This weekend, "The LEGO Batman Movie," a spin-off of 2014's masterful "The LEGO Movie," opens in theaters everywhere (get your tickets now!). This time, everyone's favorite caped crusader (once again voiced, with gravelly rage, by Will Arnett) is made the main character, and his relationship with a young Robin (Michael Cera), newly minted police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and, of course, his arch-nemesis The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), is explored in hilarious depth.
But what else do you need to know about the latest, brick-filled Batman adventure? Read on to find out!
1. It's a Great Batman Movie ...
The first thing that you need to know is that this is a great Batman movie. Like, probably the best Batman movie since "The Dark Knight," which is saying something, and the best animated Batman movie since "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (and that was back in 1993). It features a number of his most famous villains (there's an ongoing gag about Batman's lack of commitment to the Joker that is pretty priceless) and there is real care and attention given to crafting the character that fans will not only understand but celebrate. He's given emotional depth and develops fully as the movie goes along. This isn't one of those animated movies that is just a series of jokes; there's a real story here and real characters and they're all perfectly Batman-y.
2. ... And a Great LEGO Movie
One of the questions I had was: well, how is this a LEGO Batman movie? And, well, you'll see. I don't want to give anything away because a lot of what happens in the movie, particularly in its second half, hasn't even been hinted at in the marketing materials for the film. But just know that if you loved the way "The LEGO Movie" playfully mixed IP with an original story about what it takes to be a "master builder" (a term that is reiterated here), then you are going to love "The LEGO Batman Movie."
3. There Are a Thousand Easter Eggs (Seriously)
About two minutes into "The LEGO Batman Movie," there's a scene where Batman is flying through the streets of Gotham and there are so many Easter eggs, hidden references, and old-school shout-outs flying by that I could barely keep up. I tried to write a few down (I got as far as a reference to Shreck's Department Store from "Batman Returns") before giving up. And that was the tip of the iceberg. If you're a Batman superfan, your mind is going to be spinning. There are references to every filmed Batman adventure since the old black-and-white serials–and that's just the beginning.
4. It's Not Afraid to Poke Fun at the DC Cinematic Universe
One of the more surprising aspects of "The LEGO Batman Movie" is that it openly mocks the self-seriousness of the so-called DC Extended Universe, the small cluster of mostly iffy films that have been based on DC Comics properties and exist in the same shared universe. At one point, The Joker asks Batman who his arch-nemesis really is, and Batman responds, "Superman," a reference to last year's poorly (critically) received "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" (one of a handful of nods to that particular film). There are also at least two digs at "Suicide Squad," the all-villains romp that was released last summer (to a response similar to that of "Batman v. Superman"), and generally "The LEGO Batman Movie" seems to fly in the face of the current crop of DC movies. It's everything these movies are not -- full of heart, funny as hell, and unafraid to be super entertaining without being overwrought or gloomy. Even the score seems to heavily evoke the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies. It's been a long while since Batman was this fun.
5. Oddly, Wyldstyle Is Never Referenced
So here's something that's kind of strange ... the movie is about Batman's reluctance to start a family or engage emotionally with other people. But, in "The LEGO Movie," he's seen dating Wyldstyle (played by Elizabeth Banks). This seems to fly in the face of everything the movie is trying so hard to establish. If he really is an antisocial loner, would he really have dated someone that seriously and agreed to go on a series of adventures in the way that he did in the previous film? Also, why aren't any of those characters around? If this is a shared LEGO-filled universe, shouldn't there be some crossover of some kind. Like, something? What if Emmett just walked by in the background? No? Maybe next time?
6. It's Not Quite as Good as 'The LEGO Movie'
Just know this: there was something almost transcendent about "The LEGO Movie." Maybe because it seemed, from the outset, like an incredibly crass cash-grab, so the fact that it was a really great movie was a huge surprise. But more than that, "The LEGO Movie" had to do with corporatization, organized religion, and millennial ennui in a way that was really refreshing and fun. Know that "The LEGO Batman Movie" doesn't have that much on its mind. Which is OK. It's still a total blast and will pull on your heartstrings more than once. But you probably won't walk out of the theater thinking it's the kind of kicky subversive joy "The LEGO Movie" was.
7. You'll Want Additional Brick-Based Batman Movies
One of the holdovers from "The LEGO Movie" is the bickering relationship between Superman and Green Lantern (played, once more, by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill), suggesting a larger DC LEGO movie universe. And by the end of "The LEGO Movie," you feel like the story is just gearing up. So yes, if this is a hit, you can probably expect some additional LEGO Batman adventures and guess what? You'll be ready for them, too.
"The LEGO Batman Movie" is in theaters everywhere now.