The Lego system has served as a building block for many people’s childhoods. With Legos, children and adults can create while limited only by the bricks in hand and the ideas in mind. Buildings are built, worlds are created—and then more bricks are needed.
The possibility of Lego must have been attractive to game designers and filmmakers alike, as the Lego franchise made the jump from the table and rug to gaming system and big screen. Lego Star Wars became a formidable series of video games in its own right, eclipsing titles that stayed true to the aesthetics and lack of studs that characterized the original interpretation of the Star Wars World. Lego Indiana Jones followed, capturing the magic of the timeless series with the additional twist of getaway vehicles built in seconds and scores of unlockable minifigure characters. Takes on the Worlds of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel soon followed. The success of the Lego touch seemed replicable at the box office as well, with everything about the Lego Movie being awesome.
The Lego Batman Movie, then, had big shoes to fill, inherited from both the franchises that it represents. Occupying space next to the live action films of the 1940s, 60s, 80s, the Dark Knight Trilogy, and the recent DC Extended Universe features, Lego Batman contributes to the progression of the Batman franchise. Additionally, Lego Batman seeks to capitalize on the commercial success and the warm critical reception of the Lego Movie. Finally, the film launches the Lego Batman Video Game series! This is no small task for an animated feature.
Regardless of the Lego franchises’ expectations, Lego Batman takes full advantage of its medium and serves as a witty, yet whimsical take on the Batman universe. At the end of the day, the characters are Lego minifigures, lacking facial features to convey dimension. But the filmmakers playing the Lego Movie game understand this, and the result is a film that leverages the creative and surrealness of the Lego world while not taking itself too seriously. The movie is full of allusions to the banality of day-to-day life and lands comedic punches usually reserved for live-action films, such as Batman stumbling through the video inputs of his home theater, finally able to watch his rom-com after tuning into HDMI 2. Aside from a healthy dose of wit, Lego Batman understands itself within the context of the Batman franchise. Empowered to make meta references to previous film interpretations of Batman, the movie is also able to progress the hero as a character, building a better Batman out of the many versions before him.
The Lego Batman Movie does everything that a movie should do. It captivates its audience with surreal visuals through excellent animation, masterfully adapting the Lego world with elements of realism. It earns its certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating with smart and crass comedy alike, decent character development, and a plot arc that is developed enough to stand on its own. Kids at heart will rejoice in front of the screen and wish they could find the Lego World of Gotham City under the Christmas tree, begging to be built. Older and wiser souls will appreciate the hilarity, the whimsicality, and the self-acceptance of the film. The Lego Batman movie understands itself and helps us understand a flawed hero as he understands himself. Now, culture desks and moviegoers alike must understand Lego Movies as films that contribute to the big screen in their own way, gifting laughs and the joy of creating along the way.