The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
The gauntlet has been thrown down for best animated film of 2017. “Lego Batman” rolls into theaters just two months into the year firing on all cylinders as a rollicking thrill ride that will please parents, kids and Marvel-only theatergoers alike.
That director Chris McKay understands Batman the character better than Zack Snyder isn’t a big surprise. It seems everyone on the planet gets Batman better than the director of “Batman vs. Superman.” What surprises me is that there's more heart and thematic coherence in a movie about plastic toys than Snyder's three-hour plunge into icy darkness.
Oh, did I mention "Lego Batman" is McKay’s directorial debut? As it turns out a big name and a big star do not a great movie make. Sometimes it takes an understanding of a character and your own humanity to make a great film — someone should let Snyder and the good folks at Warner Bros. in on the secret.
Much like “The Lego Movie,” this film is self-referential to its core and jam-packed with characters from films as far reaching as “Gremlins” and “Lord of the Rings.” It never skimps on fun and packs in as many laughs as possible into its nearly two-hour run time. That it clocks in at 1 hour and 45 minutes without dragging speaks to the excellent pacing (your kids will not be bored) and its emotional heft will keep you invested.
If you’ve ever been a fan of Batman, whether it was when Christian Bale threw on the cowl or when Adam West was goofing around on television, there’s something for you here. Just like “The Lego Movie,” McKay brings what it’s like to dump Lego bricks on the floor and go to town to the big screen.
A very minor spoiler can help illustrated this: In the third act, Batman battles Sauron to get back to Wayne Manor in order to stop the Joker from destroying Gotham City. If that doesn’t get you jazzed to see “Lego Batman,” then perhaps this isn’t for you.
Beyond the manic pace and great action, what I love about this film is how much it cares about its characters. Will Arnett is fantastic as Batman, just like he was in “The Lego Movie,” and McKay and company make sure to put him through a significant amount of growth; frankly that’s the story of the film. But we get to see Michael Cera’s Robin do the same, and getting to hang out with Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon is an absolute treat.
It took only two months to get the first great animated movie of 2017; heck, we didn’t need to wait until “Logan” for our first great superhero film of the year. It took nine years, but we finally got another great Batman movie, too. No offense Christopher Nolan, but this is the best the Caped Crusader has been since “The Dark Knight.”
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