In recent years some of the better mainstream films to hit theaters have been animated films. While a large percentage of the film going audience refuses to acknowledge animated films as they are deemed “children’s movies,” for some reason they are better at exploring complex social themes than high budget action films that are meant for a more mature audience. One of the better films that personifies this idea is The Lego Movie which throughout the course of its narrative explains to the audience the pitfalls of not being your own person, the dangers of an authoritarian government, and the importance of interacting with your child. By weaving these complex themes with simple to follow narratives that have an added layer of more intelligent humor, both older and younger audiences are able to find enjoyment from the film. After following this concept so well in The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, which features the legalized version of batman from the previous film, was expected to continue the critical and commercial success of the new Lego franchise. While at times The Lego Batman Movie does provide the audience with some interesting cross franchise plot elements and self-aware comedy, largely the film is weighed down by childish elements.
When looking at The Lego Movie one of the reasons that it was able to appeal to adult audiences was because of the more mature sense of humor that was prevalent throughout the film. While the film at its core was still light hearted and something that a child of any age could laugh at, there were still subtle comments film that perked the ears of adult audiences. Some of the humor in reference did find its way to The Lego Batman Movie, most notably the self-references to the DC Cinematic Universe. By adding self aware humor, the film is able to grab the attention of comic book fans by providing them with a space where a form of their favorite character can speak to them directly about some of the absurdities of the Batman universe without it effecting the “real” story of Batman. However the issue with The Lego Batman Movie is that these jokes were surrounded by dozens of other jokes that are meant to appeal to the younger fan base. While The Lego Movie was constructed to appeal to multiple audiences, The Lego Batman Movie instead is primarily a children’s film that provides just enough mature material to show adult audiences that they did not forget about them. While this is routine for animated films, and was definitely the route the filmmakers intended to take, it is what stopped the film from being as enjoyable as The Lego Movie.
While the film failed to capitalize on the humor of The Lego Movie, it did take note and improve upon how the original film was able to integrate the Lego versions of different franchises into one narrative. Any person that has ever seen a film has wondered at one point or another what would happen if a character from one franchise met another. In most cases, audience members will never actually get to see these fantasies except in their imagination due to it not making sense plot wise or because of legal reasons. As a child this was one of the reasons why I enjoyed Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so much as audiences were finally able to see Mickey Mouse interact with Bugs Bunny. Much like this, The Lego Movie had brief moments where characters from The Justice League and Star Wars were able to interact with one another. In The Lego Batman Movie, the filmmakers took this a step further and instead had the film’s central conflict revolve around villains from several film franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter teaming up with the Joker. By showcasing the characters in this way, the plot becomes much more interesting than it typically would. By having previously established characters in the film, elements from other classic films are quickly introduced into the film without the need of backstory, as the audience is able to fill in the blanks since they are familiar with the other franchises. Because of this added element the film’s plot quickly goes from being forgettable to fulfilling several cinematic fantasies and giving the audience something to remember.
At a time when animated films are pushing the envelope of mainstream cinema, The Lego Batman Movie decides to go the traditional route and cater to a younger audience. While you cannot be upset for a film for catering to its intended audience, after the critical success of the previous film in the franchise it’s a tad disheartening. Luckily, the film does not strip itself of every element that made The Lego Movie so enjoyable and allows the audience to indulge in their cross franchise fantasies. As a result, The Lego Batman Movie is by all means not a bad film as it delivers in some aspects, but it is definitely one that is meant for a younger audience. Therefore Celluloid Cinema awards The Lego Batman Movie 3 out of 5 Reels.
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