopts optimistic and wide-eyed Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), and when the overachieving new chief-of-police Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (Rosario Dawson: “The Defenders”) calls for the end of Batman’s vigilante lifestyle. He is forced to alter his lone-wolf (or should I say, lone-bat) mantra, and work with a team to defeat his not-archenemy the Joker (Zach Galifianakis: “The Hangover”) who has concocted a foolproof scheme to take over Gotham City.

If there was any criticism I could make about “Lego Batman” it would be that this film isn’t as plot dependent as its predecessor. That in itself is not bad—since “Lego Batman” is pretty much one giant spoof on every Batman variation before it anyway—but it did mean most of the conflict felt contrived. The reliance on Hollywood tropes as comedy fuel also meant that there wasn’t anything unexpected in the film, and didn’t lend itself to the same kind of twist that shocked everybody in “The Lego Movie.”

That being said, I don’t think I can overemphasize enough what a visual delight and comedic goldmine “Lego Batman” is. Sitting in the movie theatre, I lost count of how many times I had to muffle my mouth with my sleeve to stifle my laughter and force myself to calm down enough just so I could hear the next line. Batman’s relentless sarcasm and self-indulgent pride mixed with Robin’s abundant eagerness and will to please form a delightful balance. The animation of the eyes—especially Joker’s and Robin’s—are hilarious because they express so many different emotions with simple circles and slight eyebrow movements.

The best thing about “Lego Batman” is that it is endlessly watchable. It’s like a giant, moving “I Spy” with all the different character references, background animation and Lego blocks flying everywhere. Even a simple, still moment such as Batman staring at his microwave contains a ton of details to look for in the background, and it made me wish I had hours to just pause every single frame (okay, maybe that’s a tad much) to catch everything.

“The Lego Batman Movie” is an animation experience like no other—filled with nonstop laughter and spectacular visuals.

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