Cinema: Will Arnett is the best Batman in years

Review: The LEGO Batman Movie: I decided to torture myself a bit this weekend and sit through Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. When I had first seen it in theaters during its opening weekend in 2016, I didn’t understand most things about it, such as why Jesse Eisenberg was straining so much to make his voice high pitched for his very weird portrayal of Lex Luthor, why none of the characters’ motivations or actions made any sense, or what the plot was. I felt more or less the same way upon my second watch.

It’s so dang weird that an actual Batman movie could be so thoroughly outclassed by a child’s toy parody of the character, but hey, it’s 2017, and here we all are. The LEGO Batman Movie is, obviously, not a self-serious take on the character. Will Arnett’s voice acting infuses the character with uncharacteristic spontaneity, yet he’s still able to impart the audience with a clear lesson and character arc. That’s more than last year’s messy mash-up could do.

Taking cues from 2014’s original The LEGO Movie, the film’s animation is zippy and hectic, packing every pixel on the screen with hidden gags and pop culture references. It takes numerous jabs at the character’s history, gleefully breaking the fourth wall any time the opportunity arose (I guess the fourth wall must have been made out of LEGOs. Ha! Get it?). The animation style and tone appeal to the younger crowd still playing with LEGOs, but the film’s numerous references and overall humor seem to be catered more toward the older audience. In the theater I was in, way more adults laughed than children.

Arnett’s Batman is a celebrated vigilante, but has a lonely home life as Bruce Wayne as he’s still haunted by the death of his parents. Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) encourages Wayne to start his own family, but Batman fears intimacy with even his own archrival Joker (Zach Galifianakis), refusing to admit they are mortal enemies. After Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) becomes the new chief of police, LEGOtham outgrows its need for Batman, and even the Justice League doesn’t have the time of day for him (Channing Tatum reprises his hilarious role of Superman). After accidentally adopting an orphan (voiced by Arnett’s Arrested Development co-star Michael Cera), Batman wonders if maybe it is time to start a family.

Maybe it’s because I’m 7 years old, but I emoted with Arnett’s Batman much more than Ben Affleck’s – more than most characters in most movies, actually. There’s something about Arnett’s animation voiceovers that allows him to infuse adult emotion with cartoon characters – if you need further proof than this movie, BoJack Horseman is waiting for you on Netflix. The film’s humor is unique and its animation has been streamlined, helping it stand out from standard animated fare. Its unique style is close to a fusion between Disney’s bubbly CGI and Studio Laika’s eye-popping stop motion. It’s a unique visual and emotional treat.

It’s hard to appreciate this film as a straight up Batman film, because it isn’t. In what will probably be a staple to the LEGO movie franchise, the film includes many other characters and plot points from other franchises. Writer Seth Grahame-Smith is clearly a Batman fan – the film is riddled with Easter egg references fans can pick up on, probably even after multiple watches. But for those hoping to cleanse their palette after BvS with just a straight up good Batman film, you may have to keep waiting. I’ll keep things spoiler free, but the film is definitely more LEGO, less Batman.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – plus, that’s a smart move for the franchise. Batman is an established force – the LEGO movie franchise is still growing, but at a very promising rate. I’m not sure how long these movies have before the joke gets old – The LEGO Ninjago Movie is coming out later this year, and I’m pretty platonic about that, because what even is that? For now, though, LEGO has built a very promising movie foundation.

Avengers: Infinity War sneak peak: “Day one of what promises to be a year of fun-filled lensing.” That’s how Robert Downey Jr. words the first day of filming Infinity War, a film event that’ll probably change all of our lives forever. It’s been a slow burn getting here, starting in 2008 with the first Iron Man film. The film promises to be a culmination of the past decade of Marvel superhero films.

“I remember actually going to see the first Avengers with one of my best mates from home and I’d never have dreamed I’d ever be in one of these movies,” said Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, who is basically Peter Parker in real life. It’s a nice touch to see some of the huge names interacting behind the scenes, and adds to the already grand scale the film is promising. The first movie isn’t due for another 15 months, but it’s never too early to start advertising something that could be so potentially huge, right?