The Lego Batman Movie - Review: He's black, He's back, and He's Hilarious
“So please please please, let me, let me, let me, let get what I wanted” once sang The Smiths (no, it wasn’t John Lewis). I think it sums up the hopes and ideas of a character spin-off movie. You get a superb supporting character that completely steals a show and in response to this public reaction, they get their own film. Yet will they still be as good in the centre of their own world rather than being the comic relief of someone else’s? Ever since Despicable Me showed up “Minions Mania” became an inescapable worldwide phenomenon (do dooo da do do) but my God was their spin-off movie awful! It’s not the sure fire success story that we’d like it to be that even saw the mighty Joey Tribbiani crash and burn on the small screen. So now spin-offs come with a simple plea of hope: for them to please please please replicate the quality and success of their character’s prior outings. There’s no denying that Will Arnett’s Batman dominated 2014's The Lego Movie. He didn’t just get a spin-off but found it fast tracked ahead of the Lego sequel. Now it’s finally her,e is everything still awesome?..... You’re darn right it is!
Gotham City’s legendary crime fighter Batman (Will Arnett – BoJack Horseman, Arrested Development) must face his greatest enemies. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis – The Hangover guy) and getting close to others as he reluctantly homes the orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera – Juno).
COLD WARNING – Film best viewed with as little knowledge as possible, please consider before reading
Like a certain other suited character this time last year, Lego Batman immediately finds and establishes its tone of satire and smart parody as its hero wastes little time before self-narrating. This isn’t a film that’s mocking Batman, it’s a film about Batman mocking Batman as director Chris McKay (Robot Chicken) takes gleeful delight in poking fun at many aspects of the character’s literary on-screen legacy but in a way that celebrates it rather than condemns. It takes classic themes like the symbiotic dynamic between Batman and the Joker and spins it into almost a romantic comedy as their feud is expressed as a relationship with differing levels of commitment. Or there is the idea of Alfred being Bruce’s surrogate father warped into making Batman frequently stubborn and childish. It’s all things that in isolation would seem problematic but come together through clever, creative and in many ways, a fearless usage of the subject matter. The approach taken could well have triggered a fanboy backlash but the attention and understanding of the Batman character is still clear underneath any mockery to get away with it all. Plus there’s no shortage of in jokes to send many into a Cesar Romero fit of giggles from background visual gags to dialogue references and the extensive list of minor characters that feature (even Orca!). In fact, a few 60's nods made me genuinely lose it.
The next key point of the Bat-list of pointy things is that the film still remembers it’s a Lego movie. Not only does Will Arnett continue his “bro”/frat boy like take on The Dark Knight (he calls the computer, “pewtor”) but ideas like master building and multi-franchise ties-ins are still utilized well. The later in particular is not only immensely fun but ultimately becomes the embodiment of the film’s unique character adaptation. You’ll see the Caped Crusader going up against many different people than you expected. Lego Gotham City looks fantastic as it incorporates some familiar visual cues like the bold gothic structures of the 90s films or the bridge layouts of the Nolan era. This all becomes a terrific canvas for the films action sequences which are not only bigger in scale than most of The Lego Movie but frequently a well-crafted blend of spectacle and comedy. The central voice cast is 9-pack abs strong. Alongside Arnette, the best addition is Ralph Fiennes (He’s Voldermort) a composed yet strained Alfred. There are no shortage of voice cameos either thanks to the many known smaller/supporting characters on screen. Look out for Mariah Carey as the Mayor, Billy Dee “Lando” Williams as Two Face along with Jemaine Clement, Seth Green and Eddie Izzard in best unnamed roles.
While the film is a lot fun it’s not quite on the same level of its The Lego Movie base board and certainly not without its chinks in the Bat-armored suit. For one, the story is very thin, even considering its intended accessibility to younger viewers. It’s a clear safe bet in an otherwise more adventurous film and encourages little investment in seeing it to the end. It makes the film now like an album that you’d listen to on shuffle or just pick out your favorites from, rather than caring about the composition enough to just push play. Ultimately, The Lego Batman Movie is less a great movie and more a collection of great moments (all be it a bloody lot of them). Neither is the action invulnerable. Although overall, it’s quite positive some scenes really are too busy for their own good and a less is more approach would have been advisable. I guess even Lego Batman isn’t immune to, “too many villains” syndrome. Finally, while the musical tendencies of this Batman were a fun feature last time here, they’re defiantly over-relied upon. Yes, he likes to write songs and “bat-box” about himself but doesn’t mean we need to see it all the time.
It’s a film that’s simultaneously approachable to a Bat-novice while being immensely geeky-satisfying to more hard-core fans. It’s a film that certainly has its slow and dry points but its high soar is higher than the Bat-Signal and will leave with a big, “Why so serious?” grin. Some of its merit certainly comes from shock and surprise so it may not punch as hard in later rounds of viewing but for now at least, this is a superb piece of superhero parodying comedy. It’s without doubt the funniest film on current release so anyone, superhero fan or not, needing a comedy fix should grapple gun their way into a seat.