This past weekend I was fortunate enough to see the second instalment in what is seemingly now ‘The Lego Cinematic Universe’ a full week early. Semi-sequel, and spin-off to 2014’s fantastically funny Lego Movie, Batman picks up that films stand out character and places him front and centre of his own brilliantly quirky Lego world. Will Arnet returns as Batman, but isn’t alone in his second in-universe appearance as both Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprise their cameo roles as Superman and Green Lantern to great effect. With this in mind it seems that Lego is going all in on an inclusive cinematic universe akin to Marvels, and I love it.
Setting Lego apart from other film franchises is it’s near unlimited creative potential. Of course all films and franchises aim to give creators a chance to push their creative license, but Lego sets itself apart in its ability to bring together characters you’d never ever expect to see together onscreen. For example, this feature sets Eddie Izzard’s Lord Voldemort as one of The Joker’s most prominent henchmen, and to great effect. I challenge anyone to come up with a franchise that can pair two more iconic characters from wildly separate fictional worlds with such seamless effort and success.
The Lego franchises use of character in that sense is unparalleled, but it isn’t enough to simply throw these characters on screen simultaneously and hope that it all works out, just ask anyone involved with Spider-Man 3. The true brilliance of Lego Batman is that it understands the characters it places on screen, and gives each an opportunity to shine. Arnet’s Batman is done particular justice, as bizarrely Lego produces one of the best cinematic portrayals of the character to date. Over the course of the films short runtime, we learn of the characters emotional frailties, his struggle with loneliness and his fixation on besting the world around him, the world that took away his family. Of course, this is all done in relentlessly funny fashion, with constant visual gags and jokes hitting the audience in almost barraging fashion. The fact remains however that character development and understanding are key in the films portrayal and they are exceptionally well done. By the films end, each of the characters has grown and as an audience member you can’t help but feel satisfied witnessing the final moments, in which we see a more complete Batman continue onward.
The most baffling thing about Lego Batman’s success is that it delivers a more emotionally significant, compelling story than it’s live action sister film Batman Vs Superman. As Lego goes from strength to strength, DC’s live action adaptation of Batman and his expanded universe is flailing helplessly amongst an onslaught of average releases. Man of Steel, Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad have all failed to deliver on the potential of their characters or their premise, whilst Lego absolutely smashed it. How is it, that Warner Bros have two active franchises sharing use of the same continuity in which one totally fails to honour the tone, feeling or history of its characters whilst the other manages all this and more, in a Lego animated feature involving King Kong and Sauron? I can only pray that Zach Snyder, or at least someone in the DC hierarchy goes out and sees The Lego Batman Movie this coming weekend, so that they can finally grasp what it is that they are supposed to be doing with their own Batman.