As a spin-off from 2014's surprisingly good The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie had a lot to live up to. The Lego Movie was in many ways a breath of fresh air, a funny, subversive, wholly original film that impressed not only because of how good it was for a branded product, but just how good it was as a movie full-stop. Following that up was always going to be a challenge, one only made all the more difficult by centring the movie around one of pop cultures most recognisable icons - and yet The Lego Batman Movie is by and large a success, albeit not quite to the same degree that The Lego Movie was.
The reason for that success is simple - much like The Lego Movie, there is a sense of purpose to The Lego Batman Movie that gives it a reason to exist beyond mere corporate interests. The Lego Batman Movie positions Lego Batman not as a distinct version of Batman but as an all-encompassing overview of the character as he has existed in pop-culture for the last eight decades, a conglomeration of all previous canon that allows the movie to act as both a cunning meta-commentary on the Batman franchise and a celebration of the character's many incarnations over the years.
And for most of its running time The Lego Batman Movie has a firm grasp on both of these aspects of itself, resulting in a movie that is practically a must-see for fans of Batman thanks to its fairly comprehensive deconstruction of the character ("Batman doesn't live in Bruce Wayne's basement, Bruce Wayne lives in Batman's attic" may be the best summary of the duality of Bruce Wayne/Batman to date). But that's not to say that those with only a passing knowledge of Batman won't be able to enjoy The Lego Batman Movie - even if you miss half the references that The Lego Batman Movie throws at its audience, it's still very entertaining thanks to some fairly robust storytelling and - more importantly - a great sense of humour.
The hit-to-miss ratio of jokes in The Lego Batman Movie is high throughout, and the film's willingness to lovingly poke fun at its own main character is a refreshing change of pace when compared to how seriously he demands to be taken in other films - hell, "taking himself too seriously" is where The Lego Batman Movie finds half of its comedy in the first place. The other half comes from seeing the cooler than cool Lego Batman interact with the adorkable Lego Robin, or how the film positions Lego Batman in regards to the Lego Justice League, or even how it makes an explicit comparison between Batman's relationship with his villains and an unhealthy romantic relationship - there are big laughs to be found in all of these, and the fact that they each also serve as a better examination/deconstruction of Batman than anything the DCEU has offered so far should really be sounding alarm bells over at Warner Bros.
Unfortunately, The Lego Batman Movie isn't able to maintain this level of quality throughout its running time, and as the film progresses the comedy gets broader and the themes are pushed further to the background in favour of an action-packed but ultimately vacuous finale. It's not a bad finale, but it pales in comparison to that which precedes it in a way that can't help but leave a bad taste in the mouth. Most of The Lego Batman Movie is best described as an interesting take on Batman that also functions as a children's film - such a shame, then, that it ends as a children's film that happens to include an interesting take on Batman.
Still, it's hard to grumble too much when most of The Lego Batman Movie entertains to the standard that it does, and ultimately, it's still almost certainly the best film to come from DC in nearly a full decade now. It's funny, it's earnest, and it's a blast of geekery that should please anyone with more than just a passing interest in superheroes in a very big way - and really, what else did The Lego Batman Movie need to be?